There are thousands of songs -- dating back from the time I was eight or nine (earlier if you count my Grammy singing "Mairzey Doats" when I was just a little kid) -- that bring to life very specific moments in time. . . not just a memory, but a smell, a touch, a feeling. It's more than deja vu, I'm actually there, you know? I can't escape it, not that I'd want to anyway. Music is such an integral part of my life and has been for so long, I can't imagine not being able to put on a song and immediately recall the feel of the moist Florida Winter air on my arms as I ride my bike across the bridge to the beach ("Caught in the Rain" - Preston School of Industry). . . or the sun on my shoulders as I ride home to our little house in our little neighborhood on a crystalline Spring day ("I'm Always in Love" - Wilco).
What's strange is when it catches me by surprise -- when I'm at work in a new place, in a new town, surrounded by new people, and suddenly I'm back in Fort Pierce thanks to the Talking Heads. I didn't put this on, I didn't ask for this, not now. And always, always, I'm compelled to tell the story to whomever is with me. Tell my current boyfriend why this song reminds me of the guy who broke my heart when I was eighteen? Sure. Tell my little sister about listening to this one while waiting for the dope man? I can't help it. ("Bed for the Scraping" - Fugazi, and "Passat Dream" - Pavement, respectively) It's like I'm suddenly on The Couch, barfing up big buckets full of lurid details -- the ones nobody wants to hear, the ones beyond juicy. I've mentioned this here before; sometimes I don't realize when I've said too much until it's much too late. I suppose that doesn't only apply to music-induced memories, though; it's more a general observation on the way I approach life.
Fortunately, most of the memories I carry with me are good ones, and I feel lucky that I can instantly lift my mood with the push of a button (though I have to admit I sometimes succumb to a sort of teary nostalgia). I hear "Imaginary War" by Jawbreaker and I'm back in Trav's truck with four perfect friends, on the way to western Maryland for a crash-bang-blur of a ski trip. Pretty much anything by Band of Horses inevitably reminds me of Jesse and my first whiskey-hazy Fall in New York, all sweaters and sidewalks. Give me Mark Lanegan and I'm back at the blue box ("Ya'll remember when the drummer from Anthrax broke his leg skateboarding?"). Put on Redman or Sunny Day Real Estate and I'm eating a Schlotzky's Deluxe Original in Gainesville with Whitey, but if it's the Magnetic Fields I'll be in Kendall with Luis, who was always, always taking pictures.
Then there are the new ones. When I acquire new music I often wonder what feelings and events the songs will eventually be attached to; new situations and new friends get their own songs -- often the new songs and new experiences will become old memories together. But sometimes things overlap in surprising ways. At first Kentucky felt like My Morning Jacket, and it's true - I'll never be able to separate my first weeks here from "The Tennessee Fire." But then Band of Horses started creeping in, and Neutral Milk Hotel, and I started getting scared that new memories would replace the old familiar ones, and I'd lose those precious slices of time-travel, so I began grieving for them, like they were old friends who had slipped away. But maybe they've just gone on to a better place.
"I just can't find the time to write my mind the way I want it to read."