Here in Georgia — specifically, near Atlanta — we had a great rock and roll radio station for basically my entire childhood: 96 rock.
It played some truly great music, as anybody who listened to rock and roll in the 80s and 90s could tell you: Aerosmith, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, Ratt, Kiss … they’d even get crazy sometimes late at night and play Iron Maiden. I remember sitting by the radio ready to turn on my dual-head cassette recorder to make a mix-tape (and if you never did that, then did you even 80s?).
So it was a wonderful shock of nostalgia when I was out for my weekend run yesterday and saw a truck with a 96ROCK decorative license plate coming my way. I recognized the log instantly: big orange bubble letters like a clown’s balloon animal stock.
It was weird, though; the truck was fairly new, as far as I could tell — 2015 or so — and 96 rock went off the air in 2006. Which means this guy felt strongly enough about the radio station and his connection to it to dig up an old license plate he had hanging around his basement somewhere to put it on his new vehicle. Or maybe he found the plate at a yard sale and slapped it on the truck. Or … whatever. But why? Considering how many transplants we get here in Georgia, and especially where we live outside Atlanta, it’s likely that most people — and probably the vast majority of people — have no idea what 96 rock was.
And you certainly can’t listen to 96 rock now — outside, perhaps, of maybe a few clips on youtube. (I admit I haven’t looked.) To show off a 96 rock license plate is to show off a preference for something you can’t have, a longing for a thing which no longer exists.
I think it’s just his advertisement to the rest of us that he’s been around here. He knows the old ways. You see the same kind of thing now and then when you see people wearing t-shirts or baseball caps commemorating the ’96 Olympics, but that’s not the same — everybody knows the Olympics, they just happened to be in Atlanta that one time.
But 96 rock — you had to be there to know about it.
He was, in effect, signaling his age and solidarity with anybody else who would recognize the old logo.
Lighting a candle for the ancient ones to find their way home.