SAS 009: An old friend

I grew up without musicians in my family, but my family loved listening to music. I got a lot of exposure to classic rock and roll, funk, ballads and power ballads, RnB, and some jazz and blues. That’s where I started planting my tree of musical preference. I watered it with contemporary pop as a kid, and then from those branches, I began throwing pop punk and contemporary hip-hop and RnB. I had all these things influencing my taste in music, slowly shaping what I thought music could be and do. I began to notice how much I loved when I could feel it and when it could elicit from me any emotion that wasn’t anger. I loved when it made me feel happy because it could make me feel happier, and I loved when it made me sad because it reminded me that I wasn’t always happy. I loved when it made me feel resolute and adventurous and ecstatic and mellow and content and melancholy and everything else in between. (Just not anger. I reserve silence for anger.)

I listened to all these things, but since I had no one in my family who was a musician, I could really only understand it through a one-way lens. Until I started playing the guitar. And then it came became a new language I could speak. I couldn’t communicate with music before; I could only listen. And with each song I learned on the guitar, I learned more and more words in this new language. And soon I began to develop an understanding of theory followed then by a sense of feel. It took a long time to get here, but it feels like the blink of an eye. Yesterday I couldn’t play a thing, and today I can. I can have a conversation in music now. If we’re keeping the analogy going, I’m not fluent. I’m like a high school freshman in honors English. I know what works and what doesn’t, but I’m still grasping why. But it’s no longer imbalanced. It’s a reciprocal relationship.

And today, I heard a song I had not heard in at least six years. I know this because six years ago, I stopped using my iTunes library and began using Spotify. But my iTunes library was unnecessarily extensive and large. I used shuffle most of the time, and I had over ten thousand songs. So it’s likely I haven’t heard this song since long before six years ago. Additionally, I did not start playing guitar until ten years ago. This means that for most of my adult life, I only had a one-way relationship with music, and I only had a two-way relationship with my iTunes library for four years. I still listen to a good deal of my favorite songs from iTunes on Spotify, but I know for certain that I didn’t port everything (revisiting my library is on my list of Things I’ll Need A Lot of Time For (Emotionally)).

Finally, we arrive at the song I haven’t heard in a very long time. “Aruarian Dance” by Nujabes. When I first heard about Nujabes in high school, I used Limewire to download everything he had available. And immediately, I clung to “Aruarian Dance.” I heard it and I couldn’t stop hearing it. Back then, it was what peace sounded like to me.

And I heard it again for the first time today. Not because I don’t love it anymore but because there were always other songs I loved too. Sometimes things fall by the wayside, and it’s no one’s fault. But who I was when I heard it last and who I am today¬† are vastly different people. At the core, I’m still the same. I try to do the right thing and I try to do it as well I have the ability to. So much is different though. I will not talk about those things now. The only important difference is that now I understand what I’m listening to more often than not. In “Aruarian Dance” I can hear the major sevenths and dominant sevenths and sharp fifths now. I can hear the family of notes that decorate this piece. I can hear the effects on the percussion and on the guitar and the reason the strings work so well, and it’s just so strange to me because I heard all these notes before but I’m hearing them so differently now. They’re speaking in a language I can now understand.

I imagine it’s like hearing a song in another language. There’s this older song. “La Vie en Rose.” Originally sung in French by Edith Piaf, it’s a zeitgeist in form and function. To hear this song first never knowing French and then to come back to it after learning the language is what this feels like.

It’s really an incredible thing to have this well of music I know I haven’t heard in a long time and to revisit them with more trained ears. I already can’t wait to go home and sit down with this song and talk.

SAS 008: A time you went camping

Why do some motorcyclists choose to rev their engine at the stop signs in the middle of the neighborhood before the sun is up? Is it unintended? Surely, they must be aware of themselves enough to know how loud their own vehicle is. But whether or not they care is the crux of the matter.

Anyway, I woke up (a little) before my alarm because I heard a motorcycle stopping at the stop sign in front of my house, then using the unfortunately long and unencumbered straightaway in front of them to absolutely shred the tranquility of the morning to microscopic bits. To be clear, I would’ve heard the bike even if my window were closed, which it wasn’t because during the summer I sleep with my window open. I do this because I like the sound of crickets at night and because it keeps the air in my room fresh. Or as fresh as an air-ventilated room can be during the summer.

Perhaps I could’ve gone back to sleep after the sound; I was plenty tired and I was prepared to let my alarm ruin me in a few minutes. But another thing about my window is that in the morning, the sun shines through it. Specifically, it shines on half of my bed. The only time it doesn’t is when it’s cloudy, and during the summer, it is never cloudy. Today, the abrasive outdoor alarm threw me into the inescapable awareness that my eyelids were nowhere near capable of blocking out the released photons of the star nearest to Earth.

I was undeniably awake by this point. So I checked my phone. 0742. My first alarm was set to ring in seven minutes. Well, at least I won’t be late.

I went through the notifications on my phone. Some texts through the night. Some dating app messages. Some Instagram comments. Some emails. And finally, the holy grail. Twitter. I went through the memes I was sent first because those don’t take much time. But my Twitter feed. It’s nearly everything I want in an update. It’s the news from sources I’ve deemed credible, it’s social media comedians and funny jokes and memes, it’s updates from musicians I like, it’s people I like and care about sharing their thoughts. My modern newspaper.

I’d already packed up my car with everything I’d need for this trip yesterday evening, and I kept my backpack in my room for my small stuff like cables and my water bottle. All I had to do right now was make my bed, change into the day’s clothes, and go through my usual morning routine. I was never really into breakfast besides cereal, so while I had time, it wasn’t likely that I’d eat.

I had some playlists ready for today. Well, I had them ready every day. They’re very terrible, so I always have a lot ready so that when one fails, I have backups. During the summer I come back to my Warm series of playlists. I’ve named them Warm, Warm 2, Warm 3, and, most recently, Warm 4. I started it a few years back, and each playlist represents its own year. When fall comes this year, I will make Warm 5, to be ready for next year’s sunnier days. (Please do not look them up. They are not good playlists.) Anywho, I put Warm on because I wanted to go OG, and it really helped set the mood.

The drive through the mountains and forest near Eldorado National Forest was beautiful and tranquil and it smelled incredible and the breeze through my sunroof was perfect and the music was happy and it was really all I could ever ask for in a drive. Since I was driving up on the back half of the weekend, all the traffic was headed opposite of me, so I was largely alone on my half of the yellow line. There was a point where I had to get off the highway/expressways and drive several miles along a windy road that led to the campground, and it was a dream. Slowing down so that I could hear the outside and feel the flickering of sunlight through the leaves, I couldn’t get enough of that kind of drive.

Alas, nothing gold can stay. I found the campground, and I met with my friend who will hereafter be referred to as Brandon. He and his wife and their friends had been here since at least yesterday, so I found an unoccupied spot with a clear view of the lake and the sky and set up shop there. I’d never gone camping where I slept in a tent alone, so it was a relief to set things up exactly as I wanted them to be, where everything had its own place and was clean. I got a drink and got to know the people I’d met just then.

(I’m going to be candid here and say I don’t remember too many of the details of these people. I just remember thinking that they were kind and particular and clearly not from California.)

That night, we all contributed to making dinner. We had roasted vegetables and grilled steaks and lamb chops, and it was simple and great. We drank and played What Do You Meme afterward. Then we drank a while around the fire and talked about country music; it seems I was not listening to enough (of the Good) country music. So I made mental notes of the artists to listen to. Then we were about to turn in, and I decided that it was warm enough to stay out in my jacket and lie on the large rocks next to my tent and clear enough outside to have a reason to keep my eyes open. So I lay.

And the stars were… what were they? Hm. Have you ever been on top of a cliff near sunset? And it’s warm and the breeze is light despite being atop a cliff and there isn’t a single cloud near you or the water or the horizon? And the sunlight begins sparkling off the waves on the surface of the water? But every little wave has a crest, an apex that moves like the top of a fluid mountain? And every apex is really just a bunch of tiny little diamonds with an uncountable number of reflective surfaces? So that when the sunlight hits each surface, it creates an uncountable number of sparkles on an innumerable number of crests on an ostensibly endless open ocean surface and every single one of those reflected rays of light reflect into your cornea all at once because the sun and ocean are huge and your eyes are very tiny in comparison but the result is that all you can really see is the sound of chimes and all you can really feel is magic?

That’s what these stars were.

And I fell asleep on this rock under these stars and woke up to them again. And I have to say that the miracle of perfect vision simultaneous with the miracle of the perfect view is, to no one’s surprise, otherworldly. So thank you, contact lenses.