It was 1994 and the majority of my musical diet consisted of mostly everything my grandparents wouldn’t be into. If it didn’t involve a pit, encouragement to jump on and launch myself off a stage in a concert setting, I was likely spinning it less regularly. The songs that would emanate from my upstairs bedroom at their house upon waking, showering, heading out for the afternoon or the night were tailor made for driving neighbors nuts, as well as the home where I was residing.
How was it tolerated then?
Well, said grandparents had seven children before I came into this world, and they had heard it all before. My uncles blasted The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen. My aunts did the same with The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues and The Doors. Me thinking I was pushing the envelope with Pantera elicited yawns.
I was working at a record store in the late spring of ’94 when Toad the Wet Sprocket released their fourth album, Dulcinea. It followed their breakthrough effort, fear, and was another hit. One weeknight someone put it on as one of the in-store play CDs and, unexpectedly, I was sold. I devoured the record just as heartily as I did Vulgar Display of Power. It was emotional, drew out feelings I didn’t know needed an outlet for and calmed my need to pit in or out of a venue. The problem was, I didn’t really have anyone to share this newfound obsession with; most of my friends were more hardcore and would laugh at the notion of me geeking out to the band who brought us “Walk on the Ocean.”
Early one night, sitting at the dinner table before the meal had been served, sitting there spinning the disc for the eight or ninth time that day, headphones on, I got a bright idea to share the music with my grandmother. Until that point, the most contemporary she went was Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. I somehow convinced her to don the headset and listen to the songs “Crowing,” “Windmills,” and, her favorite, “Fly From Heaven.” She appreciated it – the music was not heavy, it was not metal, it was something I could share with her.
It was a onetime thing. I moved on quickly to an unhealthy – but needed – regression to The Afghan Whigs Gentlemen. Relationships do that to you. And while I don’t think she was humoring me, my grandmother never asked to hear more Toad. When I switched to the more devastating, self-flagellating compositions of Dulli, she didn’t need to hear lyrics like, “Ladies, let me tell you about myself/I got a dick for a brain/And my brain is gonna sell my ass to you.” My Nana would not have enjoyed that.
Two weeks ago today, my grandmother passed away while I was on a train from Boston to Philadelphia, desperately hoping to catch her final breaths. I missed it by a couple hours. When I found out, I slipped in a new pair of headphones, and brought up Dulcinea on Spotify. This time, I went to one of their most haunting tracks – and hands down my favorite from the album, “Begin.” The whole song is about what happens after death, ending with the line:
“There’s no ending when we die”
My Nana is shining brighter than the sky. I will carry her inside me until the day that I die. Thank you for everything. I truly hope there is no ending when we die.
Here’s the song:
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