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April 24, 2013

Me Vs. Music

I go round

I haven’t had the chance to change CDs in my car in a very long time, not since I got my car back from the body shop two years ago, after 25 feet of my neighbor’s tree fell on it. Now, I have loaded the car with the music that got me through my 20s. From my years as an artist to those as an arts facilitator, and from singlehood to the woman I was just before I married my husband, one of the albums that remained a constant is Sixteen Horsepower’s Sackcloth ’N’ Ashes. From the moment my sister and I saw them in concert at Louisville Gardens, I was hooked by the creepy hill-folk roots quality of the songs. I’m not saying that hill-folk are creepy, just that Sixteen Horsepower’s oeuvre was dark.

Sackcloth ’N’ Ashes reminds me of late nights at the Mag Bar, pouring quarters into the jukebox and drinking cheap chardonnay. This was back when the Mag Bar was most exclusively for drinking and pool playing. On these nights, I needed to hear the track “Ruthie Lingle.” It’s basically a song about trying to get a little action from someone, anyone — at least that’s my interpretation. Perhaps it’s a song by a man who’s been the piece of action but never the catch. Either way, this song has always been my favorite. Fast-forward a few … 10 years.

Recently, I bought a membership to the Louisville Zoo, and then proceeded to go to the zoo for the first time as a mother. Despite my child being just over a month old and not awake long enough to see any animals, we joined some of my girlfriends and their families for the outing. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to test out the new stroller and check the abilities of my son and me to survive his first real field trip. I packed the diaper bag, another rite of adulthood parenting. This bag is forgotten or ill-equipped only a very few times.

We made the drive to the zoo, and, without thinking, I popped Sixteen Horsepower into the player. I began thinking of nights at the Mag and how different life is now, in comparison with sitting on ripped vinyl seats, having deep conversations with my best girlfriends about love and when it would snap us all up and whisk us away to some form of heavenly existence. We were cute and potential was buzzing about, waiting for us to choose our future.

As I walked into the zoo, giving my membership card to the greeter, I found myself checking out strollers, much as I did when I bought my first appliance, and felt exhilarated. Some have better wheels; others, better storage options. I texted my girlfriends, waiting for me by the carousel. When I see them, their children are climbing on the carved buffalo and posing for pictures. My son is nestled in his stroller for the first time, eyes closed, lips pursed — oblivious. We are all wearing comfy clothes, sensible shoes and only one of us has on makeup. I’m overcome with giggles.

These are the women I used to go drinking with. We were the girls who fought over wearing low-cut tops, nearly died on a kitchen floor from choking on pot smoke, and we were the girls who had dalliances with “The Devil,” men who brought out illicit sides of our personalities. Now we are mothers of little people whom we will tell not to wear tops too revealing, not to do drugs, and never to get involved with bad boys or bad girls.

We did more than drink in those years, for sure. I was in the height of my productivity as a poet. I not only finished many poems, but also filled nearly 12 journals. My girlfriends were having similar creative outbursts. We were living a dream of sorts, different from whom we became after those late nights at the Mag. We were creating, listening and tuning into a cosmic nerve that we speak often of trying to recapture.

I looked at my son’s sleeping face and at my friends’ kids, at times smiling, sometimes screaming, and was moved that music isn’t the only thing that weathers transitions. I’m happy to still call these women friends.

Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.