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The music in me

February 17, 2008

I can turn a page in any memory of my life and there is a song playing to accompany the trifle sometimes as tribute but often just a fortuitous theme for what unfolded before me. I clung to music and songs as they sang out what was in my heart and head but could not sing without the turntable spinning around and around. Gosh, I miss records. I eagerly open my CD’s to look at the artwork, the liner notes, read the lyrics and mostly I am disappointed in the new and more accessible medium.

Lately I have been thinking about people that I miss and love and long for. As your immediate grief leaves you sometimes you are left with a longing unfulfilled that is lonelier and deeper than your first loss. It is a constant reminder of what has passed away from you and what will never be again.

I don’t know why trying to call Jackson Browne was my first thoughts after my mom died. I remember a friend who was recently taken away from me walking up to me at the wake for my mom and telling me that Running on Empty was playing for Jeanne and wondered if I could feel her with us? I couldn’t and wished I could. I can only feel the familiar music around me pulling at my heart and mind remembering where we were when I heard it first.

I miss being surprised and delighted by the radio. Long before you could go to your computer or pop in a CD or even a cassette tape you had to just wait patiently for the DJ to play the song you most wanted to hear. “Here come those tears again” plays and we both are silent at first in the car but the song begins with Jacksons voice singing the first note and we both sing along not embarrassed and individually lost in our own meanings and thoughts. My moms tuneless voice melding with my alto tones bear up under the tiny bit of our own sorrow remembering how we were left standing there while we were told how much he had grown. We sing the whole song and then feel a little let down when it ends and something peppy or impersonal comes right on after. The moment passes and we don’t talk about how we miss the good parts of him and I don’t say how I am glad he is gone because he never loved me and told me so. When you are a child you don’t understand your parents desire to be happy and loved and can only feel belonging to the love they have for you.

As I stand in the breezeway between the ICU and the elevators I think about Merriweather Post Pavillion and the Jackson Browne concert I take my mom to for her birthday present. I am in high school but can’t drive yet so it must be 1986 and I am 15. We have good seats and it is a grand October evening and I am one of the youngest there and take some pride in that. We both get dressed up and my mom gets stoned in the car on the way there. I wear bright red lipstick and black eyeliner and feel too punk rock for this venue filled with Izods and tiedyed shirts. My mom is so pretty and thin and well dressed. Her hair his perfectly straight and shiny and long. I look over at her often while she looks wistfully to the stage. When I was little I imagined it would be possible that if Jackson Browne just met my mom he would forget all about Daryl Hannah and run off with her and we could move to California or where ever he lived.

Irrationally at her death I revert to my childhood fantasy standing on that breezeway in a big suburban hospital where the body of my dead mother lays waiting for the funeral home I just called to come and take her away. I furiously wonder and lament that I should have tried to call him. Fly him to her and maybe that would have been enough reason to live. That his music could actually perform a miracle and make her live because I needed her and was not enough. Like a knight in a fairy tale he would bend down and kiss her forehead and she would open her eyes and breath on her own.

My co-worker and sort of friend in Ptown was a part time DJ at the local radio station and he played rad music for 4 hours one night a week. He mentioned we should call in and request a song. The first thing that came to my mind was a Jackson Browne song. I wasn’t picky and still stuck to my guns even when all the guys in the kitchen made fun of me and my friendish the DJ mocked me on the air and begrudgingly played “Rosie”. I always loved that song when I was little because it has a beautiful melody. It never occurred to me that it might be about masturbation? Or that is what they teased me about for about a month. I was such a dork for liking that music and why didn’t I want to hear Pavement or Liz Phair? Because I hear them all day, all night. The music of my youth is filled with cool bands but when I feel like the magic of radio could produce a song that would surprise and delight me Jackson Browne is what I thought of. I can hear those other bands anytime.

I wonder if Tool and The Beastie Boys and Liz Phair and Patty Griffin, Bonnie Raitt and Dinasaur Jr., REM and The Lemmonheads, Bongwater and Sonic Youth, Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, Ben Folds Five and The Zutons, The Flaming Lips and Talking Heads and on and on…will be a sound track for Spawn and Chica? I can only hope that the music that the feel coming from us will someday make them feel closer to us when we are gone. I can’t seem to end this without a cliche so fuck it. Music can make you feel corny and I feel okay about being a dork.

  1. February 17, 2008 4:03 am

    I associate Jackson Browne and Van Morrison with long drives from Cambridge, MA through Vermont across Lake Champlain to way upstate New York near the Canadian border when my eventual spouse was teaching in the state university while I was still in graduate school. Those six hour drives were all music tapes all the time, the same tapes over and over because they put me in my special “Vermont trance.” A lot of the rest of my life has been musicless, unfortunately. I find that I have a great need for total silence, maybe because my profession is talk therapy and it’s all about other people’s thoughts and heads and when I’m not at work, I just want to be in my own head, with no outside interference at all.

  2. February 17, 2008 2:33 pm

    I totally hear you… The romanticism in the process of music as a medium is totally down the drain for the future. It’s going to be a different ball game for the tangibility of music with the next generation.

    I see it as a step back. You might, too. But for this generation to come, it’s what they know.

    I see it as similar to when the CD came out for our generation. People complained that the artwork was too small. The sound was cruddy. I agree with both marks. But it is what it is.


    But I am typing this while listing to Ray Charles LIVE. On vinyl.

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