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Finally, some of my metal comes into play. My freshman year of high school, a guy in one of my classes intrigued me. He was not cool; in fact, he was annoying and acted like he was ten. But one day out of the blue, he asked me if I liked Metallica. I knew who they were but didn’t know their music. I asked if they were like Guns n’ Roses, and he said kinda. I was even more intrigued.

Flash forward a good couple of decades. I saw Metallica in concert at AT&T Park when they opened for the Rolling Stones. I was 30. Metallica. Opening. For. The. Stones. Seriously? If you were to look at me, with my blue eyes, dimples, and innocent appearance, you would never think that I can thrash it. I can.

Me, in my typical tailored black pants, ho-hum sweater, the occasional big gold earrings. To my students, I am old and boring, and they think I count my twelve cats and knit sweaters while listening to classical music. Oh how they are mistaken. A couple of summers ago, I was returning from Maine to Vermont, listening to only Metallica on my iPod. It was really a sight to see–me in a rented sea foam green Toyota Yaris, driving the switchbacks of the back roads of rural Vermont, secret cigarette hanging out of my mouth. If my students could see that version of me, they’d die. Perhaps I would too.

Referring to tonight’s selection as normal is a misnomer. Metallica and Dean Martin, America and Adele, Tom Waits and Barenaked Ladies. Well, to me these are normal. Throw in some Les Miserables or Showboat overtures, and it’s a regular journey on my iPod. But I wonder what attracts me to such different forms of music. Each of these songs is from a different decade. The common thread between the six? That I like heart them.

I’ve explained my relationship with Metallica. I grew up listening to Dean Martin, but really–what 20-something didn’t own something sung by the Rat Pack after Swingers? America stems back to my love for 70s songwriters and summertime, river-floating tunes. And Tom Waits. Well, Tom is just Tom. And “Step Right Up” is no exception. It’s like Mick’s “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” on speed. But good lord, if you can’t recognize the man’s talent–well, you just might be a lost cause. You don’t have to like it, just appreciate it. Like Dickens or Proust or even the Brontë sister that I loathe more than the other. I’m not sure which is which.

Barenaked Ladies and I share many memories. I have seen them four times in concert. They’re cooky and crazy, and Canadian to boot. And then the newest musician of the six on the scene–Adele. If I could be any musician, I think I would choose her. The first song I ever heard her sing brought me to tears. Now she is a little overplayed, and I need a break but damn. If I had her pipes I’d refuse to shut up too.

Common denominator: these songs charge me up. They get my feet doing whatever it is they want to do. Our relationship is both a paradox and a compliment. I can seem to separate myself from a wide variety of music. I don’t fit a category. I wear gold shoes when I want to and really don’t care who looks at me, thinking it’s wrong. As the Ladies say, “I’m a walking advertisement for everything I never meant”. Tom Waits continues my thoughts on music–“It’s a friend, and it’s a companion, and it’s the only product you will ever need”. And finally, nailing it right back to high school and Metallica–“You labeled me, I labeled you”.

Whether it be gold shoes, red shoes, chartreuse shoes, or even plain old brown shoes, it’s how they make me feel–how they make me move. People might pooh-pooh them, or turn up their nose and find them vile or stupid or dated. But in the end, no one but me can judge that. Just like my music. It’s nice to have a trick or two up the sleeve. Always keep ’em guessing.

The Unforgiven–Metallica

That Lucky Old Sun–Dean Martin

Woman Tonight–America

Step Right Up–Tom Waits

Bull in a China Shop–Barenaked Ladies

I’ll Be Waiting–Adele

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