Monday, October 21, 2013

Theme Song

I've talked before about listening to music while I write. Hell, my "Nirvana" station on Pandora helped me pull out my 2012 NaNoWriMo win. I think because music has been so ingrained for me, in the car, or at home in my room, or in the basement while I played pool against myself, or in college trying to do work, or even now, with my novel playlists and Pandora stations and whatnot, it only makes sense to seek out that connection. I want a piece of music to evoke a piece of writing. I want it to help me with the mood, the setting.

In Pet Sematary, Stephen King really hit upon the way a song can sometimes catch in your brain, in your psyche, repeating itself perhaps inappropriately or nonsensically (The Ramones "Hey ho, let's go" in that particular case). I've had it happen to me, certainly. The first time I got food poisoning, I had a line from Clutch's song "Burning Beard" on endless repeat in my head that entire horrible night (it was Christmas Eve, I'd gotten Chicken McNuggets on the Garden State Parkway on the drive my fiancè and I took to my family's house from New York, as we hadn't eaten dinner yet. They were the best Chicken McNuggets I'd ever tasted, since having them in pale yellow Styrofoam at the boardwalk McDonald's in Belmar, but they were clearly what made me ill. My fiancè did not have any nuggets, and we both had fries, and he was fine. So.)

Patti Smith (And Bruce Springsteen's) "Because the Night" has been in my head a couple of days. Ever since I realized NaNoWriMo was still two weeks away, and a new story wormed its way through my consciousness. You see, I've spent quite a lot of time writing that novel in Detroit, The Last Song, but I've never been to Detroit. I don't much write at the Jersey Shore, where I'm from. Maybe I've been away for too long? Maybe my memories have acquired that yellow haze old shoeboxed Polaroids do?

So while I have been to Asbury Park, I get hung up on the details, especially with regards to when New Story™ seems to want to be set. I was born in 1982, but the 70's-80's beach/boardwalk scene is kind of what I have in mind. The Shore scene in general, I guess. It's when my dad, and my aunts and uncle grew up, so I heard the stories. I'm kind of an inside-outer: I know the names of places I've never been, I have these ghostly not-memories of places like The Stone Pony (which I have visited, at least), Palace Amusements (which is gone now), and Mrs. Jay's. Can I do it? If I can do Detroit, I can do my home county, certainly, even if I'm being a little loose with the decade which with I'm most familiar.

My musical love affair with Bruce Springsteen helps, obviously. All those childhood memories, and memories of stories. Besides the fact that this as well will be Urban Fantasy, of course. That, evidently, is my Thing™ and probably has been for quite awhile without me having to paste the label onto it.

While I no longer live there, I do love New Jersey. I love the beach. The ocean. Sand. It actually hurts a little, reading about Asbury Park and realizing the things that are gone without my having really known them. The things I did know that changed anyway, that hurts too. Almost none of the radio stations are what I used to listen to (95.9 The Rat may in fact be the only holdout, and WMMR out of Phillie). I'm unsure what restaurants are considered fixtures, and which ones would have been in the time period I'm focusing on (the Perkins on 35 by the Asbury Circle is still there. I think I might not have existed if my dad hadn't met my mother there).

Google Maps is helping refresh my memory, I assure you, but they don't have quite that Wayback Machine power. Besides the fact that Sandy fucked a whole lot of things up.

(I miss good bagels)


  1. I can use music to get in a mood, but I can't listen to it while I write. I can't take in other people's words and expect to hear my own voice. As for the research, could you go to Google images and search on Asbury Park and 1970s? You might find some great photographs to help you establish what you need.

    1. Yes, a plain ol' Google search has been very useful (also, did you know that Led Zeppelin did a concert at Convention Hall in Asbury Park instead of going to Woodstock? I didn't, until this weekend.) Tumblr has also been very useful, lots of pictures there. I half expect to see somebody I recognize!

      When I listen to music as I write, there's a point at which it fades into the back as comfortably as the chair or couch I'm in, and I don't consciously acknowledge it (I think, anyway. I don't necessarily remember what song is playing when I wrote certain passages, as a for instance). The tempo sure does help, though!

  2. I can't really listen to anything when I write - when I do, it has to be instrumental, or else I start paying more attention to the lyrics than the words I'm trying to write!