For the majority of my adult life, my brother has sent me his favorite tunes burned to CD. He introduced me to Flogging Mollies, They Might be Giants, and even the Bare Naked Ladies before they were wishing for a million dollars. More than half of the songs I enjoyed, the rest I adored, and I wondered how my little brother tapped into so many great tunes, especially since he was always commenting on the lack of musical diversity in his small town. Even my own boys adopted the favorite tunes from their cool uncle’s playlists. He escalated himself to “Favorite Uncle” status when he joined a band and released his first album.
My brother sent me “Banditos” and “Bird House in Your Soul.” He introduced me to Cowboy Mouth and Breaking Benjamin, and I often believed he wanted me to broaden my horizons, which in the earliest years of my marriage suffered from an extreme lack of visible horizons. With nearly eight years between us, he was only eleven when I left for college and until the time when he finally went away to school himself, I didn’t know much about his day-to-day teen experiences, other than the fact that his mid-western monotony offered only a culture of small-minded people and insufficient opportunities. I never felt like a true big sister until the day he told me he had learned how to appreciate true rock music because I introduced him to ACDC’s “Back in Black.”
Our two-week adventure starts in Arizona’s capital as my sons and I vacation in a diamond drive through the national parks, pizza parlors, and wineries of the Southwest. I haven’t been back to my hometown in twenty years, and the city and state have changed almost as much as I have, so every day is booked with special outings and new adventures mixed with long-buried memories and faint recollections. I make a point to journal each day about the highlights we experience on our way through New Mexico, Arizona, and even our excursions into Colorado. And tucked among our changes of clothes, driving directions, and accommodation confirmations, I pack a rubber stamp of a specific ape.
After the postage, the address, the photo’s description, the USPS bar code, and the postmark, little room remains on a postcard to talk about the sites enjoyed by its author. But for my little brother, we find room enough to send him reminders of the places we traveled together as kids. And on the back of every stock photo image I write the words that I learned from him, “Another postcard with chimpanzees, and every one is addressed to me,” rubber-stamped with a chimp. By the time we sit poolside in Scottsdale, observe the night stars in Benson, hike into Carlsbad Caverns, cross the Rio Grande bridge near Taos, ride the train to Silverton (see Chains, Motors, & Whistles from May 2021), and watch the sun set along the rim of the Grand Canyon, we stuff my brother’s mailbox with the entire lyrics of “Another Postcard,” another memorable song he sent me in thanks for introducing him to the music we both love. Back in those days growing up together in Phoenix, who knew that I was the cool big sister?