Not Wise Enough

A little Bob Seger while buzzing along the highway brings back some strong feelings.

I spent the evening cleaning the hangar. As has become my custom, I fire up the server in the new room – the one without a door yet – and listen to my iTunes. Then, when I decide I’ve heat-prostrated myself sufficiently, I park my rear on the little padded stool in that room and browse the accumulated storage on the server.

Last night, I decided to browse iTunes.

I have fifty-nine and a half days of audio in iTunes. That fact was news to me when I discovered it about a week ago. I was startled by the revelation, and even though I understand the origin of most of the music I still find it easy to believe that someone was adding CDs to my server during the day while I was at work.

The origin of the rediscovered tracks stems back to when I bought my Powerbook. The first thing I did was stop by Tyler’s [Kung Fu Sexy] and beg off a bootleg of his audio collection. Tyler was living in a kind of digital commune with six or seven other geeks, where people took shifts sleeping or sitting at one of the computers. They occasionally left for a job. And they all pooled all of their music onto one machine.

It was this massive collection, or at least as much of it as I could fit onto my laptop (which was probably less than half), that became the source for my listening.

When downloading in such bulk, one can hardly afford to be choosy at least up front. So it was in the following weeks that I discovered and deleted several artists for whom I had little love. I also discovered the idiosyncrasies of Apple’s DRM and that I had to make separate MP3 files of all my purchased or AAC-formatted music if I wanted to create an MP3 CD for my truck.

Not wanting to lose the original, superior quality file, I soon had many MP3 duplicates of my own music added to the huge volume of MP3s I had borrowed. So I created two Smart Playlists: one which filtered for MP3, and one which filtered for anything BUT MP3. It is the latter playlist which I listened to most often, having the better sounding files and an overall shorter listing.

In fact, I eventually FORGOT about the MP3 files which lived on my server.

Until this week.

I’ve been surprised by how similar the computer coven’s music taste is to mine. While I don’t care for many selections from the entire Limp Biscuit collection, I enjoyed sampling the entire Phil Collins collection, as well as complete collections of Chemical Brothers, Natalie Cole, and John Cougar, among many.

I found an INXS album which I have missed in my collection of CDs since a friend borrowed it and then had it stolen from his car. This album was probably burned by Tyler when he also borrowed it from me many years ago.

Mostly what I did last night was skim through the first half of 59 days, marking certain songs as favorites and sampling some others. There was no time to listen to more than one or two songs completely through, but still I was setting a kind of retro mood with classics and 80s-era music.

I found Simple Minds “(Don’t you) Forget about me” which is iconic for my generation (and found the rest of the Breakfast Club soundtrack). Some DEVO and Men Without Hats took me back to my pre-adolescent days. Enya’s Shepherd Moons and “Book of Days” particularly brought back my first romance in a rush. Monty Python’s “Spam” song, need I say more?

I ended the evening at 12:45 am with Nickelback’s “Photograph”, which seemed to be a nice capsule running down memory lane. I shut the computer down, doused the lights, locked up and drove off.

It’s a long private road from the hangar to the highway, with several houses close to the road not used to rattle-trap cars in the middle of the night rumbling past, so the least I could do was keep the radio turned down. Once I turned onto the highway, however, I cranked up the volume. …and heard “Night Moves”.

And suddenly I was back. Back at Pete’s Puddle. Back, standing on the balcony of a large treehouse, with a beautiful, smart, moral brunette standing in front of me. Below, the lake chuckled quietly on the beach a dozen yards to my left. Behind her some 50 yards, the muted lights and comfortable murmur of the clubhouse, where the adults were gathered. Above me, the canopy of this huge tree, rocking gently in the breeze, a subtle white noise of the connectedness of All Things whispering from its leaves, and the starlight beyond in a wide open sky. To my right, the simple expedient shelter of the three walled tree-house, and its Greater Darkness.

If I had reached out from my sides, twirled my wrists in the air, grabbed and tugged back in, I knew I would have shifted the fabric of the universe. Such was the concentration of the moment. We stood on an edge, a precipice, together. The air was thick with a tension, not something sexual, but an earth-beat, primal connectivity. Something potent, sublime, riven.

I knew that this is one of those unique moments in time, a catalyst moment, a waiting, an edge. All of time was pouring into the space between us, the surfaces of reality bending with the flow. And in true geek fashion… I stop to analyze the moment.

Because this wasn’t just an emotional moment. This inflow of the universe was data. This was important. This means something. I was more than capable of processing all the data in real time, able to accept the universe and it’s checksum in the moment. No, the pause was from the evaluation.

For I was also wise enough to know the enormity of the moment came from the anticipation. It came from the precipice itself, not (necessarily) from what would follow.

And what would follow? A second kiss? Holding hands for the rest of the trip? We were in middle school. So, being pen-pals for the next few months, then explaining to our parents that we want to be married? Or, writing intermittently only to find ourselves in exactly the same situation next year, catching up but never really getting past this point in any meaningful way?

Or one of another million possibilities.

That was the delay. There were simply too many options. Most of them were torturous, defeating or simply disappointing in the end. I found myself rushing to try to cull out the best possible outcomes and what my next action must be to trigger precisely that result…

My delay is noted, but accepted by her. She understood me, understood what I was thinking, what I was doing. She knew that ultimately I was trying to make the best decision for us, for her, and it was sweet. And her regarding me in higher esteem for the delay only increased the conflagration of my crisis, as every choice took on new and stronger meaning with every passing impulse…

A fish splashed. The tree groaned softly. Beer bottles clanked in the distance.

To hell with it.

Now I just need to figure out how to lean in and kiss her.

That’s when her self-appointed chaperone — a cousin of hers about two years younger: old enough to know what a boy like me might want to do, but young enough to actually try and stop me. He was not above tattling, or physically levering himself into a defensive position if he had to knowing I would not “hit a kid” (where I might punch or wrestle a peer) — forced his way onto the tree house deck.

Psychically, the whiplash as the universe snapped back into its normal shape was staggering. For an impulse, a part of me cried. But I was used to freighting the weight of the universe, and she was as visibly frustrated by her chaperone as I felt. But, this moment wasn’t done. This edge still existed. We could revisit it. We could. We would.

Someday, I thought. Someday we would, surely…

I awoke last night to the sound of thunder

How far off I sat and wondered…

The next year at Pete’s Puddle was an awkward one. My uncorrected distance vision was getting worse, so I didn’t even see that she was at the Puddle until very late in the day. The main “puddle” was closed, so our water activities were forced to a different lake across the road.

Familiar things were gone. We never quite connected that trip.

Ain’t it funny how the night moves…

The ownership of Pete’s Puddle changed, and so the adults never had the party at the Puddle again. I never saw her in person again.

Though I thought of her on occasion, I was not able to overcome my feeling of “embarrassment” of trying to “pursue” her through the mail. Not until I was already in college. By then, addresses had changed and the pursuit became problematic.

…When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose…

When I finally found out about her, through friends of friends of my folks, she had just married about six months prior.

Strange how the night moves

With autumn closing in…

Log in to write a note
June 18, 2009

This is beautiful and haunting. It is amazing how some things–music in particular–can so fully transport us back to another place, another mood, another version of ourselves. Thank you for sharing this.