The treadmill and the iPod are for my generation what the hammer and the sickle were for the early Bolsheviks — articles of faith. I've been running my miles and listening to my music for a year, and if I could write while in motion I'd have a memoir by now.
Each song comes with a memory; I must have chosen them attempting to recapitulate episodes in my life that they were the soundtrack for. I used to think that life would be a lot more interesting if it had a soundtrack like the movies: eating breakfast would come with Mozart, giving the frying egg an aura. Well, life does come with a soundtrack, but it's a delayed soundtrack that comes long after you've lived the life the songs went with. The treadmill and the iPod give you back your life as memories with a soundtrack.
Imagine my shock when my iPod died. It was like my memory died. And then Laura, my wife, said, "Use mine!" So I put her music in my ears and started running. Man. Not only did I have no memories to go with some of her music, but I didn't even know what some of it was. She has pretty eclectic tastes, from bluegrass to gospel to R&B and classical, so I found myself like Dante in an obscure forest. My musical passions stopped being systematic at the end of the '70s, and have advanced since strictly along the lines of New Orleans live music when I took out-of-town friends to clubs. This is not negligible, but not exactly knowledgeable either.
Laura's music was richer and more diverse, and as I ran, I started to have feelings and see scenes that I hadn't lived through. At first I thought that I was learning younger and smarter music, but as I gave myself to it, I had the sensation that I was actually remembering her life.
I used Laura's iPod for a week and had a voyeur's trip through her life. Her music made so strong an impression, I started dreaming what had to be her dreams, because I found myself in places totally strange to me.
It's a good way to really know a person. I am now starting an iPod exchange club among my friends, so we can all live our past lives vicariously. I think that this is what it means to grow up: From being a memoirist, you become a novelist. You start to see what others saw.