(Not that Elvis.)
There have been a few slices this month about music and memory, songs that take us back to some particular place, time, person. I’ve written a few posts like that, too. (My favorite is the one about Prague and She’s Crafty.) These new posts are inspiring me to dip back into that well.
There are so many songs, right? So many memories tied to music. The first workshop we did for Girls Write Now was “Music Memoir,” and I wrote a piece about a song that called up sadness over the loss of my father. And then there’s the one about When Doves Cry and the memory of falling in love in Ljubljana. So many songs. So many memories.
The one that keeps tapping my shoulder tonight is from the same trip that gave me the Beastie Boys memories of Marek.
I spent a lot of time walking during that trip to Prague. And a lot of time alone. My friends all had school or jobs, so their days were spent in their lives and we would meet up after dinner. So during the day I walked, from one end of the city to the other, through tiny cobbled streets, in and out of parks, up to the castle, back and forth across the bridges over the Vltava. I listened to music most of the time because it was a way to put up a wall. (Hmm … that probably needs explaining, but that’s a longer story. Maybe tomorrow.) And although I listened to a lot of different music — Jimi Hendrix, Joe Jackson, Joni Mitchell — the song that is locked to the city for me is Elvis Costello’s (The Angels Wanna Wear) My Red Shoes.
I hear the opening beats and I’m sitting on a bench by the river, writing in my journal, trying to find the words that will make the golden light and the smell of lilacs stay alive on the page, trying to keep track of the few words I was learning in Czech, starting to work on a story that would grow into the first long story with a fully completed arc I’d ever written. I hear that song and I’m riding the tram, and I’m walking, walking, walking … up to the castle, back down through the gardens, around the Old Town, around the Kampa, stopping for coffee or ice cream (two of the three kinds of “food” I knew how to say in my first days in the city), and then starting over again. I remember the gorgeous garden I discovered on some side street, the gate open and the ivied stone benches too inviting to pass up. I have no idea if that was someone’s private home, a school, a business. There was no one around for the whole time I sat there dreaming.
I haven’t been back to Prague since that trip. I imagine it is hugely different now (that visit was in the mid-80s, after all). I hope I would still find it magical, still find at least some of the tiny corners of loveliness I found on those long walking days.
Find all of today’s slices on Two Writing Teachers.