My America: 1974-1981 (A Sound Suite)

We first hear my grandmother Maria Matos telling me a story from the family’s first year in America, 1967. The family was living on a dairy in Gustine, California, where my grandfather had been milking cows and when word came that the dairy owner’s cousins where in route from the Old Country, my grandfather asked if his job was safe for the winter. The owner of the dairy replied that he was but when his cousins arrived he gave my grandfather the word that he and the family would have to leave as soon as possible. My granftather took the family back to Oakland to live with my grandmother’s sister and her family. This drove my grandfather bananas and he soon found a family┬áin the Portuguese enclave of San Leandro who was willing to rent his garage/in-law apartment to my grandparents. My grandparents bopught their first and only home a year later, there in San Leandro, where my grandmother lives to this day, independently at 93 years of age.

We then move on to clips associated to the Watergate scandal. I was born in San Leandro in 1974 one month to the day before Richard Nixon resigned. We hear the voices of Nixon, Colson, and E. Howard Hunt. Watergate moves into my earliest cultural memory, that of John Lennon’s death, announced to the world by the legendary American sports announcer Howard Cossel. We hear John Lennon reading a letter from a fan who claims Brian Epstein’s ghost came to him in a dream and told him of the coming assasination of John Lennon, we hear Yoko giggle nervously. We end the segment with an anonymous mourner outside of the Dakota the night after Lennon’s death. She is having a hard time explaining why she is there and expressing her emotions, which is what music does so well, hacking language. There is some level of poetry in this exchange, in this inability to find the words to marry to an event of such emotional gravity.