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There are few memories in my life that aren’t accompanied by a musical soundtrack. I figure I’ve been surrounded by music since I was born. My dad loved playing records in the morning…Elton John, Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Foreigner, Journey, Kenny Loggins… My mom loved playing records for us all day long, first on a special fisher price plastic record player, and then on our very own special real player for big girls that played Disney songs on big girl records.

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The best christmas present in the history of christmas presents came when I was in elementary school: a radio that attached to my bike handlebars! Now I very literally listened to music every second of the day (except when I was in school, damn them!). There isn’t anything better than biking down the street, hands off the handlebars, listening to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. When I got back home I used a walkman prototype to play tapes, and then at night my older sister and I would turn the radio on low and take turns lip synching songs by Rick Springfield, J. Geils Band, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Perry, and the Go Go’s.

By the time High School rolled around my musical tastes shifted into bands that made my parents and church people uncomfortable. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses…all these tapes were bought and then smuggled into my room/backpack/tape player. My high school boyfriend expanded my repetoir with every mixed tape he gave me. My favorite one? This:

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Not only did I bring it with me on my student exchange trip to the south of France (a month away from him, but at least I had his music!), I held on to it for the next 20 years until uncovering it in a long forgotten box tucked away in my basement. I immediately put it in a tape player and turned 16 again for the next hour.

In a strange twist of improbable, when I got married I let go of music. My now ex and I had dissimilar musical tastes that never quite jived together. We never had “our song”. Never exchanged mixed tapes. Never sat up late into the night taking turns picking music to share and then making out to it. Never went to concerts. Never had impromptu dance parties in the kitchen. Never made special playlists for long roadtrips.

For as much as I lived and breathed music, I’m puzzled as to how easily I let it all go. I look back and call it my musical dark ages. I stopped listening to new bands. Stopped going to concerts. Stopped falling asleep to my favorite songs with earbuds in my ears at night. Stopped blaring anything other than kids songs in the car during the day. Stopped dancing around when cooking.

Is it any wonder I felt so sad?

When I ended up separated, living on my own, letting the kids go to their dads for the weekends, I was a bit lost, lonely, and depressed. I had a forced 2 days to be on my own. At first I didn’t know what to do with myself. “What do you need to make you happy?” I asked myself over and over.

The silence was deafening.

To counteract the deafening silence, I decided that alcohol…previously undrunk until that 37’th year of my life…was what I needed to make me happy. Or at least it made it easier for me to pretend I was happy until I figured it out. So I spent my nights in West Hollywood at the local cafe with a cozy bar and lots of local characters that let me cry on their shoulders. Turns out an ex mormon woman getting drunk at a bar has lots in common with awesome once closeted gay men getting drunk at a bar. The only difference was they drank fancy wine and I drank fancy martinis and other fruity mixed drinks.

Finally in dawned on me. Maybe the silence was telling me something. I used to never hear silence. I was missing something. Music. Living in West Hollywood was the perfect cure. The Troubador, Whisky A Go-Go, The Music Box, The Viper Room, The Hollywood Bowl, The Greek Theatre…so many places with such amazing live music!

Emerging from my personal dark ages felt like a huge deep exhale. And when I inhaled, it was music. It was beautiful and restorative. It filled my heart with awesome. I promised myself to never stop the music again.

I think Annie and Aretha would be proud.

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  1. June 6, 2012

    This story breaks my heart in a way I couldn’t have imagined it. I live off music too, always have, and the thought of someone like me living in a music-less life makes me imagine the entire world in dingy shades of grey.

    I’m so glad you found your music again.

  2. June 6, 2012

    I had that Fisher Price record player too. and lots of kids albums. I used to cut school to stay home and watch MTV during the early eighties. Music was always my whole world. Went to tons of concerts as a kid and teen. When I moved from Jersey to Washington, I found myself not loving music as much. I dont think it was because Charles and I have different music tastes, but because the stations here suck and I dont have easy accessibility to good music. Even the places I worked played the same crappy music over and over. I am remedying that. I have an mp3 player now and a secret mp3 downloader weapon.

  3. June 7, 2012

    I had the Sesame Street album as a kid and sang along to the same songs over and over! Love that you found the soundtracks to your soul again! Although my husband loves music, he doesn’t like large concerts and music festivals…the crush of the crowd gets to him. So I haven’t been in awhile. I think this summer I shall venture it on my own with the kids. First up, Chicago Blues Festival this weekend!

  4. June 8, 2012

    I think I’m going to have to make a playlist on Spotify of that mixtape. Excellent taste!

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