We’ve all seen him. A long beard, even longer hair, a pac-man t-shirt under an interestingly patterned blazer, sunglasses and a boombox.
But some may be surprised at the amount of knowledge there is packed into that Sony. His name is JJ, but to everyone on campus he’s the Boombox Guy.
To kick things off, I wanted to know of his great peace-making skills.
The scene: we’ve all survived the apocalypse, which, of course, stemmed from some man-made incident. We need a song. “’Why Can’t We Be Friends’ by War,” he tells me. So fitting. And with a smile he goes into a story behind the song.
He was walking down Greene Street and saw a crowd of people. They were listening to a street preacher and he just so happened to have the War classic on tape. He blared the song, boombox held over his head. Needless to say, he was arrested. And when he did the same thing again, years later, he faced the same fate. He was never charged though, and he (and myself) got a few laughs out of it.
“You can never take this thing too seriously,” he said.
Despite the spontaneity of those first few encounters, a lot of planning goes into being The Boombox Guy.
“It has to be cohesive and consistent,” he said. “If one thing’s going to be bad, then it all has to be bad.”
He creates playlists that all have some kind of base, whether it’s historical, a specific genre or to prepare for an upcoming album release.
“When Michael Jackson died, I played ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Thriller’ and some ‘Bad,’” he said. “During the holidays, I play holiday music.”
He also said people will sometimes make requests.
But he said no matter what he plays, they all have meanings and they all bring back memories.
Sitting across from him, I noticed his dark green blazer. I had to ask.
“Oh this, I got this from Goodwill. It’s nice because it’s tailored to fit me.”
The blazer is one of the staples of his Boombox outfit, and he said the checkerboard-patterned jacket was one of 18 he owns.
“My favorite patterns are paisley and hound’s-tooth. And I love bright colors,” he said.
Jackets aren’t the only things he collects. He owns 12 boomboxes, five of which he uses to carry around campus.
“I just think they’re great pieces of electronics. I decorate my house with them,” he said.
Why can’t we be friends?
I remember seeing him walking past West Quad blasting some 80′s standard. Though most people seem delighted when he comes strolling down the street, he said not everyone shares that good will.
“That’s another reason not to take this thing too seriously,” he said. “Not everyone is going to like you. I’ve heard it all.”
But how can someone not like a guy who walks around campus in a Twinkie suit on Halloween?
“I do this to make people smile and laugh and forget their problems,” he said.
Super hot playlist
I also asked him to list 10 songs that he would want to survive that man-made apocalypse we mentioned earlier. These are the chosen ones.
- “I Ran” — Flock of Seagulls
- “Surrender” — Cheap Trick
- “September” — Earth, Wind & Fire
- “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” — LL Cool J
- “The Message” — Grandmaster Flash
- “Why Can’t We Be Friends” — War
- “Slow Pokin’” — Short Baby
- “Apache” — Sugarhill Gang
- “Pool Party” — Aquabats
- “Search and Destroy” — Iggy Pop