Friday, December 04, 2009

Once in a lifetime

Haven’t been blogging here much due to other writing obligations. Also, we’re sort of in hunker-down mode – we’re only 5-9 days away from our two due dates, and so making the most of our relative freedom from responsibility by… laying around watching TV and reading. On the other hand, we did take follow many of our friends’ advice and go out for one last “grown up dinner.” It was at Arby’s, sure, but we didn’t make off with any ketchup packets to stock our fridge. That was pretty grown up, right?

Moving on… A couple of years ago I did a post about music that I associated with the various cities I had lived in to that point.

That post was marking the anniversary of our move to Strasbourg. Of course, now we have another city to add to the list, but I don’t want to do a music post about it. Other than the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under the Bridge” all the songs I can think of that are about LA seem to hate the place: Bran Van 3000 (“What am I doing drinking in LA?”) The Decemberists (“How I abhor this place/ Its sweet and bitter taste/Has left me wretched, retching on all fours/ Los Angeles, I'm yours”), Tom Petty (“It’s a long day, living in Reseda/There’s a freeway, running through the yard) even the Mama’s and Papa’s “California Dreamin’” was more about being unhappy with the East Coast winter than any specific love for LA.

Of course, all of that says less about L.A. than it does the temperament of musicians.

My brain connects music to people much more strongly than to cities anyway, and there’s something about road trips in particular that makes the association really stick. I’m always going to think of my friends Carol and Jocelyn when I here Len’s “Steal my sunshine,” as that song playing on the radio roughly five hundred times the day we shared a U-Haul to move from Halifax to Montreal (me) and Toronto (them). My friends Yann and Félicie will always spring to mind when I hear Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night,” thanks to Yann’s DJ-ing choices on our trip to Provence earlier this year. And I can’t ever hear Inuit throat singing without being transported to a rental car somewhere around Thunder Bay Ontario, en route to Winnipeg with my friend Jon.

In any case, the strongest association I have is for a road trip I took years ago with my friend Todd in the months before he went to London. A friend of his from McGill who I didn’t really know was down to visit him, but I had some time to kill and so we three hit the road to show her the sights: Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, the Anapolis Valley and Lunenburg. At some point, as we pulled out of the visitors’ parking lot in Peggy’s Cove, a Talking Heads “Once in a lifetime” came on: “You find yourself in another part of the world… you may find yourself with a beautiful house, and a beautiful wife. And you might ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” And yes, I now know that the song is about alienation, but I’d always heard those first few lines as if they were sung with incredulous joy, like David Byrne couldn’t believe his good fortune.

“Hey, turn it up. I love this song,” I said from the back seat. In the front passenger seat, Amynah obliged me. I’ve associated this song with that day ever since.

But as Amynah and I move into yet another whipsaw change in our life (the last four years have, after all, seen us get married, quit our jobs and live in three different countries on two different continents), that song keeps returning to me: Once more, I find myself in yet another part of the world, wondering, precisely how I got here, but deeply glad that my beautiful wife’s favourite Talking Heads song didn’t play that day instead.

1 comment:

belsohni said...

When "once in a lifetime" was popular I was too poor to have cable tv so I never saw the video until now. It was fun to see it on your blog.

I liked "psychokiller" especially, though. That takes me back to when I had a more cool cachet than I do as a middle-aged parent. I often played it on the university radio station where I was a dj for a few years. Thanks for the flashback.