Musical Tastes and the Titanic

After I moved out of my parents’ house (for the final time), my dad told me he’d send me everything I owned when I turned 40. Luckily for me, he waited an extra year.

One of the fascinations of receiving these items (mostly movies and music) is to see what I was into at an earlier age that seems like a mistake now.

For example, Celine Dion.

Now, I’m not here to bash Dion. She has a great voice, but despite being far from my favorite singer in high school and college, I bought three of her albums: The Colour of My Love, Falling into You, and Let’s Talk About Love. Excluding classical music recordings, the only other artist who I bought as many or more CDs from is the Dixie Chicks (who I still like better than Celine Dion). True, Falling into You won a bunch of Grammies, including best album (beating out, among others, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness — a better and more ambitious offering by Smashing Pumpkins), and it’s my favorite album of hers that I own, but it also contains my least favorite song by her (or by any artist, for that matter): the pure schlock “Because You Loved Me,” complete with awful melody, horrible orchestration, and lyrics that are two steps below the worst of Hallmark card greetings. I’ll be honest, I only bought Let’s Talk About Love because of the song “My Heart Will Go On.” Though about as well-written as, well, a James Cameron movie, the merging of melody and vocals make this song just about perfect in its emotional impact.

I haven’t seen Titanic since it came out in theaters, and I ended up seeing it late in its run (in 1998, but before the Oscars). I enjoyed it, but I was a much younger, more inexperienced person back then, which is not to discount my thoughts on the film, just to point out that — like all those albums I bought when younger — my tastes since then have changed. Would I enjoy it as much if I saw it now? Who knows?

I saw it with my friend and her then-boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend). The boyfriend didn’t want to be there, and said disparaging comments in not the softest voice as the ship was sinking, including a highly sarcastic, “That’s so sad,” at the emotional climax of the film, when all of us in the theater wanted to focus on our tears and not on thoughts of physical violence. Plus, I had to pee with so much gushing water on screen, and so missed part of the movie –as did many in the audience. Listening to the song again made me want to see the movie again, which then made me wonder when the last Titanic survivor died, which led to me to Wikipedia articles of the last survivors of other maritime disasters (the Lusitania, the Empress of Ireland, the General Slocum). And then I remembered that I used to love reading about the survivors of these disasters as a kid. Well, okay, I was more interested in the disasters themselves, but I was six when they discovered the Titanic on the seabed floor, and I remember watching A Night to Remember on TV (and reading the book when a bit older), so this fascination had its roots in then-current events.

In this time of quarantine, I feel we could learn several lessons from these past tragedies. First, so many people died on the Titanic because they weren’t prepared for a disaster. There were too few lifeboats and the crew was inexperienced in loading them. Second, most of the people who died were in steerage, so as in most catastrophes, the poor got hit hardest. Finally, despite the massive loss of life on all these ships (and steamboat, in the case of the General Slocum), there were survivors. Often they were scarred by their experiences (if they were old enough to remember them) and kept those scars all their lives, but the fact is that they grew up and had lives of their own for all those people who didn’t.

Past Lives and Future Consequences

Playing “From this Moment” by Shania Twain today, I was transported back (as I always am when I hear this song) to my sophomore year in college, when I danced to it with a very pretty girl named…well, you don’t really need to know that, do you?

Thinking of her, however, made me think about all the ways my life (up till now) could’ve been different, based on choices either I and/or other people made. The easiest one involves college. If I’d gone to a different college (I got into two), what would my life be like now? Or if I’d met different friends, or if some of the people I’d asked out had said “yes,” or if I hadn’t said “no” to others? What if I hadn’t gone to Japan, or stayed in Japan longer, or worked at different jobs that the ones I have? Would I have still ended up in Seattle? Would I have met the same people here?

It’s easy to look back and connect the threads from the past to the present, but life doesn’t present itself in a straight line. Because of the nature of the writing I do, I often find myself looking back. The trick is not to drown in those memories, or be sad that things didn’t turn out differently. The only life I’ve missed out on with my choices is a different life, not a better one.

Getting back to that dance, I officially asked her out the following week, but she was too busy with school and other activities. Plus, she wasn’t interested in me that way. Probably for the best, for in hindsight I can see that my love lay “not truly in my heart, but in my eyes,” to slightly paraphrase Shakespeare. That was the case until recently, and while the eyes must love what the heart sees, I tended to see mostly with my eyes in those days.

Still, I do wonder how she is doing, as well as other people from my past lives whose current lives I don’t cross that often anymore, if at all. Not everyone is on social media, after all, or on the same social media, and without an email or a physical address, my chances of running into them again are up to chance, just as the first encounter with them was.

Milestones

In middle school or thereabouts, I began writing down “Dates to Remember,” which were dates when important events happened in my life, starting with my birth.  About a week ago, I read through these dates, which now cover over 9 lined pages.

Two things struck me as I read.  One was the type of events I thought important to remember.  The other was how long ago many of these events occurred, and how much has happened since.  Most of the dates cover 8th grade through college.  There are quite a few from when I was in Japan.  Many of the events not covered are in my diary entries, but important weddings, births, and deaths are listed, as are romantic milestones.

For example, I included when my pet hamster died and the first school dance I went to.  I have the date we picked up our dog, and the day we put our dog to sleep.  Lots of firsts, too.  Besides the first dance, there’s my first pep rally, first marching band competition, and first rejection letter from a girl (which I still have).  I have the date Dan Jansen finally won his gold medal, and the date Steven Spielberg finally won his Oscar (which I watched on my Game Gear TV from bed).  My first girlfriend, first date, first job, and first kiss are included, as are the day I learned how to tie a tie and the first time I swallowed a pill.

Some dates turned out not to be as significant as I thought they would be.  Meetings with people I never saw again, dates with girls I never dated again, important parties that are no longer important.  And there are some dates that happened later than expected, and some that have yet to happen.

And yet, as I looked through these dates, I felt overwhelmingly content.  No matter the reason for remembering them, they are all times when something significant happened.  They remind me of how much has happened in my life, and how much I have to look forward to.