November 18, 2010

Thoughts from the 699

As a resident of an outer suburb who works downtown, I should probably complain about my commute. I can't. I spend my commute surfing the Web on my phone, listening to my iPod, and drifting in and out of sleep. It's all good, because I ride the bus. All in all, I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to start my day.

I nestle into my seat next to the window, smush up the hood of my wool coat as a makeshift pillow, and lean into the window. The suburbs float past in a dreamy haze: Eden Prairie, Edina, St. Louis Park and Golden Valley. The sights weave in and out of focus: An apartment complex telling me I'd be home if I lived there, an office furniture store, bird-filled wetlands by the side of the highway, an endless stream of SUVs and Pontiac sedans lining up across the lanes.

As I look, half-asleep, I listen to my iPod. Sometimes, I'll unexpectedly hit a time travel song.

Time travel songs are so strongly connected to a moment or feeling from my own history that just hearing them can transport me back. I hear Imitation of Life by R.E.M., and suddenly it is May 2001 and I am riding in the passenger seat of my own car, on Highway 29 north of Napa, my head spinning with joy and riesling while Sam searches for the next vineyard to visit. I hear California Stars, and suddenly it is the middle of the decade and I am standing outside at a Wilco concert looking at, appropriately enough, a sky full of California stars.

Most of my time-travel songs take me to mundane moments: driving in a car, drinking at a half-forgotten haunt, being in the company of a friend.

I turn the scroll wheel and blip through my own history like a tourist, popping into these moments and invoking my feelings of the time - or, more accurately, my current interpretation of what it felt like to be me at age 24.

Sometimes I fall asleep and dream myself into the situations of the past, changing details as I go Sometimes, I think about times I'd like to visit, and wish that I had the songs to get me there.

The downtown skyline always appears earlier than I expect it to, as 394 comes to its abrupt end. I stretch and try to bring myself back to reality, out of my daze.

I skip to a recently discovered song and remind myself that I live in the here and now, and there's a new day ahead of me.

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