This song changed my life.
One evening about a year ago I took a bus home after having some drinks with friends. It was about 10 p.m. I got off at Ashland and started walking west on Grace. This is the north side of Chicago. I was wearing headphones and listening to Soundgarden’s “My Wave” on my iPhone. It’s one of those songs that makes me feel powerful. It reminds me of when I used to listen to the Who and Led Zeppelin when I first learned how to drive. Incredible riff. Heavy cock rock, basically. Sounds great in the car too, even on cheap speakers.
So I was walking west on Grace. This is a nice middle class residential neighborhood but the streetlights could be better. It was dark during this stretch of the walk home. But I could see three guys on the sidewalk walking toward me, about a block away. After a few more steps I could see that all three were wearing hoodies that were pulled up and covering their faces. I had this idea, which I quickly dismissed, that maybe I should cross the street or turn around and go the other way. I didn’t feel fear, exactly, more of a vague “something feels off” kind of thing. But I decided to ignore that feeling and keep walking.
As I passed by these guys, one of them wound up and slugged me in the head, right on my temple. The other two shoved me to the ground into some shrubs. They then proceeded to punch and kick me while going through my pockets.
I was disoriented after the blow to the head. I started yelling about two things: I asked them not to hurt me (for all I knew they had a knife or a club or a gun) and I demanded that they give me my bag back. One of them was pulling hard on my shoulder bag, which had my laptop in it, and for whatever reason I really didn’t want to lose it.
So I was on my back in some bushes and screaming and they were hitting me and trying to steal something from me and suddenly my shoulder strap broke and the force from the guy pulling caused my bag to snap back violently. He lost control of it and out if the corner of my eye I could see it sailing over a fence and into someone’s front yard.
These were unskilled muggers. There were three of them and I had a wallet, computer, and iPhone on my person, and after 20 seconds or so of pounding on me and trying to get things out of my pockets, they had nothing. I wasn’t really fighting back. I’m not sure I knew how. I think they were kids, like 17 or 18, but I never really got a look at them.
My sense is that once the bag was gone, they figured it wasn’t their night. And I had been yelling for a while, it was a residential neighborhood, and it wasn’t very late. So they took off running. A porch light went on—the house where my bag had landed. The guy there asked if I was OK and called the police. He made me some coffee. The police showed up and I filed a report and that was the end of it.
So: Soundgarden, “My Wave”. Always made me feel invincible. If I had been listening to Joanna Newsom at the time, maybe I would have been smart and crossed the street or doubled back to where some people were around. Hard to say. But now I never walk with headphones on when it’s dark. I feel like I should have all of my senses available to me. I used to walk around at night listening to music all the time and I loved it. I miss it.