Select Musical Tastes - Why These?

It’s odd how I remember the exact time and place I first was exposed to select music.


I was in 10th grade, cleaning my room one afternoon the first time I heard the Goo Goo Dolls Gutterflower album.

I was riding a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto in 8th grade the first time I heard Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory on a classmate’s MD player.

I was lying on my floor doing math homework the first time I heard the Three Doors Down Better Life album.

I first heard Nirvana’s epic Nevermind on an airplane while traveling from Tokyo to Okinawa in 10th grade.

The first time I heard any material from Kid Rock, Offspring, or Creed was from a mixtape I made off the radio in seventh grade.

The first time I really listened to the entire Temple of The Dog EP was while painting the outside of my summer cabin the summer before I went to college.

I have a very distinct memory of the first time I heard Radiohead’s 2003 release, Hail to the Theif. I was sitting on a couch in a basement in Minnesota with my friend Alyssa, staring at the green Xbox CD screen. I was 16.

I was doing homework on the computer in my dad’s study one night during my senior year while listening to Yahoo! Launchcast radio. Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” came on, and my music taste was forever altered,

I was standing in my basement room, 16 years old, when I first heard Eddie Van Halen play “Eruption” on the radio. I was speechless for a good five minutes.


What can fill a coin with a hole in it? A common thread.

We stepped out of my car and walked towards the glass door of the coffee shop. I held it open for her, and then followed my nose into the shop filled with the enticing aroma of gourmet coffees brewed-to-order for the yuppie elite. I, however, was no yuppie. I was sixteen, tall, thin, reserved, and cynical. I had Adidas on my feet, and was dressed in bland khakis and a black polo as mandated by the overlords who ran my private Lutheran high school. School had finished for the day, and I had succeeded in securing the company of an attractive girl to join me for coffee. We had journeyed in my very unattractive-yet-unabashedly-functional maroon-colored Buick to a place called Meg’s, which served magnificent, if not slightly overpriced, coffee and baked goods. The joint was furnished with red couches and throw pillows, a giant beanbag chair, bookshelves with last years novels shelved haphazardly on them, and of course the little round tables impressed with checkerboard patterns. It was basically the aftermath of a supercollider experiment involving a Starbucks and a pediatrics waiting room set in a suburban Illinois city.

            Stepping up to the counter we ordered our respective beverages, I a double shot of espresso and she a frappuccino. We collected our drinks and seated ourselves at a table for two situated against a wall beside a basket of books. One of the books, I noticed, was a paperback copy of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal, a book I would start reading that year and finally, after an extended hiatus, complete in the February before my twentieth birthday. We sat facing each other for a few minutes, silently taking in the atmosphere. Our meeting was one-on-one, as I preferred, and uncomplicated by flirting and the usual teenage insecurities involving a semi-formal date due to the ruggedly handsome boy whom she was already dating.

            She was unequivocally gorgeous. Wisps of her golden hair fell loosely at her cheeks, framing her soft face, perfect eyebrows, and light pink lips. Her soft blue eyes, twinkling like twin dewdrops in the morning sun, were vibrant, engaging, and hauntingly mysterious. Her smile put me perfectly at ease, as though I had known her my whole life. Her posture radiated self-assurance, her bracelet-clad forearms leading to hands that were no strangers to the dog-eared pages of literary masterpieces. There was no façade about this girl. She was straightforward, honest, and to-the-point in an almost brutal way. Not one to ever be taken for a loop, she meant what she said and said whatever she meant, and expected the same from whomever sat across from her.

            There was very little laughter in our conversation. We both knew enough of each other’s backgrounds to feel comfortable, allowing us to bypass the normal conversational puddles of witty banter and entertainment preferences, instead diving right into topics of philosophy, worldviews, and religion. She believed in a single loving God who had a purpose for her life; I was beginning to reject my Baptist upbringing, instead choosing to believe that religion was an opiate for the masses and I was part of a forgotten generation; the all-singing, all-dancing scum of the earth. Until I met her I had reveled in belittling my Christian peers who, as I saw it, blindly followed the God of their parents. She, however, was the first person whom I had ever met who was not fazed by my criticism of her beliefs. I suppose a better way to say it is that she was the first person I met whom I didn’t feel was threatened by my rejection of the/her Christian faith. She was the first person who accepted my beliefs, and in return expected me to accept hers. And I did.

            I didn’t feel attacked when she would smile at me and ask, “So how’s God?” I would freely answer, “Well, not much is going on with him right now. I guess god (in our online chats I made it a point to specifically not capitalize god, while she made it a point to hold shift for point-three seconds) is around but I don’t really care about him right now.”

            Our conversations usually ended the same way. She would smile and encourage me that God was after me, at the same time assuring me that I could rebel all I wanted because if God wanted me, I was going to come around sooner or later. I smiled and told her that I thought her naïve.

            She finished her frapp (I had downed my double shot by the time I finished reading the testimonials on the front of Hannibal), and I drove her back to our school parking lot where I dropped her off at her car, thanked her for her company, waved goodbye, and drove home.

            These meetings were to be the basis of the beginning of our relationship. They were also the spark for my spiritual search for truth, and the beginning of my journey to take ownership of my own beliefs. It was another two and a half years before God finally claimed me; before I finally submitted myself to His will. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I have a friend named Julie to thank.

Thank you.


A Memory Bank of Synthetic Colors

I had a fascinating conversation with a young lady yesterday about our first respective memories. Hers was of disembarking a plane at age three and meeting being introduced to a little girl with curly red hair. I tried to think of mine? What was my first memory?
I have several, and I don’t know how to put them in chronological order.
My strongest early memory is manufactured, a situation drawn from a picture in a photo album. I was three, and we had just moved into our house in Japan. It is a simple memory, one of my family sitting on the floor next to the washing machine chowing down on corn on the cob, taking a break from moving our stuff in. But I have photograph of this, and I suspect I don’t really remember the meal on the floor at all.
My earliest memories do definitely come from that house, however. I lived there from age 3 to 5.

I have a memory of cutting pictures of cool looking motorcycles out of a magazine and keeping them in a little black metal basket. My brother did the same, and we were both adamant about the motorcycles we "owned" being unavailable for the other to have, or even hint at liking.
Another memory of breaking a glass bottle on the street, unfortunately for me, in front of my father. He made me pick all the little pieces up and throw them away.
Another memory of snatching a toy car that my brother received as a Christmas present and opening it for him, for which I was reprimanded.
A flash of a movie I saw at a baby sitter’s house of a man who drove a blue car getting chased up some stairs by a police detective. The movie terrified me, and to this day I still have no idea of the name of it.
Sneaking a scoop of margarine straight from the little plastic tub. It was gross, but the reaction it prompted from my parents was worth it.
Stealing a LEGO sword from a pile of LEGOS in a house that we visited for Christmas. None of my LEGO people had any weapons, and this kid had a ton of them. He wouldn’t miss one, right? I didn’t count on my parents knowing the entire contents of my LEGO collection as well, and they noticed when I had a new addition. Busted!
Playing Go Fish, and declaring my favorite colors were pink and purple.
My father bringing home a tiger puppet from one of his trips. Whenever he was gone for more than a few days, he always brought something back for my brother and me.
Taking a new toy home, a rubber Stegosaurus, and putting it next to my lamp on the nightstand and staring, fascinated, at the outline of it in the dark until I fell asleep.
Eating too many moyashi (mung bean sprouts) one night and throwing up into a blue plastic basin. This was the first time I remember being sick.
Being too terrified to watch the movie Benji on TV.
The first foods I vividly remember were rice, curry, and cheese tara (チーズタラ).
I remember standing at our sliding glass door in front of the concrete deck leading to our yard, staring at the pouring rain and flashing lightning and thunder. I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid of thunder.

Out of these memories, six are positive or neutral, and six are negative. Why is this division so equal? Was I aware, even at a young age, and the difference between right and wrong? The existence of good and evil? Was I conscious of a balance in life – that good and bad things happen to people regardless of their behavior? How does this affect me as a person today? Am I more likely to accept that bad things happen, or am I more likely to write off my bad behavior as inevitable? Do I accept the consequences for my behavior, should it warrant said consequences?
I do find it odd that so many of my early memories have to do with me acquiring material possessions via legal or non-legal means.  Why aren't my first memories of going places or meeting new people? 
Even from my first memories it is clear that I do things for the sake of a reaction, for shock value. My behavior wasn't so much about acquiring a physical object as it was gleaning knowledge about behavior and reactions of people. This is still largely true today, though I rarely resort to such unscrupulous means to do so.