Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gone Country

Let's go back to Christmas Day, 1992.

My brother and I sat next to the tree in my parent's house, anxiously opening presents. 

I was 13 and had recently purchased the home's RCA all-in-one sound system with CD player.

As we pulled wrapped gifts out from under the tree, it was easy to decipher CD boxes' tall and thin shape. 

One such gift was addressed to my brother. 

I looked on as he opened it. I hadn't known my brother to be into music, at least, not like I thought I was. He smiled and cheered when he unwrapped the box. 

He received Garth Brooks, The Chase -

"Country? Really? He likes country? Who listens to that? We don't live in Oklahoma. We live in Chicago...kinda." I thought. It turns out that Dan had been exposed to Garth and other country artists during time at a friend's house. 

In a one CD player household, compromises needed to be made to after school's hip-hop party and allow for a few tracks from Garth.

Little did I know that my brother's love of country was beginning to rub off on me.

In high school, I would meet two friends, one being my best friend to this day, who listened to country. In between breaks from long playlists of Dave Matthews, B96 mix masters, BoyzIIMen and the like, a few country songs stuck. Enough of them that when Garth released his first "Best of" album in the late '90's, I knew just about every song.

College exposed me to a world of music. Pink Floyd played in studio art classes. Puff Daddy played at house parties. Dave Matthews played as I worked late night in the graphic design lab. Moby played in my apartment. Musically I was all over the place. All but country.

I thought I had all but kicked country to the curb until 2003. Until one day, I received a hand-written letter from somewhere in Iraq. In the letter was a request, "Please send some music. Stuff you listen to and some country, like Toby Keith." 

Toby Keith? Who is that? Well, whoever he was, I was about to find out. I went to Best Buy and bought all the Toby Keith I could find along with a spindle of CD-R's. I spent the next few days copying CDs and putting them in sleeves with handwritten track listings. My boyfriend at the time donated an old discman he had laying around. We bought a brick of AA batteries at IKEA and we created a musical care package. Next stop, Iraq.

That first deployment was a tough one. He couldn't call much. No internet. Mainly we talked through letters. I wrote him a letter every day of that deployment. In many of the exchanges we talked about music. Toby was a big hit with his group.

Toby found his way into my car along with Garth and a few others. A year later, I subscribed to Sirius - any music I wanted commercial free. Over the years since, I've enjoyed jumping from the '80s station to the '90s. From progressive house to chill out and today's hits to country.

I started running while in college. I trained for my first 5K two years out of college and progressed in distance from there. Country has never made it in a run playlist of mine. However, I've run the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville twice and enjoyed country coming at me from all sides.

But the last four months have been unofficially the summer and fall of not running (or hardly running in comparison to other years). And in this not-running time, I've found myself from time to time enjoying some slower, laid back music from today's country artists.

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