The first true sign of trouble in my parents’ marriage aside from several months of late night quarreling happened in the driveway to our home that was tucked into the curve at the end of Cedar Oak Cove in Bartlett, Tennessee, a small suburb just northeast of Memphis. It was June of 1984, and my mother had rented a white four-door Buick to drive to Destin, Florida for a week — this would become a summer vacation we would take every year to “The Redneck Riviera” — and my father didn’t get into the car to come with us. Neither I nor my siblings understood why, and all of us ended up hiding underneath pillows and in between blankets to the sound of the radio the entire 12-hour drive down in an attempt to escape.
Every Top 40 radio station between Tennessee and Florida had five songs on repeat, and each one of those songs to this day reminds me of that particular feeling of uncertainty. I cannot hear the following song without being enveloped with the memory of salt water in my hair and the smell of suntan lotion all over my arms.
Thompson Twins – “Doctor Doctor”
I was the child in our family who was most affected by my parents’ divorce, and listening to anything on that trip without my father was more than a little heartbreaking. Again, he was the one who introduced me to music, and it all began with his obsession with the earliest albums by The Bee Gees. Horizontal was a fixture on the record player at home and the following tune is the first song I ever remember hearing.
The Bee Gees – “Words”
Seeing the tiles in this video from 54 years ago startled me given that I saw this pattern all over the façades of buildings in Lisbon this summer, and it was this rugged quality of that city that I loved the most. I took hundreds of photos of these tiles in patterns that surprised me every time I turned down an unexplored street, and I had hoped to bring them home to inspire my own artwork.
My father took us to Florida the following summer, and my parents took turns with this vacation until I began heading to those same beaches with friends in high school. One year I snuck off with a friend from Honors Chorus whose name was Christie, an older girl who convinced me to wear a bikini on the beach. I had been raised under the strictest of religious standards, and I was so worried that my parents were going to find out that I had shown that much skin on a beach. In front of people. With eyes.
This song was the soundtrack to that entire trip:
Sophie B. Hawkins – “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”
I want that song to be followed by one that has been rattling about in my head for a bit and need to leave it here as is:
Fiona Apple – “I Know”