Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Marriage Playlist

Our first Maritime Ball. 1990.
We both had a lot of hair, didn't we? 

Aquaman is in Alaska. He's been gone 20 days. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is somewhat normal for us. (Seeing normal and us in the same sentence doesn't even look right.) Because Aquaman must be in contact with the ocean somewhat regularly and a job that allows that is basically essential, he is often out on a boat for extended periods while I remain on land to continue life. This is both tough and thrilling.

We met on a boat. A retired WWII ship, The USTS Texas Clipper was a teaching vessel for Texas A&M University at Galveston for many years. It has since been decommissioned and rests at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Artificial Reef program. But in its heydey, it took summer cruises to foreign ports of call with young Prep Cadets aboard taking college classes. This was a pivotal experience for me in so many ways. For one, I realized after about two weeks in my Oceanography class that it was not for me and I would have to give up the idea of being any kind of marine scientist. I was confused and bewildered by the chemistry involved and knew it would only bring frustration. Secondly, I surprised myself by thriving in the regimented environment of the Merchant Marines that I had so dreaded leading up to the trip. I wore the khaki uniform and steel-toed boots, reported for cleaning stations and galley duty, passed inspection and fell in on deck for formation. I never even got seasick. Third, I met the man I would end up marrying. It was 1989, we were both 18 and college freshmen. We had been aboard for about a month before we even met, almost exactly 25 years ago today. It's safe to say that our lives changed forever.

Not too long ago, I posted about an NPR project wherein folks were asked to describe their lives chronologically in six songs. This was great fun, reaching back to my childhood and adolescence and thinking about the songs that had shaped my life. While the last two songs were wrapped up in meeting and marrying Aquaman, it only scratched the surface of the music that is so much a part of our life together. It felt unfinished, that playlist.

Now 2,901 miles separate us. He is out in Prince William Sound on a seine boat, hopefully catching lots of pink salmon and loving his life on the water. He'll come home in September. Before he left, I counted the approximate days that he would be gone. 70 days. It sounds like a long time, but I reasoned with myself that it was only 20 days longer than his longest trip aboard a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico and we had managed to survive that, hadn't we?

The heart doesn't always listen to the brain. I woke up this morning missing him something terrible. I got a letter in the mail from him yesterday. It was a beautiful card of a painting by an Alaskan artist. Written inside were a few lyrics to a song - one of our songs. And that's what got me thinking about all of the songs that have been important to us at one time or another. The songs that we have listened to alone or together, the ones that made us happy or sad, the ones that still make me reach across the armrest for his hand when they come on the car radio. I have limited myself to 6. So here they are, in chronological order - a Marriage Playlist.

1) Somebody by Depeche Mode

Our relationship grew in the early 90s, just like Depeche Mode. This song was the first time that I remember Aquaman copying down the words to a song to give me later. We were still freshmen at A&M. The lyrics and piano are simple and raw, and this official Depeche Mode video features the soundcheck rehearsal version of the song.

2) Lovesong by The Cure

It is so very hard to narrow it down to one song by The Cure (I could include the entire Disintegration album here), but this one stands the test of time. The lyrics are just as true for us today as they were in 1989. I wish I could say the same for their official video, which now looks incredibly dated to me. They filmed it in a cave, for heaven's sake. But here it is - in all its cringeworthy glory. Just listen to the words, people.

3) Built to Last by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Picking one Tom Petty song is almost impossible. We have been to see him multiple times in concert and every time has been an experience. I included "Wildflowers" in my life playlist, but Built to Last gets me every time because of the chorus, which is awesome, and because of this particular line: "She has followed me where the rain would fall in sheets." The rain fell in sheets in Alaska.

This version is live, and involves Tom Petty wearing a bandana headband. You're welcome.

4) Nick of Time by Bonnie Raitt

This is the song that I identified with most when I had baby fever. I would listen to it over and over again and finally played it for Aquaman to try and express what I was feeling. It's not that he didn't want to have a baby, it's just that I wanted one more. It took almost one year for me to get pregnant, and this song comforted me during those exasperating days. When I was only four months pregnant, we ended up in Seattle at Bumbershoot and guess who headlined? Bonnie Raitt. Listening to her sing live, with Aquaman's arms wrapped around me and my growing bump of a belly, is one of the best memories I have of pregnancy.

5) Cry by Slaid Cleaves

It's not all rainbows and unicorns, my friends. We have been through some serious shit and this song captures it. Aquaman gets credit for discovering this artist that we have seen live in the very tiny venue, Third Coast Music. Cry is from the album Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away. Boy, will it ever.

Album cover from the official Slaid Cleaves website. 

Even though this song symbolizes a very difficult time for us, I still love it. Marriage can be so damn difficult. And sometimes you have to lose it all before you can begin again.

Oh, and by the way...Stephen King wrote the liner notes on this album for Slaid. That's enough of an endorsement, don't you think? If you don't know Slaid Cleaves, it's time you did.

6) Better Together by Jack Johnson

Well, I can't get this one off my mind. I love Jack Johnson and love that he appeals to so many different people. He's a uniter! But these also happen to be the lyrics that Aquaman included in his last letter. So I'm a bit obsessed with it right now.

I love this part:

There's no combination of words I could put on the back of a postcard
No song that I could sing, but I can try for your heart
And our dreams, and they are made out of real things
Like a shoebox of photographs
With sepia-toned loving
Love is the answer
At least for most of the questions in my heart
Like why are we here and where do we go
And how come it's so hard?
It's not always easy
And sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing
It's always better when we're together

So that's it. The Marriage Playlist. It's cheesy and embarrassing but magical and wonderful. Like love.

Your turn. What are the 6 songs that describe your marriage?