On Sunday I sat around for a while listening to old records, mostly ones that belonged to my parents. So my main discovery? Stevie Nicks — yowza! There is a picture of the whole band on the back of Rumours where she is smoldering hot. I was really only familiar with the Stevie Nicks image from the ’90s when they re-emerged into the spotlight, and “Don’t Stop” was the Clinton election-party theme or whatever. I’m not saying Ms. Nicks looks bad for her age, but who knew she was once so gorgeous? I was lying in bed reading the liner notes and pleasantly half-fantasizing about living in the ’70s, all acoustic guitars and cocaine and expensive recording studios and Stevie in gypsy dresses. (By the way I had a similar revelation years ago about how cute Carrie Fisher was in the original Star Wars.)
I was also thinking about how, in 1992, when Clinton (William J.) won the presidency, Rumours was just 15 years old and it must still have seemed fairly recent to the Clinton advisers who approved the use of “Don’t Stop.” I would be mildly impressed if any of the current presidential candidates were into music from the ’90s. Whereas to me, also 15 at the time, the fact that the Clintons liked Fleetwood Mac meant nothing in a world of Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana. “Don’t Stop” may as well have been “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag” as far as I was concerned.
Fleetwood Mac : Dreams
Anyway I am just bringing this up ‘cuz bands like Fleetwood Mac make me all nostalgic in a weird way… I think everybody has this from time to time, like deja vu… nostalgic for something I never experienced. I am not exactly a fan of Fleetwood Mac like I am of some other ’60s and ’70s bands but I have some affection for them, maybe based partly on the fact that Rumours came out in 1977, the year I was born, the year Star Wars arrived and Elvis died. I can’t believe my life overlapped with those things, they seem so far in the past. But part of the nostalgia also comes from the process of listening on a real turntable, turning over the record in the middle, hearing all the skipping and popping from the vinyl. I listen to records and I’m amazed at how short they are compared to the tapes and CDs I really grew up with. They remind me of childhood, of Mister Rogers records and Sesame Street 45s, of my parents’ record player that moved gradually from a living room end table to a floor-level cabinet before somehow, almost unnoticed, disappearing into the basement along with the stacks of records.
This weird kind of nostalgia somehow fits nicely with other things that have been on my mind lately: wondering about whether it’s possible to figure out life and what I want from it. Today I was looking through papers I have written in the past couple years and I stumbled upon one of my application essays. It’s all about my life after college and trying to figure out how I can best contribute to the world. I thought some of my friends and family might like to see it, so here is my grad school application essay from November, 2005 (it’s a PDF). At that time, two years ago, I sounded pretty gung-ho about international education, but I was partly faking it. I will never really know what I want to do and I’ve mostly stopped worrying about it.
The other day, after listening to Fleetwood Mac, I picked out John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy record. This is a good album (at least the John Lennon songs are (and I like Yoko but still…)) where Lennon is considering a return to the music industry after dropping out for years, and I was blown away by the song, “Watching the Wheels,” which I knew but had never listened to carefully before:
John Lennon : Watching the Wheels
“Watching the Wheels” (here are the lyrics) is about how he would rather just chill out with Yoko and Sean than participate in the rat race of life. Of course that was relatively easy for John Lennon to do — he may have had the FBI on his case but he had enough money to drop out of society and yet still live in New York. There’s no way I can completely abandon the world of careers and struggling to survive. But I’ve spent years kind of half-on, half-off of that merry-go-round. Do I have to let it go?