Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Music of Aging

For the past month or so — really since getting my haircut — I’ve been listening regularly to the Scorpions, a German heavy metal band. I owned a copy of their album Blackout when I was 20 years and serving my last year in the air force. But I wasn’t really into heavy metal music back then. My collection at the time leaned heavily towards punk and new wave with bands like the Clash, Jam, Plasmatics, Pearl Harbor & the Explosions, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Human League, the Ramones, Sham 69, Bram Tchaikovsky, and others. At the time I was stationed at Grand Forks in North Dakota, which is also a university town, so they had a couple of well stocked record stores. You never heard punk music on the radio out there on the prairie, but you could buy it in town.

Just before adopting Justin I was only listening to jazz and expanding my knowledge greatly in the musical genre thanks to my local library. Jazz and Frank Zappa. For some reason I could put on Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction Sessions, close my eyes and all my cares and woes would drift away like the autumn leaves. I remember moving all 30 of the Frank Zappa albums that I owned into my office, so that I would have them close at hand. To some (like my wife) this type of music is a cacophony, but the seemingly chaotic music worked to counter my own inner turmoil.

Over the years I’ve listened to everything from twangy country to hardcore punk. Free-form jazz to big hair heavy metal music. I have a few thousand albums in my collection and there really is a little bit of everything in there. I could be in the mood to hear Tony Bennett’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore one minute and then the Scorpions' Another Piece of Meat the next. There is part of me though, that worries that listening to the Scorpions…and Kansas, and Deep Purple, and Alice Cooper is some sort of latent nostalgia rising towards the surface of my psyche as I lurch towards the age of 50.
It’s less than four years until I turn 50 years old; and I think that I’m pushing any symbolic significance of the date aside, partly by planning a return trip to Europe. Justin will have just turned five-years-old, so I think that he would have fun seeing some of the sights of northern Europe. If you know me you know that I’m not the kind of person who will be having a big mid-life birthday bash. At the time I was about to turn 40 I was living in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and feeling like a man without a country (not that that’s changed much.) I dreaded the thought of celebrating that significant birthday (even though I didn’t personally believe in the significance) in Massachusetts. Instead I came up with the idea of flying down to Jamaica for a few days of sun and fun. What better way to celebrate the fact that I was a few days closer to death? So, on my 40th birthday Jen and I were floating in a saltwater pool on the cliffs of Negril under a full moon. It reminds me — and it probably did at the time — of the first trip that Jen and I took to the Olympic Hot Springs. I’ve had my moments in paradise. That can be stated unequivocally.

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