Regarding the notion of Place (a 17-track playlist), part I.

The following is a 17-track collection of tracks important to me that I tie in some way to a time and a place.

Here is part I. 

The Way Life's Meant to Be / Electric Light Orchestra (1981)

Probably one of my absolute favorite times of the year is this little band of time early Thanksgiving week. The promise of everything glorious about the holidays is ahead. You'll be legally listening to Christmas music soon. All will be smooth with every family interaction. Every moment will be filled with hugs and music and food and conversation that is the right amount light banter and deep introspection.

The promise of everything good ahead.

| 2013 |

In my heart.

Salome / Old 97's (1997)

A known place in Netarts, Oregon + A secret place outside Missoula, Montana.

When I was eleven or so, my mom used to drive me 20 minutes out of town to mow this elderly gentleman's lawn. I know exactly where it is. Netarts, Oregon. Few minutes from the beach. She'd drop me off, I'd do the 45-minute mow and then read a book until she got back. So she'd drive somewhere between 40 and 80 minutes to take me to a job, so I could make $15. Or ten bucks, or whatever it was. Whatever it was, I am certain now, being a parent, that it would have been more cost-efficient for her to simply hand me twenty bucks, call it good, and take one item off her plate for the day.

But she knew there was more at stake. Thank goodness.

When I was in grad school, a teacher asked me to mow his parents' getaway cabin once a week while he was gone. Drove 45 minutes or so. One week, two of my little brothers came to visit. They "helped" mow, then we played some pool and headed up the creek to do some swimming.

No one there, just us and these smooth natural rock water slides on hot summer late morning. We stripped down to nothing and bodysurfed down white water with nothing but our glorious birthday suit bodies. Somebody pulled out a camera, whoops.

The money I made off mowing was absolutely not worth it, at age 11 or at age 28. But I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Cruising down an Oregon backroad with my mom, ready to mow in the hot sun and read a good Hardy Boys book in the shade afterward. Cruising down an unknown Montana road with my little brothers, listening to Modest Mouse and Old 97's and go naked swimming afterward.

Priceless.

Salome is one of those songs I never get tired of. Melancholy and world-weary.

And I'm tired of makin' friends and I'm tired of makin' time
And I'm sick to death of love and I'm sick to death of tryin
And it's easier for you, yeah it's easier for you

Never get tired of it. Tired and weary, and still chugging along, alone. Except I have the memory of listening to it on a hot 2005 afternoon not alone. So a whole new layer of meaning and memory for me. That's what happens when a great song's associated with a great memory.

Sometimes it's easier to be alone.

Sometimes it's easier to be not alone.

I can't remember but I don't think I smoked drugs this morning.

Outta My System / My Morning Jacket (2011)

Honolulu, Hawaii.

This is such an interesting one for me to include. I am the straight edge-ish guy you might have known in college who leaned against the wall at parties and drove people home. The one whose closest to being high was transporting a couple dozen dazed and confused partiers in a VW bus home after a long night. A night in which I leaned against a wall, watched my my friends and "friends" get drunk and wondered why I wasn't hammered and why I didn't drink. Or get high. Or introduce anything else fun into my bloodstream. I don't know. A lot of reasons, I guess. For another post.

But maybe a lot of times the things I was thinking about and interested in discussing were topics I had to wait for other people to get inebriated or high in order to talk about in an interesting way. I don't know. I was both conformer and iconoclast. I went to be with people I wanted to be with. But I didn't want anyone, any person, any institution, anyone telling me what to do or pressuring me. Lifelong iconoclast, that me. 

I was at a club in Hawaii years ago. When I dance, I need space. Physical space. Because I am a violent and careless dancer. Also, I don't believe in smiling when I dance, because I look very cool and Timberlake-ish and it would spoil the vibe if I grinned. So I am A) physically aggressive, B) extremely serious, and C) totally non-drugged, non-boozy when I dance. Also, I am uncomfortable in the spotlight, so I have to fully focus my willpower to let my inner moves out for the world to see...without chemical assistance.

So I'm at this club in Hawaii and they move past the Spice Girls and Usher remixes and they kick off a sesh of German hardcore techno. I have a special place in my heart for good techno. 

Good techno. So I leaped back onto the dance floor, cleared some room for myself, and pretty soon, was alone. I am okay being alone.  Got through a few tracks, which in techno-speak, might be twenty minutes, and a couple friends motioned me over, shaking their heads.

What's up?
I asked, trail of sweat on the floor behind. 

There's been, like, three people,
they laughed, and kept laughing, and shaking their heads,
who came up to us and wanted to know what drugs you were on, and where they could get them. 

Oh.
I said.
Why?

Uh,
one said.
Have you seen yourself dancing?

No.
I said.
I've been busy dancing. But you can video me if you want.

But that was it on the German techno for the night, so I guess I didn't make it out to the floor again. 

They told me not to smoke drugs, but I wouldn't listen
Never thought I'd get caught, and wind up in prison
Chalk it up to youth but young age I ain't dissin'
I guess I just had to get it out of my system
Glad I went and got it all out of my system
The lust of youth VS marriage and security
I'm glad im here now, but just between you and me
I had to get out and make the deals
And learn to know how it feels but that it ain't real
Outta my system, outta my system

I never really did drugs and shit. And I guess maybe some of that shit cool to do when you're younger, but I guess I just hate rules for life made by other people for me, even if they're reflections from an insanely talented band like My Morning Jacket, and I get it, to the degree I can get it not having done it, and I sort of agree...maybe? Better out of the system before you're married, have kids, and are planning for either an Italian vacation or a mid-life crisis.

But I'm good at creating things to look forward to, to being excited about. There's so much I haven't done. Maybe I'm waiting to get it into my system way later on. That's something to look forward to. We'll see. I need to hit a club soon with some good German trance. Need to get some moves outta my system.

I do drink a lot of coffee. 

I Want You / Bob Dylan (1966)

Walla Walla, Washington.

I was in an eastern Washington pawnshop looking for cool flannel or something when I saw a beauty: a portable record player. An old one that worked. Not a new one that looked old and said 'vintage' or 'retro' on it.

A few weeks later, I was at Everyday Music in Portland and found a scratched-up, well-worn copy of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits. Normally I'm not a huge fan of greatest hits albums and compilations for the same reason I don't enjoy listening to most radio stations: I don't like the easy pickings of grabbing the poppiest and most accessible tracks by any given artist and sticking them in random sequence onto a single album with no discernible connection or order other than that they were made by the same artist. Anyway. I got Bob's Greatest Hits. A diminutive collection of ten tracks, including I Want You.

One of his most straightforward songs in a career filled with inscrutability and lyrics to keep linguistic PhDs and poetry professors busy for decades. And here this simple little ditty with his ragged voice plaintively singing...a love song. A straight ahead love song.

I never get tired of it. Especially when it fingernail-chalkboards across vinyl and makes his voice even scratchier than normal. His sexiest song ever.

Murder in the City / The Avett Brothers (2010)

Make sure my sister knows I loved her 
make sure my mother knows the same
always remember there was nothing worth sharing
like the love that let us share our name

A college dorm room, we did nail polish

Nothing / Mason Jennings (1998)

College Place, Washington, and the West Coast of North America.

I've never spent a long stretch in prison or jail - or actually any time - but in college I hung out with this one boy who was a lot of fun. We ran all around the West Coast. Literally. As in: drove down to L.A. for a weekend. Drove up to Whistler/Blackcomb in Canada for a few days. Stuff like that. Always up for doing something, somewhere, that didn't involve classes. He was not a strong academic influence. 

Like me, he seemed to inhabit a strange place in a certain scene. Most of his friends partied more than him, but he seemed to end up the epicenter of trouble. That second part is very unlike me. And not bad, malicious trouble. Just the kind of trouble that led to parking fines and cops getting called in and people yelling and him always sort of being the catalyst, but simultaneously coming across as completely innocent and unaware of anything happening around him.

We used to paint our nails, some of them. Black, blue, etc. He realized, or owned up to being gay, or bi I think, later on, and had a killer color palette. Funny that he found my colorblind self cool on some level.  I trusted his aesthetic and borrowed his shirts and nail polish sometimes. Also, I think he bleached my hair once and it turned out badly. Most bleachings do, I think. I'm glad I did it though. Now I know. 

That was a year in college, a good year, and I'm glad I didn't end up in prison. I shouldn't have, so it's good I didn't, but I could have. He's not, which is also good. But I bet he has a bunch of unpaid parking tickets in a bunch of states. 

I saw him at a club a while back - and by casually saying 'club,' I'm inferring that going clubbing is a regular part of my life, when the reality is, it's the last time I've gone to a dance club, and 'by a while back,' I mean a decade ago. Anyway, I was dancing, because it has been said Iā€™m an unforgettable dancer, and he recognized me and said nothing, just hugged me for somewhere between three and seven minutes. The beats was throbbing, so we probably couldn't have heard each other anyway, but then we squeezed goodbye and his night began and mine wound down. 

He was a unique friend. I'd never mistake him for being any other friend, no matter how many years passed. 

Mason Jennings is a singer guy with a voice I'd never mistake for anyone else's. That's a good thing to have said about you, unless it was said about Gilbert Gottfried, should he ever release an album of show tunes.

___

Our Love / Sharon Van Etten (2014)

Astoria. 

Astoria is an Oregon City on the Columbia River near the Pacific. It is rugged and windy and salty and famous for being the setting for the fantastic film The Goonies and the good for a once through film Kindergarten Cop.

I spent a day, a rainy day with Becca and the children, and my sis Rachel and her children.

We picnicked at the Column, a scary and magnificent monument atop a hill where you have a panoramic view of the bridge and river.

We hiked a tiny little hike and found sticks.

We walked along the pier and lovingly watched sea lions from California roar their affectionate grunts to one another and pile up three high on docks not intended for them.

We ran barefoot along the stormy beach and some tiptoed into the raging waters close to the Peter Iredale wreck, a sailing vessel that ran aground in 1906 and still sits there, lonely, waiting for swimmers to come on cold days for companionship. Others hunted for sea creatures and crabs with total focus. The moms ducked their heads and bundled up and looked beautiful and wild, as they often do.

We headed home, wet and sandy and dirty. Hot coffee to guide us to North Star home, we headed home and I hit play. One by one, they fell to slumber as we we drove through mountains and forest.

Sharon Van Etten's sweet and sad love refrain crooned loud, and louder as I turned it up: 

You say I am genuine
I see your backhand again
I'm a sinner, I have sinned
We're a half mast flag in wind
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love
It's our love

I sneaked a peek beside me, and a quick glance behind and I smiled and cried a little inside, knowing the moment and day was special and would exist forever in my mind. But never quite like this again.

___