Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wow, Does That Song Take Me Back

As my husband and family will tell you, my memory -- although fading now from (gulp) getting older and from taking pounds of medication every day -- is pretty darn good. I've been very fortunate that I've been able to use my knack for remembering numbers into something employers have found to be particularly attractive -- being the only person in a non-profit with any semblance of budgeting skills can make one a very, very popular.

In fact, I remember all kinds of things without too much effort, but what really excels is my musical memory. Now when I refer to a musical memory, it's not just a knack for remembering song titles and lyrics. There's something that enables me to use the music as a key to unlock other parts of me memory, which has come in pretty handy at times.

For example, classical music got me through college. I learned that by playing some classical music in the background while studying for subjects that I didn't, shall we politely say, care for enabled me to call up very specific bits of knowledge just by recalling the selection that was on the CD player when I last studied that material. To this day, I can't listen to an economist talk without hearing little bits and bobs of Mozart and Vivaldi playing in my head. (I found that Vivald's "Four Seasons" made macroeconomics much more palatable.)

This musical stupid human trick really takes hold on road trips. When a CD or tape cycles on long distance drives, I'm able to describe in scary detail to my driving companions exactly where we were at when the musical last played -- not just the beginning of the CD, but almost any point in any selection. Ah, if only the brain cells that dedicated themselves to this could be put towards more useful purposes like remembering to tell the hip hubby that we're scheduled to get a haircut so he's at home when it's time to drive cross-island to the appointment! (One of many our complements as a couple is my great memory usually balances out his eh memory skills.)

Of course, like most people, hearing particular songs will immediately transport me back to particular place and time. My first real kiss with a long term-boyfriend was in 1979, parked in my parents driveway, freezing our butts off from the January night air on the bench seat in an old gold Chevy Nova that required a screwdriver to adjust the heat while Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" played on the tinny AM/FM radio.

Meatloaf crooning "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is a surefire ticket back to the 1988-89 basement of two friends I love only slightly less my hip hubby, Jon and Murph, where we drink cheap beer and dance in a group between the pincushion of a dart board and the graffiti covered bar every time that song was played.

Now picture a community college gymnasium, filled to capacity with motorcycle parts and bikers of every age and occupation, the air thick with the aroma of old motor oil and well-worn leather. That's where I am whenever Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" comes on, watching my great friends Duck and Lee identify a greasy bolt they've dug out from the bottom of a beaten up cardboard box as a necessary part of a carburetor mount for a 1949 Harley Davidson panhead.

Together, all of this music has been the score to a pretty incredible life that's been filled with experiences as varied as the songs to which I've listened. And with any luck, I've only heard the first few selections of what I hope to be a long, interesting second act.

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