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The Easiest Way to Time Travel

By far, the easiest way to time travel is in a TARDIS.  Let’s go ahead and acknowledge that.  But let’s also acknowledge that we’re not all Rose Tyler or Tegan Jovanka, so the likelihood of being able to hitch a ride on that little blue box is pretty low.

Tegan Jovanka!

Rose Tyler!

Now let’s get practical.  Legitimate time travel may be out of our reach, but it’s not so hard to be nostalgic.  And with the massive amounts of information technology at our fingertips, it’s easy to recreate stimulus from the past.  In particular, the key to mental time travel is probably in the music.

I’m on this kick because of the book I’ve been writing.  I have a character who makes a mix CD for his girlfriend, and the book is set in 2005/2006.  So I decided that it was essential to spend three days with one of my best friends from home creating the playlist for the mix CD that my character would have picked.  My friend and I spent hours listening to piano rock/alternative/indie music produced primarily between 1999 and 2005.

These were some of our guidelines:

  • This CD was created in early January of 2006.  As such, we may only listen to songs released before January 2006.
  • This CD should have music on it that we would have listened to ourselves in 2006.  Thus, pre-hipster hipster music.
  • This CD should not reflect the way my friend’s music tastes changed after he met my one cousin from Portugal.
  • This CD must reflect the same themes and feelings created in my novella.
  • This CD cannot reflect what we wanted it to be.  It must be what my character would listen to and want to put on a mix for his girlfriend.
  • A CD-R in 2006 could hold at max 92 minutes of music (despite the 90 minute labels.  This CD must not exceed 92 minutes.

And so, with all of these guidelines set, we began to work.  Between the two of us and another friend, we came up with almost 30 songs that had the potential to be on the list.  And it was a lot of fun, but kind of difficult.  We had to remember band names and song names that we hadn’t thought of in six or seven years.  We had to listen to each song we considered.  We had to check each song’s release date (even though the album or the video came out in 2006, when did the single?).  And we had to think like a sixteen-year-old quasi-emo indie kid boy living in 2005/2006.  We had to remember the levels of angst involved with being sixteen, in other words.  And (even though both my friend and I had to deal with some pretty serious heartbreak earlier this year) we had to remember what it feels like to be freshly in love with someone for the first time.  What would he have wanted to convey to a girl?  What message would I have wanted to receive from a boy?  What was it really like to be a teenager seven years ago?

The Shins, Oh Inverted World (2001)

Which also led into what was it really like to be us?  And what is it like now?  We have inevitably evolved into artsy, pretentious hipsters, but what led us there?  How have we evolved as people?  As friends?  Are we really getting any better (wiser/braver/more mature) as we get older?  Or are we forgetting something that we knew when we were kids who thought we were adults now that we’re adults who think we are kids?

I got another blast of this thinking the day after I finished the list.  My mom and I were in the car driving home from work, and the classic radio station was on.  Each song that came on during that drive had come out while my mom was in high school in the 70s.  And as each song came on, I remarked that the radio was really owning today.  So we talked about how my generation in relation to hers is so different from her generation in relation to her parents.  My grandparents were born in 1925; they were teens and young adults during WWII (my grandfather is a vet).  But by 1977, the year my mom turned 20, the world was radically different socially.  And that level of radical change doesn’t exist between my generation and my mom’s.  Her parents would have never listened to the music she listened to in high school, and vice versa.  However, my mom and I have very similar taste in music, and I tend to prefer the music of her generation to the music of mine.

Stevie Wonder, “Superstition” (1972)

Except, of course, for the alternative/indie stuff that I listened to in ninth and tenth grade.  That music, for me, makes me feel infinite.

So maybe it’s not time travel in the most literal of senses, but it’s a mental travel through time when you actively pursue the music that you listened to in an earlier era of your life.

What was your favorite music while you were in high school?  Does listening to it now make you feel like you’re time traveling?


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