Monday, July 2, 2018

Chapter 1. This is Where It All Starts

Originally written April 21, 2016

A few years ago, I attempted write my memoir. As I started to write it, I felt that much of my life was way too boring as a whole. So I decided instead to pick out specific events, certain nuggets of interest and write about those instead. That would be far more interesting than my David Copperfield (the book, not the magician) life, as described by Brad Pitt’s Louis in Interview With the Vampire, “I was born. I grew up. I died.” No, nobody would want to hear the pathetic tales of a grade school kid trying to be accepted and failing at every turn. So, I turned to the events and wrote about those with little if any foreshadowing. How did I come to be declared dead by the student body of a high school that didn’t even know me? What happened before that, and that, and even before that? These are the stories that nobody would want to read, but they are the stories I want to tell.

I had gotten turned onto a blogger, music writer, and photographer named James Stafford, who was writing and posting a new chapter of his memoir, Why It Matters, weekly. There was something there that I needed to read. As a skeptic, I don’t believe that things are meant to be, but I definitely found something to connect me to this life being played out before me. Each chapter (most of them, at least) was titled with a lyric to a relevant song to that chapter for the most part (something I will not be doing). It was life affected by music that he discovered in his earliest years after he rescued his aunt’s record and 45 records from certain doom (DOOOOOOOOOM!). While his story is far more interesting than mine could ever be, I notice some parallels, and I pull some inspiration from his words. I look back at my earliest memories of childhood, to the house where I grew up, and instantly there is music…

“What kind of music do you like?” This is a question that has haunted and harassed me for most of my life. It’s a question that, when asked, sends my mind into a vortex looking for an answer. It’s a question that makes me think that the asker is convinced that it is only conceivable for a person to like one kind of music. Depending on my mood, I may choose to answer with a “yes”, or simply by saying, “all kinds." I don't only like one kind of music, but all kinds, from all genres. I've been told that one cannot like Pink Floyd and punk music because the latter hated the former. I guess then that I am violating some artificial construct of the social order because I will listen to Dark Side of the Moon followed by Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death just to spite the people who say it can't be done. I suppose I could blame my upbringing.

I was born nine months after what I will simply refer to as the greatest album of all time was released (don’t read anything into that, please). I was born into a family that loved their music. Nobody played any instruments, mind you, but I grew up with stories of my grandmother dancing around to Elvis Presley (this was at a time when parents weren’t supposed to like Elvis and even find him immoral and corrupting). I feel like there was some form of music playing in the house at every waking hour, whether it was mom playing the latest music of the day by The Eagles, The Bee Gees, ABBA (gag!), or dad was listening to a new batch of oldies 45s that he picked up at one of the record conventions, including Elvis, The Beatles, Buddy Holly, or the oddball "The Flying Saucer," by Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman, which was story of alien invasion told using song lyrics. I would dance around the living room as a little kid in my own, weird way, just soaking up all of the music around me.

The stereo was kept in the living room, the main room of the house, which points to the importance of music to us. My brother and I shared two rooms, a bedroom and a playroom, and in the latter was a record player with a small collection of records, mostly children’s records. I say mostly because one of those records, it would turn out, was a grown-up record, The Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful. I only remember ever playing one song off of this album, and while it might be way too overplayed to this day, especially on oldies stations, I still love “Summer in the City” and it still transports me back to those earliest days in the gold-carpeted, yellow and white checked walls, and that black, plastic record player. I think it was a GE Wildcat, thanks to Google, and I recall seeing the GE logo on the speakers, but then I also remember the Berenstain Bears being spelled with an “EI” instead of the “AI”, so don’t take my word for it.

Before I knew it, I would end up with my own music and that would start me down a road that I would never veer away from. I would find myself on a quest for more music. It's a journey that lasted...well, frankly, as I write this in my forty-second year of life, I am still on that journey. It all started with a crate that was, to me, more than a crate. It was a symbol of this journey and, while the crate sits idle, the journey continues...

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