How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Soundtrack of My Life

As with everyone who has ever lived, there have been defining moments that have turned me like wet clay and then fired hot in life's kiln to create who I am and how I look at life. A myriad of experiences: the birth of my brother when I was almost four; my father leaving for Vietnam when I was six; kissing a boy on my thirteenth birthday and reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle a few months later; smoking pot when I was fourteen (highly overrated); reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens when I was fifteen, giving birth to my first child at age twenty-three; starting college when I was thirty-four; my divorce at age thirty-eight; deciding to become a teacher during my final year of my B.A; marrying for all the right reasons at age forty-seven, watching my father die at the age of fifty-one. All little bits and pieces.

These important and altering events are mirrored by a soundtrack  of music. A few are not merely songs, but entire albums. Opuses that encompass where I have been in this life. The albums of my life, so to speak. Thus far, the soundtrack is as follows:

Get your Wings by Aerosmith: I was thirteen years old, walking down my short neighborhood street of Stonehouse in San Antonio. An older, cute, Camaro owning boy lived a few doors down from me.  It must have been spring. The Camaro was black, the day was warm. The boy had his eight track stereo blaring from the car’s speakers while he meticulously waxed the car. "Train Kept ‘a Rolling" began to play.

Well on a train, I met a dame
She rather handsome
We kinda look the same
She was pretty
From New York City
I'm walkin' down that old fair lane
I'm in heat, I'm in love.
But I just couldn't tell her so.

I stopped dead cold, riveted. Somehow I got the nerve to yell over the blare of the music, “Who is that? The boy screamed back, “Aerosmith”. The hard driving blues/rock sound seeped into my bones. The next week I started lining up babysitting jobs. I had to have the new Toys in the Attic album by Aerosmith. Three weeks later it was mine. I still have that album. The cover is badly worn, the record scratched beyond imagining.  It took me another month to buy Get Your Wings, the album that contained the song, "Train Kept a Rolling."
          A love affair had begun. One with music. My music, the music that spoke to me.

Let There Be Rock by AC/DC: July 27, 1977. I was fifteen. Riding in a beat up Toyota heading to a mall in downtown San Antonio. There were only three of us. The boy driving lit up a joint.  He said we were going to meet AC/DC; they were signing copies of their new album that day pre-concert opening. The stoner driver pushed an AC/DC eight track in. I heard Bon Scott singing, “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”, a song title that would later become my mantra whenever life threw me curve balls.
             I remember getting to the mall. I remember going inside,  I remember seeing Angus Young and Bon Scott seated on folding chairs at a card table piled high with their latest album. They were just outside the entrance of a record store, surrounded by teen fans. I also remember being much more interested in the people weaving in and out through the corridors of the mall. They looked very strange: midgets, skinny giants, huge eyes, lopping oversized ears. Must of been the pot.  I glanced at AC/DC and then immediately become reabsorbed into the task of people watching. I never even approached AC/DC, much to my eternal shame,
            The next night I rode with my friend, Bill Ogle, to see with my own two eyes and hear with my own two ears what AC/DC could do live. I ended up eleven rows from the stage watching Angus Young prancing, running, dodging and ducking in his school boy attire, attacking the guitar until it screamed. His wet hair plastered to his skull. Fingers flying over the chords. Grinning, daring the audience to push him farther, faster, louder. Bon Scott, strutting like a caged lion, hitting ear splitting vocals that punched the auditory senses like hot dripping honey.
            AC/DC opened for Moxy that night, but there was no way in hell Moxy was going to get that show back after AC/DC walked off the stage.  Out of all the concerts I have ever been to, and I have been to quite a few, I think seeing AC/DC that night way back in 1977 was one of the most ethereal musical experiences I have ever had. Two and half years later Bon Scott was dead.
            But for the record I think the two greatest albums AC/DC ever made were High Voltage and Highway to Hell. Angus, Malcolm, and Bon forever enshrined. Timeless..
            And yes, it’s still A Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock and Roll.

War Child by Jethro Tull: The first lyrics I ever listened to that had double meanings and begged to be interpreted were from Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull.  The lyrics became my gateway to a later hobby and academic pursuit of interpreting poetry, short stories, and novels. The concept of double entendre slapping me in the face like a Flora-Bama mackerel began with War Child and lyrics like:

So as you push off from the shore,
won't you turn your head once more --- and make your peace with everyone?
For those who choose to stay,
will live just one more day ---
to do the things they should have done.
And as you cross the wilderness, spinning in your emptiness:
you feel you have to pray.
Looking for a sign
that the Universal Mind (!) has written you into the Passion Play.

At fifteen the heavy meaning of those words and how they apply to life sunk in and I was a goner for all time. If not for the very pressing need to actually work towards a paying profession after I graduated college I might have become a philosopher, and the ensuing poverty would have been Ian Anderson’s fault.

Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette: Divorcing at age thirty-eight while still in the midst of earning a college degree AND raising three kids at the same time was not the most fun thing I have ever attempted.  To get through something like that you need energy. Energy that comes from determined simmering anger. It doesn’t even matter if that anger is misdirected, you just sometimes need it. You think I can’t do this? You motherfucker, I’ll show you. Three years later I had that degree and the name TERI F COLEY was written on it. MY maiden name. So....

I don't wanna be the filler if the void is solely yours
I don't wanna be your glass of single malt whiskey
Hidden in the bottom drawer and
I don't want to be a bandage if the wound is not mine
Lend me some fresh air, ah

Heroes by Willie Nelson: The last Father’s Day I spent with Dad was in 2012. He was still home and  was able to walk, go places with Mom, but he couldn’t be left alone. He was slipping away a little more each day, but he still loved music.  I bought the new Willie Nelson CD Heroes for my father.  I had never even heard the CD, but had read that Ray Price performed on it and that it was heavy on steel guitar; the artist that my dad had loved and the instrument my dad had played. He was at my house about a week before Father’s Day and I played him one of the title tracks, “My Home in San Antone.” Dad always said he should have retired in San Antonio. He might have been a Georgia boy by birth, but he was Texan by heart and the music in his blood.  I played him the San Antone song. His eyes lit up, his right thumb started keeping time with the melody. He and I stood in my dining room and listened to the entire track, When it was over he said, “That was good.” 
            The next week I gave him the CD, then burned a copy onto my laptop. But when I listened to the CD by myself it wasn’t the San Antonio song with its steel chords and its upbeat Bob Wills-like tune that drew me in, but a song called “Hero”.

And where is our hero today?
Can we just tag along, we'll stay out his way.
Does he still write the sad songs and can he still play
Where is our hero today?

After Dad was admitted to the V.A I couldn’t play the CD for him anymore because he would cry. I guess Mom still has it somewhere.  Where is my hero today?

There are other songs, perhaps a million that come to mind that will forever remind me of a time, a place, a love, a heartbreak, a kiss, a smile.  But they're songs, not entire albums. They're scattered scraps, not entire completed pieces like the albums.
What speaks for me and will continue to do so long after I’m gone? The music, my dear. The music.