Thursday, April 27, 2006

A song isn’t just a song when it’s attached to a story.

People didn’t think of that when the first exiles arrived. They didn’t have much with them – didn’t have time to get anything together. We’d heard stories of how rich they were. How much money they spent on things they didn’t even need. “They’re fat and lazy,” my brother-in-law said once, “and they don’t even work for it.”

They definitely worked hard when they got to the city. Within the first two days, one family had a fruit stand up and running. I found out later that my aunt helped them find an old farmer to work with, a guy who needed help getting to the city and back. For the wage they got, they were doing him a favor.

I stopped by the fruit stand that first morning on the way to work. Bought an orange. Two things I’ll always remember about that first time I talked to them: one, the look on the mother’s face. I looked her in the eye as she handed me my change, and I could tell that she had been crying. But she smiled at me all the same, and wished me a good day.

Second, they were playing the radio.

Seemed like every time I went by a group of exiles, the radio was going. Our stations played their music a lot. It was more popular then than it is now. So they listened constantly. It’s like they drank it in, like they needed it. Once I saw an exile kid wearing these little headphones, and trying to hide something in his pocket, but he kept fiddling with it. It was one of those little pocket radios, an MP3. One of the guys from my work saw him and asked him what he had, and he took off.

I was walking back from work two weeks after the first exiles arrived, and the younger sister was running the fruit stand. Little brother was unloading crates of berries from the old farmer’s truck. She looked at me when I walked up, and tried to smile, but then, out of nowhere, she just broke down and started weeping. Mom rushed out and tried to calm her down, and then she was crying too. And then I realize, the song was playing on the radio.

I’d seen it happen before. That stupid song comes on, the one with the whiny girl singing about how bad she wants some guy back, the one with the thumpy bass and the annoying synth noises, and the exiles just break down. They can’t handle it. We made fun of them for it.

I had to know. “What is it,” I asked, “about that song?”

They both looked at me, for a moment, like they were going to come across the counter and strangle me. Then they realized that I just didn’t know. Mom put her arm around her daughter and looked me in the eye. Her voice was steady enough that I could understand her through her accent.

She said, “That song was playing when the city fell.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I really enjoy putting together playlists. Something about establishing a mood with music, then elaborating on it. There's an element of storytelling there for me - I get a lot of story ideas while listening to music, and I always visualize action to go with a song.

Here's a CD I put together recently. I looked through my collection for different shades of alternative rock and assembled them into something of a flow. Expect other playlists in the future. But for tonight, DJ Razorclown presents:

One Alternative or Another

1) Akira Ymaoka, "I Want Love"
   from The Silent Hill 3 Official Soundtrack

2) Prime STH, "On the Inside"
   from Underneath the Surface

3) Bush, "Jesus Online"
   from The Science of Things

4) Switchfoot, "This is Your Life"
   from The Beautiful Letdown

5) The Wallflowers, "One Headlight"
   from Bringing Down the Horse

6) Maroon 5, "Harder to Breathe"
   from Songs About Jane

7) Green Day, Oasis, et. al., "Boulevard of Broken Songs"

8) Foo Fighters, "New Way Home"
   from The Colour and the Shape

9) Imani Coppola, "Legend of a Cowgirl"
   from Chupacabra

10) Incubus, "Stellar"
   from Make Yourself

11) Damien Jurado, "Ohio"
   from Rehearsals for Departure

12) Prime STH, "On the Inside"
   from Underneath the Surface

13) Stone Temple Pilots, "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart"
   from Thank You

14) Gorillaz, "5/4"
   from their self-titled CD

15) Fuel, "Walk the Sky"
   from Godzilla: The Album

16) The Refreshments, "Mekong"
   from Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy

17) Sarah McLachlan, "Possession (Live)"
   from Mirrorball

18) Bush, "Letting the Cables Sleep"
   from The Science of Things

19) Cold, "Sad Happy"
   from Year of the Spider

20) Akira Ymaoka, "I Want Love (Studio Mix)"
   from The Silent Hill 3 Original Soundtrack

Monday, April 10, 2006

For once, I have an excuse for not posting recently. Ironically enough, that reason is also a good occasion for a blog post. And thus, once again, I'm left without a defense.

I started working full-time at JPlus Architects last Tuesday. It's quite an adjustment to go from relative idleness to getting up at 6 am and working over eight hours... and loving it. My time feels more precious now, which I greatly appreciate. I know I've done something in a given day, though I have much to learn about my craft.

God continues to bless. Life is good.

More to come soon!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

“You keep laughing at me,” she said, because I did. She was chuckling herself.

She had stories to tell, and I was glad to listen. She’d managed to pay for our coffee, as my female friends tended to do somehow, and there we sat - indoors in Adirondack chairs, tall coffee cups just short of spilling over. We’d last happened upon each other in the True Love Coffeehouse, not long before it evaporated. Even before then, it had been a while.

Kelly (her pseudonym for this post) and I had been friends in high school, and behold, we still were. She had lived in interesting, unforeseen ways since I last knew her well, and I struggled not to compare. I imagine myself to be an extraordinarily boring guy, when it comes right down to it, so I was more than content to listen. And as she told her stories, I laughed.

It always annoyed me in English class when irony was broken down and defined as juxtaposition: when expectation and reality are far removed from each other. But with Kelly and me, this was exactly the case. Our lives are completely dissimilar. The fact that we’re friends at all kind of baffles me, but I love it.

So, I laughed. And thankfully, she didn’t seem to mind. I hope she actually didn’t.

When she asked me what I’d been up to, I was fairly embarrassed to describe my life for the past couple of years. Whereas she has been working in politics, making contacts and advancing her career, I’ve been… well, certainly not doing that. Only recently have I found full time work, and that through a full-on conspiracy of the Holy Spirit. No kidding. The circumstances surrounding my employment are miraculous in their timing.

We talked about the times. About the various choices and circumstances that lead so many of our generation back to their parents’ houses (as I myself have done). About politics and economics. Briefly, about elephant tattoos. And we talked about old friends we had and hadn’t seen. More stories there, some wonderful, some downright depressing.

Eventually, we said goodbye for the evening. I waited for her to pull out of the narrow parking lot before I backed out of my space, still smiling. It had been a while since I had sat down and had a cup of coffee with an old friend, let alone Kelly. For all the nostalgia, the evening felt somehow new.

I worked an eight-hour day for the first time in a long time today. And I saw a dear friend I hadn’t caught up with in years.

There is a momentum shift at work in my life. I feel in plainly now. And I love it.

Praise God! who makes living worthwhile. Amen.