Far away and left behind

I love a good paradox. Elements of one thing, along with something completely different.  Salty peanut butter and sweet grape jelly. That sort of thing.

Yesterday afternoon I was confronted by such a paradox, as I was picking my young daughter up from her play rehearsal. I love that she’s in a play about Halloween, and I’m pretty sure that she loves it, too. Her rehearsal was to end at 6:30, and the afternoon traffic was moving better than I had expected it to. I still had some time, which doesn’t always happen. Running late seems to be the normal state of affairs.

As I was driving, I turned on the radio and heard the end of Boston’s Foreplay/Long Time. I began thinking of how much Boston I listened to back when I was in high school, living under my parents’ roof. The music wasn’t new or fresh, but it spoke to me all the same. I picked their lyric “It’s been such a long time, I think I should be going” as my parting words to my fellow students upon graduation. In retrospect, four years isn’t really a long time at all, unless you’re a 17 year-old who just wants to get on with his life. In that case, four years is an insufferably long time, indeed.

When the song was ending, I had pulled up in front of the place where the rehearsal was going on, and still had a couple of minutes left over. I thought I would turn the car off, walk into the building, and wait around until the rehearsal ended. But that’s when the paradox arrived.

Foreplay/Long Time was my favorite song on Boston’s first album, but the title song from their second album, Don’t Look Back, is my favorite song of all, at least as far as Boston is concerned. And, thanks to a radio station gimmick called “Block-tober”, they ended one Boston song and led into another one. I just had to hear this one.

Don’t Look Back was the kind of song that I could always put on my turntable and listen to. When I got frustrated or upset about something–which happened as often for me as it did for any other teenager, which means it happened a lot–I could play that song, and its message of “I’ll turn it around” always made me feel better. It was like a tonic for me, a magic cure-all. I can’t explain it, other than to say positive thoughts had to be force-fed into my brain, but once they got there, things were all right.

So I’m listening to this song, and its message of looking ahead, and not backward, was completely lost on me in that moment. I could see my old vinyl cover of the Don’t Look Back album (at that point, it would be years before I ever owned a CD). I could remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, how you had to lift the turntable’s arm and place the needle down in just the right place. I could see the blue carpet on the floor, and the fake woodpaneling that walled off a section of the basement in my parent’s house. It was like I was in high school again, instead of being a middle-aged guy in a hybrid car who was waiting to pick up his daughter from a play rehearsal.

So I’m singing along, with my eyes shut, enjoying the trip down Memory lane, when it occurred to me that I was, indeed, Looking Back, and this was exactly what Boston was telling me not to do. Their advice was look forward and be positive, because looking back just brings troubles. And yet looking back was all that I could do at the moment.

So as I was air-guitaring my way through the song, and shouting the “Don’t Look Back!” lyric over and over again near the end of the song, I knew that’s exactly was I was doing.  However, I forced myself to recognize that there is some merit to doing this.

We all have times and places and people in our lives that we want to remember. Look at who you’re friends with on Facebook, if you don’t believe me. People that I hadn’t heard from in decades are now a part of my life again, and I’d much rather have it that way, instead of wondering whatever happened to them, or possibly forgetting about them altogether.

The song ended, and I turned the car off and went in to get my daughter. As I did, I realized that looking  back isn’t such a bad thing. I still love that song, and I imagine that I always will, but from this point on I’ll remind myself that looking back is how we keep the past alive. If I have to defy an old rock band in order to do it, that’s just how it goes sometimes. They’ll probably get over it.

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