Songs trigger memories for me. Some good, some bad, and some much stronger than others.
For example, whenever I hear Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (FadeOut)”, I have a distinct memory of listening to the song over and over while driving through Bighorn Sheep Canyon in south central Colorado. It is a twisty state highway that is bordered on the north by the Arkansas River, as well as cliffs that the elusive bighorns call home, and the song just seemed to fit. So, as I drove, I played it on a constant loop.
Lyrics, while important to me, aren’t the deciding factor in how a song imparts itself on my memory. It has to be a song that I remember hearing at a certain moment in my life for it to have a lasting impact – and allow me to go back to that exact moment. In other words, hearing “Rocky Mountain High” will not make me think of my many Colorado camping trips. But hearing “Only One You” by T.G. Sheppard (hey, it could happen) will always remind me of fishing trips to the Brazos River with my dad in his old red Mazda.
But the strongest memory – and it’s not even close comes from this song by a little known Canadian band.
“Left and Leaving” is a song that has reared itself many times today as I listened to my iTunes library on shuffle. And every time I hear it, I can feel myself in a certain location on a certain day and with certain questions.
Location: My one bedroom apartment in Bedford that had a scenic view of a medical complex. It was a quiet building, though. I was very lucky in that regard. In my entire 13 months there, the 4 units in my building were never fully occupied.
Day/date: I don’t recall the exact date, but it was in mid to late September of 2005. I had just returned to my little “phonebooth” (thanks for the name, Nate) from a weird trip to Reno. I helped a female friend move to that Nevada city of sin, driving her truck while pulling a Uhaul trailer – and not really knowing how to back up. I spent the last two nights there in a casino hotel room by myself, even watching the Cowboys on Monday Night Football lose to Washington by a score of 14-13. MNF was weird at 6pm.
Questions: Lots. I had been working with the same company for over 10 years at the time, and the entire Reno trip made me question my own personal status quo. I did not want a promotion, but was also worried of getting bored. But the truth was that I was probably already bored. And then I got to watch a friend of mine pack up, move away, and start a new adventure and I felt a bit jealous.
About 4 months later, I left my job with no viable plan.
Things got really weird after that. A potential book deal (that fell through), a move to The Colony and then to Austin. Eventually, a move to Las Vegas that was short-lived. A new job, followed by a new job, and then yet another (and hopefully last) new job.
I would not be who I am without those experiences. (And I am an avowed risk taker.) Things are pretty good right now, actually.
But every time I hear that Weakerthans song, it takes me back (physically and mentally) to a place when things were not so certain. The lyrics fit so perfectly, even if they sound a bit sad.
Makes me smile.
“All this time lingers undefined. Someone choose who’s left and who’s leaving.”