Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Concert Memory: Trans Siberian Orchestra - December 13, 2008

I have a confession to make. I have actually fallen asleep at a concert. This is something I never thought would be admitted, but here I am, confessing one of my deepest secrets to all that will read this. It’s not a fact that I am proud of, but at the same time, I’m not ashamed of it either. More than anything, I am surprised that it occurred at all.

My wife is a huge fan of Trans Siberian Orchestra. Every holiday season we are forced to listen to their Christmas albums multiple times. And that’s not a terrible thing; it’s just that they aren’t one of my favorite bands to enjoy at Christmas time (or anytime). I don’t hate their music, there are even a couple of songs that I thoroughly enjoy, but TSO is a band that I can take or leave. And I never had the desire to see them live. That was until I needed to come up with a good surprise for my wife’s birthday.

My wife is a December baby. Those reading this that have birthdays in December know exactly what that means. However, for the rest of you, I will spell it out simply. December babies get screwed when it comes to their birthday. It’s Christmas time. It’s Hanukkah. It’s Kwanza. It’s everything except someone’s birthday. People are busy with the holiday season, decorating, hosting holiday parties, and worrying about end of the year priorities. Birthdays are an afterthought. Even in their own families, December babies get the “combo” gift (this is for your birthday AND Christmas), or they get a birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper. It’s horrible!

I was always raised to remember that birthdays are special. It’s a magical day meant for just that person and it should not be shared with anyone or anything else---including another holiday. Therefore, I always try to make my wife’s birthday special. A real birthday card. Real birthday wrapping paper. And real birthday surprises.

In 2008, Trans Siberian Orchestra was touring once again. Their annual Winterfest. That particular year TSO was going to perform at a venue in New Jersey (the now defunct IZOD center) on my wife’s birthday. As soon as I learned that, I just knew I had to take our family to that concert so we could celebrate appropriately. It was a matinee show (the band was doing two performances on Saturday, an odd notion that I wish other bands would think about) and that was perfect for our family because my daughter was 11 years old at the time. I would prefer that she saw the early show instead of getting home after midnight.

And thus, I got us tickets and told my wife that we had a big surprise for her birthday but would say nothing more. She would have to wait until that special day to learn what was going on. On the day of her celebrated birth, my wife, daughter, and I hopped into the car with only two of us knowing where we were heading. My daughter and I had a plan and I think it worked out pretty well. As we started driving away from the house, my wife was filled with curious wonder.

“Where are we going?”

“You will see,” would be my only response.

Then about 10 minutes into the drive, my daughter played her part by announcing that she would like to hear some Christmas music.
“Okay,” I said. “I think I have some we can play.” Knowing full well that I had some, because I already had the TSO Christmas album loaded in the car’s CD player before my wife even got to the car. I hit play and the Trans Siberian Orchestra surrounded us in music.

My wife looked quizzically at me. She wanted to say something but stopped. I chuckled inside and we continued on our ride. A few moments later she finally burst out: “Wait! Are we going to see Trans Siberian Orchestra?”

When I confirmed that we were, she literally squealed with delight. It was one of the five happiest times for my wife that I remember from our marriage (so far). She was ecstatic. You would have thought that I told her she just won a million dollars. She was giddy.

And so, to the show we went. We had decent seats in the 100s section with a good view of the stage. It was also only the second or third concert that my daughter had been to, so it was a real treat for her as well, but make no mistake about it; this was my wife’s gift. And the surprise of suddenly realizing that she was at a concert she had wanted to see her entire life must have been overwhelming. She certainly had no idea her day was going to be like that when she woke up in the morning!

When the band came on stage, I thought they were decent. Like I’ve said, TSO is a band that I like but not love. I can take them or leave them. But I watched their set with unbiased eyes and ears. And I enjoyed their stage performance. I enjoyed their music. I enjoyed their antics. Then somewhere about halfway through the concert, things slowed down to a crawl. And that I didn’t enjoy so much.

So why the band was crawling through some excruciating slow number, and my wife and daughter were mesmerized by the stage performers, I found myself closing my eyes. It had been a long day for me. It had been a stressful day for me. Planning and organizing and arranging everything so that it went just right for my wife’s special day. I’m not using that as an excuse, I am just stating the facts. It was a long day and closing my eyes at that moment felt really, really good. So I closed them. And next thing I knew, I was waking up twenty minutes later when the band kicked it into high gear again.

I awoke with a jolt and looked around me. Had anyone noticed? Did anyone see that I was sleeping? Did my wife see that I was sleeping and if she did was that going to ruin her overall experience on her birthday? I quickly assessed the situation and realized that no, she had not seen me fall asleep. She was too engrossed in the show. Score one for the husband who would remain awake for the remainder of the concert.

It would be my only Trans Siberian Orchestra event. I figured if I could not stay awake for their entire show, then this clearly was not a band for me to see live. I fulfilled my wife’s desire to see them live and took her to a show on her birthday which was an extra special treat. I figured if she would like to see them again, she can go with her friends or other family members. Just count me out.

I eventually did come forth and tell my wife that I nodded off. I don’t remember if it was later that night, or another time, but I did admit to it. I told her that the concert just wasn’t for me. She, on the other hand, absolutely loved it and I think to this day it is still one of her top five concert experiences. For me it is probably a bottom five concert experience. And that’s okay. My wife and I don’t always see eye to eye on every concert. I mean, she hated Dave Matthews Band whereas I’ve seen them 21 times and counting. To each their own I suppose. And TSO is clearly not my own.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

I Was A Physical Music Hoarder

I often joke that I invested in CDs all my life --- they just didn’t come from a bank. Mine came from music stores across America. If I took all the money I spent on music CDs and put that intobank CDs, it’s possible I could give Warren Buffet a run for his money. It’s a true statement, humor aside. I invested in the wrong type of CDs for too many years.

It started in junior high school when cassette tapes were all the rage and I happened to have a drawer under my bed that was perfect for holding them. That was also the same time I fell deeply in love with music, specifically hard rock music. It was also the time where I said goodbye to boyish things like baseball cards and embraced the teenage manhood love affair of music.

My parents hooked me on music early. I was rocking out to Bob Seger before I entered pre-school and I had a deep appreciation for Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, and the Righteous Brothers by the time I was seven. Music always had a special place in my house and the joy it brought was something that resonated with me eternally. Thus, when there was a chance to add that much joy to my life in the form of an actual music collection, I had to do it.

It was my father’s music collection that set me down the path of physically hoarding music. Prior to basking in his collection, I was happy to buy cassette tapes and maybe work my way up to 100. 100 music albums all in one place? That was a lot. More than I could ever imagine, actually. Who would need more than 100 albums to listen to?

Then I spent a Christmas break with my father in Florida. And I sawhis entire record collection for the first time. There were literally thousands of records all in pristine condition. A spectacular stereo system to play them on, and of course a brush and liquid solution for the needle before any record was played. I was in awe. I must have spent half a day just staring at his collection, going through it, and asking to play certain records. I was amazed. My father’s collection caused a pang of jealousy and I knew that I wanted to have a record collection that rivaled or even outdid his.

I slowly worked my way toward adding more cassettes to my pitiful collection in as many ways as I could. When there was money in my pocket, I would buy a record I really wanted. If a friend had an album that I wanted, I would ask to borrow it and make a copy. Blank tapes were only seventy-five cents, whereas actual albums were $7.00. There’s some easy math for ya! And yet, things still grew too slow. There had to be a way to grow my collection faster, even if I didn’t have money to spend.

And that’s when I discovered record clubs. I jumped all over that 12 for a penny deal and even added in the grand bonus of buying my first album for the low, low price of $3.99 and getting 3 more albums FREE! Whoo-hoo! What a deal! For years, I would relish record clubs as a great opportunity to add music to my collection in bulk. I belonged to all of them, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, they were costing me a small fortune. It didn’t matter though. Each package delivered to the house was a small treasure trove of greatness in the form of new music. Nothing was more exciting than that.

In the late 80s, compact discs came out and slowly but surely became the new rage. They were portable, virtually indestructible, and had much better sound quality than cassettes. I got my first CD player at 16 and it was one of the greatest gifts I ever received. Soon after, CDs for the collection would follow. These could also be purchased through record clubs and purchase I did. A lot! By the time I moved out of my home and into my first apartment I probably had around 300 cassette tapes and 100 CDs. A 400-album collection. Not too bad, but nowhere near the thousands that my dad had. I would have to keep working at it. And even with record clubs and CD sales at the mall, the collection wasn’t growing fast enough. There had to be a way to grow my collection faster, even if I didn’t have a lot of money to spend.

Being introduced to record shows was a magnificent experience for me. Here was a place that had an endless limit of compact discs and vinyl records for sale at great bargain rates. There were some discs that could be had at the low, low, price of 2, 3, or even 4 for a dollar. A quarter for a CD? Sign me up! And even the known bands that had popular new releases would only cost $5 – a bargain if I ever heard one. The record show was monthly and for many years I was a regular attendee. So many albums so little time.

The collection grew and grew and grew. I had a spreadsheet to track all my music, what format it was in (tape, CD, vinyl, etc.) and of course what year the record was released. Through years, I kept adding and adding to my collection. Building and building until it nearly overtook a room in my house. By that time, I had close to 2,000 CDs and I was on my way to overtaking my father’s collection with a massive one of my own.

Storage became an issue though. Where on Earth could you keep that many CDs? Large CD racks were purchased, and one section of my house looked like a never-ending CD sale. And when it came time to move from one place to another … let me just say that CDs are not light when bundled together into moving crates. And having to reset them every time I moved became an unwanted pain. I would have to re-alphabetize them once I set the racks up in the new home, and that could take days or even weeks. Sure, it would give me an excuse to listen to some of them, but ultimately it would be a painstaking chore. And not one that I looked forward to.

Then one day, MP3s came out. There was no longer a need to have a physical piece of music, you could get what you wanted digitally and store it with ease, because it did not take up any space. I resisted the digital movement for as long as anyone, but in the end, of course, it consumed me, and I was sucked up with the rest of the music junkies. I got my first IPod and worked on the chore of converting my physical CDs to a digital library.

The biggest issue with the digital movement was the loss of holding an album in your hands. I always loved the smell of a new cassette tape, or the triumph of getting the factory sealed plastic off a new CD, followed by that annoying sticker label that was put across the top. And being somewhat OCD, I had to make sure that all the sticky tape was removed. Otherwise I would sit there with that jewel case in my hands until it was.

Collecting music was an unhealthy obsession at times. Anytime I heard a new song that I liked even a little, I had to have the entire album. If I heard the song more than a couple of times and really get into it, I would usually find a way to run out and get the album immediately. Nobody Beats The Wiz had even given me a credit card with a $750 limit. I went CD shopping there at least twice a month. Classic albums, modern albums, and even new “super audio” CDs were all whisked into my collection. Disc after disc. Album after album. Artist after artist. I had to have them all.

Nowadays, the youth doesn’t know anything about growing a music collection. Between the digital age of streaming on demand and listening to whatever song they want to hear on YouTube or some other similar path, there aren’t many music collections like there used to be and there certainly aren’t as many collectors as there used to be. Some are still out there, but they are few and far between. I myself have gone digital. I subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited and have recently thought about joining Spotify.

Occasionally, I will still buy a CD to add to the collection, but it must be one from a favorite band or a disc that I really want to listen to repeatedly. The only place I play CDs anymore is my car. I still have my stereo, my 5-disc changer, and my 300 Disc jukebox, but I never use them. It’s like we’ve gone backwards in time and regressed to a machine with headphones to play music back on. From the Walkman to the I-Phone in two generations. 

And while I still have most of my physical music collection, it is just collecting dust. I sold the vinyl. There’s been a resurgence with collector’s looking for vinyl and I was more than happy to sell mine and pocket the money. I’m eyeing up my cassette collection to sell next. There is a slow growing movement of people who want cassette tapes for some odd reason and I do still have over 400 cassette tapes – all in pristine condition. If I price them right and someone wants them, I have no problem selling those too. A large part of my life and one of the most important parts of my youth would be gone forever, but that’s all right. The collection has become nothing more than a status symbol. A, hey, I did it, moment that not many people care about anymore. A huge music collection used to be impressive, now it just means you spent too much money on something that is bulky and hard to move and most likely going to be thrown out once you’ve died. The kids can stream it, why would they want to move 2100 CDs?

I’ve yet to decide on what I will do with all my CDs. I changed the way I store them from multiple racks in a room, to several leather zipper cases that hold the CD and the booklet that came with it, but all the jewel cases have been recycled. Even if I were to try and sell the collection, I don’t think there would be many buyers for a CD collection without the original jewel cases. And thus, I am probably stuck with the massive number of CDs I’ve acquired over the years. So, yes, I was a physical music hoarder. And that’s okay, I suppose. It will serve as a constant reminder of a fond period of my life. Like looking at old pictures in a photograph album and remembering great times from days gone by.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Concert Memory: Dave Matthews Band - June 23, 2018

There is nothing more rewarding than watching your child have the same reaction to their first experience of a particular band live that you did many years earlier. I was blessed and thankful to be able to share that interaction with my daughter, which happened on a gorgeous Saturday night in Hartford, Connecticut. The band was Dave Matthews Band and we made a three-hour journey to see them in concert. It was her first time and my 20th. So, while I knew what to expect and the grand time we were going to have, she had no clue the joyous occasion that would unfold before her.   

Standing in the pit watching the instruments be tuned and set left me with a lot of exciting anticipation. Was my daughter going to love this band as much as I did? Was she going to be enthralled to the point where they became one of her favorite bands as they had for me years earlier? Would she leave with the same feelings of euphoria that I had?   

Sure, I had concerns going into the show. Boyd Tinsley was out and DMB had decided to tour with no violin for the first time since I’ve been seeing them live (maybe for the first time ever). I didn’t know if the essence was going to be the same as I had grown accustomed to. We had pit tickets, so that was certainly going to help improve the vantage point, but I love Boyd Tinsley and knowing that he wasn’t going to be on stage hurt a little. 

My big issue with the new incarnation of Dave Matthews Band (version 3.0 if you will) was that the setlists did not vary much for this trek across the US. The same songs were being played multiple times, which is unlike a normal DMB tour. Part of that could be because new addition organist Buddy Strong was still getting up to speed on the entire DMB catalog, but part of that could be for a different reason (although a reason that I can’t quite figure out). They stayed with the same group of songs for most of the tour. Although, we did get three tour debuts (“Stay or Leave,” “Captain,” and “Black and Blue Bird”) but everything was standard, especially the encore.

There’s a certain amount of magic in the air anytime the Dave Matthews Band takes the stage. Even in the absence of Boyd Tinsley on the violin, I knew this was going to be another special night. The weather was in our favor, the crowd was large but peaceful and loving, and of course the music was going to be magnificent. Standing that close to the stage also added to the experience. I had not been in the pit for a DMB show since my trip to The Gorge. That experience had not been the best, so there were concerns going into this show, but when the opportunity to get pit tickets came up for my daughter’s first experience, I had to grab them. Standing there as the pit filled and the clock ticked closer to showtime, I was a little nervous. Thankfully, we had a grand pit experience this time around. Maybe it’s because we stood by the horns---who can say for sure? All I know is that this was a much more relaxed experience than my last one. And for that I am eternally gratefully.

I was able to guess the opening song, but I don’t take great pride in that, as the setlists were predictable. That is something I’ve never been able to say about a DMB tour before, but it’s true for 2018. There were only three songs they opened with for most of that leg and one of them was the opener the night before, so I had a pretty good feeling that “That Girl Is You” was going to kick off our night. Fortunately, it is a favorite from the new release for both my daughter and myself.

All these items did not make it a bad show. I don’t believe that I’ve ever witnessed a bad DMB show and judging by my daughter’s gleeful outbursts it was the best concert ever performed in the history of music. Yet, perhaps since I’ve been to 20 of these shows now, I’ve grown jaded and hopeful. There are always songs I am chasing (“The Last Stop” in particular) and songs that I want to hear that I’ve only heard once (“Lover Lay Down”), but the band has so many songs they could pull out and they are touring behind a new record. I understand that the new songs are going to take precedence. And they have to balance deep cuts with fan favorites. I get all of that. And look, when it comes to a DMB show, their setlist is a million times more varied than a KISS show. But I think I’ve raised my expectations because the band raised the bar the first time I saw them in concert. I’m like a junkie. I want every concert to be as tremendous as that first one was. I’m chasing the high.

Prior to the show, I even had a list of songs in my head that I wanted to hear. I know it was a stretch for several reasons, but I want to hear the songs I don’t hear live too often. Which may be part of my problem. I need to enjoy the show for the show and if the rare songs are played, consider that a blessing. I was hoping to hear any of the following: “#27,” “Say Goodbye,” “Break Free,” “Come On, Come On,” or “Minarets.” I thought I had the best chance with “Come On, Come On” because it was a new song. The others I knew were a longshot at best. Sadly, none of those songs were performed, but I should have expected that anyway.

Out of the songs that did get played, there were some real highlights for me. I was overjoyed to hear “Crush” and “Jimi Thing” (two of my favorite songs by this band.) I was also glad to get “Stand Up” and “Louisiana Bayou” which is an unpopular statement with most purists. However, these two songs hold a special place in my heart as they were the songs that locked me into being a fan for life the first time I saw the band live. Robert Randolph guested on Bayou the first night I saw DMB and that just blew my mind. So, I will always love most of the songs from the Stand Up album.  They will always remind me of when DMB moved into the top five of my all-time favorite bands.  

The best part about being in the pit was the opportunity to get a drumstick from Carter Beauford. I’ve had opportunities to get a drumstick before and I’ve come extremely close once, at that same venue. The stick went off my fingertips and flipped behind me. SO CLOSE! With that in mind, I told my daughter that if she got a stick from Carter it was mine. I had come too close to let her get one on her first night. Unfortunately, Carter did not take the usual time to toss sticks into the audience. Not at the end of the main set and not after the encore. What the heck, Carter? I had informed my daughter what a big part of the show experience it was going to be and you tossed nothing! What a let down!  

As for my daughter, I had never seen her so happy in her entire life. The joy that overwhelmed her with infectious. She was so enthralled and she could not stop talking about what an amazing time she was having. She told me repeatedly that she had no idea the band was this good in concert. That made me made me laugh. I had only been telling for the last ten years she should think about attending a show with me. In her wise wisdom though she pointed out that she may not have been mature enough in her musical tastes to enjoy the band until now. Out of the mouths of babes… I was ecstatic by her happiness and so glad that we had gotten to see this show together. And now I have a permanent partner to attend all future shows with. She’s already told me that she can’t wait to see the band again and asked if we can do multiple shows next time. As long as they tour in 2019, my dear daughter, yes, we can.  

That Girl Is You
One Sweet World
Samarai Cop
Stay Or Leave
What Would You Say
Can’t Stop
Jimi Thing
Black and Blue Bird
The Song That jane Likes
Lying in the Hands of God
Funny The Way It Is
Come Tomorrow
Stand Up
Louisiana Bayou
The Space Between
Tripping Billies

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Reflections On ... Wilson Phillips

Is there anything more memorable than your first true love? Okay, I’m sure there is, like your wedding day, the birth of a child, college graduation … the list could go on and on. But a first real, true love holds a special position in the memory banks of anyone, especially a romantic who looks upon yesterdays at certain times of his life with great joy for the nostalgia of it all.

My first true love was Tara and I met her during my senior year of high school, a particularly interesting time in my life. I am sure that senior year of high school is an interesting time in anyone’s life, but for me, it will always hold a special place in my collective psyche. Senior year was a time of change and uncertainty. I was certain that I was not going to college after high school, me and school were never the best of friends, and I was unsure what I was going to do after graduation. For most of my senior year the goal was just to finish and get out of there. It’s not that I hated high school, but I always felt that there was somewhere else I needed to be. This was a plague that would haunt me for several years of my early adult life.

I met Tara at the Roy Rogers restaurant we worked in. I had gotten a job at a location further away from my hometown Roy’s because I heard they needed experienced help and there was a chance to make a little more money per hour. I think I went from $4.25 to $4.85 an hour, which was a huge windfall at that time in my life. So, I put in for a transfer to that store where a couple of other friends had gone to work. The commute was a little longer, but I was young and had my own vehicle, so the drive was no big deal to me. I started at the end of the summer just before my senior year of high school would begin.

That same summer, Wilson Phillips roared onto the Billboard charts with their huge hit single, “Hold On.” The song was everywhere and became one that you couldn’t escape. It was on MTV. It was on every other radio station. And it was played all over the shopping malls. Needless to say, the song got stuck in my head and I had to own the album. Even though I was a metal head by preference, I did like other styles of music thanks to my parents. Pop, jazz, country, R&B, I was enamored by it all. If it was good music, it was okay by me. I never did like classifying songs into genres.

Wilson Phillips was a vocal group that consisted of Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips who were the daughters of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys (Carnie and Wendy) and John and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas (Chyna Phillips). With that much genetic talent there was no way this group wasn’t going to be anything but spectacular. And thus, on the strength of their huge hit single, I did purchase a copy of the album that summer. I played it a lot and really got into it during the summer, but I did not fall in love with the record until I fell in love with Tara. It was at that point that my romantic side took over and I listened to this album nonstop for the entire fall of 1990.

Working in a fast food restaurant as a teenager allowed a lot of time for goofing off and drama. And for trying to land dates with members of the opposite sex. Such was the way for Tara and I. There was an instant attraction the first time that we met and I’d like to believe that we both knew it. There was a spark in the air and some sort of magic that we were both overcome by. I don’t remember how our first date occurred; I’m not sure if I asked her to go the mall with me (a big thing back in the day), or if she invited me to hang out at her house, I just remember that as my final year of high school began, I found myself spending more and more time with Tara. And most of that time was spent either at work or at her house when we weren’t working.

I shared a level of comfort with Tara that I did not have with many people, especially with girls. Up until that point in my life, my relationships with females consisted of picking the wrong girl, trying to get dates with girls who already had boyfriends, or being flat out rejected for trying to land a girl that was way out of my league. I had tenacity, that’s for sure, but tenacity never got me a girl and it certainly didn’t get me a meaningful relationship. All of that changed in the fall of 1990 when it started getting serious.

I would spend all my non-working, non-school hours at Tara’s house. Her parents liked me a lot. Her brother liked me a lot. And her friends adored me. I was closest with her mom, and with her best friend, April. I can remember spending many an afternoon that fall drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and just bullshitting about life in general. Her mother was very accepting and approving of me which made me feel wonderful. There was a bond forming there that I hadn’t had with anyone in my entire life. Tara and I grew closer as the fall wore on and I entertained thoughts of us being a serious couple for many years to come.

When I wasn’t hanging at Tara’s, working, or sleeping, I was listening to Wilson Phillips. I had transferred the CD to tape and listened to it in my car all the time. On my way to school. On my way to work. And especially on my way to Tara’s house. “Hold On” was the first song to take hold on me, but I quickly discovered all the other gems that this album contained. Basically, every song was massive and amazing and I fell in love with all of them over time. “Hold On” gave way to “Release Me” which led me to “Impulsive” which was a song that spoke to me on many levels. Of course, it would! I was falling in love with a girl and this song told me all about what that was like. Lines like “Now you’re running away with my heart” and “I don’t want to analyze what I’m doing here” hit me over the head like a rubber mallet. I didn’t want to admit it to myself due to my past track record, but I was falling in love with this girl. I had never felt safer with anyone than I did with her in my arms. There was a sense of belonging, a feeling of security, and plenty of moments of bliss whenever I was around her. She had captured my heart. And even though I wanted to remain impulsive and resist the urge to fall in love (because, honestly, only bad things could happen), I couldn’t help myself. Tara had taken my heart and I was left to wonder what was going to happen now that she had it.

I think my strong feelings scared Tara because she often told me how she was worried about hurting me. She didn’t want to hurt me, but she had her own previous track record as well and it wasn’t a great one. She came with her own baggage and past heartache. And while I didn’t believe that would or should affect me, she felt that it would and that caused her to be extremely cautious with our relationship.

“Ooh You’re Gold” was another Wilson Phillips song that carried a lot of meaning for that fall. While Tara was worried she was going to hurt me, I felt that she was the most wonderful person in the entire universe. Sure, I probably had blinders on when it came to her, but I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated with her. Wilson Phillips said it best for me: “All I really need you to know, is ooh you’re gold.” She was gold to me. And platinum. And every other precious metal placed on Earth. She was amazing. She was everything that I ever wanted in a partner, everything that I wanted in life. I honestly believed that life couldn’t get any better than those late afternoons in her kitchen, slurping coffee, smoking cigarettes, ruminating on life, and waiting for her mom to come home from work. Those really were some of the best days of my life.

And my relationship with Tara affected all my other relationships. I still worked as much as I could, and I kept my grades up to the best of my abilities (I was a B/C student most of my academic career), but I stopped spending time with my other friends. I practically forgot about my guy buddies. And I barely ever saw my mother. She mentioned that to me on the rare occasions that I did see her, but what was I to do? I was twiterpated as the wise old owl told Bambi in the Disney movie. Tara had consumed my life and I was all too happy to drink it in and let it happen. That autumn was a magical one that I hoped would never end.

Sadly, like all things in life, it did come to an end. And as the brisk, bright days of the golden fall made way for the gloomy, gray days of December, our relationship took a turn for the worse. It wasn’t anything that I did. I still believe that to this day. It was just that Tara was scared to get so serious in such a short period of time. Every time I tried to discuss it with her, she changed or avoided the topic. She wasn’t having any of it and I was getting more confused by the day. What was happening to us?

Then the fateful night came. Tara wrote me a letter. A long, long letter. One that I still have somewhere in the depths of my collection of personal effects from years gone by. Tara sent me home with the letter and told me to read it when I got there. Which of course, I obliged. I don’t remember the exact contents and I did not pull it out for this reflection, but I remember the gist. It explained how she had hurt others in the past and how she had been hurt in the past. And then the inevitable was written in it. She told me that she didn’t want me to fall in love with her because she wasn’t in love with me and didn’t think she ever could be. Sure, she loved me, but she wasn’t in love with me. Ouch. That hurt. A lot. The sting of it was real, but the shock of it was worse. I thought everything was A-Okay and then I got hit upside the head with an aluminum baseball bat. Where did that come from?

After reading the contents of the letter I put on my Wilson Phillips CD and sat in my bed, stunned. I remember listening to “Release Me” several times in a row, letting the music wash over me and listening to the lyrics. It was time for a change, can you release me? The lines “Come on baby, you knew it was time to just let go, cause we want to be free” hit home hard. And hurt. I realized in listening to that song what Tara was saying in her letter. She wanted to be free. She didn’t want to be tied down. Most likely due to her own fears, but whether that was true or not, didn’t matter. It was over. How could I read a letter like that and expect that we were still going to be the same as we ever were? Things had changed between us forever and it just sucked.

Inevitably, our relationship ended. I just couldn’t go through with it anymore knowing that I wanted something so much different than she did. Of course, Tara told me that we could still be together, but we couldn’t be serious. I told her that I just didn’t work that way. I was cut from a different cloth that was clearly made in a separate factory from hers. We weren’t going to be able to work it out her way, so we just had to go our separate ways. Which was terrible, but needed to be done.

I spent that Christmas alone, which stung, and I reminisced about my fall over the entire winter break. Wondering if I could have done anything different. Wondering if I had stayed with her, if I could have eventually made her see things my way. Wondering if, given enough time, she would fall in love with me too. Who’s to say?

I also spent the entire winter break listening to Wilson Phillips from start to finish repeatedly (along with Neil Diamond and The Beatles Let It Be). By this time, all the songs spoke to me on some level and every song reminded me of her. Every song reminded me of what I had. Every song reminded me of what could have been. Why did she have to be so scared? “Next To You (Someday I’ll Be)” was the song I played the most, because it spoke of hope and change and the possibility that things could change and be different in the future. Perhaps there was a chance for us? Someday I’ll be … next to you. I was hoping and I was keeping the candle burning, because one day, someday, it was going to happen.

It didn’t. Tara and I kept in touch off and on for the next couple of years, but we never rekindled our relationship (which was probably for the best). When I moved to Florida to figure my life out after high school, we lost touch all together and I’ve not seen her since. And though I’ve tried, she’s can’t be found on social media (at least not through my searches) and google doesn’t reveal anything at all. I like to think she got married, changed her name, went on to have a wonderful family and is living the good life. I always wished for only the best for her.

I’ve often been tempted to drive by her old house and see if her parents are still there. It’s been 25 years since I last visited that house, so it’s highly unlikely, but part of me wants to do it just to say that I did. Not that I wish to rekindle something from so long ago now. I am a happily married man with a wonderful life of my own. But I always wonder what happened to her. How did her story turn out? And of course, any time I hear Wilson Phillips I think of Tara. I think of that magical autumn we spent together and I think of how perfect my life was at that moment. There have been similar moments in my life since then, but I don’t think any of them have been so perfect for so long. Part of that was because I was so youthful back then and had my whole future ahead of me. Part of that was because I was spending every free moment with a girl that I thought of as my best friend. The teenage heart is filled with much. Romanticism being a big part of that.

Occasionally, when the autumn chill settles in and I find myself alone for an hour or so with no pressing deadlines, I like to pull out my Wilson Phillips CD and let it play. I usually grab a cup of coffee (I don’t smoke anymore) and just wander down memory lane. The feeling is both nice and cutting all at once. And, of course, I wonder. What if? What could have been. What would have become. I guess I’ll never know and that’s okay. My life turned out pretty good in the end to say the least.