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Musical Chairs

They say smell is most closely associated with memory but lately I've been reminded that music is equally capable. A couple of months ago, I was playing guitar with Veronika on a warm June Saturday morning and put on a Jack Johnson album so we could chill-rock out a little. When the first chord of "Times Like These" sounded, I found myself sitting at a kitchen table in Cres, Croatia, playing cards with my brother-in-law and sweating from a stuffy evening and some plum brandy. When I left the house later in the day, I deliberately tried to choose some music evocative of summer for the car ride and found that the association was also strong in reverse. I imagined driving in a hot car, windows down, sweating at the stoplights, and my hand gravitated toward the Afro-Cuban All Stars with the memory of a late-1980s Nissan Pulsar and a visiting girlfriend from Austria in my head.

On Saturday we went to the John Mayer show in Hartford (a delayed Mother's Day present), which featured Ben Folds as an opening act. I used to be a big fan of The Five while they were together but never got a chance to see them in concert. Hearing Ben Folds perform some of the old material that night was a bit jarring—it was so out of context in my current life and so reminiscent of my late high school/early college years that I felt like I was looking through a photo album of my former life, detached by time but still intimately connected by nature of being my past. I remembered the faces of the people I used to listen to the music with, saw pictures of the places I lived then, and relived some of the emotions of those adolescent years. It was vivid to the point of being uncomfortable and I was a little relieved when his set ended and I could stop the attempts at internal reconciliation. John Mayer put on a great show, full of contagious, youthful enthusiasm and flexing his musical muscles as much as he could within the expectations of a top 40 crowd. Who knows, maybe one day I'll hear "Gravity" (which I heard for the first time that night) and be taken back to the cool breeze of the amphitheater that night and the white spotlights that shone over his back as he sang "Keep me where the light is."

Although it wasn't played that night, one song that the concert did shake loose was "3x5" from his first album, especially the part about seeing a sunrise that "brought [him] back to life." That's kind of what last weekend was like for me, shedding all the busyness of the past few months, reestablishing my priorities, and feeling my roots again. On Sunday I had this "Oh yeah, so that's who I am" moment and wondered where I had been for so long. The timing couldn't have been better—this weekend our family of four heads to the Rhode Island shore for more of that resuscitation. If hearing a few old albums can inspire all of this, you can imagine the buckets of emotion that I'll bring back after a few days on the beach with this lot. That's what I call being kept where the light is.

July 18, 2007 | Comments (2)