Unlike anything else, music is the wormhole to my youth.
During the summer of 1981, my family moved from a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania to Mesa, a growing suburb of Phoenix. The contrast between the two places couldn’t have been more vast. I was six, and this is where I grew up.
Equally as vast is the polarization between Rush fans and Rush haters. I don’t think this gap is larger with any other band in rock history, the zealousness between the two factions. I’m on the good side, of course.
One of the most immediately recognizable opening riffs, those synths, those lovely dark synths. It sets the tone. I am brought back to that suburban home at 143 East Jasmine Street. It’s the theme, the words. Peart’s lyrics are mine. He wrote my biography. He knew my mind, my emotions, my longings and struggles. “Be cool or be cast out.”
In the 80s, suburbs began to sprawl as families flocked to them. Arizona was a den of outside influences, a place for the re-locaters, such as my family. But I felt like I needed something else. I tried incredibly hard to fit in, I wore too many different personas so I could be friends with all the different types of kids in the neighborhood. Depending on the week, I was good to some, awful to others. It was an impossible balancing act just to be accepted. But man did I pursue it with such vigor!
“And start to dream of somewhere to relax their restless flight.” When I got older, I moved around quite a bit. Restless indeed. I think there is a direct correlation to that behavior and growing up in a suburb. It was difficult for me to be satiated in that environment: “In between the bright lights, and the far unlit unknown.” That was Mesa perfectly: Phoenix to the west, and nothing but dark desolate desert to the east. I was stuck in that limbo called suburbia.
I lived in that house on Jasmine Street until I was fourteen. That’s when my parents separated. It was also the year I started to really digest what music is. As opposed to something that previously brought either joy or sadness, it became that thing where I understood why it caused those affections.
I listen to “Subdivisions” specifically, and I am brought back to a plane of existence far from my current one. It’s a bittersweet place. But a song is like any form of art: the best ones take you on a journey, they get inside you, they linger afterwards. They make you think, feel, wonder.
And they bring you back. For better or worse. “Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights….”
(Song recommendation by C. Aloysius Mariotti)