Day 17 in a month of writing: When an Old CD Feels Like the Soundtrack to Life


My daughter Betsy has a love for books. She appreciates new books, old books and used books. A favorite annual summer event here in Bloomington Minnesota is a used book sale that goes on for a couple of weeks. Volunteers keep adding to the selection as donations continue coming in. We spent a rare rainy afternoon there perusing the stock, when she wasn’t working her garden-center job. While she examined the stacks on tables organized by genre, I poked around in the DVD and CD selections. It was there in a section designated for movie soundtracks that I struck gold.

Gold is the color of the costumes associated with the finale in A Chorus Line. Golden tuxedos and top hats. I read over the titles of the songs which were displayed in the order of their appearance in the show. It sort of made me want to tap dance, right there in the former Border’s book store that was serving as the venue for the fundraiser (since Duluth Trading Company had moved into the previous vacant storefront where we had first fallen in love with the event). Lacking carpet and filled with only the temporary tables and shelves, it seemed the acoustics were all wrong for a tap solo, so I refrained. I was excited none the less. I purchased  it and a Life magazine for my son, the one from the week Princess Diana (and Mother Teresa) had died. Money for a good cause and used items to a good home, a winning combination.

It wasn’t until I was listening to it in the car with my kids that I realized there was a pronounced “wacka-wacka” guitar presence. My son who is the veteran of many a musical from various eras was quick to identify it as an eighties sound. True, the movie came out in 1985 but the original Off Broadway (and Broadway for that matter) stage production was a full decade earlier. Despite the dated sound (or perhaps because of it) I have been enjoying it in my car, primarily alone, ever since.

I saw A Chorus Line at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater in 1986, during the spring of my senior year of college. It had been an unusual year in that I was the Assistant Director of Mitchell Hall on campus at St. Cloud State and my Hall Director had a child who was sick and hospitalized that fall, was later on maternity leave after the birth of her son and ultimately accepted a position with a nonprofit off-campus before the end of the year. It was my boss that took me as a very special appreciation gift for my efforts in her absence. It was extravagant activity for a college student whose idea of an evening out usually involved having her hand stamped after showing her ID (honestly, by spring of my senior year there was not a bouncer in town who didn’t know me). It was a generous and much appreciated gesture and I am pleased to say that my former supervisor and I have remained friends over all of these years.

The irony associated with this CD has come from driving down the road, belting out the lyrics of the shows score. “God I hope I get it, I hope I get it. How many people does he need? How many boys, how many girls?” while on my way over to the Workforce center to sit in on a session on resume updates for the long-term unemployed. Then resuming the soundtrack on the way home “Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?”.

There is an interesting contrast in winding up a college career and being part of the “long-term unemployed”. In both cases you have high hopes for the  future but also a sense of doubt and fear in not knowing what that looks like. My daughter, the book lover is in the midst of her senior year in college and likely is dealing with the same questions I was (am). There is a certain wisdom that comes with life experience and that is the knowledge that as much as you would like to be assured of how things will play out, it would be impossible to comprehend in advance. I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined the husband I would end up with, the beautiful, creative and funny children I would have or some of the less pleasant things I would experience and endure that have shaped who I am.

So hopefully that offers some explanation, should you be driving down the road some day this fall and encounter a woman in a Honda CRV (with stickers on the back identifying the colleges her children attend) with her windows rolled down who is singing along with her bargain CD:

“Kiss today goodbye,
The sweetness and the sorrow
Wish me luck, the same to you
But I can’t regret
What I did for love,
What I did for love!”

Thanks Sue, see what you started?



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