If I’ve done my job well enough here, the title alone should make you scratch your head, wondering just where the fuck I’m headed with this piece. Good.

Regular visitors here know well enough, as my profile suggests that I tell stories and sometimes I cuss. As it is with so many of the things I write about, this one had an innocent enough beginning. With my headphones on, feet up on the desk, and keyboard in my cross-legged lap, I was blowing through my ten pinned morning read tabs and listening to my 92-hour Spotify playlist – minding my own business – and out of nowhere, I was slapped upside the head this morning with a Pink Floyd classic (Shine on You Crazy Diamond), and this thing just wrote itself and took me along for the ride. What follows is not my fault… I blame them.

In 1975, I was 17 years old. I don’t know about the rest of you people, but 17 was – as Green Day says in”Good Riddance” – the best time of my life. I know… I know… I could have mentioned “Dirty Dancing,” but then I would have had to publicly admit to having watched it a whole bunch more than once across the span of two wives and all those daughters and granddaughters, so I passed it up. Oh, wait. And, before your brain starts saying out loud, “Hey, wait a minute! Sinatra covered that a whole lot earlier!” Don’t get your undies in a bundle; I thought of that, but the decades after 17 that he sang about will be considered shortly, so just relax.

As soon as the first few chords of Floyd started in my ear, everything I was looking at and everything I was thinking about just quietly floated away, and I was standing at the top of the stairs in the “A” wing at my high school, looking down to see my high school sweetheart heading up the stairs toward me as the butterflies rose and my stomach, I couldn’t breathe, and my soccer star knees started quivering. God, did I love her. I loved her so much it hurt, and I have not loved like that ever since. And when she comes to visit me in my dreams, even after all these years, we are both still 17 despite the dreams always being related to modern times and modern “stories”. Yes, I have dreamed that she laughed at, and mocked me as she told me what shitty marriage choices I made. More than once. :).

Of course, being 17 is exactly the time in your life when you are supposed to feel that way. All too quickly, adulthood sneaks up behind you, drags you out of childhood kicking and screaming, and throws you into the deep end of post-pubescent retirement from youthful and naive innocence, demanding that you pull your heart out of your… fantasy world… and get busy girding your loins against the shitstorms and harsh and cruel realities you will have to spend the next 60 years or so, having to contend with. Yeah, I started with’ass’ but decided Fantasy World was a little bit less mean-spirited.

There have been times in my life since those days when I couldn’t decide whether it was a gift or a curse to remember some of the life patches that come and go as vividly as I sometimes do, but the older I get, the more sure I am that these are the sorts of things, souvenirs to carry along with you so to speak, and it’s my guess they stick around in our heads to give us comfort when we need it most. That’s what I’m going with anyway.

After listening to the song on Spotify, still in a trance over the lyrics, I clicked over to YouTube and watched the official video(13 minutes long) because I hadn’t gotten that stretch of introspection about life back then and everything that came after out of my system yet. I was reminded, of course, that I never had acid in my drug days half as good as the shit they must have been on when that video got put together, but I digress; it occurred to me that music is music, and lyrics are lyrics but, just the right combinations of these two things create something much bigger than either one of them by themselves. Just the right version, with just the right vocals and instrument ensembles, and – for me at least – it’s an experience that embeds itself in your soul and sticks with you throughout the rest of your life.

An hour later, and a year shy of five decades since I loved someone so much it hurt, a lifetime of love, loss, laughter, tears, and a couple of stretches of really dark times had washed over me. Pieces of lyrics from songs I hadn’t thought about for years echoed in my ears. “the smell of hospitals in winter and the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters and no pearls” (Counting Crows) took me to the loss of my father. “there’s things I remember and things I forget, I miss you, I guess that I should” which took me to the aftermath of an ugly divorce) also Counting Crows). “you’ve had me wrapped around your finger since the day you were born” (Tim McGraw) which takes me, literally, every time I hear it, to the day I danced with my daughter after I gave her away at her wedding. This remains true, by the way even as she is well into her 40s now.

The longer life goes on, the larger the pile of bits and pieces of memory becomes. A lot of these flash through your mind like frames in a film or maybe still shots on your phone or desktop screen saver. This is all normal, of course, but a much smaller number of memories sometimes come back to visit you and bring you to an immediate standstill. It has been my personal experience, at least, that the precious few that take you back in time standing right in the middle of the rerun flashback are the ones you just can’t ever completely let go of. They aren’t always good, they aren’t always bad, but these are the ones that are always there no matter where you go or what you do. And there is almost always a song playing in the background that went along with that moment in your past.

While my mind was wandering in the mist of memory, I was reminded of all those years ago when I was a child watching my grandmother and her sister, along with my mother and her sister, sitting around the dining room table bickering over this little piece of fabric or that, and building these incredible quilts while they talked shit about the men in their respective lives, and took turns listening to the likes of Lawrence Welk or Ray Price or Patsy Cline or Guy Lombardo. To this day, whenever I hear any of those songs, I’m immediately standing in the doorway, watching the four of them just enjoying the passage of time with each other and having something to show for it at some point down the road. I can’t even imagine making a patchwork quilt of lines from songs and the music that went with them… But I think it would be pretty fucking cool if I could figure out how to pull it off.


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