Situational Symphonies

On occasion, I take the bus to work. As the Seattle Metro system is not entirely a pleasant experience, I prefer to block out the human static with my iPod ear buds. I’ve discovered that sometimes life matches the playlist all too well – and a situation will arise that fits the tune on deck like a perfectly tailored Armani suit. Other times, the results are just plain hilarious.

The Song: The Smashing Pumpkins “Cupid de Locke”
The Situation: A beautiful, young red-headed woman was applying her mascara to some dreaming Pumpkins strings. It was like a music video directed by Revlon. But even her pedestrian actions coupled with a melancholy track were enough to change the common place moment into magic. It added a living poem to what normally is a 30 minute ride in a trash can with wheels.

The Song: Sophie B. Hawkins “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”
The Situation: A husky man in his 30’s with facial hair boarded the bus and I was sitting in the very back with a direct line of sight. Sophie sang to me, “That old dog has chained you up, alright…” and boy did he. Figuratively, of course. He walked down the aisle straight toward me like a handsome cannon ball launched right into my face – but my pupils and irises were willing targets. Forever and ever and ever and evah……..

The Song: The Yin Yang Twins “Salt Shaker”
The Situation: Two elderly ladies were fighting over an empty seat. I was standing already, otherwise I’d given up mine just to keep the peace. But when the Twins and Lil’ Jon hollered “Shake it like a salt shaker!” The woman standing was hurling her fists in the air and I was substituting her curses for the chorus, and I don’t think anyone knew why I was laughing so hard.

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On the late evening of April 19, I had a most wondrous experience…

I saw the artist that I’ve always known as Prince perform live in Seattle at a small club tucked into the pocket of Pike Place Market. It was an intimate venue that barely holds 1,200 people, but it was filled to the brim and the air was heavy with humidity and expectation.

I never thought I would see a massive musical legend from my childhood in such close proximity. Capturing glances of his smirks, his ominous stares, and his serious side turning to smiles when the crowd reacted to his amazing musicality and off-the-cuff commentary. It was a dream come true, and although he mostly played newer material which I did not recognize, his dedication and versatility were nothing short of jaw-dropping. Flitting from guitar, to microphone, to keyboards like a humming bird sampling all varieties of melodic nectar, he showcased the wide range of talents which first catapulted him to stardom in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He wore a scarlet and gold ensemble (with matching headband) that strongly invoked the memory of Jimi Hendrix – particularly during the vast guitar solos which reached out far and wide like dragon wings.


Then, the powerful stage lights dimmed, and a back-lit Prince sang “Purple Rain” through a lavender haze created by two stage columns that doubled as fog machines. He dedicated the song to the memory of those lost during the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week. The ballad united the room and everyone sang along like a heavenly choir bound to the Earth by gravity alone. He extended the coda several times and the experience seemed to last almost 15 minutes. Shortly after, he teased the crowd with snippets of hits that would not be seen tonight, including 10 seconds of  the introduction to “I Would Die 4 U” which elicited a roar of excitement. However, once I heard the opening chords of “When Doves Cry” – that violent scribble of guitar – I prayed that he would play the entire song. I never thought I would get to sing a long with a live Prince to the lyrics:

Dream if you can a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses, they feel the heat, the heat between me and you…

But I did. And my friends and I danced like witch doctors purging a poison from our bodies. It was celebration in its purest and most primal form.

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of music and its ability to alter emotional states and invoke memories. Tonight, however, brought it to a higher octave of understanding: It brought me back to my youth when I would watch Prince on Friday Night Videos while perched on the carpet of our living room floor. It put me back into the car rides to school when his songs would be on the radio and my sister would be driving with her fingerless gloves and the frost of the Iowa winter decorated the windshield with frozen spirals. It recalled school dances, the summer county fair, and every other event cataloged by my mind where Prince was the soundtrack of the moment.

It made me appreciate the gift of someone sharing their talent with the world. A talent which gave me some of the most beautiful bookmarks for my memory.

Try Try Try

Sometimes I like to pretend the Universe is talking to me through films or music. At certain points in life, I’m sure we’ve all felt that way; those moments when you’re driving down the road and a song comes on that completely telegraphs your emotional state via radio waves…

The better part of the last 4 years has been a lesson in frustration for me on the career front. The U.S. economy has not be forgiving to people looking to change careers or even those starting a search for their first one. I have applied for over 500 positions since November 2011. Six or seven resulted in interviews and none resulted in offers…until last week. I applied for a position that would utilize my creative and technical abilities but it is not one I expected to get after so many hits with the “rejection club”. At this point, my self-esteem was a seal pup, and the job market has been a ruthless pelt hunter.

Despite my pessimism about the odds, I remained consistent in my technique:

  1. A sent a glossy, well-designed resume tailored to the requirements of the job description.
  2. I wore a suit & tie to the interview.
  3. I asked intelligent questions and took a personal interest in the interviewer’s experiences.
  4. I sent a thank you card after the interview so show my sincere thanks for the opportunity. Yes, I am old school.

When I was offered the new position, I felt like I had a breakthrough of unimaginable proportions. I realize it is just a new job, and that it could potentially be unsatisfactory, but when your wheels have rusted to the road (and you feel like you are slowly fossilizing into your station in life) any forward movement can feel like a cloudburst.

Going back to my original thought about the Universe talking to me through the radio, I remembered hearing that P!NK song “Try” over the course of the past few months.

Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You gotta get up and try

And although every minute of the past few years has felt like a slow razor, there was finally a moment when the dam broke. When the cavalry arrived. The moment where determination finally overcame the wall.

I am hopeful more walls will come down as a result.