16 Songs

ipod 01

“I’m gonna take you to my special place. It’s a place that you, like no one else I know, might appreciate…”

– Joni Mitchell, “My Secret Place”

The idea came to me unexpectedly on April 24, 134 days before we took the motorcycles to Quebec.

We were in the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, listening to the astronauts of STS-125 talk about their mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. One of them, Megan McArthur Behnken, I think, mentioned that Mission Control in Houston would wake them every day by playing a song, one with special meaning for a member of the crew.

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell

I remember thinking oh, the genius of that and filed it for our own mission, months away.

The right song is essential at the start of the day, and later inside your motorcycle helmet as you’re flying down the road. It helps set, and keep, the day in motion.

I didn’t say anything but started making notes, jotting down possibilities when I’d think of a song or hear something played on the radio or in a commercial. It was a delightful side job to the overall mission prep and I could do it without up-wiring the Vespa or bolting something on Terra Nova.

So on the first day, shortly before we left the house, I handed my iPod to Linda and said, “There are 16 songs for you, one for each day. This is the first.”

And she put in her earbuds and heard a Carpenters song, admittedly schmaltzy, but oh, so fitting.

Karen and Richard Carpenter
Karen and Richard Carpenter

This is what she heard:

Day 1, Sept. 5: We’ve Only Just Begun / Carpenters

Day 2, Sept. 6: America / Simon and Garfunkel

Day 3, Sept. 7: Go Where You Wanna Go / Mamas and Papas

Day 4, Sept. 8: Every Day is a Winding Road / Sheryl Crow

Day 5, Sept. 9: Cruisin’ / Huey Lewis and Gywneth Paltrow

Day 6, Sept. 10: Sweetheart Like You / Bob Dylan

Day 7, Sept. 11: My Secret Place / Joni Mitchell

Day 8, Sept. 12: Country Road / James Taylor

johnny nash
Johnny Nash

Day 9, Sept. 13: Secret Garden / Bruce Springsteen

Day 10, Sept. 14: Ride Away / Roy Orbison

Day 11, Sept. 15: I Can See Clearly Now / Johnny Nash

Day 12, Sept. 16: Lovely Day / Bill Withers

Day 13, Sept. 17: I Got a Name / Jim Croce

Day 14, Sept. 18: Tangled Up in Blue / Bob Dylan

Day 15, Sept. 19: I’ve Been Everywhere / Johnny Cash

Day 16, Sept. 20: Homeward Bound / Simon and Garfunkel

I actually had 22 songs in that corner of the iPod, keeping a few in reserve to be swapped in if needed.

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan

But there was only two substitutions, I think. Heroes by David Bowie fell out and Ride Away came in, for the laugh it gave Linda because she thought of the chicken in the Geico commercial.

Right Beside You by Sophie B. Hawkins withdrew in favor of I Got a Name to later emphasize something I said to Linda on the ferry from Baie Comeau to Matane.

It turned out I misunderstood the meaning of a couple songs, but I kept them in anyway, just because chorus worked so well. America is kinda sad if you really listen to the last part, but you can think of it as the need to work to keep a relationship going.

Simon and Garfunkel
Simon and Garfunkel

And Go Where You Wanna Go is almost two different songs, the chorus as encouragement to lead your own life, the verses about being left behind.

But I Can See Clearly Now was perfect the day after our rain on the Gaspe Peninsula and I’ve Been Everywhere and Homeward Bound were the best endings, the best music to play as the credits were rolling for our ride.

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4 thoughts on “16 Songs”

  1. Her name was Carole King. And the year was 1971 ….

    I feel the earth move under my feet
    I feel the sky tumbling down
    I feel my heart start to trembling
    Whenever you’re around

    Oh, baby, when I see your face
    Mellow as the month of May
    Oh, darling, I can’t stand it
    When you look at me that way

    I feel the earth move under my feet
    I feel the sky tumbling down
    I feel my heart start to trembling
    Whenever you’re around

    Oh, darling, when you’re near me
    And you tenderly call my name
    I know that my emotions
    Are something I just can’t tame
    I’ve just got to have you, baby

    I feel the earth move under my feet
    I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down
    I feel the earth move under my feet
    I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down

    I just lose control
    Down to my very soul
    I get hot and cold all over

    I feel the earth move under my feet
    I feel the sky tumbling down
    Tumbling down
    Tumbling down
    Tumbling down
    Tumbling down

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