The best way to explain it is this: my brain is a very aggressive soundtracker. If I hear songs when things are happening, even mundane things, that song becomes associated with and evocative of that moment forever. And I do mean forever. Grease the movie-- went to see it at age eight in Philadelphia after a Chinese dinner in a restaurant where my mother, sister and I laughed ourselves silly over a dessert that was EXACTLY as advertised-- 'almond cookie' was indeed one singular almond cookie served in a fancy dish. Grease, the two-record album with movie pictures inside? Lisa Mulvenna's birthday party, during which her cousin Wendy did a split and pulled a muscle.
I'm not talking about things like my first wedding dance, though of course the songs associated with important moments remain connected to those moments with equal tenacity. But many, many songs live in my brain married to shards of time and they always will be. The Live song 'Lightning Crashes' coexists with sitting in my friend Jamie's car in the Denny's parking lot after our final meal together there, after graduation, after the last of my close friends were done with college and scattering to the winds, both of us contemplating hard friendships and harder goodbyes.
More recently, the miracle of Google Play has enabled me to mine the soundtrack of my entire life and arrange those songs into decades, eras....to organize the undercurrent of melancholy, desire and joy that has carried me into the present, arms loaded with tunes and memories. Whatever I want, whenever I want. Wichita Lineman or Purple Rain. Ode to Billie Joe or Bring Da Ruckus. Long deep track Zeppelin indulgences. Songs that remind me of long commutes to old jobs or longer drives to see my now husband/then boyfriend. Terence Trent D'Arby owns long stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in mixtape infamy. So I sit today breathing the breath of life back into this long neglected space while Fiona Apple winds through the draining rain in my backyard filling the silence with fat chords and want. I pick up a draft I started five full years ago and begin to write the song of the next five. There is work I am doing. Life work. Hard work I am composing a narrative for that I hope is not tedious or discordant. Composing is new territory for me. It involves asking a question-- what do I want? Not, how can I embrace all that other people think I should want, but what to I actually truly want? I don't know the answer to that question...yet. But I'm going to find it.