You know how certain smells can trigger specific memories? That doesn’t happen to me much but certain songs will conjure memories of specific people, every time, all of whom hold special places in my mind, a select few in my heart. Following is a list of those songs and why. If you’re not familiar with the music, or just want to hear it while reading, click on the title:
For the general public this evokes feelings of peace, idealism and brotherhood. Or, for a select segment, the unrealistic and selfish ideology of aging hippies that’s new bearing fruit in a frayed culture from which society hangs over the abyss of perdition. For me, it brings to mind my first crush. She didn’t like me much and was probably right to feel so but she was the epitome of beauty and femininity. Also, she looked EXACLY like Agent 99 (the TV show, not the movie). If I’d had my way we’d have celebrated our fortieth anniversary two years ago. . Fortunately for both of us I didn’t get my way. Still, she occupied a good deal of my thoughts from about fourth grade to well into high school. And she left town – not that far out of town but enough to send her to another school – in the middle of eighth grade. I used that fascination as part of the relationship between Bob and Sydney in my Rick Kimberly stories so she obviously maintains a vestigial influence. Why does this song remind me of her? Because she gave me the album as a Christmas gift. I still have that vinyl.
My first girlfriend. Not technically my first. My first actual girlfriend was really only my girlfriend because she had a thing for my brother and used me to be close to him. A fact I learned years later and is puzzling because her brother and mine were pretty close friends and you’d have thought … anyway, this isn’t about her. And, for the record, she doesn’t have a song. So, my first real girlfriend was a year behind me in school. I didn’t meet her until the last couple of weeks of my career there. We never formally decided to be boyfriend and girlfriend. It just kind of happened. A consequence of spending nearly every moment together. We were together, off and on, for about nine years, during which time we endured a commuter relationship (particularly difficult because neither of us had a car), lived together, broke up (in a manner of speaking), adopted a stray cat (that subsequently became mine) and moved, separately and at different times, to Santa Rosa and San Francisco. As one might expect of a couple that had no ‘official’ coupling we had no ‘official’ uncoupling. Some things just happen but she’s my oldest friend. She went to UCLA for a time and lived in a dorm (Rieber Hall). One night we learned Doctor Demento was going to be appearing at a dance at another dorm (Sproul Hall, I think). We went over to dance and listen. I asked if he’d play a request, which he would but didn’t have my song, so I went back to her room and got my Steve Miller Band Anthology double album. True to his word, the Doc played this.
I should probably save this one for later since it’s the most momentous but as I’m going in chronological order it rightly belongs here. In fact there are two songs that could fit with this woman, the other being Hard Headed Woman, but while both remind me of her this song is the one that once created such a strong feeling I swear I could feel her next to me. My heart warms just thinking about THAT moment. Anyway, she was a nurse (as a result I have a special place in my heart for nurses, as well), we worked together in the ER at Harbor General Hospital and was the most beautiful (yes, you’ve read that before) and desirable woman I’d ever seen or, indeed, imagined. More so, even, than Ingrid Bergman which, if you know me at all, is saying something. But, I was a mere child of eighteen when we met and only just twenty when I quit that job, losing touch with her for the next couple of years. But before that I’d cultivated a nice friendship that saw me hanging out with her doing things mundane like shopping, going to a home goods expo and getting ice cream at Baskin-Robins (something else that reminds me of her). We were together so often, and she knew my feelings for her, she once threatened to sleep with me as a Christmas gift. When I was about twenty-two I wrote a letter to her, hoping she’d remember me and wondering if there was a chance we might get together. We did and it was love at second sight. For her. I have the letter to prove it. We spent close to another two years engaged in an intense but clandestine relationship (she was engaged to be married). I eventually got that gift she’d promised. Something I cherish to this day. She was the first woman to treat me as a man and the first to love me back.
She was my sign language teacher. She was pregnant. I bought her unborn child a stuffed animal. That child would be somewhere around thirty today. As a class project I signed the lyrics to this song. I wish I knew sign language. However, I remember the sign I used to represent the ‘dragon’. Essentially it was a fire breathing snake.
Actually, just about any Neil Diamond song would do well here. She was, and remains, a fan of his. We met at college, both of us restarting our lives as we approached thirty, me coming off my non-break-up break-up, her just realizing her marriage was over. We took a TV production class together and two of my lasting memories of that time, other than strategically placing myself in position to watch her walk in and out of the classroom, are:
1 - I was kicking a ball of tape or wadded paper or maybe an empty soda bottle around with some fellow classmates and our ‘ball’ happened to stop at her feet. When we encouraged her to kick it back to us she picked it up and handed it to one of us. I made a joke (from an old commercial line of the time) that she should ‘score if you’re gonna play’. With a sweetly sarcastic smile she said (and this is a quote): I always do, when I play.
2 – The class was broken up into groups for the purpose of making various videos. One of those projects was a commercial. Each group wrote one that another group was to make. She’d written the script for ours. One day she poked her head into the room where we were meeting (the room had a large window through which I had a really nice view to watch her walk) and announced she wouldn’t be there for the next class and if we had any questions we should ask them now, after which she gave us about three seconds, during which no one spoke, she said ‘good’ and left. Several of my groupmates called her a bitch. I agreed but am pretty sure I meant it with a lot more admiration than they did. We’ll be celebrating our twenty-ninth next month.
Narrowing down to one song for my best friend – wives don’t count as best friends in my opinion – is practically impossible but if I have to choose just one (even though it’s a self-imposed limit) it would be this. She’s introduced me to a plethora of music either by sending me mix CDs or opening my mind to musical genres other than the jazz I listened to almost exclusively prior to her entering my life. Because of her I’ve discovered a lot of music I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced such as Moby, Anoushka Shankar, Jesse Cook and dozens more. The first CD came during the time of my first back surgery and arrived, from Germany where she lived, along with a couple of candy bars (German candy is really good, by the way) and a card. More have come as birthday or Christmas gifts, although lately they’ve been replaced by videos of her very cute daughter, who was born on a date that previously came with an element of dread but is now something to look forward to and plan for. Whenever we get together, which isn’t nearly often enough for me, we usually find some museum to visit or a park to relax in, or both. She also happens to be one of the best writers I know, and an even better photographer.