List Item Achieved! #24: Music

I am my music. I don’t know how much simpler to define me than to say that if you want to know who and where I am at a particular moment, check my “recents” in Amazon Music.

Music has always been a big thing with me. I understand it now, but I didn’t understand as a child how people would talk about listening to music when I felt music. I remember as a small boy having this stuffed tiger at my grandparents’ house in Texas that, when you twisted the key, played some sort of classical lullaby. I would lay there in the dark at night winding and re-winding the key and crying, because the song made me feel sad, as if there were some child somewhere who felt that song deeply.

I never told anyone about that because I assumed other people did the same thing. Yeah, not so much.

Music defined my teenage years. So many of my high school memories are marked as much by the music that was playing as it is by the people who I was with. I remember what song was playing on my car stereo when my friend Michelle was crying about a boy who didn’t like her like she liked him (Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, by Meat Loaf — RIP). I remember the song The Four Musketeers sang by taking different parts as we drove to Mystic the day after our junior prom (To Be With You, by Mr. Big). And I remember the song I heard that encapsulated all the unspoken rage I felt about some ugly childhood stuff as I neared departure for college (Dyers Eve, by Metallica).

This sort of thing never stopped. I remember the song that was playing at the precise moment I realized I’d fallen in love with my future wife (A Whole New World, from Aladdin) and the song that marked my irreparable broken heart when I learned our first son would likely not live much past birth (He’s My Son, by Mark Schultz).

I also remember the songs that made me understand I’m not completely alone in how I feel music.

The grunge scene was born about as far away from my hometown as possible. Seattle is a world away from suburban NYC, and the gritty, raw, emotional angst that came from the likes of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell and Layne Staley were like nothing I’d ever heard before. All of a sudden, there were these men — men, not emotional teeny-bopper love-song chicks — singing about all the things I had felt inside for years but could never explain. I’d been moving toward more angry music for awhile — Guns ‘N’ Roses, Metallica, Skid Row — but these guys were more than that. it was authentic angst, not commercially generated anger. These guys understood.

But alongside of all that, a formerly homeless girl from Alaska was enchanting me and giving me hope for a brighter future. Jewel had a folksy, positive vibe antithetical to “the world sucks” grunge sound. And depending on the day — the hour — it could be either Kurt Cobain talking about “whatever, nevermind” or Jewel telling me about the hope held in her hands.

Fast-forward to today. It’s only been in the past six months that I’ve fully embraced music’s role in my life and understood its importance. For someone who can be difficult to understand by even those who know him well (and there aren’t many of you who have really taken the time to do that, for whatever reason), if you want to understand me, ask me about what I’m listening to. I might not even be able to tell you why I’m listening to what I’m listening to, but give me a few minutes and it’ll become apparent.

For example, in the past week, this song has captivated me.

Why? Because … because… because YES. YES. ALL OF IT. ALL. OF. IT. I don’t just HEAR this. I FEEL this. When I hear Amy Lee’s AMAZE-BALLS voice sing “There’s so much left to learn, and no one left to fight,” … like, YES! That is speaking directly to the isolation and loneliness that have been plaguing me as I address some really intense shit that I’ve been ignoring for, oh, 47 years. I am simply entranced by this song, and while we’re at it, can we talk about how AWESOME life used to be when MTV played music videos? I mean … music videos were visual representations of audio and the right song with the right video could and did change my life.

Amy Lee walking through the desolation with angel’s wings on? YES! A million times YES! Like, don’t you ALL hear that? SEE that? FEEL that? Don’t you all see ME there? Don’t you all see ME on the other side of that wall between the two people singing???? It’s SO FREAKING OBVIOUS!

… To me …

And that’s what leads me to check off a list item today. I wanted to start a collection of something in 2022, and I realized two weeks ago what it needed to be.

We reached the pinnacle of sound with CD’s. The technology is capable of incredible range, and what you get on a good sound system with a CD is unlike anything ever produced before or sense. With what we have now on our phones, we’ve sacrificed depth and feel for the portability of compressed files. I get it, trust me. I mean, portable CD players weren’t exactly convenient, nor stable, nor truly portable. But what I find when I listen to music on my phone is that I’m not feeling it as deeply as it needs to be felt.


The other day, I bought a CD player and a bunch of CDs off of Amazon. I used to have a ton of CDs back in the day, but when I needed money to help us get out of debt and when I thought music was just fine on portable devices, I sold them all. I don’t regret this. It gives me a chance to start a collection of truly masterful works from all genres from scratch.

The player arrived while I was in Indianapolis this weekend, and the CDs are scheduled to arrive today. Pearl Jam’s Ten, Nirvana’s Nevermind. Evanescence’s Fallen. And others. I am looking very much forward to setting everything up, cranking up the volume, sitting back and feeling everything these artists are painting on my soul.

Yes, I know. I’m quite weird when it comes to this stuff, but as the saying goes: If you know, you know.

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