Road Movie To Berlin, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
[Ed Note: The bulk of this post was written years ago, shortly after I joined Ordinary Times. At some point I lost track of it and I assumed it had been lost for good. A few weeks ago I found it. None of the links worked and it needed to be cleaned up, but the voice I am using is the voice of that time.]
Once upon a time, I was big on soundtracks. I don’t mean the soundtracks of movies, but soundtracks to life. Whenever I am gearing up for a November Novel, one of the preparation steps I come up with is a soundtrack. I collect songs that are pertinent, that make me think of the characters and how they interact with one another. Of course, the more the story revolves around relationships, the easier it is, since relationship songs so dominate most genres. Because so many songs are about relationships, and so are a lot of my soundtracks.
The construction of a relationship soundtrack would begin the minute I met someone. If it didn’t go anywhere, it would go in the dust heap. Otherwise, I’d mentally keep collecting songs until, at the end-point, I merely had to choose which songs I could fit into 80 minutes (formerly 90ish back in the old audiotape days).
Of course, things didn’t end with the woman I married. I created a soundtrack for our third anniversary. The lack of… drama… actually made it pretty straightforward. The closest we had was my needing to move to be with her.
At the other end of the spectrum is Eva, who came before. That was dramatic, and I have the soundtracks to prove it. Soundtracks. Plural. She was also a soundtrack person, and so we ended up making them for one another, three of them mine and two of them hers. It became a way to communicate. After things ended the second or fourth and final time, we were both too destroyed to talk to each other. Except for the coordination of the final chapters of our soundtrack.
That represented the best, and worst, of us. Maybe two people making soundtracks after the collapse of a relationship isn’t unusual, but how many are going to slip in England Dan & John Ford Coley tunes, despite having never actually talked about the duo?
For me, it provided a great outlet for a lot of emotional energy. After the first time that things ended FOR GOOD (the third time things ended, technically, but this time it was FOR GOOD), I needed something to focus my energies on. And so I took the songs that I’d picked up along the way, and then went searching for more. It was either compose a soundtrack or write a novel. Or both, as it turned out.
The hardest part about writing the after-incident soundtrack is typically the songs representing when times were good. Fortunately for my efforts at the time, there weren’t all that many good times to account for. You would be amazed at how bright I did not find this silver lining at the time. Instead, I was left with mostly feigned indifference, a quizzical look at what the heck was wrong with her, what in tarnation was wrong with me, and fish-fish-fish-fish I’m done (AGAIN!).
Her first contribution came a while later. It was somewhere between apology and an explanation. Mine was villain(ess) and a victim, hers was well-intentioned confusion and tragedy and her own sense of loss along the way.
I, meanwhile, had been in a tailspin.
So I returned with the “in between” album, which was a syllabus for that tailspin where her tragedy had put me, at first stupid and hurt and mad, then vacant, self-righteous, then serene, then inexplicably ready to listen, and eventually hear from her again.
And then came the last song…
No one thinks of themselves as the person who leaves in that song. Everybody is the person who is left, crushed, or they think the song is whiny and don’t like it. Yet there I was, listening to the CD as I was driving across the country, and I heard those opening chords and I almost had to pull over. I am not the bad guy in that song. I couldn’t be. I was torn between the anger and… knowing she was right and living through the wreckage I had left behind, just as I had lived in the wreckage she’d left behind before.
Having a blow-by-blow account of your time with someone is definitely a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s instant nostalgia. When I write, and need an infusion of raw or ridiculous emotion, it’s there to pull the right strings. Every song is a memory or memories and typically pretty explicit ones. The music videos can easily run in my mind.
It’s odd listening to these songs again all of these years later. I have at times talked about the great decision I made, and the path taken and untaken. The path with her was the latter one. Creating the soundtrack, and writing, helped me process things that happened during and immediately afterward. The further past the decision I got, though, the less it it resonated. Not so much because I “got over it” but because I gradually became a different person and the songs on the soundtrack became about a person that I wasn’t. The man that fell in love with her, was destroyed by her, and destroyed her no longer exists. And as I make my way through the albums, it tells a powerful emotional story. But it’s like watching a movie that reminds you of two people you know.
I don’t know what became of her, other than that she did marry someone in Las Vegas in a manner that I never would have. Once I realize that there was so much wrong about us that could never be made right, letting go became an easier thing to do. She was always a believer in destiny, and our destiny was wreckage.
In our soundtracks, though, we did make some beautiful art together.
Or, rather, they did.