(the) album

the album of my life is one that i didn’t understand. i bought it in a little record shop in Edinburgh in 1979. you know the school trip, the one where a sweaty 15-year-old girl from a small town travels to England? four of us girls got lost in London but that’s another story that involves the miracle of a map, an illegal Pakistani cab driver driving an illegal cab, and our English teacher, Frank weeping on the front steps of our hotel when we finally arrived.

but this story is about Edinburgh, a city of clouds, rain, and shockingly green grass. after the castle tour, we had a couple hours and Frank took a few of us to a pub to meet up with his friend, Martin. they’d gone to public school together and wanted to catch up. it was one of those times when adults treat you like a real person and we had a great time listening to them laughing together. there was a bomb story.

then Martin asked me, “what do you want to know about Edinburgh? anything?” and i asked about problems with prostitution and homelessness. “why do you want to know about that?” he asked and i don’t know what i said but he laughed for a long time. then he took us to a record store. “buy this. it’s existential as hell. besides, it’s a collector’s item,” he said and shoved Joy Division’s debut album at me. it cost me 20 pounds.

i carefully carried the album home. i’d never heard anything like it. i didn’t like it but i kept trying.  by the third or fourth listen, i was hooked but i had no idea what the music meant to me. it took a long time to figure that out and, sometimes, i still think i don’t fully understand it or the feeling i get when i listen. claustrophobic with an aggressive beat.

where will it end, Martin?