The Music

Okay, so we all know I don’t do nostalgia.

Err…

I don’t do nostalgia well, so I try not to do it at all.  Give me enough booze and a basically unlimited supply of music, however, and my thoughts occasionally take on a life of their own.

*sigh*

For no real reason, I kicked off an “80’s flashback” music-fest a few days ago.  Now, keep in mind, my real knowledge of musical theory and history began in the early 90’s with the whole grunge/alternative movement.  From there, it grew into old school blues and folk.  One of my favorite outings, in fact, was the National Bluegrass festival when it was held in Maine while I lived there. But…

But, it all started back in the 80’s.  More to the point, my deeply personal and emotional attachment to music, and to various songs, started back in the 80’s.  It hadn’t meant much, in fact, until the final years of that decade.  Until one particular morning, driving in my car.

I was on my way to the my friend’s graveside internment.  I had sat through the church memorial without falling apart, but…then…

On that drive, from church to cemetery, a particular song played…and I finally fell apart.  I still can’t hear that song, as a matter of fact, without reliving that particular drive.

My close association of moments and emotions with music — with specific songs — has done nothing but accelerate since.

I can’t help it anymore — things that matter to me get a soundtrack.  From the triumphant and celebratory songs of a hunting wolf pack, to the mournful soundtrack of Connor and Oz, to the wistful longing and nostalgia of my memories, there is a soundtrack for everything.  I have only to hear a few notes/lines of a song and I can tell you every single detail about the moment it evokes for me.

Remember that eidetic memory thing we talked about a year or so back?  Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about here.  Every memory I have is still…real.  I can tell you what I smelt the day my brother shipped off to war.  Just as I can tell you the song playing on the radio the day he came back.

I can tell you what I was wearing the day my sister died…

I can tell you what I had for breakfast the day I sold my first story…

I can tell you the song playing on the radio when she told me she had chosen to end the pregnancy…

*sigh*

I don’t forget.  At all.

If I tell you I forgot something, by the way, I’m lying.  I am, remember, a recovering Sales and Marketing weasel, so lying is second nature to me.  I’m very, very good at it.  As a matter of fact, I lie all the time.  Wait…

Ahem.

We’ll leave aside my life as a fiction writer, shall we?  That aside, I still lie…a lot.  I tell folks what they want to hear because it’s generally far, far easier than the truth.  The only place I tell the truth, when you get right down to it, is in the words I type.

This blog gets one brand of truth.  It is a truth that often makes my friends and family uncomfortable, by the way, but it is still a surface truth.  It is a truth of mind and thought.  It isn’t until you get into the fiction — into the characters and worlds I create — that you get to the emotional truth.  It isn’t until barriers come down, and the music starts playing, that the real truth comes out…

So, my question for you is this: what drives your truth?

I have a friend who can only express her thoughts and feelings through drawing.  “What’s wrong?” I would ask.  Her answer would invariably be soft and deflecting…then she would show me her drawing.  A drawing of power and emotion.  A drawing that told a story…that told the story, the one she could not put into words.

A guy I know needs a stove and knives to be himself…

Another friend defines himself through the beers he creates…

I define myself through the words…

How do you define yourself?  Who are you?

I would say that you can’t be a writer/artist until you can answer that question, but that would be complete bullshit.  It isn’t the endpoint that defines you as an artist, it is the question itself.

For me it is the emotions and memories tied to the music.  It is the questions that come from the music that define me as a writer and an artist.  It isn’t the answers, by the way, because I have no answers.  The me of today is a stranger to the me of that miserable drive all those years ago…but the one could not exist without the other.

So, anyway…I’ve wandered pretty far afield from my original thesis of an “80’s Extravaganza” of music and memory.  I’ve wandered from the memories that gave rise to this piece, too.  I’ve lost the thread on the concerts I went to, and the songs no one talks about anymore.  The dances and parties with songs whose meanings have changed as I’ve changed…

I may have lost the thread in what I’ve written, but it’s all still there, those memories I talked about:

Dancing to house music in a converted bunker in Berlin…

Smoking bowls on the beach at a Grateful Dead concert…

Sweating, almost fainting, from the heat in a mosh pit…

The long, slow kisses at a — honest truth! — Wayne Newton show in Vegas…

The day I met Stevie Ray Vaughn…

Music is my bane, then, but also my savior.  I can remember that terrible, terrible drive…but I can remember, also, every detail of the day I stood backstage at a show, watching Clapton and Sting play together…

{Musical Note — c’mon, was I ever gonna play anything but the song that was playing in the car on that awful morning?  And, yes, it still brings a tear.  Where the fuck do you think Oz and his death came from?  He is the written embodiment of the three suicides that have so deeply scarred my soul…}

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