Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In the fall of 1982 I was a freshman in high school and had just joined the swim team. It was my first time in organized sports since my stint with rec. department basketball in 6th grade. Personal electronics in the early eighties were huge and cumbersome, but the idea of portable music easily outweighed the inconvenience. As I stood outside the bus waiting to head to some other pool in our conference, the seniors swaggered aboard carrying a boom-box roughly the size of a chest freezer. Once we were on the road, the entire team couldn't help but to listen to whatever the seniors were listening to. On that trip, I heard David Bowie's Changes for the first time. Our lives are filled with such moments. Events big and small are brought to vivid memory because of a song. These songs are our lives' soundtracks. I can recall sitting around the high school lunch table with my closest friends listing off the songs that would be on our soundtracks, and why. It wasn't until recently that I actually decided to finally sit down at the computer and attempt to plot them out. Thankfully personal electronics have become sleeker and more efficient. Back in the day, I would have been reduced to 20-22 songs on a TDK-SA90 (the preferred blank cassette of my friends and I). Thanks to iTunes, I now have infinite possibilities.
The greatest thing about our soundtrack is that it is really the exact opposite of our bucket-list. We may sit at work dreaming of the tropical vacation we'll probably never take, when suddenly a song comes on the radio that reminds us of something great that we've already done: a road trip with friends, a stellar show, a family vacation. A simple song makes us realize that our life has already been pretty cool. When compiling my soundtrack, I didn't stick to any one theme. Meaning I included songs that inspire me today as well as songs that take me back to specific moments in time. It's this freedom to express creativity that makes the process unique and freeing. My friend Jim saw U2 in Hamburg Germany when he was part of an exchange program. U2 on his soundtrack is going to have a whole different significance then any U2 song on my playlist. But that doesn't make it more or less important to us. After all, no one's soundtrack is better than anyone ese's. That is the best part: Yours is the best soundtrack out there! As is mine. It doesn't matter if you heard Bowie in Europe, on a school bus, or in that hilarious episode of Flight of the Conchords, it's your music, your memories, and your life.
The songs that made my soundtrack are all over the map. The earliest music-related memory I have comes from my car-pool experience going to and from pre-school. Only one of the moms ever played the radio. And it was during these trips to and from St. Luke's pre-school that I came to love Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now and The Who's I can See For Miles. I often wonder if there some deeper meaning that I can recall two songs about vision from a time in my life when my eyes were being opened to the larger world that is formal education. Along with those songs representing my earliest music related memory are ELO's Don't Bring Me Down, (representing my first rock album purchase); Journey's Stone In Love (first 'real' kiss); Gin Blossoms' Allison Road (song that was playing when I crossed the border into Oregon for the first time); The Police's Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic-Live (represents spending my best friend's birthday with Sting, Andy, and Stewart); and Shinedown's Breaking Inside (my recent reinventing of myself). There are also a smattering of 80's one hit wonders that remind me of summers at the beach, Marillion tunes that just inspire me, and a great representation of concerts I've been to. One thing I've noticed in creating this masterpiece, is that there are very few songs about work or responsibilities or pain. Every song, even if it represents a bitter-sweet love long gone, rekindles a smile. All music is good music when it takes you somewhere that makes you happy. Now it's time for you to sit at your computer with your iTunes, dig your albums out of the basement, rummage through that box of cassettes you can't bring yourself to get rid of, and put your soundtrack together. I know you'll be pleased with the end result. First concert? First kiss? Backpacking through Europe? Moving into your first dorm room? A song from a mixed tape she gave you (or you gave her)? A song you and your best friend always sang? What will be on your soundtrack? It is your life -- Play it loud!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saturday Night Shower (Touchstone part 2)

After re-reading my Words of a Feather blog, I found I was still disappointed at where it landed (or rather, failed to land). I was trying to make a point referring to personal peacefulness and what I use, and cling to in some cases, to center myself. While I was in the shower last week contemplating why I hadn't written in so long and what I might write about next, it all kind of came together. Why not write about my shower? Well, oddly enough, it goes deeper then that.
A number of years ago, I was a salesman. I was often gone 12-14 hours a day, and twice a week I stayed in a tiny hotel room. It was a very hard time for me and my family. While selling may have taxed my body and my time, it didn't tax my mind the way cooking does. At the end of my week I could come home and not think about sales again until Monday morning. Fridays would inevitably be a late night. Sometimes 10 or 11:00pm. But when I got home I could shed the weeks' uniform and hit that shower... Oh, that shower! I could wash the week off me it fifteen minutes of soap and hot water! I came to live for that shower. At rough patches in the week, I focused on how good that shower was going to feel. That may have been my first 'touchstone'. After that shower I could be husband or dad or friend or son without any distraction.
Last week was a good week. Things at home were on an even keel (and for this family, who always seems to have a dozen or more balls in the air, that's really something), work is picking up for the summer, which challenges me a little more, and on Thursday there was a food show and a bike show on the same day! That Thursday was special. It was a day of me getting to be me. Talking the trade with vendors and salespeople in the morning and cruising the bike show in the afternoon. To add some proverbial whipped cream to the already ice-cream sundae of a day; I had the best hour long Mexican Spice Latte ever! Good times plus good company makes for a great day. Even the ride to and from Milwaukee was nice. Great tunes always makes for a relaxing drive. The week just kept chugging along with two beach-worthy days at Fischer Creek park combing the sand for beach glass, chasing Koval through the waves and baking in the afternoon sun. As the sun set on my week and lunches were being made for Monday morning, I began to feel that familiar yearning. After all the dinners served at work, after the bikes were awed, after the good-byes, after the lattes, after shaking the sand from my shoes, after the kids are asleep, after the last episode of House M.D. is watched; that shower is calling me. Beckoning to wash me clean and get me ready for whatever comes next. Another week -- another lather, rinse, and ready to repeat.