A Love Affair with Music

If you’ve actually met me in real life you know I suck at music and it’s obvious. I know nothing about popular tunes. I have no clue who is who at the Grammy’s, and if I sat next to the most famous singer in the universe on a plane I probably would have no idea (unless it was Bono).

But I have a secret. Though my life screams #MusicFail from the outside, I have a secret love affair with songs.

You already know that I’m a nerd about reflecting and evaluating the past as a way to move forward. What you don’t know (until now) is that this whole process in my head comes with its very own accompanying score.

Like every good movie, every life should have a kick ass soundtrack. I’ve been busy compiling mine, and I hope you’re working on yours too.

There is always a song playing in my head. It doesn’t matter if the song is old, or popular, comes from a genre I hate or has a bad tune. If the words resonate with my moment, they are playing in the background (usually on repeat). 

I love words (cue: You and I Both / Jason Mraz) and I grew up in the era when giving someone a mixed tape was the ultimate expression of endearment (cue: St. Elmos Fire – the feature song on my favorite college mixed tape entitled “around the world at z speed”). 

Music has a way to take you back. You can close your eyes and listen to the words of song that you loved ten years ago and return in an instant to the time, space and emotions of that moment. It’s kind of powerful.

I’ve never read the book “Love is a Mix Tape”, but its author Rob Sheffield said a few smart things.

“Every mix tape tells a story. Put them together, and they add up to the story of life.” 

Since we’re in 2013, I’ll allow you to substitute the word playlist for mix tape (as long as you promise to recognize that sitting by the multi-deck tape recorder crafting a mix tape was a much greater labor or love than rocking out a new playlist on iTunes and uploading it to the cloud).

I make a lot of playlists.  In January I make a playlist for my year ahead based on whatever theme word I’ve chosen for my year. On my birthday I compile all the songs that remind me of the year of my life that has just passed. Every big trip, life transition, and long race I train for gets its own soundtrack. I even have a special playlist for surviving rainy season in Cambodia.

“There are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one,” Sheffield says, and I couldn’t agree more.

As I was enjoying a run in the freezing cold rain in DC yesterday I found myself singing along to a mash up of two random tunes I recently discovered: “Stand in the Rain” and “This is not where I Belong” (Superchick / Building 429). I’m clueless if these bands are old or new or awesome or lame, but they are singing the stories of my current transition. And I love that the stories they are singing to me are so much better than the soundtrack that was playing when I ran these same streets years ago.

I love music. It doesn’t just accompany our story, it tells it in its own special way.

Life deserves a playlist. What tune are you humming today?









rythmns of rain ::

it’s been raining a lot lately. Not drizzle rain or mist rain. But the sky turns into a sheet of water kind of rain that instantaneously turns the poorly engineered streets of Phnom Penh into a lake.

Tropical monsoon rains are just a part of life in Cambodia, and rainy season survival skills are something that every newcomer to Phnom Penh learns quickly.

Here are a few principles I’ve picked up in my first Cambodian rainy season:

Order in: Let someone else get wet. It puzzles me that Cambodia hasn’t figured out how to get clean water to a large percentage of its population, yet it has figured out how to deliver just about anything to anyone at anytime. In Phnom Penh, there is a magical book called the Door-2-Door guide which offers up about 30+ restaurants who will deliver anything on demand… from lattes to lahksa. Sometimes I feel too bad for the moto delivery guys to order a meal during a monsoon, but if you do, tip well.

Go out anyway: Cambodian rain has a way of trapping you wherever you are when it starts. As a newcomer you try to wait it out where you get stuck, but eventually you realize you can’t stay inside forever. You quickly learn which streets flood badly. You know the depth that your motorbike can make it through without stalling. You acquire a rainbow of 40 cent rain ponchos.  And you just keep living even if you get wet.

Sing in the rain: Of course, there are days when you want the rain to stop, but for all your wishing you get no results. On these days, I’ve found, the best thing to do is to hole up, stay dry, and sing yourself to sanity. Not sure how Noah survived for 40 days of downpour before the iPod, but I’d bet he’d have liked some of these songs from my Monsoon Music playlist.

Random songs I’ve been humming to get through this rainy season:

Les Mis- a little fall of rain
Fire and Rain- James Taylor
Rainy Season- Marc Cohn
Purple Rain- Prince
Banana Pancakes- Jack Johnson
Raining in Baltimore- Counting Crows
Rain- Patty Griffin
When the Rainbow comes- Shawn Colvin
Rain- Rachel Loshak
Flood- Jars of Clay
Caught in the Rain- Martin Sexton
Couldn’t Stand the Rain- Mindy Smith
Rain- Jackopierce
Somewhere over the Rainbow- Harry Nilsson

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. – Langston Hughes

What are your favorite rain songs?