Thursday, June 08, 2006

Memories in my ipod

The area around the Dom in Frankfurt is one of the few parts of city that is not modern in its design. It is a part of town where everything is architecturally historical and where people come and sit in the plaza by the fountain, drink coffee, and eat cake. I decided to come here today to read and finish the book I am working on now (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon---I am devouring literature here as fast as humanly possible). The cleaning person had buzzed my door this morning and woke me up before I wanted to be moving and conscious. So, in order to give her space, I thought I should get out of the house and go somewhere I could read.

It was a pleasant scene in the plaza today: children ran around playing tag, tourists wandered around aimlessly, a man was playing his trumpet next to the fountain, there were many more flags than usual flapping in the wind today (most of them having to do with World Cup), the sun was out, and there was good music on my ipod as it shuffled through it's collection – my ipod is my best friend when I am on the road. I often like to let her wander through her library at random, following whatever musical journey she takes me on.

They say that smell is the strongest trigger of memory. While this may be true, oftentimes, music is also a strong trigger for my memory. I often will become obsessed with some album that I have fallen in love with, and - like a teenager who would loop a song over and over again on a cassette - I will listen to a new CD ad nauseum and then permanently associate it with some period in my life.

Sarah McLachlan started to sing in my ipod this morning, and I was immediately distracted from Joe Kavalier's dilemma about what to do with his million dollars by a surge that I realized was my body being physically overwhelmed with emotions from a long time ago. It was as if I had been transported emotionally back in time. It felt strangely like a tingling, exciting rush and a heaviness descending upon me at the same time.

Back in 1999, I was driving on my way to the Aspen Music Festival for the first time. I had decided to ride out with my friend Kindra, another singer from the University of Michigan who was going to study in Aspen, as well. We drove Kindra's white, whale-sized SUV out to Colorado that summer - our belongings, a cooler full of snacks, and tons of water stuffed in the back, and our bikes mounted on the rack in the back of the vehicle. It was a fun trip that took about three and half days. We stopped at my aunt's house for one evening in South Bend on our way out, and then we trekked to Lincoln, Nebraska, where I had my first experience staying in a hostel. Then, we drove to Denver, where I dropped Kindra off at the Denver Airport so she could fly out to Alaska to see her sister run a marathon. I drove the last bit from Denver to Aspen alone, getting lost as I tried to find Independence Pass (I didn't find it on that trip). In the last stretch going into Aspen, there was an accident that stopped traffic for two hours in a canyon. So people stopped their cars, were walking their dogs, and having picnics on the side of the highway as they waited for traffic to get moving again. The sun was setting, day was turning to dusk, the breeze blew pleasantly, there was a rushing, little creek to the left of the road, and the air smelled clean. At this point, driving Kindra’s white tank by myself, stranded in the middle of a canyon in the Rockies, I discovered Sarah McLachlan.

The nine months leading up to that road trip to Aspen were a very hard stretch for me. I had been dumped by my first love, and it took me a good portion of the year to move on. I came out to my parents, which was a terrifying and hurtful experience. By the time that summer had rolled around, things were quite rocky. I really needed to escape from Ann Arbor and to be alone. I needed time to figure things out. I was numb with pain. I felt so alone, so abandoned, so confused, and so lost (both figuratively and literally). I felt such relief when I dropped off Kindra at the airport that day and was finally by myself, away from everything I knew, and about to start anew (for a summer) in an unfamiliar, but beautiful place. It was the beginning of a vacation from my unhappy and seemingly dismal reality.

I'm not sure why the memory sticks with me so much - I don't even listen to her much, but when Sarah popped into my ipod this morning, I was taken immediately back to that trip and my adventure - my first traveling adventure alone - in the mountains of Colorado.

Sitting there and looking up at the Dom with my cheap, white headphones in my ears, I was lucky enough to have a moment of reflection. My ipod had unwittingly jerked me out of drowning in the present and allowed me to get my head above water to have a little perspective. So much has changed in the last seven years – perhaps more in my head and my heart than anywhere else in my life. I count a lot of blessings in my life, including my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, my job, my opportunities among them. It was nice to look up into the sun, smile as I felt its warmth on my face, and have an adventure with my ipod today.

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