Readers' Rite: Music
I think music is innate to human identity. The most significant connections I have made in my life have stemmed from discussing music. I met one of my best friends at a party, and when he mentioned John Mayer we sat and talked about the fact that, as talented as he may be, he is also an atrocious human being, and I cited my sources. Without music, I may have never gotten close to him. As a playlist connoisseur, my music taste is all over the place, featuring bubble pop all the way to ‘90s grunge and shoegaze. My music preferences, and specifically the hold that the ‘90s music scene has on me, affected even the way I dress and style my room. I’ve been collecting records for years with some pieces that I picked up at flea markets for less than $5, which I’ve used to cover my room with album art. I tend to define periods of my life by what music I was listening to at the time. My personal favorite playlist I have is titled “gaea,” and it’s a tribute to days where I feel called to nature and music.
I’m sitting in a cramped tea house sipping chai while a man with a guitar plays an Irish folk song. His fingers fumble over the strings a few times, but his voice is simple and pleasant, the sort of middle-of-the-road voice I love. A voice that lets you listen to the lyrics without being entranced by the voice singing them.
I tip the ceramic mug right over my face to get the last of the cardamom and cinnamon sludge from the bottom and let it sift into my mouth.
“You are the call, I am the answer / You are the wish, and I am the way / You the music, I the dancer / You are the night, and I am the day / You are the night, and I am the day.”
It’s 8 o’clock, cold and rainy. I’m wearing my hiking shoes because I discovered the Converse I wear every day had a huge hole in the bottom sole of the left shoe. I found it while I was in London over the weekend.
London pours. I had to sit in the hostel bathroom for a half hour drying my shoes with a hairdryer, accidentally melting the canvas inside of my shoes in a few spots. But I’m dry now, sitting and drinking the best chai I’ve ever had, savoring every last sip, pretending it isn’t gone even though it is.
And I’m of him, how if I call I know he’ll answer, how it's night in Glasgow and the sun is still up in Buffalo, and how this music, its lyrics, feel like him, us, and I picture us dancing to it.
I wish for him to be here next to me, and I wish the way between us wasn’t so far.
In middle school I was in the band for our musical “The Music Man.” During the rehearsals, in a scene that I wasn’t in, there was a song with a very frequent chorus. Being a fifth grader with hearing problems, I thought they kept saying “fueltopple” over and over. I was used to not hearing stuff, and so I assumed it was a big-kid word. When I told my sister (who was also in the play) about the scene with “fueltopple” in it, she was confused at first and then burst out laughing, telling me it was actually “pick a little, talk a little” — which in my defense doesn’t make much more sense than fueltopple! She kept laughing at me, and I got really embarrassed, which didn’t help my self-esteem, especially about my hearing. Needless to say, that was my last musical.
I think the best quality I got from my dad is his taste in music. Growing up on a strict diet of The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, The Who, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry and even a little Bob Marley stirred in, these legendary influences stuck with me throughout elementary, middle and even high school. Classic rock has and always will be my go-to; my soft spot and my comfort food of music. It puts some pep in my step on long runs, makes me dance my way through chores and shortens the length of any drive in my mind.
Vividly, I remember sitting in this grody little pizza and sub shop in West Seneca with my dad after a rainy spring afternoon spent swimming at the YMCA pool, like we often did. Eating mediocre fries with too much salt, my dad pointed at a black-and-white picture that was framed on the wall of four guys walking side by side in long dark coats. They all had matching bowl-cut hair and skinny little ties, and they wore huge smiles as they waltzed down a stone-laid street. My dad declared prophetically (in the way he tends to overstate common sense phenomena), but with such pride that my brother and I always believe him to be an original genius, “Those lads right there were the best rock’n’roll band in history.”
Astounded at my father’s endless knowledge, I ran straight to iPod upon arriving home and looked them up. I listened to the entirety of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at once, lying flat on my back on the carpet of my childhood bedroom, and was instantly in love.
15 years later, give or take, I still wear my love for the Beatles like a badge on my chest — it’s basically a personality trait. My first visit to the United Kingdom included two days solely reserved for exploring the band’s birthplace of Liverpool: walking the same streets as them, breathing the musty air of the Cavern Club where they made their debut, standing in the same room as the piano John Lennon wrote “Imagine” on — the ultimate pilgrimage.
George Harrison’s handwriting was my first tattoo, and my first dog is likewise named after my favorite Beatle. I joke and say that my next dog will be named McCartney, the one after that Lennon, and then I’ll probably have time enough in this life for one more pup who I’ll no doubt call Ringo. How lucky would I be to live with each of my heroes for a time?