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Travel Story - Soundtrack of my life

The search for music for the soul on the road

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Nine years ago, I met a Canadian guy at the Auckland airport. I ran into him later in the bar at the hostel. He was renting a camper with a Norwegian guy and a British guy. They invited me along. We spent two weeks cruising north of Auckland. It was incredible. Whenever I hear Killing Me Softly or The Macarena, I am transported to that two weeks, with the nocturnal forays to Hot Water Beach, the immaculate Cape Reinga sunset, where the Pacific meets the Tasman and to scaling a very steep cliff, possessed by the rigors of James Bond films past.

Feeling Groovy finds me at Big Sur on a road trip with a girlfriend. Bittersweet Symphony flies me to Taipei, Taiwan, where I spent some of my finest times. Gloria Estevan’s Latin CD sees me salsa-ing with some Mexican actors I worked with in Toronto, Quebec, Miami, Lyon and Cuernavaca. Taj Mahal’s Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes sends me glassy-eyed with joy to Byron Bay, and Leaving on a Jet Plane reveals a tearful me, pining for a boy while I was in Indonesia.

Often the songs related to a country have little to do with the self-same country. They also often have little to do with personal taste. These signature rhythms carry us into our respective pasts. They may have just been on a lot, in bars, hostels, clubs, campers…. Sometimes the songs were playing loud when something generally unprintable was happening.

My most recent trip was back to New Zealand, Australia and then on to Thailand. It was in Chiang Mai where I encountered the supplement of the soundtrack of my life.

There was a mixed CD that someone had sent to Mim, the eminent laughing Spicy House owner and resident. We played this CD a lot, along with The Gotan project. The mixed CD had Spearhead, some Paul Simon, Beatles, Tori Amos, and that guy with the really deep voice, Crash Test and other good stuff. The soundtrack for Chiang Mai, after a couple of weeks of the same collection of tunes was nearly fixed. But then Charmain turned up. She had worked with a girlfriend of mine in Vietnam. She’s British. Her accent is animated and lovely and quite thick. Charmain’s music stirred it all up.

When the TV addicts left the room, she leapt to the set, shut it off, threw on some random CD and quickly sat down. It started in English and then poured itself into a delicious French and then it careened into funky Spanish. The styles were varied, the beats contagious. I was in love. I couldn’t stop moving, and I couldn’t stop smiling. I knew I would never tire of this CD. I wanted to listen to this over and over, revelling in the harmonic fantastic womb of this treasure. Once again, I had succeeded in blocking out the more than once that I bought a CD/tape/LP over the years and played it to death. My brain neglected to remind me that I had only recently begun to re-appreciate Belinda Carlisle. I had played her to death in Grade Six.

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