Maybe it’s a song. Maybe it’s a smell. Maybe, it’s the way the light filters through the trees at just the right angle while the breeze is blowing a certain way at just the right time of year. Something triggers the gears, and suddenly the clouds part and you see it…the road laid out before you, beckoning you to wander down its forgotten paths.
Sometimes I think I spend most of my life retracing my steps, feeling the worn grooves beneath the calloused souls of my feet, in a vain attempt to find that magic point where the way forked. What If…it’s an ugly game to play with yourself.
I accepted long ago that life isn’t like a movie. There’s no magic fairy dust, North Star, or wishing well that will take you back and grant you a “do over.” No, our lives are the result of every decision, good or otherwise, that we have ever made. Every wrong turn, pothole, and speed bump have come together to land us exactly where we are at this very moment.
Yet, this is still where you find me today…standing at the intersection of What Was and What Is, looking over my shoulder at yesterday and wondering if I would even choose to go back if I could. Would I take the “do over” or face straight ahead and keep on walking…would I wander aimlessly over the hills and far away?
|Sitting on the roof with my |
walkman...one of my favorite
places that year...
Right here and now? I’m sitting in the front room of a turn of the Century house in a tiny little town on the far outskirts of Indiana, listening to two friends strum on acoustic guitars. The air of the room is thick with the smoke of our multiple cigarettes, adding a blue tint to the mid-March light fighting its way through the never-ever-cleaned windows.
Led Zeppelin. Oh, but this is different than all the other Stairway To Heaven’s you hear in dorm rooms over on the campus, being played by angst ridden, “guy with a prop trying to get laid” boys. This is Over the Hills and Far Away. (Still my favorite to this day.) And it’s so very slow and sweet…
The two of them are working their way through the opening notes by ear, their fingers delicately caressing each string with the expertise of serious, anti-social musicians who are completely unaware that there is a female anywhere near the vicinity. I feel…I feel like I’ve been handed a gift few would see for what it is, just to be allowed to sit here on the edge of a thrift-store coffee table, chain smoke, and listen with my eyes closed.
I really have to close my eyes. Watching the two of them is truly distracting me from fully taking in the complexity of the music. The way their hands hold the necks of their instruments like they were first time lovers in the beginning stages of fore-play. Their long fingers, tips stained with the after-effects of too much nicotine, nails slightly too long so as to be used as picks, deftly slide across the strings bringing to life the siren’s call of the song. It makes my heart ache and sing at the same time.
The two of them sit so close the tops of their heads are almost touching as they parry back and forth, treating that first 50 seconds of the song almost as a round. One still wears his black leather, Misfits jacket, the other a faded green, wool p-coat, though I doubt either one has really noticed the early spring chill in the air. It’s more the fact that they are too immersed in the sounds to be bothered to remove them.
Over and over they strum, picking up tempo and adding pieces of their souls into the music until it is almost perfect, quietly smiling and laughing to each other as the tune becomes more organic. Over the hills…and far away.
|St. Patric's Day coatume party,|
maybe later that night...
One rest stop on my trip through life. One bittersweet moment captured in my mind, not remembering how long we sat like that, the two men in their early 20’s with their lives a yet-to-be determined mystery on permanent hold as they simply played. Me…an unnoticed observer to their moment of musical escape. What came before or after on that exact day, I can’t say. It’s been lost along the way in the fog of youth.
As I sit here, 23 year later (Gawd! Has it really been that long?) still chain smoking the same cigarettes, the sweet strains of Led Zeppelin playing in my ears via technology we didn’t have then, I smile at the memory.
Yes, Jimmy Page is one of the Gods in the Pantheon of Guitar Deities. Yes, in the recording his fingers move without the least bit of hesitation as he flawlessly executes what few realize to be an excruciatingly intricate collection of seemingly simple notes, putting them in an order that creates true, musical magic. But still…
No matter how many times I listen to this particular song, the feelings of pleasure and happiness it evokes in me will always pale in comparison to what it felt like to sit on a thrift-store coffee table, my short legs swinging in time to the rhythm, my throat burning from one too many Marlboros as my entire, momentary existence was intertwined and immersed in the pure innocents and passion of those two amature musicians. Not playing for money or even to catch the amorous attentions of the chick-of-the-day, but simply for the love and joy of it.I think I'll sit here a bit longer and just enjoy the music...