Mia and I listen to a lot of classic rock. She hates alternative and loves bluegrass, so classic rock is where we've decided to compromise. Mostly we listen to a local station that basically plays the same 200 or so songs over and over, occasionally throwing something new in there just to see if you're paying attention. Because of that, I've now hear "Going to California" more times in a week than I probably did in my entire life combined up to a few months ago. I also hear "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Born to Run" and "Baba O'Riley" a couple of times a week, to name just a few, but "Going to California" stops me in my tracks every time.
Freshman year of college I got to be friends with this guy named Rick. Rick told me once that he was looking for a woman who was "a queen without a king, who plays the guitar and cries and sings." I spent uncountable hours talking to Rick that year, and that sentence is the only thing I can remember him saying to me. I wanted to be that woman (not that I wanted Rick). I wanted to be the woman with the power (queen without a king) but also still fancied myself the melancholy poet. I at least had the cries and sings bit down, never took to guitar since it hurt my fingers too much. The thing is, I didn't get the reference. Yes, you were much cooler than me, fine, whatever. It was at some point later that I heard that line again in Going to California, and since then it always takes me back to that moment in my life, to that short time when I was close to Rick, about whom I now remember very little else.
In high school, someone once told me I was an "angel draped in mortar." This was not a compliment, which I mention in case the angel bit threw you off. Mortar was the point. Anyway, this guy was friends with my friends, we spent hour upon hour together, and those four words are the only things I really remember about him, other than a vague recollection of a conversation about his bony hips. It was in context, I assure you. I feel like I ought to be able to tell you more. I mean, I could describe him, certainly, but other than bony hips and once paid me a poetic, backhanded insult, I can't say anything about him. I feel I ought to be able to say more about Rick too, more about the ways we connected rather than just listing a few of the things we did, a few dry facts about the music we listened to and bad booze we drank.
I want to remember people more deeply. These two, and others I have lost either to time or distance or death. It's the worst with those who have died, especially young. I feel I should be able to stand in witness to their lives, to tell you about them. Not just what they looked like or what we did, but how they thought, what made them laugh, what made them sad. Instead, I have the same few snapshots of almost everyone.
And I'm not going anywhere. I've been trying to come to a point, but I don't have one. Other than Zeppelin reminds me of Rick and Michelangelo's Pietas remind me of that high school guy (not angels, no, but something about suffering and stone) and I'm sorry that the people I have known are reduced to a couple of images, like slides of a moment captured and dustily projected years later on a stretch of wall between the photographs of my life since then.
There's good in it too, I suppose. At least Zeppelin always reminds me, happily, of the friend I lost along the way.
*from "Going to California," obviously