5 min read

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Music creates an emotional attachment to our lives like nothing else can.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves

a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Last weekend, I started the process of clearing out items that were unwanted from my bedroom and found several things that gave me pause. I consider myself a minimalist, or attempt to be one, but I do have a habit of carrying items from place to place that I consider valuable without revisiting those items to question whether they still have worth or not. Food and clothing are easy to part with, it's the small things that linger which occupy my mental space more.

Going through the boxes that were in my closet, I found myself getting annoyed by some of the items I was pulling out of hiding. They were still in good condition, but the likelihood of them being useful for me now were slim to none. A good backpack that served me well during University with both a sunglass holder (padded) and a CD player holder with a hole for headphones; several pairs of wired headphones now replaced with wireless headphones and Airpods; an external hard drive (1 TB, spinning disk) which has been replaced with a SSD 6 TB version; a laptop bag that I have had for nearly 20 years, with the nearly 20 year old MacBook inside (which will be recycled); so many baseball cards; so many CDs.

I have yet to make a pass through all the books in boxes and on the shelves collecting dust. Those are always the hardest for me to give up for some reason, even though most I have only read once, or, embarrassingly, have yet to read. It's the CDs that I am drawn to this time though.

Music creates an emotional attachment to our lives like nothing else can. We remember our first live concerts, our first CD purchase (if born before the late 80s), our wedding song, and then we choose music to have played at our memorial service or your family chooses music to remember you by. Listening to a song that you have not heard in years brings back a flood of memories of car rides, romantic moments, karaoke sessions, or performances on stage. Music moves our emotions. It's one of the reasons why Chuck Klosterman started his book, The Nineties, with the story of Nirvana.

Flipping through the binders full of CDs, some of the music I still listen to through streaming services if they are major bands, like Nirvana, Ashley MacIsaac, Tea Party, Prodigy, Moby, and more. But others, the more obscure electronic groups, don't have their music published on any of the major streaming platforms. The two CDs in the image at the beginning were in a single case, a case that wasn't even for either CD as the original cases were long ago discarded. Seeing the disc covers brought back some fond memories for me:

Wave Workers Foundation was discovered at a small record store in Regina when I was in University along the Scarth Street Mall. The name escapes me, but it was small, cramped, and full of vinyl and CDs. Walking in, there was always music playing, obscure indie bands or imported CDs from Europe or Australia. My visits to the store were in 1999-2000, when I was mainly listening to electronic music and exploring rave culture. The hunt for new music to listen to was most active during this time. I was more than happy to venture down the rabbit holes of music if I heard something that was interesting and got my feet moving instantly. Wave Workers Foundation happened to be playing when I walked in one day, and it was an instant purchase.

I was able to find the album on YouTube, since I don't have a CD player in my house anymore (the CD looks scratched anyways), and it brought me back to that time of listening to music while reading my textbooks, writing papers, and then heading out to the smaller venues on the weekends to listen to music until the sun started to rise again.

[ Quick update: I heard from Rik May, founder of Wave Workers Foundation, that he has uploaded the music to Spotify. Very cool to hear from him. ]

Shortly after the discovery of Wave Workers Foundation (who only produced the one album), I made my way to Hartford, CT, at the beginning of 2001. I was there for an internship at Theater Works to give myself a mental break from University. That experience should be written about another time, but it was one of the most challenging times of my life being in a unfamiliar place without easy access to support from friends or family. The six months I was there was more than enough for me.

Housing was part of the deal for the internship, which was necessary since interns were only paid around $100/week from what I recall. The first home I stayed in was located in south Hartford. With limited funds, I tended to walk to and from work, picking days when I was exhausted to ride the bus. On one of those walks, I passed a record store along the main street, and then another time when I was walking past after work, I saw a bunch of young people lined up alongside of it with music playing. Underneath the record store was a small dance space that they were using for raves on the weekends.

I took a separate trip to the store on a day off to check out the music they had inside. This store was more focused on DJs so there were several record players available for people to play the music on to try it out. One of the featured CDs they had on display was a local DJ from New England, Osheen. I played the CD and within minutes of the first track, I was hooked. Another instant purchase. I played that CD on my walks so much that I became accustomed to hearing certain tracks at specific moments. If I didn't hit a certain intersection at the time a track had started, I knew to pick up my pace to get to work on time. That trend continued during my other apprenticeship in Syracuse, NY, when I walked to/from work almost daily.

Amazingly to me, Osheen is still DJing and creating music in the New England area, even using the same logo for his albums, 20 years later. I don't believe that would be the case with the other CDs if I took the time to go through them. The energy it takes to create, and keep creating, is special. Life tends to get in the way or other things come up that are more interesting to pull you in a new direction.

Allowing these memories to surface again through music feels good. They are reminders that I did have adventures in my younger years without going overseas like a lot of other friends did, and still do. The pull to explore new worlds is always strong when we are still seeking to discover ourselves and escape the novelties of our current surroundings. It's an opportunity to find new flavours, sounds, and cultures. I just happened to explore places that were not as far away.

Regardless of where we go in our younger life or as we mature, we bring home mementos to remind ourselves of the experiences we had. My memories happen to come alive again through the music I have discovered at each step of my journey, retelling the story of my life once again.

First track on the album for Unorthodox House

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