Monday, April 3, 2017

October (& November) Magic

I can't make my way out of a straight jacket. Truth is, I sometimes struggle to get my shirt on and buttoned right. I don't do card tricks. And I've never sawed anyone in half---at least not on purpose. But a while back, in the course of a day or two I was reminded how something as simple as the first few notes of a long-unheard song can literally transport me to a different time and place. That struck me as a form of October magic.
It was the spring of 2014 when the two of us went driving---from Oregon to Kansas---to follow what remains of the Oregon Trail back to Oregon City. It was a long-awaited trip that had been set aside the year before when one of my ladder tricks landed me in the hospital. Finally, however, I was good to go, so off we went to retrace the wagon-train journey Roma's ancestors endured on their way to Oregon. (My family, being the practical ones we were, waited until the railroads were up and running.)
I had intended to set my blogging activities aside for a couple weeks, to concentrate on seeing the western half of our country from the road instead of the sky. I was quite surprised to find that it took only a few hours for an unexpected aspect of modern-day sightseeing to reveal what seemed to me an October insight worth exploring.
I learned that there is nothing like a long trip over straight and sterile interstate highways to renew old acquaintances---friendships that had not crossed my mind in a very long time. 
You see, to help pass the hours we were listening to The Fabulous Fifties---a set of CDs that Oregon Public Broadcasting had gifted us in return for a pledge. On those eight discs were dozens of classic tunes from our well-remembered heyday. (Well, it certainly felt that way at the time.) There we were, driving down the highway, listening to old friends, perhaps the same ones you knew in the March and April years of your life. 
If you are a pop music person like me, (not everyone is) it was quite a list of friends to whom we were being reintroduced. Perry Como, Nat King Cole, The Four Aces, Four Lads, Fats Domino, Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Kay Starr, Guy Mitchell, Johnny Ray---and on and on. Everyone has their own favorites. I had to chuckle a bit when I found Les Baxter's name on the play list. He was the one who nearly got me fired from my DJ job on the college radio station when I introduced him as Lex Bastard.
For mile after mile I was caught up in those songs and the memories they evoked---struck by their inexplicable power to connect me to my past. What was there about the music---which in one sense is nothing more than melodic noise---that grabbed me the way it did? 
What allows the ethereal reality of those sounds to remain in some seldom-visited corner of our mind for so long? How is it that decades later the unexpected sound of a few introductory notes is enough to unleash a flood of powerful emotions and still-warm recollections---hints of the oh-so-youthful persons we were at the time? How can those connections remain after all those years? What magic is at work?
Perhaps like me there are certain songs or tunes that strike you that way---creating an instant connection to a particular time, place, or person. Other bits of that adolescent music may lack a specific link, but still reinforce the mood and mindset of an era---perhaps a special school year, or the social connections that were part of that moment. 
True, I do sometimes march to a different drummer. I am sure that not everyone has endowed the first few notes of a well-remembered tune with the magical ability to resurrect bits of their personal history---the special moments, events, and persons they associate with those few musical chords---the memories they have carried with them all the way to their October and November years. 
On an allied note---I wonder if today's young couples have "their special song" the way we used to. Having heard some of their music that seems unlikely---though I  suppose that is a sign of my own November judgment bubbling to the surface.
For me it was the music of the Fifties that I endowed with the power to take me back in time. For you it might be the tunes of the Sixties or the Seventies that work the same magic. If you are living out your November years, perhaps the war-time tunes of the Forties can take you to a place you don't visit every day. As near as I can remember the attraction began early for me. I can recall a vivid "Shrimp Boats" moment from the eighth grade---a bit that would eventually show up in my Best Friends and Promises story. 
It was quite remarkable to consider all the places those few hours spent with The Fabulous Fifties were able to take me. But of course, I did have other options. I could have packed my "Country Music Favorites" and spent long hours driving along to the sounds of George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Travis Tritt. (Don't you love that name?)
I could have done that, and perhaps would have---except Roma made it clear I would be traveling alone if I did. You see, she has a thing about "twang." Rather than risk a solitary visit to the Oregon Trail, I settled instead for The Fabulous Fifties---and I'm glad I did.
It is tempting to end this bit of nonsense by assuring myself that everyone has their own mental library of March and April musical recollections. But I'm not sure that is true. Though I may not be the only one who gets swept up in those "memories set to music," perhaps most October folks have outgrown such childish behavior.
And that leads me to today's question. Have you ever felt that magic---the way a few bars of an old favorite can transport you to another time and place? If so, I urge you to take a moment to use the "Post a Comment" option (below) and share with us the songs or performers that had the power to work that magic for you.

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