Highway 20, back from Ukiah to Lakeport (California)
Before children and mortgages and…

We often belittle or minimise the ordinary in our lives. The age of celebrity indoctrinates us to believe if our lives do not exist on a stage, screen, page or Apple Music, then success and happiness have eluded us. But everyone can’t be a rock star and sometimes those rock stars exist to provide a soundtrack for our ordinary and, in a way, make it extraordinary.

Before children and mortgages and debt collectors, my wife and I and my sister and her husband drove up North to Ukiah along winding Highway 20 through mountains and farmland. Word had spread in Lakeport (which happened often in a town of 4000) that, up in the relatively big city of Ukiah, some mambo band was performing at a park in the summer evening. So, we made the drive, wandered around lost trying to find the park and, when asking directions from a vagabond outside Jack-in-the-Box where the concert was at, he told us to “follow the music, man”. But we made it, watched the drunks dance and, as night came on, we returned to Highway 20 back home.

Nothing spectacular occurred on the ride home in my T100. My wife and I sat in the front and not much conversation transpired once the lights of Ukiah disappeared and we headed into the mountains. Instead of talk, the Gallagher brothers filled the space in the cab. Some 10 years after its release, What’s the Story, Morning Glory? played on the CD player. One of my souvenirs from my first trip to London in high school. An album without a flaw. One of those rare music oddities where you never reach forward to skip a track. A record meant to be enjoyed as a whole rather than its parts.

Our ordinary drive, one I had made hundreds of times over the course of my life, felt like a roadtrip to somewhere new when the plodding piano intro of Don’t Look Back In Anger came through the speakers. Oasis’ extraordinary had transformed our ordinary and the truck no longer drove but soared on the melody.  Though Noel’s vocals and anthemic lyrics often make me want to blow my vocal chords with euphoria, the cab filled us as listeners where we didn’t allow our voices to violate the beauty of the album.

We drove.

We listened.

We absorbed and allowed the bland highway to transform.

Maybe our experiences with music should do more of that.


Stereo Story #517

Ukiah to Lakeport via Google maps


N.T. McQueen is the author of The Blood of Bones, Between Lions and Lambs, The Disciple, and the children's book, Moses Jones and the Case of the Missing Sneaker. He received his MA in Creative Writing from CSU-Sacramento and his work has appeared in issues of Fiction Southeast, The Kentucky Review, The Grief Diaries, Gold Man Review, Camas: Nature of the West, Transition Magazine, West Trade Review, The Sunlight Press, and others.