Track 16: Brokedown Palace

Brokedown Palace

Katie Sullivan

 

For the past two months, when my thumb tapped its way to a digital copy of American Beauty, it wavered, and then wandered away. I feared it. I feared the warm, twangy intro of “Box of Rain,” the memory of my father singing it guilelessly out of tune, of realizing it is Father’s Day today and how I don’t want to call him but reluctantly will, of knowing that this album is going to hurt. It hurts before I even start listening.   

But let’s move back. It is 2003. My father and I are driving over 2000 miles from our Illinois suburb to San Diego. I have been accepted to a private liberal arts university that served Orange County’s academically undistinguished nouveau riche. In our cramped Honda Civic, my father has brought along  about 100 painstakingly “burned” CDs in individual jewel cases, each with an ink jet printed label in the same nondescript Times New Roman font. There was Joni Mitchell’s Blue in there, and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. But the one we listened to nonstop, through the blank spaces of the I-80 corridor, was American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. (more…)

Track 15: Welcome to the Working Week

Welcome to the Working Week

David Gooblar

 

It was 2000 and I was twenty years old and I was in love with Pete Tunney.

OK, maybe “in love” is too strong, but not by much. In that indelible summer, when I interned at Knitting Factory Records and discovered the island of Manhattan, Pete was the sun: the main source of light and heat. He was the star around which I orbited. When I was with him, I was preternaturally attuned to his every utterance and expressed preference; I silently and invisibly took mental notes on how I might behave to gain his acceptance. I’m sure the other interns did the same—there was an unspoken but palpable competition among us for his approval—but I knew that he loved me best. I wanted nothing more than to enter the palace of pop-musical wisdom, and I knew, I just knew, that Pete was the one to take me there. (more…)

This essay

Sometimes, I make big plans for an essay that I’m writing. This essay becomes THE ESSAY, the important one in which I say all of the things. It emerges as the most important essay I’ve ever written. It comes to define who I am as writer, but also as a person. I start thinking about this essay for days, then weeks, and then a month (or months). I might pitch this oh-so-important essay to an outlet familiar with my work. I might even have a deadline. I tell myself that this essay will be easy to write because it is THE ESSAY. Plus, I already know what I want to write (or at least, I think I’m sure that I know what I want to write).

In my head, this essay begins a life of its own. It becomes groundbreaking and earth-shattering, smart and analytical, lovely and true. Most importantly, it becomes SIGNIFICANT and CRUCIAL. It starts to gain mass before I’ve even put words to the page. Its weight becomes heavy, veering closely to unwieldly. This essay appears more and more significant. (more…)

Track 14: Low Places

Low Places

Tiffani Hill-Patterson

 

The smell of corn dogs and funnel cakes coated the air and Bob Seger’s “Main Street” played on the staticky speakers when Jake spotted me standing in line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. He wore a purple button-down and jeans. And that smile. Always that smile.

That memory about a junior college crush led me down a rabbit hole of journal entries and early 1990s music. Back then “big-hat” country played on all of our stereos, and Garth Brooks was its king. Listening to him, 20-year-old me swore the connections I made then would last forever.

I scoured online stores for his songs, but apparently he doesn’t do digital. While out grocery shopping at my local superstore, I found The Ultimate Hits, a compilation CD that contained my favorites, ripped it to my laptop then added it to my phone. And I was transported to the motel-turned-dorm that my athlete friends and I lived in freshman year. His voice provided the soundtrack to my first “buzz,” my first make-out sessions, my first crushing loss. (more…)

Track 13: Shut Up, Meat Loaf

Shut Up, Meat Loaf

Jennifer W. Spirko

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any music is improved by being played in a fast-moving car at night with the windows down. When that music is metal ballad, the speed, the darkness and the loudness of highway wind are all but required to fully enjoy it.

That might have summarized my relationship with Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell in college had it not been for a classic Mustang and a good friend.

By the time I was in college, Bat Out of Hell had been in release for a decade or so, its singles soaring through the local rock station of my youth. But, I didn’t really listen to the whole album until a friend copied it on a cassette. Some songs, we insisted, were “car songs,” and these were the obvious examples, since the longest and most fun of the bunch was about having sex in a car. (more…)