Mistress Of The Mix: Summer Break

Looking back on all the summers that I can remember in my life, I can tell you exactly what I was doing and where I was by the music I was listening to. And likewise, when I hear music from years gone by, I can always connect it to very specific moments from my past. Especially summers.

When I hear Gary Wright’s Dreamweaver, it puts me right back into the passenger seat of my dad’s Volkswagon microbus on a warm, starry summer night in 1976, sitting shotgun as we traveled through the desert on yet another monumental cross-continental trek between Oregon and Texas. Most of my summers included at least one journey like that, but every time I hear that song, it takes me back to that exact moment, when Dad had pulled over to the side of the road to catch some zzzs, and I stared up into the sky contemplating the universe when that song came onto the radio. Every time I hear “Funky Town” by Lipps Incorporated, I’m transported back to July 1980, when (along with our Japanese foreign exchange student Naoko) I went to summer camp for a week and we had a disco dance on Saturday night in the chow hall. We danced our hearts out to this song, and while we did all the boys snuck into our cabin and conducted a panty raid. The summer I spent living in Greece, 1989, is indelibly etched into my memory by the music I heard nightly on the Paleohora Club’s outdoor dance floor, like Fine Young Cannibal’s “Good Thing” and Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.”

These days the summers (and music attached to each one) sort of all roll together. Its getting harder and harder for me to pinpoint where I was and what I was listening to each year (although I did try to capture last summer, musically, and you can read – and listen – to it here).

I think its because during the summers of my youth I had more leisure time in the summers, and I spent it exactly the way I was supposed to.  Relaxing. I actually took a break on my summer break. I spent my summers swimming, laying out in the sun, rafting down the river, driving into the mountains with the windows down, falling in love, going to parties, reading books and mixed up in the middle of all that was listening to the hits of summer on the radio. It was always on.

Nowadays I don’t get summers off, and although I spend more time driving from here to there, I find myself spending less time listening to the current hits on the radio, and more time listening to This American Life or the news. Listening to the news, as of late, feels like a cross I have to bear rather than something I do because I want to stay on top of what’s going on in the world. Yes, of course I want to be informed, but at the same time I am profoundly saddened and disappointed by so much of what I’m hearing, that its painful to listen to. And yet, I do it. Because I refuse to be ignorant just to maintain my personal happiness.

But this gal needs a break. A summer break.So I’m making a promise to myself to try to live this summer more like I did in my youth. I’m going to spend more time driving with the windows down. I pledge to raft down the river at least once this summer (maybe twice). I’ll go to parties, read a few books, and fall in love more deeply with my husband (Happy 5th Anniversary, my love, you have my heart). And I’m just going to relax more. And maybe sleep.

Lastly, I’m going to start my days listening – and dancing – to the music that I want to remember this summer by. I just figure that if I do this, not only will it be good for my mental and physical health and maybe even lower my blood pressure a bit, but I’m hoping that for the rest of my life – just like the past 50 years – I’ll hear these songs and have happy thoughts about the Summer of 2018 to reflect on instead of remembering it as the summer we put children into concentration camps, or the summer my dad broke his hip, or the summer we fired my mom’s caregiver for chauffeuring while intoxicated, or the summer I battled the Siphonaptera War (more on that later, after I’ve caught up on my sleep). Hope you enjoy the music as much as I plan to, but feel free to post your own favorite songs of summer in the comments section below, and perhaps later this summer we can have our own summer dance party (who’s got a pool?) and enjoy the summer the way summers are meant to be.

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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