Tag Archives: marlene dulay

Cassette Recovery

23 Mar

candlestick script marlene - sony audio cassette tape
Today at work I had a minor Twitter triumph with a post about restoring audio tape by baking it in a convection oven. And while I didn’t have to do anything that advanced, I also successfully restored my first cassette at home this weekend.

I found this tape last time I was home in Sacramento, with “Candlestick Script Marlene” handwritten on it. Marlene is my mom’s name, so I was hoping it was something she recorded, maybe even with her voice on it. The tape had come off one of the reels, so I opened it up, Scotch taped it back on, and wound it back up.

Nothing earth-shattering on it, though. Just a collection of Benny Goodman songs. But maybe they were all my mom’s favorites, and maybe she would listen to it in her little Datsun, and that’s pretty cool.

The opening song, now a little warbled due to my shoddy handiwork:


A Mother’s Day Message

12 May

mom and me
When I record people’s voices, it’s usually for the pure novelty and silliness of it. I’ve always enjoyed eavesdropping, and the pocket-sized ability to document little snippets of other people’s lives and replay them for my own amusement opened up a whole new world of audio voyeurism.

It’s more daunting to think about audio recording as a real preservation of voices. When my grandma was recovering from a stroke, my cousin and I decided we better take the opportunity to interview her while we still could. We set up a recorder and asked her about growing up in the Philippines, moving to America, and if she really thought Obama could win the 2008 election just because he’s handsome. She turned out to be fine.

When my mom was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer not long after, I knew I should do an audio interview with her, too. I knew I should ask her about growing up in Okinawa, crying when she first rode a boat across the Pacific Ocean and saw that the Golden Gate Bridge was not actually gold, and raising my brother and me — all stories I know but wish I could hear again and again.

For two years while my mom was fighting sickness, undergoing chemotherapy and altering her diet, I knew I needed to record her, but I couldn’t. It meant it would be my last chance to ask her questions I always wanted to ask. It meant admitting to myself that, soon, she wouldn’t be around to tell me stories.

The last time I talked to my mom, it was a Gmail video chat while I was in Okinawa and she was home in Sacramento. It was a short conversation — the sun had just come out after days of rain, so I showed off my new Japanese haircut and told her I better go to take a walk. I couldn’t have known that was it.

That was three years ago. I’ve searched Google in hopes that they secretly archive video chats (they don’t). I’ve gone through old cassette tapes in case of some long-lost home recordings (none, yet).

Each Mother’s Day, I try to find something to put on this blog in memory of my mom, but the only audio I’ve dug up is this from our home answering machine:

So here’s the real Mother’s Day message: Don’t wait. Don’t wait until your mom is sick or it’s your last chance. Document her voice now, frequently, whenever she wants to tell you tales about her life. Get a voice recorder, download a phone app, or unearth your Walkman, because these are stories worth preserving.

It’s nice to think you can rely on your memory of a person and everything they’ve ever told you, but, even if you can, it would be comforting to have some audio memories backed up.

Mama Rocket

8 May

I tried to find an audio recording of my mom for a Mother’s Day post, but the only thing I can really think of is our answering machine. Instead, here are a couple of videos my brother Allan made:

This is my mom’s explanation of how she went from studying art to being a cartographer (although when mapmaking meant learning AutoCAD, she turned back to art). I’ve always said I have maps in my blood because my parents met in the geography graduate program at San Francisco State.

Allan and our cousin Jojo wrote this song, and Allan compiled this video many years later after a cross-country trip. It ends with my mom looking like the giant she was, even at 5’2″.