Saturday, August 09, 2008

Music makes my world go round

Last year, I started a job that is seven minutes from home. For the first time in too many years of working, I'm not on a traffic-clogged freeway driving into or out of the heart of Detroit. People kept telling me how lucky I was to be close to schools, church, grocery stores, etc. And now with gas prices, you'd think I'd thank my lucky stars. But, no. Not me. It took me less than a week to figure out what was tragically wrong with my new situation.

It may sound a little crazy, but I miss commuting.

I lead a hectic life. So that 30-minute morning drive allowed me to channel hop on the radio so I could catch tidbits of the latest news, hear Steve Harvey's Strawberry Letter, and still have time to pop in a CD and enjoy a few of my favorite tracks that set the mood for my day before I swung into a parking garage and started my nine-to-five.

Evenings were the same way. I had time to unwind from work before picking up the kids and slipping into Mommy Mode and starting my "second job" as queen of the roost. I realize now how important that time was to me. More CDs and less radio on the afternoon drive, I plotted stories, made quick phone calls so I could devote time to home once I got there, and let go of all that stuff that tries to undo your sanity on the j-o-b. Now I can be at work or home when I'm barely into the second song on a CD. Grrrr....

So, when I was driving up to Idlewild last week, I finally had the chance to do the hey-I'm-all-by-myself-in-the-car-for-a-long-time thing. I did urban contemporary for the first 45 miles or so. When that faded, I picked up one of those pop rock stations that plays Neyo, Rhianna, Chris Daughtry and Lil Wayne. I stuck with that for half an hour or so before my trip to northern Michigan led me deep into pop oldies, country western and contemporary Christian music territory.

I heard some songs I hadn't heard since I was a kid. Like a song by the Fifth Dimensions (do you even know who they are??) and Carlton Banks' favorite Tom Jones song, "It's Not Unusual." (By the way, I can't hear that song without seeing his dance in my head.) Then I retreated to a CD I only get to hear in snatches, Chrisette Michelle's, "I Am." Wow!

I've adopted Track #4, "Best of Me" as my ode to the Summer of '08. That song will forever remind me of my first trip to Idlewild. And it got me thinking of the place music holds in my life. As I sped along the freeway I thought of a slew of songs that bring back specific memories whenever I hear them. Here are a few of the old songs and their moments:

In the Rain by the Dramatics -- Pretending to be the Temptations with my cousins in the mornings before we left for school.

Black Water by the Doobie Brothers -- A trip to Six Flags and splashing down the log ride with a bunch of family friends.

Piano in the Dark by Brenda Russell -- The dark days of my divorce. (((SHUDDER)))

Shame by Evelyn Champagne King -- Summers with my cousin down in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Yearnin for Your Love by the Gap Band -- Those days when you wondered if you'd ever find a decent boyfriend. Applicable for many, many years after I bought that album...

Bad Times (I Can't Stand It) by Captain Rapp -- That and any other 80s/early 90s rap reminds me of my post-college club scene. Those days when I could hang out dancing all night and still get up and be on time for work.

Kiss From a Rose by Seal -- The first time I drove home to St. Louis by myself. It was a beautiful, hot summer day driving through mid-America in my Jeep. I drank a ton of Pepsi and made great time.

How Can I Ease the Pain by Lisa Fischer -- A nameless old flame who would always sing this strangely prophetic song and miss all those oh-so-important high notes.

It Ain't Over Till it's Over by Lenny Kravitz -- My last pregnancy and the baby who seemed to love (and still leans toward) electric guitars.

One of the sessions at the Dubois-Chesnutt Writing Institute in Idlewild was about using poetic principles to make your prose sing. I shared that I create a playlist for every story; songs that speak to the plot, conflict and characters' relationships. The songs for Where Souls Collide are posted on my web site and soon I'll post the list for Can You Believe.

My works in progress have their own distinctive lists as well. There's a little crossover because some songs -- face it -- are just writing favorites. But when I sit down at the laptop and put on my headphones, each playlist takes me directly to the heart of that story. It's a great way to beat writer's block. And since I no longer have a commute to unwind with, it's the next best mental thing to being on a long stretch of freeway.

Tuning out for now --
Stefanie

www.stefanieworth.com

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