Thursday, 10 April 2014

on having a Mom who loves music

Quick running update: I am up to a 20 minutes of run/walking three times a week (the best 20minutes of my day). I now have shirts that don't fit in the arms due to my ultra-swimming.

However, I think I have talked way too much about not running and swimming (and those things are arguably not that exciting to begin with), but I haven't talked much about my music or my mom's fairly recently acquired e-mail skills.

I've been taking advantage of no set training cycle to stay up past my usual 8:30pm bedtime and see some concerts. As grumpy and undercaffeinated as I am the morning after, having a couple drinks and rocking out to a good band makes the rough next day's wake up worthwhile. 

I've always liked music. I've been to concerts, and even made it to the original Pemberton back in 2008: I got to see Metric against a sunset and mountains, camp with 40,000 people and approximately 8 showers, and have my ex-boyfriend throw up in my ex-ex-boyfriend's car. I'm not sure if I have good taste or bad taste, and likely have semi-angsty, not-quite-hipster, secret-love-of-Kanye-West taste. I have running playlists with not enough techno and likely too many songs in the style of "Hurt" by Johnny Cash (the song title was obviously derived from the last 10km of the marathon). Listening to music is the only enjoyable part of the spin bike (and still only partially compensates for the occasional icepack on my crotch after longer spin sessions). I listen to music in the morning, doing my stretches. I have the radio on in the evening when I cook my dinner. One of my fellow partners and I have "music appreciation sessions" (I make him do this) watching videos off of youtube. 

There's something about the right song at the right place - maybe it's a guitar riff, or a bass line, or just a clear tone and lyrics that speak to me and only me as I walk down to English Bay in an almost purple light. IT makes me feel that much more alive - it gives a sweetness to sadness, an energy to anger, and a swagger to my dancing. 

My mom is a music snob who doesn't think she is a music snob. She grew up in Southern California in the 60s and 70s with an uncle who was a record producer (one of her first cars came from this uncle, who had first taken it away from a well-known band who wasn't paying his fees).

When I was growing up, she did her best to impart her love of music in me. I remember her letting me dance around the living room to Melissa Etheridge, Simon & Garfunkle tapes on road tips, and learning that the best way to clean the house is to open all the windows, put on something high-energy, and turn the volume all the way up.

Notable exceptions to a love of music
Nine-year-old me was shown Little Shop of Horrors", a movie musical about a mutant man-eating plant. The movie also features Steve Martin as a psychotic dentist on a motorcycle. Despite enjoying several catchy songs at the start of the movie, I ended up retreating to cry in my bedroom by the end.

More successful was having the entire "Tommy" album by the Who played, with Mom narrating the story. Pre-teen me could not believe an album, let along a movie, could be made about a deaf, dumb and blind kid who grew up to be a pinball wizard. The album taught me that music, good mucis, could be catchy and weird as all hell. Many, many years later, I tried to explain the plot to Craig, who I think still doubts me that something like this exists.

Mix tapes
Mom is a master of mix tapes (well, now CDs). Her mix tapes are a testament to her good ear, occasionally inappropriate tastes, and a somewhat dark sense of humour. This is the woman who put "Roads to Moscow", a haunting and lovely song about a captured German soldier in WWII, before "Back in the USSR".  ("It's funny - people should lighten up.").

For the past several years, I have been making Mom mix CDs with various degrees of reluctance, as she refuses to download itunes. The process always leaves me with some great new song discoveries, but it is not without its challenges. I get a list of songs, where at least 3 of the songs will not be found as the Canadian itunes' content is restricted or some totally obscure song from the 1970s that was played on the radio a couple times is shockingly not available ("Are you sure? Maybe we're spelling the name wrong? Just hit search one more time?"). The songs then get rearranged once, before the CD is burned, then an additional time after the CD is done, because mix CDs are art, damn it.

Song sharing
Mom's favourite radio station is CBC Radio 2, and she listens to the morning show pretty much every day before work. Her taste in music is still awesome. I used to get several calls some weeks (hell, some days!) for song recommendations. As my 29th birthday present, Mom learned to e-mail. This has been great on many levels.

At the beginning, there were some growing pains:

"I think I pressed "send", I was interrupted, let me know if you did not receive my reply.  MOM"

Did you get my response yesterday? I had "technical difficulties" the screen reverted to "screen saver" in the middle of me typing in a response.  Anyway Will write later when I have time. MOM

But the training updates are pretty awesome:

Hi Alex: Just finished my run, 5 miles in 59 minutes, geriatric but still goin'.  TGIF, HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND.  MOM

Or gently pointing out that I should get new bike shorts:

Hi:  Read your I know where my bicycle shorts went!  FYI bicycle shorts technology is constantly changing, and very comfy. 

Call it a night
Mom has a soft spot for songs about strong women, revenge on cheating mencasual encounters and apparently kissing girls

Mom: When you have a chance listen to:  OK Cupid, by Elise Legrow.  Put it on your playlist to run or dance around your living room. 
Me: the song is know it's a song about rebounds, right?
Mom: I know it's a rebound song, I love her spirit.  Kick-ass energy is the best.  You should see Dad, he is totally kick-ass energy right now. 

It's hard to top the time she got me to download "Wake Up and Make Love to Me", but she is still very much in the game. She also likes to listen to songs that are described as "what people got pregnant to in the back of cars in the 70s".

Mom is the reason why I listen to Half Moon Run and Basia Bulat. She is the reason I get into debates on Roger Daltry vs Elton John. She taught me that good music isn't always safe - that sometimes the best songs are way, way out there: they are about man-eating plants, a pinball wizard, a solider who is leaving a queen, a place where feelings are so raw that there can't even be words.  They are weird and heartbreaking and joyous. They are three or four minutes of reassurance for sadness, accompaniments for joy. They remind me that life is bumpy and unexpected and the best remedy can be to turn the volume up, way up, and dance as hard as I can.

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