I had the good fortune to grow up around musicians. Not the professional kind – aside from a beer and gas gig here and there, I’ve never personally known anyone who got paid to play. The ones I knew simply loved to play and always had instruments to hand, in case a kitchen or a porch might be available. Most were mediocre, some were phenomenal. A few had voices like Darth Vader. But one or two could sing so sweetly, you just never wanted them to stop. I was also fortunate enough to look a lot older than my age and I had older friends who let me tag along to the various parties they attended and clubs they frequented. I never cared for drinking. Not that I didn’t drink, I’ve just never been very good at it. Besides, when you drink, you often ignore the music. I do love to dance. And I happen to be very good at dancing. When you dance, the music winds its way from your ears to your feet in the most magical way. People will tell you their stories when they dance. If you’re listening. Most of all, I love the escapism music brings. To my mind, a song that tells a story so well you forget it’s just a song, is far better than any movie and most books. The ability to replace reality with adventure or heartbreak or a deep abiding love, in three minutes or less, takes far more talent than anything that takes three hours to watch or a week to read. In those years, when I was slipping into bars unnoticed by the bouncers or sitting crosslegged on the sofa in the living room of some old farmhouse on the outskirts of town, I never really wished to be the person or persons playing guitar or piano and singing. I knew I had no voice, although that never stops me singing along in the car. I lacked the manual dexterity to play an instrument, except maybe the kazoo. I have just about enough talent to turn the selector dial on the radio. And yet I wanted, very much, to be a bigger part. Looking back, I probably wanted to write the songs. I never thought to try. Instead, I wrote down the lyrics to songs and saved them in a notebook for my musician friends to make use of. About the only way to accomplish a task like creating a book of song lyrics in those days was to listen often enough to memorize them. Or buy the album and hope the liner came with a lyric sheet. Or own a record player and records – and have lots of friends. While I did listen to the radio constantly, I grew up in the days of mixed genre stations. Your favorite song was only going to come on, maybe, once every hour or two. Often enough to memorize the chorus, but rarely enough for an entire song. I was too young to work, so buying albums or even 45s was pretty much out of the question. Besides, an entire album was too expensive for the sake of just one song. It still is. What I did have was an older sister who ran with a group of potheads who owned stacks of LPs and delighted in getting all smoked up and stealing albums, and cigarette lighters, from each other. It was easier than stealing candy from a baby, sliding an album off the stack and slipping it in between a couple of my sister’s. Even easier to take it back a few days later because, to save herself the embarrassment of having me for her younger sister, she’d told her friends I was a bit retarded and liked to steal stuff. Amazing to think they believed her. As my luck would have it, my mother had a lovely record player, reel-to-reel, AM/FM radio combo stereo in a beautiful cherry wood cabinet. Sitting in the living room of our house. Sharing space with my dad’s recliner and television. My dad, like most dads, turned the tv on to catch the evening news at 6:00pm and kept it on until the end of the nightly news at 10:00pm. In those days, the idea of headphones hadn’t quite yet made it into the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Everyday, so whatever I played was listened to by whomever was within earshot. And pretty much nobody wanted to hear any record I played, least of all my family. So, the only time available to play my records, in a family of seven living in a three bedroom house, was long after everyone else was asleep. With the volume turned down to whisper. In my mind’s eye, I still see the young me hunched over the turntable, headshell pinched between forefinger and thumb, ear cocked toward the front speaker and notepad balanced on my lap. In the light of Mom’s McCoy Siamese Cat lamp. Drop the stylus, listen with my eyes closed, pick up the headshell and DON’T SCRATCH THE RECORD, scribble what I heard before I forgot it, breathe, repeat. Hours and hours of this. And, maybe, three or four songs total for the night’s work. But, I gotta tell you, a girl with a book full of song lyrics walking into a room full of Rod Stewart wannabes is the most popular girl in the room. Over the years, that notebook took a beating. Amateur artwork covered every blank space, front and back, inside and out. In the center, a huge hand flipping the bird and an equally large joint with an ash my own chain-smoker grandmother couldn’t produce. The paper cover became so stained and wrinkled and ink-imbedded it was as soft as my oldest pair of Levi’s. Inside, the pages weren’t much better. Lyrics I’d misunderstood were scratched out and rewritten, often with notes in the margin proclaiming me deaf or stupid or stoned, but always with a “Ha-ha” so I wouldn’t be offended. I rarely was. That book moved out of my mother’s house and into my first apartment. It had a place of importance on the shelf near my own stereo combo cabinet, bought for fifty dollars at a garage sale the week after I moved in. Along about the time my oldest daughter was born, I found I didn’t need the acceptance that book of lyrics had offered and I gave it to my ex brother-in-law. I have no idea what ever happened to it. But he was a borderline hoarder, so it’s possible the thing was still around when he died and they emptied out his house. What fun it would have been to revisit that work! To remember the songs that told me stories all those years ago. To read what my practically new ears heard through that musty smelling speaker in the deep hours of those nights so many lifetimes ago.