Sunday, March 15, 2015

Full Circle

The last time I saw him in person, he was a senior in high school, and he was graduating, and he was bound for his Jefferson Scholarship at the University of Virginia. He was full of promise and full of adolescent flaws and naivete, and his brain was probably too big for his britches.

Nine years later, he’s in the first years of his lengthy residency in neurology in New York City.

Stolen from a brilliant site that merged "Common People"
lyrics with panels from Archie & Friends:
One of the first things he mentioned to me when we met over dinner and beer was the CD I made for him and a handful of his graduating classmates. He said it was a part of almost every college road trip he ever took.

“I think it was only a year or two ago when I realized you weren’t just sharing music you liked. You were preaching.”

I corrected him. “Well, part of it really was just sharing music. But I wasn’t preaching. More like… expressing gratitude and offering warnings. Some food for thought thrown in for good measure.”

“So… preaching,” he replied and shrugged.

The CD got “scratched beyond playability” and trashed, but he remembers “a lot of the songs.” Mostly the bona fide “classic” hits like “Surrender,” and “Under Pressure” and “Peace, Love and Understanding.” But a few of the less predictable songs as well. Seal’s “Crazy” and Drivin’ ‘n’ Cryin’s “Straight to Hell.”

And “Common People.” The William Shatner and Joe Jackson cover version. Produced by Ben Folds. The improved version of a brilliant, caustic song. He sought that song out on Spotify and played it for his fiancee as they drove toward Tennessee.

“When you first gave us that CD, I thought you were making fun of the girl in the song. But she’s us, isn’t she?”

“Not necessarily, no. But possibly. Potentially. She’s sort of a worst-case scenario.”

"Yeah," he said, "I didn't think you were trying to insult us or anything. But you always seemed worried about us losing our way."

"Or making a foolish mistake that costs more than it was worth," I said. "Yeah, I worry about that with everyone, myself included."

Perhaps this is a sign of just how out-of-whack my perspective and priorities are, but I can think of few things he could have told me that gave me the same kind of unexpected joy as the proclamation that he appreciated, and played to its death, my CD.

Call it a “love language.” Call it a “mash-up letter by way of song.” Whatever you call it, when someone values it in the way your gift was intended, a selfish, self-satisfied, self-affirming sort of joy ensues. They got it. They get it. In that moment, it feels even more important than, It was helpful. It changed their lives.

And then the moment passes, and you take another sip of beer, and you celebrate that this once-young immature kid will soon be a frappin’ neurosurgeon, and you hear about the nine years of his life since he left your care.

Time, don’t let it slip away
Raise your drinkin’ glass,
Here’s to yesterday.

Billy’s 2006 Movin’ Out CD
  1. Rocks - Primal Scream
  2. 911 is a joke - Public Enemy
  3. crazy - Seal
  4. surrender - Cheap Trick
  5. Peace Love And Understanding - Elvis Costello
  6. full circle - Aerosmith
  7. Good Times - INXS
  8. A Southern Thing - Better Than Ezra
  9. She's Gone Back to Whoring - Roger Alan Wade
  10. Straight to Hell - Drivin' N' Cryin'
  11. whole lotta trouble - CRACKER
  12. under pressure (w/David Bowie) - Queen
  13. Rewind - Stereophonics 
  14. Waiting For My Real Life To Begin - Colin Hay
  15. ordinary girl - Rick Springfield
  16. Common People - William Shatner featuring Joe Jackson
  17. tied down and chained - The BoDeans


Robert Berman said...

As an inveterate mix CD distributor, I know exactly what you mean.

troutking said...

That's a good sermon.