Magical Musical Time Travel Machine

 When certain music surfaces on my current mixed-up play list, it’s like a soundtrack for a movie about me has started playing.  That movie always lands me in my old New York City. The soundtrack switches me up from this 37-year-old Brooklyn mother living in 2009 to a 19-year-old libertine circa 1989 who has a studio apartment on St. Marks in the East Village.  (Only this time I’m 19 without such a heavy hand with the foundation, lipstick and eyebrow pencil.  Oh Facebook why do you force me to confront these old pictures?)

The super-club is still king.  My musical score is made of The Sex Pistols, Little Louie Vega’s French Kiss, Neh Neh Cherry, Soul II Soul, The Pixies, and Skid Row (Look, it was 1989.  Their singer was hot and for a hair metal band this song was remarkably powerful, surprisingly complicated, and sad.  Power Ballads don’t have the word “power” in them for nothing.  I know you’re judging me now stop it.) I’m a regular at Palladium, Limelight, Mars and The Scrap Bar.  I’m on my own and exploring exactly what that means, what freedom costs me (and I’m not talking about the Troops here, I’m talking about brain cells), and how to manage all night parties with keeping a job.  At 19 years old, it’s not actually that hard.  Ah, capricious youth.


Walking around the city with this music playing in my eardrums takes me there every time.  I don’t think it will ever change.  When I have flashes of my current life while I’m in this zone, it seems so duplicitous.  Not that I’m such a different person in 2009.  I was remarkably responsible with my wanton recklessness back in the day.  It’s just an entirely different context now.  I would walk in my neighborhood back then and wonder if the guy that just passed me could possibly be the same guy who surreptitiously handed me his phone number the night before.  Memory wouldn’t really serve.  My bodega on the corner knew to send me up a bagel and coffee on Sunday mornings at noon, because most likely I couldn’t be bothered to roll out of bed to get it. 


This spell is broken as my key unlocks the door to our Brooklyn home.  All the sovereignty, careless conduct, and bad behavior fall away as my 37-year-old self walks in.  And while those old times were so good, I am always relieved to turn the music off and listen to the ever-present requests for a later bedtime, an extra book or a second desert.  Just one embrace from Roan for one second gives me more happiness than a lifetime of youthful adventure.  And one flirtatious glance from Anson gives me more butterflies than any phone number handed over any time ever at all ever for real. 

Am I alone in this time-travel? I don’t think so because every time I’m on the subway I see more people with white ear buds in than out.  I see heads bopping, eyes closed (or studiously reading Dr. Zizmor’s ad for “Beautiful Clear Skin” which I cannot believe how unfair it is that at 37 years old still speaks to me) and a few wan smiles.  What music takes you back?  And how is it to go there?  More importantly, how is it to come back?  And in the comments: please feel free to not make fun of Skid Row.  I’m sensitive about that.



21 responses to “Magical Musical Time Travel Machine

  1. Over at there’s a subtle reference to Devo. Then I come here and get another trip down memory lane.In answer to your final barrage of questions. The ring tone on my mobile phone is Ant Music. I just replaced my Breakfast Club DVD because it wore out. I’m a huge fan of John Cusack, as much for the soundtracks to his movies as for his acting.

  2. I’ll do you one better than not make fun of Skid Row. I’m putting them on my list, and adding Slaughter, Queensryche, and Guns’n’Roses. These bands take me back for sure. I have the same sensation of being back in my more youthful times. Yes good times. But not as good as now.Love this entry. I’m going to iTunes right now for some Sex Pistols.

  3. I’m all over this one. Music is an intensely defining aspect of nostalgia, almost as much as smell. I’ve had snippets of memories return in the tune of a song and when I pour through the iTunes store and listen to it, I can remember sight and memory where I was when that song was important to me. I’m shameless in how much I love music nostalgia and thank the stars every day for iTunes and downloading. My playlists are so eclectic, but each song has meaning beyond explanation.I’m with Big Mike too- John Cusack is my movie star crush, big time. I loved the music in ‘High Fidelity’ almost as much as the movie. The songs and the emotions are great to re-live, but like you, reality is many steps up from the past. I can listen to my old love songs and remember the guys associated with them, but it pales to the reality, and really, it makes me far more appreciative of it because it shows me just how far I’ve come.

  4. J-I often time-travel with music…doesn’t even have to be a song from back then, but New Order is particularly good and transporting me. The time-travel has a number of effects on me: 1) Achy-type sense of longing for the days of less responsibility, and more freedom and spontaneity. 2) Gratitude that I am at a place in my life where happiness can come more easily, with a glance or a hug or an extra book at bedtime. 3) Deep seated urge to integrate the various sides of my being into one, unified and satisfied state.This is happening with greater frequency and ferocity. Its message to me: find the best you from the different times in your life, and then masterfully weave them together into a beautiful blend of self-ness…this is where you will find true joy.

  5. My husband and I just had this conversation yesterday! Pixies, The Cult, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Opal, The Smiths,etc. I love being a mother of two but I refuse to wear mom jeans. And every once in awhile, when I hear Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life on the radio, instead of the theme to the Wonder Pets, it feels so visceral. I’m transported back to art school and that sense of freedom and the unknown future where anything is possible. Music is so, so powerful and helps reconnect with that lost side of me.

  6. That’s funny my bro and I are both feeling nostalgic. We did rock Devo pretty hard back in our day. We were so cooooool. I wholly support Ant Music as Adam Ant was my first long-lasting superstar crush. I want that ringtone.

  7. Emily – oh man you’re totally outing me as a closeted heavy (pop) metal groupie. In High School I pretended to not dig those bands. It was only after I moved away that I started openly listening to them. Love. Hair. Metal. So bad, yet so very good.

  8. Yeh High Fidelity really spoke to me too! At the time it came out I owned a record store and my employees were similar to the characters in that show. Not surprisingly, the store didn’t make very much money but the experiences I had there are so great to visit in music-assisted memories.

  9. Geeez LeLaLu you have again really come up with something grand from my dum dum rantings. For real, your #3 effect is the meaning of my life right now. I’m certain that my husband would be a tiny bit happier if I could reclaim some of the abandon I had when I was younger. With adulthood and motherhood I may have forgotten how to relax, just a little. Integrating these two real pieces of myself would make life just a little bit better.

  10. Karen! YES. No to mom jeans. Even ironic ones worn by hipsters. Just NO.Also – I just visited your website. Wow. Here’s where I fail. I can write forever and ever about one outfit that Roan wears, but I do not have the means to speak about art. I try to with my sister’s work, but always feel like Forest Gump when I do. So, when I say to you that I really like your work, that’s the best I can do. And Karen – I really really really really like your work. Really. Really. A lot. Ok.

  11. I found your blogs via your recent award(Congrats!) I love your writing. This post hits home especially since I just changed the playlist on my iPod. The first few or so songs are from the “Annie” soundtrack. (Original Broadway cast recording, natch.)So what I’m trying to say is, I will never tease you about Skid Row. But if you upload the movie soundtrack to Annie, game over.

  12. Someday when Roan is somewhere between 14 and 19 you will be there again. Only this time, if you share your love of the good old music of yesteryear, I am warning you now, you will be mocked. I know, I am living that dream. LOLBTW, love your blog.

  13. Ok Anne – I just checked out your page and can tell I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there. John Denver? Really, you can see that deep into my heart? Love it. Also – We own the movie Annie, and Roan can’t get enough of the Drunken Carol Burnette. Just awesome. And I can say it – great soundtrack.

  14. Kat – What is up with that age group? My newest experiences is with my neices and nephews in that age group. Being the very awesome and hip aunt I am, I speak the language of the youth to them. Still, they constantly tell me I’m about 5 minutes behind. Vatevah. That just makes it vintage, right?

  15. My 19 year-old self is not nearly that hip. It includes showtunes, Garth Brooks and Ini Kamoze. I was diverse in my awesome nerdiness.

  16. It´s funny how i kind of keep away from certain songs because of that time travel. And today i listened to concreat blonde (i´m 32, so part of my surfer girlfriend fase) and it totally transports me to wonderful, carefree days. But as soon as i need to drive the kids to school it´s back to mamma mia and jonas brothers (better than some other stuff that they like to hear).I love reading your words, because i´m a mother of a 6 and a 2 yr old..and i definately relate!!!

  17. Casey – to me, that awesome and diverse nerdiness is the definition of hip. You rock. Now I have to go look up Ini Kamoze.Mafalda – Oh yeh I used to love them as well. Also, a confession. I enjoy the music of the Jonas Brothers. I don’t know how it happened, but that’s just some truth right there. Please don’t quit me.

  18. Wow, I never knew that Magical Musical Time Travel Machine. That’s pretty interesting…

  19. Hi,The mice who live in a shoe decide they need a holiday. With an old bowler hat found in D. Rat’s junk yard, they build an amazing travel machine and set off on a round-the-world trip…

  20. Jamaica vacations beachside

    If you’re looking for an affordable Port Antonio lodge try great huts. You’ll meet other travelers and have a lot to talk about. This isn’t the typical hotels in Port Antonio Jamaica.

  21. Sex pistol………Can you fill me in more?Wonderful post.

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