Every day, for the rest of this month (it was going to be every day for the whole of this month, but I got distracted) I’m going to put my iPod on shuffle and write about the first album it plays. Maybe I’ll tell you about the music, maybe I’ll tell you about when I first heard it or who gave it to me, or maybe I’ll wind up telling you about the time I was running down the hill and I stepped on a frog and felt it pop under my foot because the song that came up reminds me of summer camp and that’s where I was when I flattened Kermit. And maybe it won’t be very good at first. But if you love me, you’ll bear with me. Because, although I haven’t worked these particular muscles in quite a while, I swear to god that when I’m in shape, I’m hot.
And if you’re willing to stick with me through the uglies, then I might as well tell you the truth: I haven’t been distracted for the past few days so much as I’ve been scared. Because, from sometime in 1994 right up till the end of June 2011, I wrote for hours every single day. There were a few years there I even did it for an actual paid living, with health insurance and vacation time and all that other grown-up-people shit. I was writing about music then, and I was good, which is why I’ve chosen it as my oil can right now. Because for the past six months – with the exception of a labored and embarrassing blog post here and there – I haven’t been able to write a word.
But this morning I finally told myself to sack it up. I stayed out too late again last night, trying to screw up my day again so I wouldn’t be able to write again this morning, either. And I did manage to sleep in a little bit. But I was up and moving by 9:00 with nothing else to do until 3:30. So, after dicking around and hiding from myself and trying to come up with any other plan, I finally tore the iPod out, hit shuffle, and cried.
See, the reason I haven’t written since the end of June is that I wrote a book last year that robbed me of my voice. I’ve written three books, actually. And you’ll never read any of ‘em, because none of ‘em ever sold. That was hard enough when I was writing in my own voice about my own life, but the book I wrote last year was my last-ditch attempt. It was (and still is, I suppose) a Young-Adult Novel (for which read: High-School Harlequin). I tried my hand at it because it’s supposedly what sells, and I thought if nobody wanted to buy the real me, then I’d dress myself up in a schoolgirl uniform and whore it out in character. But that character was so Not Me that, in order to get into her, I had to go full-on Stanislavski.
For more than a year, I read nothing but Young Adult Novels that I bought at GoodWill by the armload. I had stacks of them all over the house. I called them the Pink Books because the covers were all the same. The insides were all the same, too. And I hated them.
As far as music goes, I listened to a lot of straight-up pop. Bubble-gum – to match the color of the book-covers, I suppose. I didn’t buy it like I bought the Pink Books, though. I just worked with what I already had: The Partridge Family, Madonna, Will Smith. It kept my brain in the brainless state I needed it to be, so I could lie back and think of England while I wrote.
The album my iPod chose for me this morning was one I did buy, though. I’d picked the CD up at GoodWill on one of those Pink Book recon trips and it became the kick-start to my every day. And I do mean every day. I would wake up and listen to whatever I wanted while I was making coffee and brushing teeth and smoking cigarettes, but when I sat down at the computer, I played this. Every day. For seven months. And when I sent the book off, I never wrote again and I never listened to the album anymore. If any of the songs came up on shuffle, I’d hit skip.
Except for one…
See, in my Schoolgirl mindset, some of the songs on this acknowledged guile-free masterpiece had started Meaning Things to me. About the person I was spending the most time with over the year it took for me to write the book. A person I didn’t realize I’d come to know so well or care about so deeply until he smiled down at me from the screen as a main character.
I wasn’t going to write about him here. Part of the reason I came up with the idea for this project was expressly to give me something to write about that didn’t have anything at all to do with him. And so I’m not. I’m not going to tell you how we went On again after what was supposed to be our Final Off. I’m not going to fill you in on the Three Huge Things That Happened since. And even if I wanted to, I can't talk about how I’m honestly not sure right now if I'll ever see him smile down at me again.
But I will say this:
But I will say this:
I have exactly one playlist set up on my iPod, and it has his name on it. Not his real name, but the name I gave him. And on it, nestled in amongst the Steve Earle and Sammy Johns and Johnny Cash, is a song called “Madeline.” It goes like this:
And that is what my iPod played this morning.