The Allman Brothers and Life of Pie

New YorkerBefore you invest too much time here, this ain’t got much to do about Duane and Gregg. It’s more about a few paragraphs buried within a larger story published by New York magazine this week called Why You Truly Never Leave High School. The gist in a nutshell: everything you are today can be traced back to your days in the tenth through twelfth grades. Or maybe almost everything.

Laurence Steinberg, a developmental psychologist from Temple University who researches such stuff, makes this statement that really made me sit up and think: “There’s no reason why, at the age of 60, I should still be listening to the Allman Brothers. Yet no matter how old you are, the music you listen to for the rest of your life is probably what you listened to when you were an adolescent.”

All of a sudden I start to understand why so many of my elders…alright, lets call them my contemporaries if we must…spend so much time waxing about the old days of the sixties and seventies, of the Byrds and Gram Parsons, the Beatles and Stones, Journey and Kansas, Manilow and Diamond. You get the idea, I’m trying to be democratic with the small “d”. It’s all tied into the development of the prefrontal cortex and your dopamine levels, and “any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can therefore make more of an impression”.

Steinberg again: “During times when your identity is in transition, it’s possible you store memories better than you do in times of stability.” Example: “I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers.” Egads…a life sentence of Eat A Peach.

The extension of this and other research that’s now being done by psychologists and neurologists, are the differences in development for today’s teens from my generation. And the article, which is touted on the front cover with the sub-title of High School Is A Sadistic Institution, is well worth your time to read if you’re interested in such things.

But the thought about how our aural patterns and preferences develop, and more importantly stick with us like glue, is what I find fascinating. I know that I still am listening to much of the music of yesterday. But on the other hand, I also listen to lots of new things, and two nights ago I even spent an hour listening to an avant-garde radio show broadcast on WNYU. Yes, my son had it on, but I stayed there with him and listened. And liked it. (Is that the musical equivalent to “Some of my best friends are into avant-garde”?)

Now to be clear, the research doesn’t say that all of a sudden at age sixteen we stop developing or are no longer interested in learning and being exposed to new things. Hardly.

TastykakeOn the other hand, let us talk pie for a moment. When I was a teen…and would find myself getting into a particular state of craving…my go-to nibble was either the entire box of Nabisco Nilla Wafers my mom hid in the pantry or a Tastykake Blueberry Pie, which today is just a mere shadow of itself packed in a fancy plastic sealed carton. While the box may claim “Baked Fresh Daily”,  there is no indication of being delivered and sold that same day. Preservatives.

Back in the old days, it came from the bakery still warm, and the side of the box had air vents for the steam to escape so that the crust remained crisp and didn’t get soggy. While Tastykake also satisfied with their Chocolate Junior, Jelly Krimpets and Cream Filled Cupcakes, it was always the pie that I’d reach for first. And if they didn’t have blueberry, apple was a close second.

And the reason I bring this up is that in terms of comfort food, in times of stress I might still reach for one of these tasty treats from my high school days. It’s the pattern ingrained in me. And I might still throw on a little Byrds or Springfield, some Moby Grape or perhaps Lowell George or the Youngbloods or if I’m feeling out of control, Pearls Before Swine.

High school was sadistic…but the magic’s in the music and the music is in me.

The New York article, which I linked above, was written by Jennifer Senior. An unlikely name for this piece.