Christmas Playlist

Sometimes, when you least expect it, you connect with who you used to be, every song triggers a memory, it’s like your whole life is a highway and the feelings you thought were gone forever have suddenly shown up and are now riding shotgun.

I used to live in winter. It was a part of my life. The anticipation, those damp October nights, those dreary November days and then finally December, cold with snow. You stayed inside and played board games. “Wide World Of Sports” was the most fascinating program on television. You went outside in your flannel-lined jeans and romped in the snow and when your clothing had frozen board stiff you trundled up to your front door where your mom made you hot chocolate and you felt fully alive in a way you rarely do anymore.

That’s what’s great about the cold, it’s invigorating. Stay still and you’ll freeze. Keep moving and you’ve got no idea what you’ll encounter.

And today, the last time I looked at the thermometer it was one degree. My nose had that tingling pre-frostbite feeling and when I got inside I slurped down the hot chocolate like it was the elixir of life. There’s nothing better than being warmed from the inside.

And that’s when I put on “Twilight.”

Remember when you traveled with a box of cassettes? When you couldn’t bear being without your music? Today Spotify sits on my iPhone and I have the history of recorded music at my fingertips. Anything I want to hear is just a click away. And I wanted to hear Shawn Colvin. Singing that Band song that no one knows.

Don’t send me no distant salutations
Or silly souvenirs from far away
Don’t leave me alone in the twilight
Twilight is the loneliest time of day

Not when you’ve got the right song in your ears. And in that eerie time before darkness this song was playing and I marveled at the power of music to evoke a feeling, to get the emotions right, to be positively human.

So I pulled up “King Harvest,” from the second Band LP. And not only remembered Brad Weston playing it for me in his parents’ den, but was stunned that this sound was once popular, that once upon a time stardom might arrive, but you didn’t chase it, you focused inward, not out, you wanted to get the music right.

Which had my mind drifting, to Big Pink, to this concoction backing up the bard of my generation, and I pulled up “Tangled Up In Blue.”

Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’

As I was driving up the access road to Mammoth Mountain. It was May 1st 1975. I’d driven across the desert, eaten at Baskin Robbins for dinner, since I was broke and had a gift certificate for my birthday, and was now where I never was before meeting people I barely knew and this record came on the radio.

And I remembered all that as the song played on.

But reveled in the fact that whatever the song meant then, now it meant something completely different.

When you’re twenty two, the world is your oyster, you’re gonna eat it alive, you’re full of vigor, overflowing with optimism.

Then you get older and waste so much time you find yourself just existing, wondering what’s around the next corner, if anything.

You’re haunted by your memories. You think they’re just that and then you stumble into someone you used to know and they’re just as damaged as you are, but the sight of each other makes your hearts palpitate, there’s a little spark of hope that wasn’t there yesterday, making you feel like this life is worth living, even though the downs oftentimes outweigh the ups.

Christmas Playlist

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