List for life

I’m in mourning. Two baristas left my coffee shop. There used to be a 16-ounce cup waiting on the counter for me as soon as I walked in - now I have to re-establish my joke of calling a “large” coffee a “big” coffee for a whole new audience. I’m heartbroken. I miss the short barista with curly blonde hair. I miss the tall girl with pink ends. Sure, I see them around the neighborhood all the time. But starting my morning with friendly, familiar faces made a lot of difference some days.

Godspeed, baristas. I’ll miss you.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the ubiquity of change. Change happens all the time: The Buckman skyline grows taller each day; Stark Street alone is home four new apartment buildings and four fewer parks. But these days change feels bigger. It’s not just my block, it’s my life. The implications feel more significant. I feel an urgent need to brush off my adaptability skills and make contingency plans.

The best change by far is the weather. This week, the sun finally came out - like, for real this time. The 10-day forecast is nothing but sun, blue skies, and temperatures meant for May. The changing of the seasons always calls for some sort of celebration - for me, before I chug six or seven beers on a patio, it's making a playlist.

I’ve made playlists for every occasion under the sun since I got my first iPod in 6th grade. Once iTunes came into my life gave me the power to sort, sync, shuffle, and burn, I’ve been an unstoppable force of putting music into lists. It’s a thing for me. Ask my mom how many different mix CDs I made just for running errands with her on the weekends. Ask my little brother, who had to suffer through so many mix CDs the one year we drove to high school together (“Bobby, I swear this one is different, this one has a Strokes song before The New Pornographers. Pay attention”).

Ask my high school crushes how many unsolicited mix CDs wound up in their backpacks or car windshields complete with liner notes - all the lyrics that encapsulated my tortured heart and soul highlighted for their reading pleasure.

(Yes, I've always been this crazy.)

To this day, my first instinct upon befriending someone is to make them a list of music. It’s the truest way I know to express the way I feel.

Music is more than just something in the background. It captures a time and a place; It captures a moment, a mood. I’ll listen to a playlist I made years ago, like right before I left for college, and all of the sudden I’m back on Palatine Hill unpacking my first dorm room - I can feel the stiff carpet beneath my feet.

When I could finally switch from my massive, walk-to-work-in-the- pouring-rain-and-walk-home-again jacket, I made a playlist called “Thaw.” Check it out below.

This playlist came with my to Vancouver, Canada, and to Omaha, Nebraska. One Monday morning as I was flying into Portland, “If it’s Monday Morning” by Lee Hazlewood came on. I could have cried. I opened the notes app on my phone and wrote the first blog post for this blog. Some days, the sun would come out in bursts, for small half-hours at a time between hail and rain, and I’d blast “Love” by Lana Del Rey and feel an optimism for the months to come. In March, Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible turned 10 years old - so I added “Intervention.” The bounce-y new song from The Shins “Name For You” is my anthem for days that feel impossible but not bad enough for me to give up: “Even if your plan is successful/ Have you really got room in your life?/ Yeah, it’s a bland kind of torture/ You’ve played the mother and wife/ But what do you really dream of at night?” When the new Kendrick Lamar album dropped, I wanted to add the whole thing. Same with Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy. My playlists come everywhere with me, and when I have no where else to turn, they're there for me to escape to.

The beauty of the playlist is that all your favorite songs live together and flow into one another seamlessly. Playlists are magic. I’m somewhat intentional about the order of my lists, especially if they’re intended for a specific person. The seasonal ones are mostly chronological. Sometimes I put them on shuffle and Spotify forms killer transitions that make me feel warm and full of life. Like yes, algorithm, you get me right now! Sometimes I listen to the most recent 10 songs over and over until I know all the words.

My latest playlist will take us right into summer. I’ve called it Talking trash to the garbage around you, in honor of the Beck song “E-Pro” which is one of my favorite songs to listen to at work (loud af)  when I’m on the verge of a stress meltdown.

My top five from the list as of this moment:

  • "Omaha" by Toro Y Moi - Thanks Chaz for releasing this song the month I went to Omaha three times. “Baby left in Omaha/ She’s got too much just going on/ All these options forcing me to find myself/ Why on earth would I ask you for any help?”
  • "Sixteen" by Diet Cig - This whole album is great and I would recommend it to anyone. In this song, the narrator sleeps with someone with her same name. He’s the kind of guy “who would meet me at a party/ and forget my name/ and try to take me home/ all the same.” He steals her friends and she has no one to invite to her BBQ: “I’m standing in the grocery store/ Wondering who I’m buying all these hot dogs for.” Girl, I feel you.

  • "You’re Dead" by Norma Tanega - This gem came to by way of Spotify Discover Weekly. It’s my go-to rage song lately.

  • "I Love You" by Wavves - I don’t care what you say. I love Wavves. I love any kind of sunny surf song that makes me wish I was in LA.

  • "How to Boil an Egg" by Courtney Barnett - All hail the queen of the mundane, Courtney Barnett. There’s a Courtney Barnett song for every occasion, mood, feeling. Find yours, she’s incredible. “Yeah I’ve been trying/ I’ve been trying really hard/ Oh tell me, tell me, tell me/ When’s it gonna change.”

Follow along on Spotify! Whether you need a soundtrack for your own life or want a window into mine, I’ll be updating my new playlist for a while. I’m pretty proud of my collection. Feel free to Spotify-stalk.

What are you listening to?