The Soundtracks of Life

Music has always been a big part of my life. I’m sure that’s true for many people, I know it’s true for some of my friends. The music of our youth shapes us even to this day. It added color to our memories, and still keeps much of those “good ole’ days” vibrant and alive, even if tempered with time.

I always find it fascinating that I have to work at remembering names of people I’ve just met, yet just the first few notes (can you name that tune?) of The Sounds of Silence or April Come She Will and I can recite the lyrics without fail.

I often listen to the 60s channel on Sirius XM and, except for a few obscure songs, can sing along with almost every tune.

Pleasant Valley Sunday, I’m a Believer, Shiloh, Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?, and on to the days of Good Times Bad Times, Stairway to Heaven, Smoke on the Water, the sound of the first few notes or rhythmic beat of the drums and I am sixteen once again.

Born to be Wild… indeed.

In my senior year of high school, 1974, the theme of the prom was Seals & Croft’s We May Never Pass This Way Again. I didn’t attend the prom, choosing (or perhaps because I may not have had a choice) to experience (with several other option-less friends) a more cinematic cultural experience at a rather chic drive-in movie location, accompanied by fine, hand-crafted ales, and facilitated by our well-altered fake Id’s attesting to my being a mature 19-year-old and thus able to appreciate the fine art and refreshments.

I don’t recall the name of the movie, nor the actors, nor the theme of the story. Sometimes what seems to be a good use of time at the moment turns out not to be so. Such is life, but regrets never accomplished anything.

My point for revisiting that moment in time was the appropriateness of the theme. While we may have loved the music, and can still sing all the words, we didn’t appreciate how prophetic those words were or how quickly the time between those moments and now would pass.

Now I find myself a part another song from that era.

In 1967 (FIFTY-THREE YEARS AGO) the Beatles released the song, When I’m Sixty-Four. At the time of its release, me and most of my friends were eleven years old. Old people were sixty-four. Antique cars were sixty-four. Dinosaurs were sixty-four.

I could not grasp the concept of BEING sixty-four.

Now I am fast approaching sixty-four.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me?
When I’m sixty-four?”

Yet even as I approach this now seemingly young age–60 is the new 40, or so I tell myself–the lyrics and music of those days still reside, alive and well-cared for, deep in my memory.

Of all the many songs and artists of those days— Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin, Chicago, Blood, Sweat, & Tears—Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel remain my favorites. Even today, with my fingers battered and bruised from an active life, tinged with arthritis, I can still pick up my guitar and play the songs.

Simon had a way with words and a masterful ear for setting music to his poetic lines. One of my favorites, interestingly enough also about the aging process although that was far from my mind back then, is the song Old Friends from the Bookends album.

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends


Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

Time it was
And what a time it was
It was. ..
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago. .. it must be. ..
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you

(Music and Lyrics by Paul Simon)

Sixty-four a moment away, seventy on the horizon…preserve your memories and sing the songs of your halcyon days. We will never pass this way again.

Through a Puppy’s Eyes

On this first morning of my 365-day-long 62nd orbit of the sun, I took stock of life.  Where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am heading.

From the time of my birth, I’ve traveled 556,625,000 miles on this spinning earth. Since my arrival on this planet, I and all my fellow humans who’ve been alive a similar amount of time have traveled 274,661,040,000 miles around the galactic center of the Milky Way.

Our universe, if Einstein and Hubble are correct, continues to expand.  In the time it takes most to read this (say 10 minutes) we will be 85,666 miles further along in our rotating galaxy and about 166 miles further along in our latest rotation of the earth.

The point? We are never in the same place twice. Everything about our lives, our world, our universe changes.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” ― Heraclitus

For some, a birthday is a sad reminder of their mortality and aging. For me, it is a day to consider one’s life. Every moment of every day for every human is unique. No other human is like you. No other will experience any moment in the same way.

No other human, not one, lives the same life.

Now for many of our fellow humans, those living in poverty and squalor, tossed by the virulent politics of tribal legacy or totalitarian regimes, they may not see the difference moment to moment.

It is incumbent on us to remember this as we live our more fortunate lives. We do well to do what we can to change the world, understanding that the only way to happiness is through freedom of choice and tolerance of differences. It is not ours to impose our choices on others, but to ensure they can make their own choices.

James Taylor sings that “the secret to life is enjoying the passage of time…” I would agree, for time is an irresistible force. But I think there’s more to the secret of life. One has to look at the world as if for the first time. Recognize the vicissitudes of each moment of your life. Look for the potential for the future, not despair of the past.

What gave me this idea was a small puppy. puppyWalking along the bike path, bouncing back and forth on his leash, everything was new to him. The grass, a fallen leave, a fluttering butterfly, my wife and I passing by.

Through that puppy’s eyes, the world was full of hope, opportunity, and discovery.  As we age, it is hard to hold on to such wonder. Yet to lose it is to lose one’s best hope to enjoy each revolution around the sun.

Life, like the universe, is a matter of mathematics. Each of us experiences our first revolution around the sun and our last. It’s what you do with the revolutions between the first and the last that matters.

In the words of Warren Zevon, dying of cancer, when asked if he had any advice for others said, “Enjoy every sandwich.”

I intend to do just that.