It goes without saying that our brains are hardwired to associate smells or sounds with specific memories - so no need to begin this post with the perfunctory "Isn't it funny when..."
But just now, I was eating a dinner lit by the solemn glow of my computer monitor (work's been hanging around like an old friend - both welcome and a little jarring) - and, full disclosure, I'd been quaffing a white wine that's been lolling about our refrigerator without an owner to claim it for months. It was gloomy today, a premature wink at the season to come, but nevertheless, the Ugg slippers have come out of the closet (aestheticians rejoice!) and my mood is beginning to shift toward another Fall, another season, another change in weather patterns (naysayers might suggest that a Southern California weather pattern more resembles a blank cotton tee than New York's parallel and stately madras, but already I feel this analogy is running away from me). It seemed instinctual, at that moment, to put on Jeff Buckley's Grace, however clichéd that may be. But here I am, single white female, sucking sauvignon blanc joy juice from stemware like a nervous hummingbird, blaring "Lover, You Should've Come Over" at the first hint of seasonal atmospheric change. Katherine Heigl, you available for the rom com version of my Tuesday evening, girl? I know your neurotic-yet-lovable everywoman would annoy the hell out of the moviegoing public, so let's find a rakish Clooney-type to outwit and outsmart you for 80-ish minutes and call it a day, you dig?
So it stays. Both the cliché and the anecdotal over-thinking.
Though it's still buried stubbornly beneath all the superfluous prose, the point in all of this is to recall a memory plucked right out of the archives at the beckoning of Buckley's "Last Goodbye." This is by no means my favorite song on this record - a record I think we can all agree is fantastic/timeless/tragic/etc. - which only further illustrates what an elusive and mysterious Loch Ness mermaid memory can be. For some reason, today of all days, as I went about my business while my iTunes whirred away in the background, hearing "Last Goodbye" transferred me immediately to Alameda St, 90021. It's a Los Angeles day, sunny and warm and detached from even the subtlest harbingers of a seasonal pinpoint. I'm still commuting, still logging 50+ miles a day on my Volvo, still annoyed about the fissure in my windshield that would eventually snake from east to west like a fault line of my chronological wanderings. Still convinced I'd get it fixed before it spread. Still working for a certain purveyor of t-shirts and smut. Still 22 or maybe 23, and green about a lot of things but wizened about others.
Despite the debilitating knot of traffic I'd find myself tangled in on a daily basis, there was something meditative and, dare I even suggest cathartic (at the risk of facing a newer and more challenging commute to smack some sense into me) about the morning drive: The hazy pall that clung to the morning hours like a damp sweater; the methodic (and some musicians might argue, melodic) pattern of braking and accelerating; the thoughts that found themselves lynched and forever dangling from specific exit signs; there's a unity of mind, or music, of memory, of physicality. It will forever link me to a time and a place, traces not unlike those found on a crime scene, but perhaps more like a mile marker, a time capsule - evidence of growth. Evidence that time is indifferent and has more stamina than the most athletic person on earth in that it always keeps moving, breathlessness be damned.
Without realizing it, I was using the music I'd listen to on those commutes to create a link. To etch an indelible "LD loves ___" into the bark. To cast a shadow over wherever I'd be later on in life when that particular song would come on, a rough but unmistakable outline of Life As I Knew It. And tonight a link appeared, faded markings on a mental map. I remember the taupe wonderland, the piss-scented bougainvillea, the grime so familiar it started to look clean. A corridor pock-marked with tents and shanties. A skyline abrupt and optimistic. A commute that began in Long Beach, or Monrovia (it was a once-a-week sleepover, a brief routine). An unshakeable feeling of "how did I get here?" holding hands - if not awkwardly - with a past spent growing up in suburban Oregon. Skyscrapers. Neighborhood sprawl. Gutters festooned with debris - always McDonalds; red and yellow and distinctly 21st century American. Morning rides to school before the sun came up. Morning commutes to work with the sun sighing to the east. A mind full of ambition. A mind older, but no less ambitious.
So I felt compelled to record it tonight. To scratch the memory and its trigger into carbon paper and see how many layers my pen will affect. The reason I've done it, I suppose, is because I reckon each and every one of you reading this post can relate. (And if you've made it this far, you've singlehandedly bucked the stereotype I've reluctantly placed upon my entire "This post/email/letter/message was too long so I stopped reading it because I'm hiding behind the pitiful [and might this author add, pathetic] guise of cultural ADD" generation. Yes, those who've mentioned as much in the past, I'm talking to you - gather your druthers and try harder, you mush-brained jackwagons.)
The conclusion, or the question, then, to put a cork in this post is this: I know the very thing in which I've described has happened to you. And I'd love to know when/what/where/which song. A call and response in a time and age where autonomy is prized above all else? You betcha. If only because a response to this post will elevate my respect for you tenfold because it will mean that you've read it, that you've stayed until the very end, and that not even the mighty iPhone has inhibited our ability to focus for two everloving minutes. But more importantly, what's your link? Your memory? A song that caught you completely off guard on a Tuesday evening when you should've been working?