A Pretty Neat Gift

About a year ago, I had just returned from a vacation with my family to Wyoming. It was a great time in many ways, but it was not restful at all. When you have 3 kids of single-digit age, it's hard to find a way to truly relax. They just want to go, go, go. I don't regret that we didn't chill out that week, but I knew that what I needed was something quiet and relaxing, even if only for a day.

The thought occurred to me that what I really needed was a long drive. But how in the world was I going to accomplish that? I did what I wish I would do more often when I realize I need something: I prayed about it. And not long after, I had a work trip planned to my company's facility in Maryland. As a new manager, my boss told me I should take some management courses, and I found one that was being held in Arlington, Va, just outside of Washington. It was a one-day course. Afterward, I would drive 3 hours south to Pokomoke City, MD, to our plant, and meet the people who I support on the network, and spend a couple of days trying to solve some nagging network issues.

A management class, followed by some network troubleshooting? This is an answer to my prayer? As a matter of fact, yes it was. Because while in the DC area, I drove out to Ft Belvoir, where I had spent my last year in the Army. I couldn't get past the gate without a valid military ID, but just seeing the gate and the surroundings really took me back. It was an eventful year in many ways. I kissed a girl for the first time there (very late bloomer). I broke a toe playing soccer, then a freak ankle injury. I learned that I had no business planning to be a cop once I re-entered civilian life. I saw my first dead person while working a car accident. I arrested a couple of people for DWI. I took up reading again after a long absence of novels from my life. And I enjoyed what is perhaps the greatest year of music of my existence.

I had arrived at Ft Belvoir in March of 1986 and left at the beginning of February 1987.  For simplicity's sake, I consider 1986 to be my Ft Belvoir year.  And for me, the music of 1986, while maligned now, was, at the time, one great song after another. In 1986, I heard Simple Minds for the first time, and discovered Hooters (a great band before the restaurant ruined the name). There was new, great stuff from singers I had loved before, the standouts being Springsteen's Live 3-CD box set, and "Lost In the Fifties," a criminally underappreciated song from Ronnie Milsap.  Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen.  A reaction to the pop sound in country music included traditionalists Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, and Randy Travis.  And Lyle Lovett, who didn't fit in with that group but gave us the masterpiece known as "Pontiac" that year.

And so much more. Pretty In Pink. Wouldn't It Be Good. The Bangles. Lives In The Balance. Fabulous T-Birds. Sledge Hammer. Living In America. Bruce Hornsby.  Live To Tell (the first time I heard Madonna do anything of substance; this song is brilliant). Addicted To Love. Higher Love. Crowded House. Til Tuesday. Famous Blue Raincoat. Strong Persuader.  Mike + The Mechanics. Aerosmith, thought to be a 70's band, returns as guests of a rap version of their own song. The Jets. The Outfield.
The greatness of Paul Simon's "Graceland" CD.
Out-of-the-blue returns from The Monkees, Boston, James Taylor, and The Moody Blues.

I could go on and on. Just typing the sampling above has been meaningful. But not as meaningful as what happened last year. As I said, I visited the DC area, then set out for Maryland's Eastern Shore. If you haven't driven it, it's a fascinating drive. Towards the beginning is the Chesapeake Bridge. I have never seen anything like it.  From there, the drive south to Pokomoke is very very nice.

But there was a bonus to the drive: I had brought along my recently-acquired iPod Touch. Using the connector to plug it into the Aux input of the rental car's stereo, I listened to my music all the way down. But here's what made it so wonderful. This is the central point of this post: I didn't choose the songs. I made no playlists, no effort whatsoever to limit the particular songs that got played. I just let it play away. And for the most part, it chose to play songs from 1986. One after another. This despite the fact that I have thousands of songs on that iPod, spanning over 5 decades. And pretty much all I heard was 1986 music. From Prince to Simple Minds to Jackson Browne to Steve Earle to Van Halen to Eddie Rabbitt to The Bangles, it was all there.

I don't think God was trying to tell me anything in particular. I truly think He simply let me have, as a gift, a few hours driving around the location of a very meaningful time in my life, and the accompanying musical soundtrack. I can't prove it biblically; I can only recall it fondly, and thank God for it. It was a powerful time, and I wouldn't mind repeating it.

Note: Go here for a list of other tunes from 1986 which I didn't list above.


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