Elwayville: American Girl

I was in sixth or seventh grade when my friends and I went to Red Rocks to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the Damn the Torpedoes Tour. How could I forget? My mother hired “Freddie,” a free-spirited neighborhood girl to drive and “babysit” us. My friend Andy recalls that we all brought pocket knives, just in case we had to defend ourselves against any of the demon urges of rock and roll.

Instead, we discovered the joy of feeling good with a few thousand other people and moving our bodies to the magic of the music soaring through the soft summer air. It was such a transformative experience that the T-shirt I bought became a kind of holy relic, living in my dresser until some 20 years later when I met the woman of my dreams—a red-haired, green-eyed lady from Cherry Creek named Catherine—and I gave it to her.

I have a treasured picture of her wearing that shirt, flashing a peace sign, with me grinning like an idiot at my good luck beside her. I still call her my “Tom Petty Girl.”

Miles of Music

Good parents, great dogs, random road trips and memories made of music are just a few of the things that have kept us laughing and in love. It’s the way certain albums remind us of certain summers. Or certain songs bring back seminal moments when we felt so happy we thought we might live forever, or at least for another hundred years.

I’ll always marvel at how hearing a new song can shake me, and make me want to listen to it 20 times in a row. I once read that Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson had to pull off the Pacific Coast Highway the first time he heard “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. Sometimes I feel that way when his own creation, “Good Vibrations,” comes on the radio.

When my dad fell ill, my mom said the best way to make him happy was to put on The Rolling Stones. Even now, I smile remembering him (and our long-gone dogs) when I hear Jagger sing “Sweet Black Angel,” or Petty “Here Comes My Girl.”

Which is why the comments of two mentors of mine still have me reaffirming my own thoughts about how we continue to find and celebrate the magic in the world, especially as we age. How do we keep renewing our love? One said: “Well, you’re still crazy about skiing.” (Ha! As if flying down a snow-covered hill could ever get old.)

And another: When one of dad’s best friends, who turned me onto at least a dozen bands, said, “I’m not really interested in music at this point.” (That one took longer to shake off.)

The Memory Motel

Here’s what I say to them: No skiing? No music? Really? How the hell do you feed your soul?

I can’t imagine two more inspirational, transubstantially active experiences that do more to encapsulate the adventure of being human (other than religion, of course, which we covered here two columns ago) than someone sharing a deep powder stash or a new song with you. And the beauty is, you don’t have to exchange a single word about those moments. After that first turn, or first chord, you say, “Don’t you feel it, too?!” to each other without ever saying it.

I feel it. And so does my Tom Petty Girl. It was margaritas at The Rio followed by Lucky Dube at The Fox that set us on the path we’re still finding. I think it’s safe to say a majority of Elevation Outdoors readers wouldn’t be with their significant others if it weren’t for some song or show.

If you agree, you can fill in the blanks right here: “I was always attracted to _____________, but it wasn’t until that day/night when we went to see ____________ at ________________ that I really knew.”

And, if you can’t fill in the blanks, I’d strongly suggest you make a plan to get out and listen to a lot of live music this year (and to ski next winter). Not because I am sure you can find love, but because I am absolutely positive the experience will make you feel better about you.

Bottom line: That’s what music can do.

Illustration by Kevin Howdeshell / The Brave Union.

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