Summer arrives fast and hot, broken with thunderstorms. School activities tumble over themselves in eagerness to be done — concerts, award assemblies, graduations. Watching the girls perform, accept their accolades I mark another year’s passing.
Driving away from them this am, I remembered one summer towards the end of college. Between life, school, and research, I didn’t go home very much. The student lounge and the library did, however, close, so I needed a place to hang. Cue the little bar at the edge of campus. It wasn’t fancy — booths and a counter upfront, battered stage and pool tables/arcade games in the back — and the best jukebox I’ve ever found. It was all wood, not the fancified oak and leather, but like old school house wood tones, with lumpy seats in the booths molded to hundreds of college kids crowded in over the years. There was a vaguely smoky haze (hey, it was NC) and the air was redolent with smoke, beer, and the patchouli/old spice/obsession aura of the time..
One of my buddies was a bartender there, and he said I should hang out — for the price of a beer (or not, thanks various cute boys) I would curl up in the corner booth next to the jukebox and read, research and write for hours, or at least last call. As May sped past — the bar became frantic with cram sessions, blowing off steam, goodbyes, unexpected hellos, “oops knew you befores,” and just about any other encounter one could observe. Some nights, I would set the mood — pick $5 worth of songs (amazingly about 20 songs — best jukebox ever)… and watch the rhythms drive the evening. This was an era before my laptop was like a sidearm, ever present and ever cued to the web. I had notebooks, narrow ruled, and fine tip pens with which I created vignettes, sketched a head turn as someone touched a shoulder — and tried to understand the world. I had a section of each composition book that was just for things I didn’t understand — larger than you may imagine For the next night I would have grabbed a book or a journal article that might answer…. not always though.
I look back at that girl, passionate about the world — recording a scene like Hemingway in Paris, ok not like him – or this post would have been “girl writes in bar. The end.” The point being that me has never gone — the passions banked and channeled — and as I drove in the gauzy morning sun, I recalled a poem I carefully taped and retaped inside the front cover of each new journal…. Emerson advises throwing your heart over every fence, all while knowing certainty is ephemeral… can one always remember to do that? Stasis beckons, routine is easy — can I? can you?
Give all to love;Obey thy heart;Friends, kindred, days,Estate, good-frame,Plans, credit and the Muse,—Nothing refuse.
’T is a brave master;Let it have scope:Follow it utterly,Hope beyond hope:High and more highIt dives into noon,With wing unspent,Untold intent:But it is a god,Knows its own pathAnd the outlets of the sky.
It was never for the mean;It requireth courage stout.Souls above doubt,Valor unbending,It will reward,—They shall returnMore than they were,And ever ascending.
Leave all for love;Yet, hear me, yet,One word more thy heart behoved,One pulse more of firm endeavor,—Keep thee to-day,To-morrow, forever,Free as an ArabOf thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;But when the surprise,First vague shadow of surmiseFlits across her bosom young,Of a joy apart from thee,Free be she, fancy-free;Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,Nor the palest rose she flungFrom her summer diadem.
Though thou loved her as thyself,As a self of purer clay,Though her parting dims the day,Stealing grace from all alive;Heartily know,When half-gods go,The gods arrive
–> Give all to Love by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- It’s the End of the World (REM) — breathless, afraid and challenged. Once my little brother wanted to jump from the high dive — neither of us could swim, but I asked permission. He backed out, so I did it instead (hey, we’d asked) — I plunged into the blue and started laughing from sheer joy — though, one should probably wait until you surface for that!
- Summertime (Renee Olstead) — I love her jazzy version of Gershwin’s classic.
- All I Want to Do (Suglarland) — Jennifer Nettles embodies the “give all” — watching her sing, you know she is joyously engaged heart & soul with every word!
- When you’re hot, you’re hot (Jerry Reed) — there was one guy in the bar way back then — he “punched” the air anthem-ed this song — a little odd, but it fulfilled him… I still smile
- Days go By (Keith Urban) — does Australia produce great performers so they can flee all the poisonous things? This song is about remembering your passions
- Warwick Avenue (Duffy) — this Welsh singer’s 1st album was a masterpiece of ’60s retro vocals
- You Call it Rain (Old 97s) — an alt-country band that I discovered through Jennifer Anniston… she referenced them in an interview…
- Heat of the Moment (Asia) — “couple skate” — iconic song that was on constant rotation in the “retro” section of the jukebox
- Come Go with Me (Beach Boys) — must for summer playlists — lying in the sand, blink-ily smiling at the sky
- Waiting for Somebody (Paul Westerberg) — a song of time and place, from a ’92 Cameron Crowe film — it lives in that summer, driving in my car — playing the steering wheel to the rhythms
- Dog Days are Over (Florence & the Machine) — maybe, more of an end of summer song — it flings status quo on its ass
- Plant Life (Owl City) — quirky little band, with a definite turn for lyrics…..coming back to life as flora it’s delightful, the line that hooked me, “I’d rather waltz than just walk through the forest,”
- After You Who (Jody Watley) — Cole Porter’s infectiously lyrical paean to divorce — blending pathos and humanity in a way few can match
- Drive South (John Hiatt) — a little part of me turns the key in a mental ignition each time this song starts, though I daresay it’s more a remembered South than the current one…
- Freaks (the Hawk in Paris) — with riffs that are hypnotic, it drives at you rather insistently
- Summer Wind (Michael Biublé) — driving along top down/summer roof open — air wafting sunscreen and heat….
- Does your Mother Know (from Mamma Mia!) — one of the joys of rediscovering one’s sass is being old enough to play with it — a delightful representation from the musical
- C’est La Vie (Emmylou Harris) — most things are better rendered in French — try not to smile — it’s impossible when this plays
- You Remind Me (Steve Poltz) — best known for co-writing, You Were Meant for Me with Jewel — his solo work is often acoustic and lyric driven…. this song is just a fantastic love song.
- How High the Moon (Jeff Beck & Imelda May) — quite possibly the perfect version of a perfect Les Paul song — both Jeff Beck & Imelda throw themselves into this song with all the verve and passion they can
To be a person is to have a story to tell..–> Isak Dinesen