Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That…

Daily Prompt Cue the Violins If your life were a movie, what would its soundtrack be like? What songs, instrumental pieces, and other sound effects would be featured on the official soundtrack album?

One of Denver’s “nothing” streets, E. 13th Avenue. It wasn’t Colfax, where it was all happening and it was a zoo, but it worked. Every morning I launched myself from my apartment on 12th and Marion and arrived half hour later at the law firm on 17th and Welton. I didn’t take exactly the same route every day, and, after I’d made the walk for a while, I turned it into a loop. Going? Down past the capital building, then across the park to Broadway, then to 16th street — much more interesting before the Mall was built — then over to work. Coming home? Up 17th street past Trinity Methodist church. The map below shows it exactly — down on the blue dotted line, back on the gray trail that’s NOT Colfax.

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One morning, as I passed a large brick apartment building I (inexplicably) noticed the sounds of passing traffic. Maybe because it was the first warm day after a longish winter, and people had their windows rolled down, I heard music coming from the various cars. At that moment I had the idea that it would make a cool movie, just this, my 7 a.m. walk to work and the sound track, radios and tape decks of the random passing songs. (You don’t hear any of this if you’re wearing ear buds, but the Walkman had not yet been invented and/or if it had, I couldn’t have afforded one.)

So if you ask me for the sound track for MY life? I’d say it’s just that. Me moving along toward the destination accompanied by random, passing songs. The most dramatic of these moments happened in San Diego, at the corner of University and 54th. This is a mixed neighborhood in every way. It is near housing where many brand-new immigrants go to live. The ethnic mixture of this hood changed almost daily. At this particular moment, the Cambodians were moving on, leaving a gap that would be filled by Eritreans, Somalis and Afghanis. New immigrants still wear their “colorful national costumes.” It was also a neighborhood with a lot of gang activity — Mexican and African American territorial disputes raged constantly, and, at that point, the Hells Angels were still a presence. And within all that were people like me just trying to put a life together in one of the only financially affordable (it’s not any more) sections in San Diego.

It was the mid/late 90s. I was in a friend’s truck, coming down the hill from school to this intersection. On this corner was a largish and newer Asian mall with a restaurant and grocery story, pool hall, manicure shop, etc. Across the street was the soon to be defunct Jewish Community center. Across from that was K-Mart and a Chinese restaurant of the all-you-can-eat buffet variety. The next corner was houses, up on a hill. My friend had just asked if I’d ever heard Cypress Hill. I’d just asked what kind of music it was. He’d just said, “Rap,” and I’d just said, “I don’t like rap,” and he’d just answered, “Listen to this anyway.” At the moment we reached the intersection, the whole mad reality of City Heights, San Diego, was crossing the street in front of us, this song came on. Never has the vision of street reality coincided so perfectly with a song, the sound track of the moment.

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