Friday, July 18, 2008

San Diego Serenade

In my last year of college, I was a DJ for my college radio station. One evening, a DJ was complaining to me that she had the next day's morning shift. "No one listens to WRPI in the morning," she said. I believed her. It was early summer, and most of the students had fled for vacation. I told her I'd get up and tune in to her show.

The next morning, I got up and put on the radio. This could have been a Saturday morning, this could have been before 8AM, I no longer remember the details. But I did remember her cheery voice saying "Rick? You up? You should get down the station because there are all these dogs at the door, and they look like they want to have breakfast. Enjoy this one."

The next song she played was Tom Waits' "San Diego Serenade". The words washed over me like a gentle shower. The lyrics were sentimental and plaintive. "Never saw the morning until I stayed up all night. Never saw the sunshine until you turned out the light. Never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long. Never heard the melody until I needed the song." With those words, Waits launches into a list of laments, each making sense, each seemingly profound though simple.

People get attached to songs, as if the songs speak to them specifically. When I heard San Diego Serenade that bright morning, it crystallized my feelings going into that odd summer. It's a song about getting older, and about the circle of life. It's a song about taking the good with the bad. It's about love and heartbreak. I was 22 when I first heard it, and the song made me think about being an adult. It still tugs at my heart almost twenty years later.

Note: This month, I will be writing about songs.

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