Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This, then, is what the music does

The headphones to my walkman are firmly placed over my ears. The volume is all the way up, and I am wandering aimlessly through the halls of North Pole High School.

In the walkman is a cassette - R.E.M., Automatic for the People. The song playing is New Orleans Instrumental.

I walk away from the Fine Arts Department, pass the set of doors leading to the commons, down the science hallway, and finally to my locker. My fingers have traced a trail along the lockers as I wander.

I grab my stuff from within, close the door, spin the lock and continue to walk down the hall, hang a right to go into the commons, and then head out the front door all the while the song plays, becoming a soundtrack to my walking.

A couple of weeks later, my walkman and the cassette are stolen. Someone had taken my music away.

Today, my brother, Benjamin, is visiting for a couple of days - a side trip on what is to be a very rough and rocky journey for him. Here he has one chance at peace before setting sails into the storm.

As we do when we are together, we trade information about songs, bands, videos, news, work, goals and everything else two best friend siblings can cram into such a short time.

Then he will leave and I will see him again in a couple of years. Sure, we will chat, but it will be over the phone and time and life will get in the way.

But as the distance between us grows, the music does too. And this then becomes the basis of our relationship - on some weird audiophile like basis. Throughout our history together music has accented everything we have done.

Yesterday, while planking at the YMCA, Aerosmith came on over the speakers. A comment is made by Ben, "I used to have this album back in San Diego when I was in the Marines. Who was that one chic that was in the videos? Not Liv Tyler, the other one?"

"Alicia Silverstone," I answer, my arms trembling.

"That's right!" Man she was hot."

A trip to a few stores that afternoon is complete with, "Oh hey, have you heard of (insert random band name here) yet?"

A quick whirl of his Ipod wheel and the music is flowing through the speakers.

I want to reciprocate, but, sadly, my Ipod is dead. Gone to the Apple graveyard in the sky. Oh it will be replaced, but that will wait until after the Holidays.

That night, Ben sits on my couch, earbuds blocking all outside noise from interrupting the music that pumps into his brain, taking him to some level of consciousness that none of us are welcomed to join him on.

I am at the computer, my own vast Itunes library is open and I am burying myself in my own selections. I try to keep the music down as not to interrupt folks, but there are songs that just need to be played.

This, then, is what music does. It allows us to sit in the same room together buried in our own selections and feel like we are "hanging out."

It allows us to talk when all other subjects are exhausted, it allows to hammer out problems that that one song reminds us of and we just can't stop playing.

It forces us to remember things we don't want to, those we do, and those we will never forget.