Monday, September 21, 2009

Life + Music = Soundtrack to your own movie

As you might have heard, I had an accident. But this post is not about that. All of you have heard way too much about it. Except Curt. I think he wants me to tell him again. Anyway, this is about what happened when I shared my accident with family members, one of which was Annie Griffin, and what she asked me. As I described the moment when my bike hit the truck and that I was listening to my iPod Shuffle (great product, by the way), and that my headphones remained in my ears as I was lying on my back, staring up at the sky wondering what I had broken (nothing, as it turns out), Annie asked me:

"What song were you listening to?"

A fantastic question. Because this could have been, and may still be, a life changing event and I had a soundtrack going as it occurred. At the moment of impact, I was listening to The Chemical Brothers, "The Drugs Won't Help You Know". Not my favorite Chemical Brothers song (my favorite is song #1 in this posts' Playlist, so you have an idea of what they sound like), but it now has the distinct place in my personal history of being 'the-song-that-was-playing-when-the-truck-turned-in-front-of-me-and-I-ran-into-it.' It got me thinking of other life events and the soundtrack that was playing as those events unfolded.

Life Event: Leaving the courthouse in Dallas after the judge declared my divorce was finally legal.

This was a bad moment for me. For 18 months, I had been thinking of this day and kind of looking forward to it and yet when it happened, I had the saddest and heaviest soul that I can remember having. It has to do with something dying. Something going away that at one time, however briefly, meant a great deal to me. And the years of trying to make it work and trying to change and be someone different so I could say I made my marriage work. But it didn't work. And it had to end.

So I ended it. The song accompanying my drive away from the courthouse that day was Bad Company's, "Can't Get Enough" (song #2 in Playlist). I drove my stupid gold Ford Ranger down a stupid Dallas freeway and bawled my eyes out while I listened to one of the great rock riffs of all time.

Life Event: The night I knew Jil and I had a future.

We were driving south on 800 East in Orem, early 2002. Probably going to Mom and Dad's but not sure about the destination. One of the things I like to do early on in my relationships with women is play music for them that may potentially scare them away. This tactic has two tremendous benefits: first, if they hate the music then you have to decide if you like them enough, right at that moment, to keep moving things forward or just shut it down; second, if they like the music, you may have a keeper. One of the best bands that can really put your potential gal pal on the spot is none other than Devo. If they can hang with Devo, they can hang period.

I didn't hesitate and I didn't warn her. I threw in "Through Being Cool" (#3 on the Playlist) and let it fly. And you know what Jilly did? She sang the whole freakin' song.

Life Event: Graduation night from Orem High School

1986. The scene was the gym at the soon to be demolished Orem High and it was time for the classic slow dance. The song that came on was Alphaville's "Forever Young", a perfect slice of over-emotive and synth happy 80's pop cheese (#4). At that point I had my whole life in front of me and it was full of possibility; I had no worries and I had everything to look forward to and I was not jaded, cynical or angry in the least. The melody of this song still holds all those things for me.

Life Event: Going to my first concert

The first concert I ever attended that meant something was Ozzy Osbourne. (Sorry Beach Boys-even though I saw you in 5th grade and had a blast, it was not my first official rock show). I was 12 years old. I remember asking Mom right around the 8th North exit in Orem if I could go to this show with Tim Chatterly, Steve Hazelett and Keith Beeston. I don't remember the magical combination of words I used to Jedi-mind trick her into agreeing to let me go, but she said yes.

The day of the show I went skiing and I was wearing gray ski bibs. On the mountain that day they had ski school for many of the elementary schools in the area and the parking lot was full of buses. It took forever to get home and when I finally did, all three of my buddies were sitting in Steve's brown Plymouth waiting anxiously for me so we wouldn't be late. I didn't have time to change and jumped right from Dad's truck, bibs and all, into the back seat and we tore off to SLC for Ozzy. On the way, we played "Over the Mountain" (#5) again and again to get psyched for the show. And did Ozzy deliver. Every show since has had to compete against that one. But man, I was really hot. Those were some quality ski bibs.

Life Event: Bonding with Gabe

Being a stepdad is very, very strange. I will save my stepdad philosophies for another post but the first hurdle (one of many) that has to be overcome is getting the kid to like you. If you like the lady, you need her kid to like you or you have no shot. There is no bond greater than single mother and son. The mama lion will do anything to protect the cub and if you think you are different than any other dude just because you're sleeping together, you are sorely mistaken. Ultimately, the child is father to the relationship.

My first encounters with Gabe were fine--not bad but not great. After a few meetings and hanging around Jil's house, I remember gaining enough trust that Jill would allow Gabe and I to go somewhere in my truck together. This happened more and more frequently and every time we would listen to music. He would ask me to repeat certain songs that he liked and he would sing along with the ones he really enjoyed. After about a year of dating Jil (and Gabe), I discovered a band called Blackalicious and their CD, Blazing Arrow. I had now moved into an apartment in Salt Lake and Jil and I were seeing each other on a daily basis. Gabe was my buddy and were were getting closer but my paternal feelings had not really kicked in yet. One day I played the Blazing Arrow CD for Gabe. From that point until now, Gabe says that is the CD that first gave him feelings of really seeing our threesome as being a family unit. That CD has been the soundtrack of our relationship together year in and year out. When Gabe was in L.A. this summer and got homesick, he played Blazing Arrow and said it immediately made him feel better. Our favorite track is #6, "Make You Feel That Way".

Life Event: Traveling to Palm Springs with Karl and his golf team

How in the world Dad was able to get me and his players on six or seven of the nicest golf courses in Palm Springs, for free, is beyond me. I know he had the connections but the more I think about it and the older I get, the more I appreciate and marvel at Karl's ability to swing the seemingly impossible. These trips were an absolute blast and gave me invaluable time to spend with his golfers and with him. I would take my music on these excursions and as we passed through Vegas and eventually got to the desert of south central California, I had a couple of songs that I had to play each and every year. One of those was The Tubes "Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman" (#7). To this day I have no idea why that song was the one I had to hear as we pulled into Palm Springs but it made an impression and still takes me to that time and place whenever I hear it.

Life Event: Finally leaving Texas for good

This is the last one in this post and it's a nice bookend to the life event of finalizing my divorce. Upon deciding to return to Utah, and after finding Hank the cat in my apartment in Plano and bonding with him, and after breaking up with my girlfriend in Texas, and having no work prospects and no desire to pursue any, I knew it was time to head home. I had some buddies from work come over and help me put my furniture in the rented U Haul; I had my ex-girlfriend come over and I gave her back all the stuff she gave me and when she said she'd like my number in Utah so she could call me I said no; I bought a small cat cage for Hank to ride in but he eventually wouldn't go in it so he rode on my lap most of the way on that trip; and the song that played as I pulled out of Plano and started a new chapter in my life was "Sunshine" by Alice in Chains (#8). I think my favorite line in this song is "Suck it one more time."

Ah yes, the soundtrack of our lives...


  1. I'm so happy to see you back in the blog world! That Blackalicious song reminds me so much of gave me that C.D. for my birthday one year. Yesterday, I was thinking about music and how quickly it can bring back memories or emotions. I was listening to Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" and I was hit with that homesick feeling I had when I left for Hawaii after high school. Excellent post...I'm so glad you weren't injured worse in your accident.

  2. Really great post, Philip..but the thoughts of you driving ANYWHERE, bawling your eyes out doesn't bode well with your slightly over-protective older sister...break my glad that you are in such a better place,in every sense of the question: What song were you listening to when you realized you could not survive without your oldest sibling?
    Will be waiting for a response....

  3. Jackie, it was most likely a Tom Petty song. that guy reminds me of you every time.
    Thanks big sister!