It's often said that life is strange, but compared to what?
|Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Museum of Modern Art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Time can be a very precise measurement of the present, but it is often inaccurate when looking at the past. Memories can meld together or get placed out of chronological order. The memory can be an unreliable narrator regarding past events as it conveniently discards the unpleasant while exaggerating the importance of relatively insignificant events. In the following post I question my memory in regards to a song that is among my favorites.
In this post I offer another in my Soundtrack of My Life series. Robin at Your Daily Dose has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog for a while now. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info. For my current back to the past post, I'm using the song "January 23-30, 1978" by Steve Forbert as my inspiration. If you like you can listen as you read the story that follows...
"January 23-30, 1978"
What seems to be a somewhat odd title for a song actually is a time period described by the narrator of a song story by Steve Forbert. While this date range can fit easily into my own life, there is no special significance to my knowledge that would be applicable in my personal history. During that January week in 1978 I was getting ready to set out on tour with The World of Fantasy Players with my wife and our six month old baby. I would have celebrated my birthday sometime that week since it comes on January 30th, but I can't recall any special thing that happened in connection with that event.
But it's not anything about the song title that impacts me--it's the content of the lyrics, the events Forbert describes. This song seems so akin to my own life experience that the story told within those lyrics touches the heart of my memory and reminds me of things that I too have lived through. With a few changes this could be my song--a snippet of my own life history. I am stirred within each time I hear this song as it has become part of my own life soundtrack.
After I'd essentially moved away from my hometown in Tennessee to run away with a magic show in 1975, my visits home became fewer as time went on and my show biz life meant more time on the road away from home. As each year passed I became less close to my old circle of friends thus less aware of what their lives were like. Old friends were getting married, starting families, and embarking upon careers or other endeavors. When I would go back to stay with my parents for short visits I would try to hang out with friends and catch up with their lives. The fact was though that we were growing apart, they in their small town world and me traipsing about the country.
Now some nearly 40 years later my memory is faulty about when I first heard the Forbert song. Somehow I came to associate first noticing this song in early 1980 when I was separated from my wife and staying with my parents in Tennessee. I had taken a job driving for the limousine shuttle service at the Knoxville Airport. My shift started early so I would drive to work at about 4 AM.
In my hazy memory I seem to recall driving through Alcoa, the town where the airport is located, early one icy cold morning and listening to my cassette copy of Steve Forbert's Jackrabbit Slim album. When "January 23-30, 1978" came on the lyrics really hit me as describing how my visits home had started to feel. I got a sense that soon I would be gone to another town and living a life far away from my home that held so many fond memories for me.
However, thinking back I'm not sure I had that cassette copy until a few years after the date that stood in my memory. Perhaps my listening to this song driving through Alcoa early one morning reminded me of driving to my airport limousine job and all of the other events of my life. Maybe it was another visit. It's kind of crazy how mixed up my memory is about this minor incident in my life. From the standpoint of the scope of my entire life, hearing this song at some specific but some unknown time shouldn't have meant that much and yet that drive and that song at that moment vividly stands out in my memory.
I'm reminded of that famous Salvador Dali painting "Persistence of Memory"--you know the one with the melting watches on the surreal landscape. That depiction of time flowing and melding into the wholeness of everything is symbolic of the fluidity of all that I've been and where I've ended up in my life, a life where the past is not perfectly cataloged. Not my life at least. My mind seems to pick out certain things to remember even if they are not in the correct order.
It doesn't really matter that much I suppose. I understand what memory is telling me. And yet I could be misinterpreting things as a matter of convenience.
What I do know is this: There was a time when I was younger, when responsibility was a debate that I held within myself and consequences primarily affected only me. We were all young, my friends and I, and then we moved on to other things and other people and other lives. In other words we grew up--or pretended to.
Rarely do we capture the magic of the past in our tangible everyday lives. Oh, sometimes we might get together with old friends for a few fleeting hours and everything seems as it once was. Most of the past is only accessible by memory. The memory might be spurred by a song such as this song from my own life soundtrack. A song that might mean little to someone else, but something vast, strange, and maybe even unknowable to my mind. A mystery that is really no mystery at all when I think about it, but a mystery nonetheless.
Do you have a song that is attached to a memory so strongly that it haunts you when you hear it? Did you drift away from most of your old friends from youth? Do you have a disconnect with certain memories where you are no longer certain of when exactly they occurred?