A song in the night

I didn’t take my sleepy drug triad tonight. I am a little anxious about the results of the MRI I’m having later this morning. So here I am back where I was a few weeks ago – wide awake at 3:30 a.m. when I was so sure it was already 5. I’m okay with this, because I know that later, I will sleep. After the MRI and the Very Long Lunch Break and the 1 p.m. consult with Dr P.

It’s funny, when you are as obsessed with music as I am, what the first song that pops into your head can be when you find yourself wide awake in the core of night. Tonight/this morning, it was this one.

On my 15th birthday, I had recently changed schools. I didn’t have a lot of friends at the new school yet, and had lost touch with the ones from the old school. So I had one of the most angst-ridden 15th birthdays in the universe. At this distance it sort of amazes and amuses at the same time. I accompanied my parents that evening to see a new documentary, Partisans of Vilna. I am sure the choice of movie didn’t bother me at the time, and I was probably glad to go to the movies with my parents, who rarely went.

On the way home, we stopped at a hospital. We stopped there to check on a friend of a family friend who was dying of cancer, to see if she’d died yet. A weird, awful errand. I probably stayed in the car as I have no memory of the hospital.

Once we got home and I was curled up in bed with my trusty angst log – I mean journal – at the ready, I suddenly realized that the evening, and my entire birthday really, had been GRIEVOUSLY WRONG and there was an urgent need for redress. I needed to do something good for myself, and soon.

I was in a creative writing class at school with people older than me. It was a given to them that you listened to the progressive radio station, WHFS (and you really should follow that Wikipedia link, as it is hard to imagine another set of call letters that has had that many things happen to it).

Well, guess what? After a period of listening to WDJY, the “urban contemporary” station, during my awful, awkward junior high years, I had settled on Top 40, which in the mid-80s had been passable but by late 1987 was becoming unbearable.

My conscious, soul-saving act on that winter night of 1987 was this: I made a written declaration in my journal that I was done with bad music, and I deliberately switched the dial on my boombox, from the top to the bottom, until I tuned in the station from far-off Annapolis. “I think they’re playing John Lennon,” I recorded. I don’t have the journal in front of me now, but I am pretty sure that’s what I wrote.

I was introduced to dozens of bands thanks to my new listening choice, and by the time I went out to San Francisco, alone, to visit my brother U the following summer, I had quite a list of albums I wanted to buy. I remember wandering through the promised lands of Amoeba and Reckless and Tower, amazed at my finds. One of them was the album by Translator, the band you heard above. It wasn’t much of an album. I only have it on vinyl and haven’t wanted to hear any tracks from it in years, which is good because the turntable has been imprisoned under the couch for about 9 years now. We’ve kept our albums, but haven’t had a means to play them, and I recently (before going back to work in February) evicted a bunch of them from a shelf in order to make space for the kids’ burgeoning library. I didn’t have a plan B for where the albums would go. My 45 collection is kind of strewn around on the floor lately. “The Reflex” by Duran Duran, in its limited edition poster sleeve. This morning I was grousing about the vinyl on the floor to the home organizer (we were focusing on my bedroom today) and I said, “You know, I guess if someone stepped on and broke ‘Walk Like An Egyptian,’ I wouldn’t really care.”

But this song! Man! It’s practically a work of philosophy, or maybe even physics. “You’re everywhere that I’m not!” The requisite list of foreign cities! The impossibility of love ever coming to fruition, because the beloved is NEVER IN THE SAME PLACE as the speaker.

I hope you listen to this song when you read this post, J (if you’re keeping up – I don’t think I’ve asked you in days whether you read a particular post. I’m trying). I’m sure you’ve heard it before. We used to play each other lots of songs. It was part and parcel of our courtship. Now I am in this place that you’re not – Cancerland – but you sure aren’t as hard to find as the person in the song. Thank you for that.

(Imagine the immortal voice of Casey Kasem, who I left ruthlessly behind in December 1987, reading this out as a long-distance dedication.)

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