Songs have a way of attaching themselves to a moment that never fades. It becomes personal. You hear the tune and are instantly sent back. Another place – another time.
Every song has a memory.
Mason Williams – Classical Gas
I had just purchased an old cabin close to a lake.
It was cheap. A “fixer upper” built in the 1940’s. Guessing by the structure and the dusty decor, the previous owners had enjoyed decades worth of summers at the cottage retreat, but did little to update the furnishings or the amenities.
Of which there were none.
No running water. No heat. An outhouse with a crescent moon cutout in the door. They did splurge for electricity some time in the sixties.
Albeit dumpy, I saw endless possibilities. Years worth of weekend projects, countless Home Depot, Re-Fit store and yard sale romps. It would be a chance to learn handy trades and understand the value of some time-honored wisdom:
“Measure twice – cut once.”
“Never leave a 12 pack of paper towels out over winter for mice to play with.”
“Always check the forecast before shingling the roof.”
That first weekend was magical. A hot summer night with a fridge full of beer, steak on the bbq, cherries, corn and apples bought at a roadside fruit stand.
I sat in this chair. With a Budweiser buzz on, I looked around and tried to imagine what the place would look like after all the money, sweat and time had been invested.
I had no clue. It seemed too vast a project. I had never taken on anything like this before.
I stared at the room, humming along to the classic hits playing on the radio. As one song faded, another began. It was the familiar guitar plucks of Mason Williams 1968 instrumental hit “Classical Gas.”
All of a sudden I started to see the rooms of the cottage a different way. The song seemed to have a Spanish – Mexican flair to it. Images of walls painted burnt orange. White plaster rooms with curved doorways. Cherry wood beams and a kitchen with a bar table high enough to stand at. The wood stove would go…there. The loft with a short ladder would go…there. Bunk beds. A two person shower. By the time the song was over, I had figured out exactly what my labor of love would look like. Right down to the rustic baseboards.
That first summer I built little and demolished much. I gutted the interior – walls and all. I was on a first name basis with the guy at the dump. Many trips.
Over the next ten summers, I built “Los Dugos.” It was my hippy beach house hacienda. Framing, roofing, flooring, plumbing, sanding, finishing, painting.
The friends in the trades I hired to help me were patient with my wanna-be apprentice enthusiasm. I learned a little about a lot. It was a life lesson that constantly reminded me that repetition is the key to mastering anything.
A decade passed. Dozens of weekend-long projects completed. Dozens more to be tackled. Every trip to the cottage turned into another mission that inched me closer to finishing the vision I had in my head.
I enjoyed parties with family and friends. Late night jams by the fire. Day-long cookouts. Moonlight swims. Long weekend celebrations. I treasured every quiet moment lost in thought, staring at what I had accomplished.
And then it hit me: I would never finish it.
My summer cottage at Lake Winnipeg was now thousands of kilometres away. My career had taken me back to Vancouver. No more Friday nights packing up the vehicle and trying to make it to the cottage by 7:30 pm, working for 48 hours on the place and driving back to the city. I would have to pay someone to mow the lawn, get a friend to regularly check for critters and cracks. My ongoing renovations would now be reserved for my brief summer holidays.
What started out as a loving place to build and retire to, now seemed like a burden. A never ending quest for perfection instead of a place of relaxation.
So, I sold it. Just like that.
I realized that the true joy wasn’t actually owning the cottage, it was dreaming about what it could be. I took a vision spawned on a hot summer night and ran with it with all I had.
My life as a cottage owner had come to an end.
I know that whenever I want to go back to those summer days at my hacienda near the lake, all I have to do is play the beautifully crafted instrumental that inspired me to create my own little piece of heaven. Listen to Mason Williams – Classical Gas.
Every Song Has A Memory – a weekly blog about how music helps you remember the moments of your life.