Music has always been a large part of my life. I grew up surrounded by it from my parents and spending most of my life in dance. Music has the power to move people, emotionally and physically. It has the ability to take you back to your childhood or remind you of adventures in places you once visited.
I have a special setlist of music from my first big Europe trip. Mostly French music because that’s where I was for a majority of the trip before heading out to discover Belgium, the Netherlands and to see Germany again for the first time in a decade. I have become a big fan of Raphael in particular. I listened to his album Caravane ironically enough in a caravan in Voiron.
Although my time in Europe introduced me to a lot of different artists and albums (Raphael’s Caravane and La Realite being my favorite cd’s) I also heard more English music than I would have expected. “1973” by James Blunt was on the radio in France fairly consistently as well as “New Soul” by Yael Naim. To this day those songs still remind me of traveling down the freeway in the south of France, sitting by the Mediterranean Sea in Perpignan and seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. The Louvre,however, came with it’s own soundtrack due to me being more homesick than I thought at the time. Instead of some keychain or coffee mug as a souvenir, I left with the new Serj Tankian solo album that had come out barely weeks before. It didn’t occur to me until years later that associating System of a Down’s lead singer with my home could be anything other than normal.
I think that of all the experiences that became forever paired with any particular song, my favorite would have to include Justin Timberlake of all people. At this point in time I didn’t listen to many pop style songs. I had my alt punk rock music tastes, having evolved out of the boy band/pop fandom scene in middle school. However, while sitting at a bar in Amsterdam, this song comes on over the radio. It’s fairly catchy, has a good beat and I think I might recognize the singer. By the second chorus I was starting to hum along. As “What Goes Around…Comes Around” plays on in the background, a grizzly looking old man sat down at the bar a few seats away from me. We exchanged a few pleasantries and as we were both obviously not from Amsterdam, we swapped a few traveling stories. Here I was, an 18 year old recent high school graduate from California, chit chatting with an ancient looking Alaskan fisherman about places we’d been. I had just arrived from Brugge earlier that day so I was explaining my newfound love of the true Belgian waffles found at street vendors and how their fries put all other fries to shame. And the chocolate, oh my, how Belgian chocolate changed my life. As I tried to adequately describe how a simple grocery bar of chocolate can change existence as you know it, the fisherman just sat there shaking his head and chuckling to himself. He asked me if I had ever visited the Czech Republic, to which I replied no I had never been. He told me that if I ever truly wanted to experience chocolate at it’s finest that I had to go to Prague. I had to go to Prague and order a hot chocolate from any cafe and then I would understand what life-changing chocolate really tastes like. At 3 AM in a little bar in a city I had entered less than twelve hour before, I found myself promising this old fisherman that if I ever got the chance I would order a cup of hot chocolate in Prague.
Over time, the finer details of my conversation with this gentleman were lost. Partly to the sands of time and partly to the several drinks I had before and after the conversation. Yet, somehow, that promise has never wavered in my memory. I can’t tell you the fisherman’s name or the places that he had been. I don’t remember how tall he was or how weathered his face may have been. I do know if I ever construct a bucket list, this promise would be at the top. If I broke every promise I’ve ever made or will make, this would be the one that would remain unbroken. As of yet, I haven’t been able to get to Prague and have that cup of hot chocolate but I know I will someday, and it all started
with a Justin Timberlake song.