While in college in the mid '90s, I was ensconced in my world of alternative rock, just as the term was losing its grip on being meaningful. Nirvana had changed the landscape for better and worse, effectively imploding pop culture and forcing it to start all over again. R.E.M. decided to become ironic noise rockers with varying degrees of success. Pearl Jam was defiantly following its muse down the rabbit path, willingly putting out music that would be sure not to achieve the commercial highs of its debut album. Live and Counting Crows had their moments, but man, talk about your flashes in the pan. And Stone Temple Pilots...well, the less said, the better. It was a rough time for popular music. And it mirrored my life at the time.
My younger brother, on the other hand, was enjoying his last few years with friends at home before shipping off to Boston for college. And his music reflected that as well. For him, the Dave Matthews Band was the big influence, along with all the music it spawned...Tom Cochrane, the Samples, Jackopierce, and a few years down the line, Hooter and the Blowtwads (uh...or something like that). With just a few exceptions, it all seemed so facile, shallow, and meaningless to me. Then again, I was striving for Significance, learning about the Nazi resistance and reading Nietzsche. While my brother was thriving and laying the groundwork for future success, I was busy killing myself with nihilistic existentialism. At the end of my first year of college, I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to learn or experience. Fat lot of good that did me.
So when I went away to Russia a few years later for 6 months, my brother took it upon himself to make me a tape of some of his favorite music. I graciously accepted it, pretty sure I wouldn't listen to it much. And I really didn't. But one song stuck out, far above all others in that genre I'd knocked for years. It was mellow. It was simple. And it was utterly transcendent.
When I first heard "In A Daydream," I was immediately taken back to the powdery ski slopes of the back bowls of Vail (yeah, I was a rich kid). I imagined myself coasting along the outer boundaries of Sun Down Bowl, turning effortlessly down acres of champagne powder while sparkling diamond crystals floated down beneath an opalescent sky with the Mount of the Holy Cross in the distance. I heard and felt the wind whooshing past and the smooth hiss of the snow beneath my skis. And I immediately exulted in the type of joy that makes your skin nearly burst. It was the most delirious, fantastic freedom I'd known.
Years later, I was fighting the powers that be in chiropractic school, utterly hating life. At some point, I remembered this song and how it had made me feel, so I downloaded it and enjoyed a few minutes of respite from hell every now and again. It never failed to help me feel better.
Leaving Chicago for good was an experience I'll never forget. The night before I left, I had suddenly and unwittingly alienated about the last friend I had there. The next morning, while moving things out of the house, a wicker basket viciously slashed my hand, as if to remind me one last time how unwelcome I was in Chicago. But on that plane, ascending to 35,000 feet, I put this song on, and knew that I was coming home, for good. It felt, again, like sweet freedom. But the most amusing part of this happened an hour after I landed. My mom picked me up from the airport, and we immediately went to lunch at a fancy country club. And here, I heard a Muzak rendition of "In A Daydream" come quietly over the speakers. And I felt that I was finally home...both the home that I had with my man, and the home I had with my family. It was a Tuesday morning, and the lyrics could not have been more apropos: "Tuesday morning never looked so good."
Years later, I recognize how important it is to surround yourself with things that support you, that encourage you toward success, that help make life better. I've long since given up trying to delve into the deepest thoughts of the greatest thinkers, thinking that will somehow make me a better person. My experience taught me that it could be painful and tremendously destructive. I've decided that there are too many destructive forces in the world already; if life is to be fully lived, it's to be enjoyed as much as possible. And "In A Daydream" helped lay the groundwork for this view.
(Oh, and because life has a sense of humor, I should mention that the Freddy Jones Band is from Chicago.)