Music or Lyrics

How long are you willing to wait?

For me? June 14th marked 10 years.

Postal Service on tour for the first time since 2003, when their one and only album, Give Up was released. I still remember where I was 10 years ago when I first discovered them; on the corner of Newbury Street and Mass. Ave, sporting a pair of  vinyl headphones that blocked out a modicum of retail chatter as I stood transfixed at a listening station in the belly of Boston’s Virgin Megastore. It was there I heard Ben Gibbard’s soft, pleading voice loud and clear:

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Taking a Technological Trip

Today’s 30 Days of Indie Travel Project has me scratching my head a little bit.

Travel and technology. Two words that go together thanks to portal technological advances and an abundance of free wi-fi popping up around the globe. But in thinking about my approach to travel, technology really hasn’t factored in, like the iPhone 3GS travel commercial would suggest.

Sure, I’ve traveled with my iPhone and cell phone, using its built-in GPS to confirm I’m going the right way, but I guess I’m just a little more old school (call me a Luddite if you must). Give me a Lonely Planet and a Moleskine, and I’m good to go. Well that, and tuneage.

Day 23: Technology

Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

Music is my radar. And when traveling, to be able to carry my favorite music with me is crucial. Over the years, it hasn’t always been the easiest.

The Sony Walkman

This wasn’t my first Walkman per se, but it is the one I took with me on our Graves family trip to Europe. Being able to sit in the back of the rental car, listening to UB40 and Bob Marley, along with the Rogers & Hammerstein “Sound of Music” soundtrack, made me realize how music is the ultimate travel companion.

Want to add a soundtrack to the landscape flying past your window? Walkman.

Need to find a better way to ignore your obnoxious little brother? Walkman.

Tossing and turning because your dad is snoring? You guessed it! Walkman.

The Sony Discman 

So the technology got better, when compact discs replaced cassette tapes. The quality was better and you could listen to the same CD over and over without worrying that the tape will break. The only problem? Discman’s weren’t so great from a space standpoint, you had the awkward jewel cases (before CaseLogic entered the picture) and heaven forbid you didn’t hold that sucker on a flat surface.

iPod/iPhone

Steve Jobs. He understood the importance of being able to bring the music you love with you, without the antiquated technology, but preserving the all important power of the “mixed tape” playlist. My iPod is the ultimate travel companion. I can take my entire music collection with me, create playlists on the go, pick-up a new album or song based upon what I hear in a new city or town. It’s a reformed music junkie’s dream come true.

So no matter where I travel to or what landscape whizzes past my window, I know I’ll be able to find the perfect song to complete my travel soundtrack.

You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Throughout the course of this 30 Days of Indie Travel Project, I’ve exposed my thoughts and musings on travel, outlook on life and writing in a way that’s been one-third confessional, one-third personal growth and one-third disciplinary (in the writing sense). With each post, it’s as though I’m peeling back the layers of an onion, exposing new parts of my traveler’s life. And now this…love affairs.

Yikes.

Day 21: Love Affair

When we travel, our senses are heightened. We feel more alive and we’re more free to do things we might not at home. We can be who we want. There’s an air of urgency to everything we do – we know our time here, in this place, and with these people, is limited. If we want to do something, we have to do it now. It’s no wonder then that many travelers have relationships on the road. Tell us about a “special someone” you met while traveling. 

I have to confess. I’m not really the kiss ‘n tell type of girl. Although, I get the allure of the topic. Travel allows us to be the best versions of ourselves. We’re unencumbered by the daily grind, in a state of pure exploration and inquisitiveness that alights our souls and makes our eyes shine with an unending desire to connect, learn and quite simply, really live.

If you’ve been following my 30 Day Project, you may remember my “music” selection about a lovely Irish lad named Sam. If I think about the one “special someone” I met on the road, it would have to be him. Maybe it was the long conversations about music and literature, regaling each other with funny stories from our childhoods. There was something freeing about confessing our deepest held dreams and aspirations. After all, I was a backpacker spending a few days in London and would soon be traveling back home. At the time I thought, “what the hell. I’ll never see him again.” I brought down my deeply guarded wall and let him in — I had no idea he would find his way into my heart long after we parted ways.

Fast forward a few months later and I’m living back at my parents house in the cookie-cutter enclave of suburban Orange County. One day, out of the blue, a letter arrives with its distinct Royal Mail “par avion” sticker. Sam.

And so started a lengthy pen pal relationship – us trading fatly stuffed envelopes with letters that more closely resembled journal entries, complete with photos and the true sign of devotion…a mixed tape. Bands and songs we waxed lyrical about were prominently featured along with a Bob Dylan song. It seemed an odd choice, but once I heard it, I got it.

I’ve seen love go by my door

It’s never been this close before

Never been so easy or so slow

Been shooting in the dark too long

When somethin’s not right it’s wrong

Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go

It was so beautiful, so poignant. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the song foretold the demise of our correspondence-based relationship. And while it wasn’t meant to be, that moment in time holds a special place in my heart and I know it does for Sam as well. How can I be sure? From time to time, we’ll drop each other an email and catch up – something will spark a memory, more often than not, it’s that same Bob Dylan song.

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu

San Francisco, Ashtabula

Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know

But I’ll see you in the sky above

In the tall grass, in the ones I love

Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go

Finding Home

Sitting down to write today’s blog post and it dawned on me that as of today, I will have written for two weeks consecutively. That’s Monday – Sunday (x2), an accomplishment in and of itself. Seeing today’s 30 Days of Indie Travel Project email, I smiled. A part of every journey is coming home. Whether it’s returning to someplace familiar or setting off in a new direction — it’s more a feeling and a sense of contentment than any physical address.

Day 13: Home

For some people, no matter how much they love traveling, there’s always no place like home. Other travelers make their homes wherever they happen to be. Tell us about your home – where is it and why do you consider it your home? 

Until I moved to New York, I never really had a settle down type of life. I always craved the next job or city — the prospect of moving to a new place, starting a new job and meeting new people held a certain allure. When the prospect of first moving to New York presented itself, I questioned it. Could I live to New York? My time in Boston for grad school had me questioning whether Nor’easters were worth the fall foliage and proximity to Fenway Park. New York was an entirely different beast.

Fast forward seven years and after six on the isle of Manhattan, I’ve moved yet again, this time across the Hudson over to New Jersey. A place I swore I would never live,* is a place I now call home. It’s here I find my respite from the daily grind, where I can hole up with a good book, write a story, spend time with friends and loved ones.

Until now, I had always eschewed a permanent residence, always treating my apartments as temporary dwellings. No need to invest in furniture or nice art, after all, it was never meant to be my actual home. Our place is an eclectic mix of our personalities and artifacts from our travels. The buddha head Marc bought in India, the cedar box with Mandarin carvings from the flea market I went to in Beijing are just two mementos that are sprinkled throughout our home that bring a smile to my face when I pass them. Marc and I sometimes wax wanderlust about places we could move to — at this stage, what the future will bring is anyone’s guess. But wherever we go, the relics from our past travels will come with us.

This post actually fits with a new favorite song, which reminds me of Marc. The aptly named, “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes is poetically beautiful, captures the feeling of love and damn, it’s catchy. The chorus is simple and I think best summarizes what domestic bliss means to me, “home is wherever I’m with you.”

*Note: my preconceived notions of New Jersey were formed by relatively few trips in/around the Newark area. I couldn’t understand why it was called “The Garden State” until friends moved to Middletown, NJ. They helped me see the light and in fact, thanks to their daughter’s first birthday, introduced me to my boyfriend and current roommate. 

Lucky #7

I know the saying is “30 days makes a habit” — but I’m feeling like seven days of consistent blogging is a habit in and of itself. Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So, without further ado…

Day 7: Celebrate

Joining in a local festival, holiday or special event is a great way to learn more about a local culture. Share the story of a celebration that meant something to you on your travels.

Being an aforementioned reformed music junkie I don’t know if it would surprise anyone to learn that a music festival is the celebratory event that meant the world to me. I was 18, living in London for the summer and working retail job. The freedom of being more than 5,000 miles away from my parents, living close to my boyfriend who lived in Oxford (my very first love) and experiencing pubs (consuming more snakebites than any girl should) made me feel like anything in this world was possible.

While my days were spent folding t-shirts at Jeffrey Rogers, my nights were spent listening to music in my flat or at my local. I would pore over Select or Mojo magazines, imagining what it would be like to attend Glastonbury. Every band I was infatuated with would be there, from Supergrass and Oasis to PJ Harvey and Pulp. The only problem was that tickets had been sold out for months, long before London was a glimmer in my eye.

Stopping by the BUNAC offices one day to deal with some paperwork I quickly scanned the corkboard on my way out when I saw a small note about Glastonbury. Her name was Tracy, a fellow American and Anglophile – she had a friend of a friend of a flatmate who was attending the concert with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. That’s right! For a few hours each day, our “pay” would be in the form of tickets. And where would we be working? Why, the information booth of course. Yes, an American girl who had never been to Glastonbury or the Somerset countryside would be telling local Englishmen and women where their favorite bands would be taking the stage.

So with a quick call to the London CND team, we secured our badges and within one week’s time I was on a train Somerset-bound. True I had no camping gear and was between paychecks, meaning I had about £20 to my name, but off I went with my day pack that held my toothbrush, some sunscreen and a toothbrush.

Nothing could have prepare me for the concert/stage sprawl, tent cities and caravans that bring Glasto to life. And while Tracy and I did meet prior to leaving, once onsite I didn’t know a single soul among the mass of 80,000 music lovers. This would constitute my first time traveling alone, going to a concert solo and traveling on a shoestring budget (thank goodness for the free church tents that gave you a free place to rest your head).

What made the entire festival so magical was the sheer joy and bliss of everyone there. People from all walks of life congregating in a field in the middle of England to take part of something truly spectacular. When these bands get together at this one point in time to play a song that will never be heard the same way again unless you were there.

Unless of course Pulp makes it a b-side, and every time you hear it takes you back to that moment of anticipation…

The Soundtrack of Travel

The third day of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project and I’m feeling chuffed that I’ve been able to complete two blog posts back to back, and on a school night no less! So when I left the office and pulled out my iPad, imagine my delight in seeing today’s prompt – music. Since this blog is relatively new and many of you don’t actually know me, you probably weren’t aware that I’m a reformed music junkie. Yep, that’s right. While I’ve always loved travel, music was my obsession. In college, if I wasn’t saving my hard-earned Body Shop paycheck for my backpacking trip, I was “on the Hill” in Boulder perusing the bins at Wax Trax records in search of rare b-sides and new indie gems.

As a writer, lyrics were my thing — songwriters putting their journals on display for public commiseration that ultimately allow these songs to become a part of the soundtrack to your life. To this day, there is something about buying a new album, listening to each track and finding that one song that gets stuck on repeat inside your head. It sets off that twinge and you know…someday, somewhere this song will have significant meaning in your life and be added to the soundtrack.

So here goes…

Day 3: Music

Music and travel memories often go hand in hand. A song can inspire our explorations, or take us back to a special place and time. Tell us about your travel playlist and what it means to you.

The best travel playlist I ever created centered around my backpacking trip to Europe. It was such a seminal trip in my life, I suppose it’s no surprise that I refer to it…a LOT. As previously explained, my musical obsession made it nearly impossible for me to decide what songs to select for the three cassette tapes that would be worn out during the course of my three-month adventure. If I do say so myself, the tapes were quite brilliant: some current faves (Radiohead, Pulp, Luna, Morcheeba), my trusty standby (the Beatles) and the truly eclectic (Music for TV Dinners, anyone?).

The songs gave me plenty to ponder as Zuri and careened through the European countryside by rail. Most notable, Radiohead’s OK Computer. It had just come out, and prior to leaving it had been on heavy rotation and two songs struck me as future soundtrackers: Karma Police and No Surprises.

Fast forward to the end of the trip, sitting in a pub in London; a pub I had frequented many moons ago when I lived in London for a summer. I was perusing my latest b-side finds when a friendly Irishman asked me about my selection. We struck up a conversation and ended up spending several days hanging out in London together. A wicked sense of humor, well-read and cute to boot – Sam was the perfect denouement. As our trip rapidly came to an end, we found ourselves across the table from one another, when we decided that we should stay in touch because, “hey, you never know where life will end up.” He took the notebook where I had accumulated addresses of fellow travelers along the way. He made me promise not to look until after we had said good-bye. How could I not oblige?

The next day, as Zuri and I boarded the plane, half-crushed knowing the trip was over and half-excited to return home, I opened the notebook. There was his distinct scrawl with his parents address in Cork. Aside from the smiley doodle in the corner, I couldn’t figure out why it was imperative that I wait to read this. Slightly deflated, but with one flicker of hope, I turned the page and there it was.

“For a minute there, I lost myself…”

The Three Bs: The Beach, Boardwalk and Bruce

Tillie @ The Wonder Bar

Asbury is by far my most favorite beach town on the Jersey Shore. It could be because it was my first shore town or the fact that my boyfriend and I strolled along these very sands when he told me he loved me for the first time. Even without these memories, Asbury Park has inexplicably drawn me in with its perfect blend of history, spunk and individuality.

Take for example its prominent landmarks, Convention Hall and the Casino, which bookend the boardwalk and tell the tale of another time. A time when Asbury was a regal seaside town and the place to be. Truth be told, it kicks my imagination into overdrive and I find myself thinking of swimming costumes and women with parasols strolling alongside the beautiful, briny sea.

However, these same structures also tell the tale of a town that has weathered some serious storms, and not just the saltwater and weather variety. From a generational shift in summer retreats to the riots of the 70s, as I understand it, the tumultuous history of Asbury Park could fill multiple blog posts. It’s a history that I have yet to really dive into, let alone fully understand. Suffice it to say, Asbury Park has a healthy dose of remembering its past and an eclectic group of inhabitants that breathe new life into it, giving it its “rough around the edges” image and a solid place in my heart.

As for the third B, no post about Asbury could be complete without mentioning the illustrious Bruce Springsteen who put The Stone Pony on the map and made this town famous with his first album, “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan, but now that Asbury and I are kindred spirits, I feel I may have unfairly overlooked Bruce. Note to self: rectify this immediately.

And while this post barely scratches the surface, I hope I’ve done it justice and given you an insight into this seaside jewel. So, if you find yourself pondering where to go on the Jersey Shore, may I recommend Asbury Park. To sweeten the deal, here are some favorite pearls.

Know & Go: Asbury Park

  • You can surf in Asbury. North of the boardwalk, there is a small dirt parking lot (note: you have to pay to park here now* – bummer) where you can find a decent break off the jetty. It’s not always consistent, but if there’s a swell there will likely be a crowd. Worth checking out
  • Say you had your morning surf session and want to keep that stoked feeling all day, where do you grub up? Why, Sunset Landing of course! Set on Deal Lake, this small, unassuming luncheonette whips up the best breakfast grub with a distinctly Polynesian flair along with NJ breakfast staples (read: pork roll). Try the Hawaiian bread french toast — it’s like a little taste of the islands at the Shore
  • Convention Hall is the flagship of Asbury Park. Easily recognizable, it’s a shame that it has fallen into a bit of disrepair, but has a lot of character and history to make up for it. I love looking at the blown up old tickets that are poster-sized and lined the walls inside. It makes me curious as to what this place was like in its heyday. Notable acts over the years have included: The Beach Boys, The Who and Bruce (natch). In fact, Bob Dylan is playing next weekend
  • Roller Derby is alive and well here, thanks to the Jersey Shore Roller Girls. I’ve been to two matches this season and I’m hooked. It could also be the $6 Yuengling in a can and watching the girls take the corners with that skate crossover move and a body check. Oh, and I love the creativity in each girl’s handle: M8T, Black Eye Betty and Tamel Toe Stomper to name a few. I have writer’s block just trying to come up with something even one iota as clever. Simply put, these girls rock
  • And say you want to take a break from the boardwalk and experience another slice of Americana. How about Asbury Lanes? Or “The Lanes” for those in the know. Here you can bowl 10 frames, listen to live music, grab a bbq tofu sammie w/ tots at “Snack World” (the most aptly named snack bar I’ve come across in my 34 years) and a frosty brew at the retro, 60s-style bar
  • Asbury also has some stellar cuisine and establishments that rival my former city’s offerings. From Langosta Lounge (vacation-inspired), Brickwall Tavern (good pub grub and beer on tap) and Trinity and the Pope (Cajun Creole – can you say collard greens mac ‘n cheese?), you can eat your way to happiness

Hope to see you there!

*Note: Coastal access is a hot button issue along the Jersey Shore right now. I’m attending a Jersey Shore Surfrider meeting next weekend to get involved. So you can bet there will be a post in the future.