22 November 2008

Songs of the past become present

Often, for me, music can document a certain moment in my life, take me to a place, rekindle a feeling, envelop me in a season or an entire period of my life.

I was sitting in my favorite café the other day (not the below-mentioned one on rue du Commerce, but my favorite family-owned café back here in California) and a Björk song was playing. When I came home I started playing all of my Björk songs over and over, and moments of my life that I hadn’t thought of for years came back to me in a matter of seconds.

Back seven years, to the student Foyer on blvd. St Michel, summer in Paris, sometime in my first two weeks after moving there, listening to Björk non-stop in our room, dark wooden furniture and a nice big window; past and present blur in the words of the songs that meant something to me in those days, and do, once again, slowly overwhelm and reminded me. Words that described for me the first step I’d take on the cobblestone streets of this new life. Speaking new words, feeling different passions, different fears, my heart beating to a foreign rhythm. She sings to me the preliminary touch of sentiment for the boy I’d never forget, a chance meeting at a corner café my second night in Paris that changed my life, (the very one who became my touchstone, my dwelling, for the next seven years of my life) the words speak to me now of fortune beyond currency and understanding beyond language, of possibility and fate, and of the pain that comes with loss and the steps (both forward and back) that follow, and the people who carried you through...and sang you another song, and helped you find your voice, to sing once more, as you never thought you would.

“It’s not up to you, oh it never really was...”

I hear myself struggling to get a sentence out in French, or to have a conversation on the phone, and worse, the bright turquoise Alcatel cell phone we all had, about the size of my shoe, and the vocab lessons we got from the voice on the mobicarte recharge recording, words I distinctly remember repeating after the voice over and over like disponible, valable and aucun, we’d actually try to repeat the phrases she said on the recording, “vous avez 70 F (soit 10,67 EURO) de crédit disponible.” I’d listen to Björk during métro rides to my classes, across the Seine, past the Eiffel Tower, sprinting for the RER B, and arriving inevitably late to class in the Foyer at St Michel. It’s a Paris that made me nostalgic for Paris, even the following 4 years I was still living there, because in these first few months, it was new, fresh, romantic, the Paris that opened my eyes and swept me away; it was only the beginning... and yes, a few Björk songs brought all of this back to me, and more.

“Unthinkable surprises, about to happen...but what they are...”

There was a definite Björk period in my life, started in senior year of university (University of California at Santa Barbara) I can literally see myself studying for finals with Amy listening over and over to a Björk CD on my Discman (remember those Discman things? I left mine in Paris with a boy who actually appreciated it for his long métro rides to boulot and foot...)

Yes the Björk period traveled with me into Paris, along with my friend Amy (or mon amie Amie as they understood her name in France), and we followed Björk all over Paris, trying to get into private, sold-out concerts, running to FNAC the day Vespertine came out, even though we already had a bootleg copy, just to have the European release, listening to it on my laptop while we studied (studying again, but this time in my chambre de bonne in Paris), standing in line with hundreds of others at the FNAC Champs Élysées very early on a cold morning to get two coveted tickets, and just minutes before approaching the ticket counter learning a new French vocab word...complet.

I did get a picture of the back of Björk walking up the stairs entering the small gothic chapel La Sainte-Chapelle for her intimate concert, and finally, on the day of her sold-out concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, in the posh neighborhood of avenue Montaigne, we bought two tickets, au noir, for an obscene amount of francs (I still to this day, have not done the conversion) and later that night, had the most amazing view worth every centime, front-row balcony, close to the stage, perfection.

Björk songs carried me through the first six months of my new life in Paris, but were somehow lost en route to and from late night/early morning dancing and socializing and music on the radio, when watching the sun rise on the Champs Elysées became a common occurrence and not just the place where we’d waited in line one cold morning for Björk tickets.

“I wake up and the day feels, broken..I tilt my hat, I’m trying to get an angle”

As far as I’m concerned hearing songs from another time is almost as good as a photo album, in terms of bringing back images. But then again, as I sit here with my photo album now on my lap, I realize that in my mind, my outfits look slightly better than they really, as captured forever on film, did at the time.

“Coincidence makes sense, only with you...”

Yes, I hear the songs that meant something to me then, and somehow always will, that sang to me of a world I’d yet to know, and words I sing now, in the same language sounding distant, and familiar, that remind me of what is possible, and will with certainty, mean something different to me, once more, when I sing them again, tomorrow.

“If you leave it alone, it might just happen...anyway.”


Amy said...

I think I just got a little teary-eyed. This brought back so many memories... ones that I feel often, but cannot always vocalize. Thank you for writing this. And thank you even more for not mentioning the zipper-legged pants. :)


words and photo booth moments said...

oh amie, the zipper pants deserve an entire post of their own...don't you think?? x c