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Today, in some of the most gorgeous weather we have had all year, we played golf. It was lovely. We had teams and we did a scramble. I actually had a few great drives. Surprisingly, I can clobber the hell out of a golf ball.

When we were little, my Gram used to let us practice “golf” on her turf-carpeted back deck. She had practice balls–those plastic orange ones–and we would take her clubs, which ever each of us could get our hands on, and go to town. Gram however is not responsible for my golf habits. I have my friend Greg to thank for that.

When I lived in Connecticut, Greg took a group of kids to the driving range to blow off steam. You have no idea what our job did to we early 20-somethings. It was brutal. He needed another adult, and asked me. I assumed it was like the batting cages. It wasn’t. But what I found that day is how great I felt after pelting a bucket of balls.

I play now and again with my folks. We at least go to the driving range every so often at their club. Occasionally, I will play in the city or whenever we have a school scramble. I like it. I mean, I’m not going to lie. I strike out at bat more times than I hit the ball. But I am okay with it.

All 6 songs today remind me of my two years in Connecticut. I can loosely connect almost all of these artists to Madison. Pearl Jam is easy. I have been a fan since I was 14, so I know Vs.assisted me many early mornings to wake up my 8 boys in the dorm. Mundy is a little bit of a different story. My first spring, I went to Ireland to do a writing workshop. Any small town that had an HMV or Virgin Music or whatever, I would go straight for the top 10 local bands. Seriously. I have some of the best albums ever from this process. Actually, that’s how I discovered Damien Rice. And that’s where I found Mundy. Occasionally you can find them in the States but it’s pretty rare. I’m sure I have some sort of Euro version of their albums too, which make them pretty special. Not to mention both HMV and Virgin Music are probably as extinct in Ireland as they are here.

My best friend bought me the Air album after she saw them at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I love them. In fact, my friend Kelly and I used one of their songs in a play we wrote in which our students performed during the holidays. Kelly also introduced me to the inappropriateness of Ween and the album 12 Golden Country Greats. The songs are priceless. Just be careful who’s in the next car when you’re blaring the album. And make sure you’ve read the EXPLICIT warning.

My co-worker introduced me to Tom Waits and Nighthawks at the Diner when I mentioned that we were doing Beat Poetry in my creative writing class. I have never looked back. I have said before and I will say it again. The three people I want to see in concert are Elvis Costello, REM, and Tom Waits. I discovered Waits’ lyrical, gravelly side while watching the film Basquiat about the Haitian artist who died young. The last moment of the film, Basquiat stands in the back of an open-topped Jeep, holding a Haitian flag. It freezes, as Tom Waits’ “Tom Traubert’s Blues” plays. That song haunts my soul. It brings me back to exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, that was my job for two years.

I had a Jetta. I bought it when I moved back East. It was a great car. Actually, that’s where I started smoking. That’s where I retreated when I couldn’t handle the stress. I should have stuck with Greg and his driving range strategy. We were “encouraged” to leave campus on our time off. Easy for people who grew up somewhere in New England. They could go home. And because I didn’t have a kitchen, just a 9×9 room, I had to eat out a lot too. So I drove. Frequently. That’s when I first saw Maine, went to Dartmouth, ventured to Lancaster County, explored the Hudson River Valley. And music got me from A to B. I had a visor-full of CDs, and the first CD player I had ever had in a car.

When 9/11 happened my first full night on duty, I waited until the kids were asleep and snuck out to my car and sobbed hysterically. I mean, I couldn’t lose it in front of emotionally disturbed teens who were from the tri-state area. I can’t tell you what I listened to that night. But I know my car stereo kept me safe and tight. I was comforted. I knew my new coworkers for only a week when our world changed that day. It was too early for a hug. I didn’t know how to ask people I didn’t know for something as simple and primal as a hug. But my car had a sunroof and I remember opening it, putting my seat back and staring at the stars, knowing that other people on the other side of the country, people I loved, were probably doing the same thing. Communion through the stars and a song lingering in the cosmos.

That job changed my life in many ways. I learned more in my first month than the past 11 years teaching. Most of those two years were not rosy and cheery and lovely. But I learned to rely heavily on my music as a distraction. Clearly it worked. And I would change nothing, nothing from those two years.

Glorified G–Pearl Jam

By Her Side–Mundy

Pretty Girl–Ween

Ce Matin-La–Air

Too High–Stevie Wonder

Blue Valentines–Tom Waits

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