My mom travels with an old radio she plugs into bathroom outlets from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Michigan. Its speaker’s metal lattice tells you more about its age than what pumps through it. Over decades of summers sharing various iterations of the “standard double room,” I’ve heard an eclectic mix. Right wing talk radio–to “get the other side”; local jingles burned into my brain forever–“Goin’ to the fair, goin’ to the fair. Goin’ to the Northwest Michigan Fair…”; and whatever regional music the now lethal snapped-in-half antenna will bring in.
This week it’s been Froggy something-or-other. (Why are country stations called “Froggy”?) My mom singularly calls it “country western” and says she wanted to hear the stories. We’re not a pop country family, not that there’s anything wrong with it. “Country western music is made of stories,” she’s said a dozen or thousand times in the past week.
The other day as I was using my mom’s magnifying mirror to see the horrors of my pores in stereo-vision, I stayed for exactly one song, one story. Somehow Froggy sniffed me out and sent me its current (only?) social justice anthem: “Somebody’s Daughter” by Tenille Townes (a Canadian).
I drive home the same way
Two left turns off the interstate
And she’s always standing
At the stoplight on 18th Street
She could be a Sarah
She could be an Emily
An Olivia, maybe Cassidy
With the shaky hands
On the cardboard sign
And she’s lookin’ at meBet she was somebody’s best friend laughing
Back when she was somebody’s sister
Countin’ change at the lemonade stand
Probably somebody’s high school first kiss
Dancin’ in a gym where the kids all talk about someday plans
Now this light’ll turn green and I’ll hand her a couple dollars
And I’ll wonder if she got lost or they forgot her
She’s somebody’s daughter
Aside from those preppy white girl names, I felt grateful to Tenille for telling her country western story on Froggy and we are, this very week, staying on 18th Street in Ocean City. I laughed when I read Taste of Country’s article titled “Tenille Townes’ ‘Somebody’s Daughter,’ the Boldest Song on Radio.” Okay, country western, let’s calm down with the hyperboles. A dash of poverty and a sprinkle of potential opioid crisis does not the “boldest” make. Still, this is good. Art reflecting life.
Townes got at a few powerful themes in her song, a few that really drive me. Everyone has a story. There are an infinite number of circumstances that can bring someone to her knees. Assumptions about strangers are often ignorant and ill-conceived (I really need to work on this one with bros). Be grateful. And, you should always keep granola bars in the door pocket of your Toyota Corolla.
Update: This article tells the story of a man who pan handled on Roland Avenue near Hampden. This is basically the real-life version of the song above. The universe…she knows.