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Fort Mason Dog Park at sunset.

When I was a senior in high school, I bought tickets to see REM. I spent a good $40 of my money on a general admission ticket, and this was 17 years ago. My love affair with Michael Stipe and Peter Buck began on a plane somewhere between San Francisco and Salt Lake City. I was meeting my family for a ski trip in Utah, and I had the Out of Time cassette playing over and over in my yellow Walkman Sport, which was held together with a large blue rubber band.

There are still songs on that album that take me back to the simplicity that was freshman year of high school. My favorite album remains Murmur, and tracks 4,5 and 6 continue to be the holy trinity of the album to me: Talk About the Passion, Moral Kiosk, Perfect Circle. Three stoic songs plugging along so many years later.

Sadly, I didn’t get to go to the concert, and I was heartbroken. I was extremely sick with a stomach attack that still, 17 years later, remains unresolved. My mom wouldn’t let me go. She was never unreasonable, but I remember being nasty about it because I thought I could be. Low and behold, I ended up in the ER that night. My friends bought me a t-shirt with the money they made selling my ticket, and I realized, like usual, moms are always right.

I was supposed to see REM two years ago at the Bridge School Benefit, a huge peninsula festival for Neil Young’s foundation. Between REM and Elvis Costello, I didn’t know who I wanted to see more. It was my dream come true. Sadly, the weather was so horrendous, all my friends backed out. And then the following month, the band broke up.

It’s funny how songs become favorites. They usually start off as simple tracks that perhaps have a catchy tune or a beat that piques my interest. August and Everything After was one of my standard albums in my early days of high school. They were a local band and not well-known at the time. They opened up for some bad grunge band I saw at an amusement park, and I was smitten. Adam Duritz’s voice is lovely. At least I think so. I have had a crush on the poor guy for almost 20 years.

The Beck song listed, is also my favorite. I was in my second year teaching in Connecticut, and didn’t have a CD player. I did however, have a DVD player that I got for my 25th birthday. The Sony logo bounced around the screen. I listened to this song on repeat, trying to convince myself that life was decent. I just wanted to come home. Life was a living hell, working in a therapeutic boarding school. I bit off more than I could chew, and should have been home helping my family with bigger things than snotty kids who could give a shit. It’s such a sad song. But it reminds me of old war stories and battle wounds that I wouldn’t trade for the world because they make me me. That damned song would be playing loud enough to drown my cries while talking to my mom, telling her how much I hated my job. And she, as always, calmed me down and reassured me I would feel differently after sleeping.

Talk about a perfect circle. I had a stomach attack at my parents house this weekend. Actually, it was one of the worst ones I have ever had. They insisted at 3:30 in the morning that we go to the ER. 17 years ago, when I still lived in their house and still was a dependent, and still relied on mostly them telling me what to do, I complained but agreed when they took me to the emergency room. And Saturday, I did the same.

So a perfect circle. Just like 17 years ago, there are still no answers to my mysterious illness. “Nothing can be done”, as Ms. Mitchell says. But I do know this: certain songs rehash emotions that show me how much I have grown as a daughter, a woman, a teacher, a person. I scared the hell out of my dad when I fainted on him while walking to the car on Saturday. I’m pretty self-reliant. But I am so lucky that I have both of them on either side of me at all times, ready and waiting in case I lose my balance.

Perfect Circle–R.E.M.

Hard Candy–Counting Crows

Fools Rush In–Ricky Nelson

I Guess I’m Doing Fine–Beck

Giving Me a Chance–Gotye

Comes Love–Joni Mitchell

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