Today I bought a copy of Chuck Mangione’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl, an album that I had on tape in the early 1980s, and haven’t heard in over twenty years. (I know Mangione does occasional appearances on King of the Hill, but it’s not the same.) Between my junior and senior years of high school, I listened to it constantly when I went running: the Sony Walkman and earbud headphones were still new things, and being able to listen to (what seemed at the time like) a beautifully clear recording of “Children of Sanchez” or “Chase the Clouds Away” while sprinting up hills was nothing less than miraculous.
I had spent much of that summer at Duke, in a program that let high school students enroll in summer session courses. I had loved being there– I was impatient with high school, had great classes, and fell into one of those unlikely, doomed relationships that happen when you’re away from home– and the rest of the summer was incredibly anticlimactic. After the program I spent some time in Birmingham, Alabama, where my father and stepmother lived; they were in a very nice development– lots of big houses and pine trees– but I didn’t know a soul there other than immediate family, and so I had a rather self-contained existence for a few weeks before returning to high school. Live at the Hollywood Bowl was one of three or four tapes I listened to constantly during that short time between the end of one really intense experience and the beginning of an uncertain, but much less promising, one.
What’s interesting is that I haven’t thought of that time much at all in, say, the last 15 years. More broadly, I was ruthless about refashioning myself in college. I didn’t keep high school yearbooks, or any of my friends (which was extreme). I chose to go North to college rather than stay in the South. (Most of my friends went to U. Va. or Virginia Tech; both are great schools, but going to them would have felt to me like an extension of high school. The fact that Penn was on no one’s mental map suited me just fine.) And of course, once I reached college my musical tastes shifted: I was listening to Yes and Genesis, and Mangione was elevator music, stuff for doctor’s offices– stuff you listened to in high school. Yet I listen to “Hill Where the Lord Hides,” and I can recall all kinds of details of that summer. There are songs that can have tremendous meaning to you at certain times of your life. Having those songs again means getting some of that past back.
[To the tune of The Fixx, “Deeper & Deeper,” from the album The Best Of The Fixx – The Millenium Collection.]