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With an aching in my heart *

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

Comments (23)

"Going to California" is one of my favorites. I grew up wanting to be that girl!

your last, larger paragraph reminds me of that Teenage Fanclub song "Slow Fading Pictures".
i'm really a lurker. my son was born pretty close to mia.

oops its really called "Slow Fade".

Totally off your main topic, but could you and Mia compromise with Alt-Country? Ryan Adams, Old 97s, Neko Case (my pretend girlfriend), Uncle Tupelo?

In case you can't tell, that's my fave genre. :)

That's how I remember people, too, unless I happened to be in love with the person and kept a lengthy journal about every breath they took (speaking of song references). There's one guy I went to school with, and what I remember about him is that he once said to me meaningfully, "You smell like oranges"--and as I was preparing to totally fall in love with him for that remark, he said, "I hate oranges."

Notice, too, that what I remember about him is what is about me. Human nature: not always admirable.

I think we all have people that we wish we could remember better. I met a girl in college who really liked reading the full feed. Couldn't tell you much more about her, though.

I'm sure you're not a country music fan but Trisha Yearwood came out with a song several years ago, The Song Remembers When, that stopped me dead in my tracks.

I think for most us certain songs will always be associated with the different times in our lives.

I had a friend who died young as well. We were in high school. Hodgkins took him. And eventhough I remember everything about him from the countless hours we stayed up talking at camp as counselors, I still only keep two snapshots in my head of him. One I have captured in an actual picture - one is just a piece of a memory. His name is on a plaque at my synagogue on a Memory Wall of those who have passed. Ever since I told The Swimmy about him (she loves to find names on the wall), each year she goes over, puts her little hand on his name and says, "That's your friend." Yes it is.


That was very moving.

It's not just you; I have this same problem.

It's partly child-induced-brain-damage, but I was like that before the damage, err child.

I'm not sure how to remember more deeply. If you figure it out, let me know.

I think this is just the nature of memory. I lost my mom a year ago and I remember her in "scenes" mostly-- the time we joked about her keeping her fathers ashes in the closet for 11 years, etc. Specific little pieces of time.

For me, smells trigger more memories than songs do.

When I was younger my Mom always told me that songs made her remember things. It wasn't until I got a little older that I understood what she meant.

Hearing a song will bring back my memories so deeply. It's odd, really.

I went through some phases in my life where I considered certain people to be my best friends at the time, but now I'm doing good if I remember their names. I do associate memories to songs though, and if I can hear a song on the radio that can take me back to a place I've forgotten then I consider myself fortunate to have something to tie me to that time and person.

just reading your post transported me immediately and vividly to my university dorm room...sounds of Zeppelin and eager young boys whose conversations i found profound at the time, and the smell of unwashed laundry and weed. mm.

perhaps that was a little too vivid.

can you write about the Sound of Music or something tomorrow? Julie Andrews brings up fresher smells.

great post though...thanks for the memory lane sharing.

This post makes me think of "What Sara Said" by Death Cab for Cutie...

"It stung like a violent wind that out memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds"

Sad, but true.

I want to be that girl too.

But I have a king.

On the day my dog died (when I was in highschool), I made a mixed tape of all the songs that would make me think of her. I pet her the entire time I made the tape. The tape got destroyed when my car was set on fire in university. But, whenever I hear the songs, I imagine petting her and saying goodbye that day....Still...after all these years.

I have been meaning to post about this because my 20th high school reunion is this summer. And I have recently gotten back in touch with some great people. But others? Are just a blur.

Mia and I should hang out, because I also love bluegrass!

I love this post.

I also think I was a lot more profound, years ago, when i could spout lyrics and wax eloquent about Zepplin, the Doors, Procol Harem, and Floyd.

Apparently, in spite of my efforts to the contrary, I've grown up some and now I only spout gibberish.

And I'm thinking all the girls I used to enchant with my lyrics? Don't remember my name, or anything else about me either.

I never tire of Baba O'Riley. Ever. And dude, I loved this post.

*cough*18 months*cough*

;) :)

What a lovely, lovely post. I understand wanting to remember folks more vividly and to know them more deeply. But I think some encounters in our lives are meant to stay brief memories which then swim back at ya during rush hour on the classic rock station. You were meant to remember that about Rick, there's other folks who are meant to know him more deeply. Consider that one day a young man may write a similar blog about a girl he met in college, about whom he remembers only two things: a) she quoted a song to him, and b) her name was Mia. It could happen. PS -who was that bony hipped fella with the "angel in mortar" line? I have my suspicions, but you'll have to confirm them :)

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So the Fish Said...

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