What Would I Pay For All I want?

I just spent the day driving my mom half way to Augusta, Ga. I always meet my bestest sister in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina. Once there, (the middle of NOWERE) we make the hand off: that is she gets mom and I drive back home again, alone. Mom hasn’t been back to Augusta in a while and the visit will be good for her spirits.

It’s funny, but every time I do this, I always feel a little blue. Sort of like I have just seen my kid off to summer camp or the first day of kindergarten. It’s so true, we trade places with our parents……

I switched on NPR for company and listened to American Weekend. I mostly love NPR. They do the best job of human interest stories and if they could just leave out the political jabs, it truly would be a National Public Radio. Today, however, I just let it all roll over me. For some reason, I was feeling big spirited and overwhelmingly American. I listened to a marvelous story about the original indigenous meanings behind place names. Words like Connecticut and Illinois and Chicago and I felt fortunate to be a part of this vast expanse we call America. (Strange and slightly prophetic, Chicago essentially means big stinky place, was it karma that pre-ordained the stock yards?)

Anyway, during the next story they were discussing Radio Head’s decision to allow the download of their newest CD. Apparently, this past week, Radio Head made the decision to leave it up to their fans to pay whatever they think their music is worth. This gives new meaning to having a free market society.

But this eventually segued into the following question: What would a favorite song be worth to you in treasure, in dollars and cents? What, the hosts pondered, would you be willing to pay for your favorite song? What if it meant the difference between hearing the song or never hearing it again?

The host named Desiree made the startlingly beautiful statement that essentially, songs are only as good as the memories they are wrapped in. How true that is! The segment focused on the really moving stories of various listeners, each telling a story about the value they attach to their favorite song. American Weekend posited: how much you would pay for your favorite song, what is that memory worth to you? Would you be willing to purchase it, like a rare painting?

For me, it has to be All I Want by Joni Mitchell on her Blue Album. I inherited my Blue Album from my brother. He was killed when he was eighteen and I ended up with his albums. I remember his girlfriend telling me he would have wanted it that way. At the time, it felt solemn and deliberate; like the reading of a will in a Dickens novel. He had been listening to Joni Mitchell for about a year before he died and somehow the bequest felt spiritual to me in a way I have never felt since. Inheriting a person’s record album is sort of like retaining the key to their soul.

I submerged myself in this album for months after he died. I can still sing every song in order, side one and then side two. I am almost fifty years old and the songs still manage to shape my emotional landscape. When I am down, I still wish I had a river I could skate away on and if I love you, you are in my blood like holy wine, tastes so bitter and so sweet…In fact, I could drink a case of you…

Blue and All I want connect me to my brother like a strand of spider silk across eternity.

My first download from itunes was All I Want. It seemed inconceivable to me to start with anything else. It only cost 99 cents. But I am sure I would pay more if it came down to it. I suppose you could say I have already spent at least $18 on this song. When I couldn’t play the album anymore, I bought the CD. I made certian my daughter knew about Joni Mitchell and Blue. It is a touchstone; a shard of light breaking from underneath the door of my psyche.

How much is your favorite song worth? What memory does it enshrine? Think about it and be transported back to that moment…

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