Friday, July 24, 2009

The Other Side of the Mirror

If I haven't mentioned this before, I am a huge Stevie Nicks fan. My fandom dates back to an Elias Bros. Big Boy restaurant in January, 1977 when my dad and I were having dinner after seeing King Kong, which was a weird thrill all on its own, and worthy of a later blog post. No one else in his third wife's family wanted to see it, so he and I went by ourselves. Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" was on the jukebox next to the booth. Big Boy used to have little jukebox selection boxes in each booth in their restaurants. It was really fun when you were a kid. Anyway, I loved the song and when my aunt bought "Rumours" on cassette later that year, I listened to it over and over and over again. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting in my grandma's living room with headphones on, reading comics and listening to "Rumours." Stevie Nicks had written and sung lead on three songson the album (remember when we called them albums?): "Dreams" (my favorite), "I Don't Want to Know," and "Gold Dust Woman."

When Stevie Nicks' first solo album, "Bella Donna," came out in 1981 I was a junior in high school, having the greatest year of my young life, and some of my friends had it on 8-track and played it in their cars. I recognized her voice immediately, but it was hard to reconcile her light, dolce vocals on "Dreams" with the hard-driving "Edge of Seventeen," which remains one of my two favorite songs (I hover back and forth between that and the Eagles' "Hotel California.")

When "The Wild Heart," her second solo effort was released in 1983, I listened to it for the first time on Christmas break from my freshman year in college. I had just gotten a strong message in the form of my grades that I actually had to work in college and couldn't coast through schoolwork like I had in high school, when my focus was more on sports. I sat in the dark, listening, waiting for a friend to come pick me up so we could go out to a bar in search of college girls who would be on break like us. I had become enough of a fan of Stevie Nicks that I had sought out hers and Lindsey Buckingham's "Buckingham Nicks" on vinyl at a local discount record store. I still have it, and it has still never officially been released on CD. One of these days I will have to get one of those USB turntables and transfer it to my computer so I can have it on my iPod.

By the time "Rock a Little", Stevie's third album came out in the winter of 1985, my then-fiancee bought it for me for my 21st birthday. I was a college junior, well on my way through my math program, and looking forward to graduating in just a year and a half. I didn't really care for the synthesized drums that pervaded the album, but I still loved her songwriting.

1987 brought "Tango in the Night" from Fleetwood Mac, which was the first CD I ever bought. My mother and stepfather had bought me a Sylvania CD player for a college graduation present for the princely sum of $300. It had a remote control and everything! I still have that wonderful old machine, and I think I will hook it up today to our surround sound receiver because our last DVD player pooped out and I don't think I'll replace it until we buy a PlayStation3 for Christmas. I remember reading about the album in Rolling Stone magazine while tanning on Bronco Beach (the south bank of Goldsworth Valley Pond) at Western Michigan University, and anxiously awaiting its release. Do you remember caring about music that much? It seems strange now.

The title of this post is a long time in being addressed, I know, but the stuff I just wrote goes to put it in perspective. I was listening to my iPod the other day while riding my bike in the neighborhood after watching some TV specials on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, and I decided to listen to "The Other Side of the Mirror." I probably hadn't listened to that album since the early 1990s. Like the previous Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac albums I mentioned, I remember well the first time I heard it. It's funny how memory works. Anyway, the first time I listened to "Mirror" was July, 1989. I had been substitute teaching for two years, while working at Pizza Hut and a local ice cream place called The High Wheeler, working 60-70 hours per week and making less than $11,000 a year. My fiancee and I had waited to get married until one of us had a job in our field, but didn't want to wait any longer. We set a date and were about to have the wedding when I got my first full-time teaching job! My first contract was for $19,900 a year and I thought I was going to be rich! My two roommates and good friends had just moved out of the apartment we had shared for two years and my fiancee had moved in new furniture that she had saved for while living with her parents. I had cleaned the place up and I was relaxing on July 20th while watching anniversary specials about the first moon landing. I was feeling on top of the world, finally starting my career in earnest, preparing for a new life in a new town in a new state with a new wife.

So as I was riding my bike, listening to this album and reflecting on the first time I heard it, I thought to myself what a weird coincidence it was (or was it?) that I was listening to the same album almost 20 years to the day of the first time I listened to it, and that it had been on the 20th anniversary of the moon landing, which was one of my first memories. The day I listened to that album for the first time serves as a nearly perfect line of symmetry between the parts of my journey into adulthood that I actually remember and the rest of my life as I've lived it since then. I guess the last 20 years have truly been the other side of the mirror.

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