The Soundtrack of My Life With Mike

As the 10 year “anniversary” of Mike’s death approaches, I have, of course, been reflecting a little bit on our short time together as well as the years after. Because every experience in life to me is ultimately expressed through the music that I hear, my thoughts have drifted to me in the form of songs. So naturally I find myself remembering Mike in the shape of the songs that were the soundtrack to our relationship. Brace yourself–none of these songs are by U2!

1. “One Night In Bangkok” by Murray Head from the musical Chess.

This song on the radio on the way to the parachuting drop zone we visited (only to watch) on our first date. Mike turned up the radio and began singing it boldly (he never feared anyone hear his singing voice). He was so cute. I loved that lines like “the queens we use would not excite you” flowed out of his lips without embarrassment. A man who could sing a song with a homoerotic subtext as though he were singing the ABCs was completely sexy in my books. It symbolized the liberal, open-minded man I would learn he was. I loved him the instant he started explaining the song to me as if I didn’t know. “One Night In Bangkok”–hilariously enough–will always remind me of our first date.

2. “Time Of Our Life” by Green Day.

The day I jumped out of an airplane for the first time–about two months after our first date–this song was playing as I was flying over the drop zone under canopy. It’s recorded on the video Mike took of my jump from the ground. The song will always remind me of my first jump out of an airplane and, consequently, my budding love with Mike. I think he fell totally in love with me that day because I was not one to turn down a frightening challenge. Mike liked a girl with guts and determination. It was like I passed some sort of test. I knew this then and I think someone made the same observation later. I jumped for me; I just happened to get a wonderful husband out of the adventure. Which I guess is kind of a grand metaphor for love–letting go and letting oneself fall.

3. “So It Goes” by Billy Joel.

We almost broke up one night when Mike got drunk at a party and kissed another girl. I was totally prepared to leave him despite the fact that just a few hours earlier he declared that he would marry me someday. As circumstance would have it, I had to drive him home from the party since we came together and I ended up staying the night because I was too tired to drive back home to Cleveland. As I was trying to leave the next morning, Mike begged me to stay, telling me to just listen to this one song he was going to play because it said everything better than he could about how he felt. That was Billy Joel’s “So It Goes.” We danced to it together in the living room of his condo. I forgave him as tears formed in his eyes and he profusely apologized. It was his one “get out of jail free card.”

4. “Truck Drivin’ Song” by Weird Al Yankovic.

Mike bought Weird Al’s Running With Scissors because he wanted me to hear “The Saga Begins”–the spoof of “American Pie” about Star Wars Episode I. I loved that song, but we both really got stuck on “Truck Drivin’ Song” which, coincidentally, is a song about a cross-dressing truck driver. Hmm. Is there a theme here? We thought the song was hilariously funny and even had the DJ play it towards the end of our wedding reception, much to the mass confusion our guests. We used to sing lines of this song to each other and giggle.

5. “Little Light Of Love” by RXRA from the The Fifth Element movie soundtrack.

The Fifth Element was more than a movie to me and Mike–it was a religious experience. We worshiped this movie like our own gospel and we watched it at least once a month (often times more). We knew every line and we repeated them to each other constantly. We wanted to dress up as the movie’s main characters for Halloween in some future year–Korbin Dallas (Bruce Willis) and Leloo (Milla Jovovich). We even wanted to name our first son Korbin. We believed the core message of this satirical movie: Life is important.

I own the deluxe anniversary edition of The Fifth Element, which I bought a few years ago when it was re-released. I have only watched it once. It’s just not as fun without having someone to recite all the lines with. Still, I can listen to the soundtrack, which I also own, and remember all those Saturday mornings in winter when we watched this movie together as we lay together on the couch.

6. “Money” from the musical Cabaret.

Another Fritzy and Misha (our nicknames) favorite–the musical Cabaret. We saw Cabaret performed at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland, I believe, during the 1999-2000 season. We were season ticket holders for the Broadway Series during the two years we were together. We bought the Broadway soundtrack and wore the CD down with plays on road trips. I picked the song “Money” because I remember Mike singing it joyously every time it came on. (That and “Two Ladies,” but I was trying to avoid another yet song with sexual innuendo…)

7. “When I See You Smile” by Bad English.

When planning our wedding, we struggled with the song to use as our first dance. Mike kept wanting to use Billy Joel’s “She’s Got A Way” but I kept insisting that we needed to pick a song that embodied both of us, not just his feelings about me. During our first meeting with the DJ, we couldn’t come up with anything, and we lamely picked some song that I don’t recall, I just remember being completely dissatisfied with the choice. Later, as I was painting what would be my own space in his house–a small room in the basement we set up as an office–I was listening to an 80s compilation CD I had and Bad English’s “When I See You Smile” came on. I began to sing it, Mike joined in. I looked to Mike and exclaimed, “This is it, right?! We should use this song!” He agreed enthusiastically and so we did. It was a great choice. Whenever I watch the wedding video, I see two young people in love, smiling at each other–“like a ray of light.” Yep, it was the perfect song for two lovers of 80s music.

8. “Iris” by The Goo Goo Dolls.

The bridal dance at our wedding was The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” inspired under pressure at the same meeting with the DJ when the song actually played over the speakers at the restaurant where we had met. I always liked this song. I didn’t think it had much to do with me and Mike until I found myself crying my eyes out when it came on the radio while I was driving to work the day before my brother’s wedding in 2006. The song still reminds me of the swishing purple dresses of my bride’s maids, my mother missing her call to come to the dance floor with my dad, the feeling of dancing with my groom, all the tension from the anxious wedding day slipping away. There’s a happy, yet melancholic tone to that song that still gets to me, and maybe applies more strongly to our relationship in retrospect.

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

This song actually appears on The City of Angels soundtrack, which is sadly foreshadowing, as the movie is about an angel who gives up eternity for love only for the woman he loves to die just hours after they finally get together. Ah, the ironies.

9. “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff N’ Tears.

We took a road trip down to Florida for Thanksgiving in 1999–just three months after we were married. We took our time getting down there so that we could hit some highpoints along the way–N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. I remember a foggy morning as our car rambled along a lonely highway in S. Carolina where it seemed like we were the only two people on the planet. A white squirrel–the first I’d ever seen in my life–ran across the road as I was driving. I remember Mike reading medical insurance forms to me from the passenger seat; he was filling them out to add me to his policy. I remember the sun setting blood-red over the rolling hills of Alabama’s highpoint–the fiery beauty of which is captured on all our pictures though it’s still not as bright as I remember it. Somewhere during our adventure, the song “Driver’s Seat” played on a station we’d tuned in. Whenever I hear this song, all these memories flood my senses. Somehow it seems appropriate. An old song for the timelessness of the landscape in which we ventured.

10. “Here’s To The Night” by Eve 6.

After he died, I was convinced this song was a message from Mike meant to comfort and assure me. Ten years later, and still no more sure there is really life after death than I was back then, I really don’t know if it was–or even could be–Mike. I’d like to think it was. But that’s what we do as humans–we see signs where we want to in a vain effort make sense of life. Despite the fact that I now have this song among the many that clutter my iTunes, and that most of the time when it plays it’s because I selected to play it, this song still reminds me of Mike. It’s the power boost I need to get through a teary day or to find the courage to do something I fear. “Here’s To The Night” is Mike’s phone number in the afterlife. It’s how we communicate with each other across the dimensions of space that separate us. And I’m okay believing that even if I don’t really think I can talk to Mike for real. There’s a part of him in me and this song helps me channel it.


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