As I pulled into my parking spot tonight, a song came on the radio that I had only heard once before. I remembered liking it when I first heard it, so I put the Jeep in park and turned up the volume. Suddenly, I was sitting in my very first Jeep. It was a late summer night and a coolish breeze was drifting in the open windows from across Lake Superior. I was parked overlooking the water and Jack Johnson’s “In Between Dreams” cd was pouring out my speakers. My boyfriend was sitting in the seat next to me. Our hands were intertwined resting on the middle compartment while our voices were muffled slightly by the interior. I tipped my head back and closed my eyes and listened. I can still smell the water. I can feel the late summer humidity on my skin. I can see my boyfriend’s blonde hair and mischievous smile and I can hear that cd.
Before I had a car, I wore out cds on my boombox and discman. I must have listened to Jonny Lang’s “Lie to Me” cd at least a million times. I would put it on repeat when I went to bed at night and listen to it over and over and over again. That was the first cd I ever fell in love with. I literally could not get enough of it. Lang’s raspy graveled voice had me obsessed.
On bus trips for school, my friends and I would pack our cd cases full of every cd we had and then swap on the bus. Sometimes we’d each take one of the earphones so two of us could listen to the same song at the same time. I remember skipping ahead to one certain part of The Backstreet Boys’ “Quit Playing Games with my Heart” and gushing with my friend when Nick’s solo would come on.
“No Scrubs” became a summer anthem that my cousin Amanda and I would crank while we drove around Canal Park. “Crazy Train” was and still is a song that brings me back to a drunken New Year’s Eve party. My boyfriend drove me home while I sang it at the top of my lungs. To this day, I still text him when I hear that song.
Jimmy Eat World’s “In the Middle” was the theme song for my first real heartache. I can feel myself driving along in my Chevy Corsica singing at the top of my lungs “It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything thing will be alright”.
50 Cent’s “In the Club” was on when I had my first kiss from an “older man” (I was 20, he was 26!). Queen’s “Under Pressure” was the first song on a mixed cd I got from a guy I almost cheated on my boyfriend with.
The Rolling Stone’s “Paint it Black” puts me back in the passenger seat of my ex-husband’s car. I can feel that kick drum bass line pumping through the speakers in his door while we hashed out another fight.
When I catch Michael Franti’s “Yell Fire” on the radio, I am high as a kite, lying on my living room sofa, my head on a pillow on my ex-boyfriend’s lap. I gaped in awe at the situation I was in, I gaped in awe at the music coming through my laptop speakers.
Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” was streaming through the Bose system at my dad’s 50th birthday party. I can feel the sweat from the beer can in my hand while all us party-goers yelled “Salt! Salt! Salt!” at the chorus. Not too long after, some of the lyrics from “Growing Older But Not Up” I copied onto the piece of paper I read my dad’s eulogy from. I can remember my hands shaking, looking out at the friends mourning my father and reading “Let those winds of time blow over my head. I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead”.
When I hear The Outfield’s “Your Love” I’m on a first date, sitting on a bar stool next to a guy who was stealing my heart. He nudged me with his elbow and winked while he sang along with the lyric “You know I like my girls a little bit older”. A month later that same guy pulled me up from the bed in a hotel room, wrapped his arms around me and danced with me to “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. I can still feel his embrace and feel myself giggling as we rocked back and forth to the banjo beat.
The song on my radio finished and I turned my jeep off. I realized I hadn't even heard the song. I had been thinking back to Jack Johnson and 50 Cent, first dates and breakups, parts of my life glued together by music. One seems incomplete without the other. For the first time in three weeks I smiled a real, sincere smile. I took the keys out of the ignition and started walking back to my apartment, playing back parts of the incomplete soundtrack to my life.
Thank you mom for Dan Fogelberg
Christopher for The Smashing Pumpkins and The Chili Peppers
Dad for Jimmy Buffett
Mike for Blink, Dashboard, TSL, NFG and anything else from the "good" Warped Tour Era.
Tyler for Michael Franti, Trevor Hall and Jack Johnson
Joe for Coheed, Florence, and all things Motown-ish
Nicole for Ingrid Michelson and She and Him
Andy for anything popular from 2001-2002, Miley Cyrus and rap/hip-hop that no skinny white boy should really listen to
Jonny (and Ty) for DMB and U2
Hannah for Gaga
And last but least, Gramp for random polka music and old dog food commercial jingles.