The summer of 2002 was a hard one due to how badly I missed my new girlfriend, but it was also one of the best ones of my life – I could play hard and make up my schedule as I went along like a single guy, but know that there was someone in a time zone 3 hours behind me waiting to chat online when I got home late at night.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
It Was Worth a Try:
Listen on Spotify:
I decided I couldn’t stand waiting until year’s end to see Christine again, so I bought her a plane ticket to come visit me in California for her birthday. We explored a lot of places in L.A. while she was here, including some I hadn’t been to yet. This picture was taken at Sunset from the Seal Beach Pier – we stumbled across the town of Seal Beach after I picked her up from her aunt’s house in Long Beach and went on a drive down PCH. One of the things I love about our relationship is how we’re both willing to just “pick a road and see where it goes”.
Where in the world is this?
1) “Satellite”, Shaun Groves (Invitation to Eavesdrop, 2001)
This one ended up here because I needed a good, rocking intro song, and I kind of worked backward from “Earth Invasion” and got a sort of “outer space” theme going. If God is the sun, then Earth is the satellite, and we’d do best to not be so self-centered in our pursuits.
2) “Earth Invasion”, Skillet (Alien Youth, 2001)
I went rollerblading with some Evergreen friends at Santa Monica Beach in late August. Most of the group was “friends-of-friends”, actually – people I hadn’t gotten to know very well yet. This only being my second time, I still wasn’t very good at the whole stopping thing, which led to a calculated crash-landing when I realized I had picked up too much speed going down a hill – I could either choose to hit the sand, or end up wiping out on the concrete. I came out of it with scratched-up knees, a lot of sand in my mouth, and slightly bruised pride, but thankfully nothing worse than that. Anyway, the whole group had dinner at Buca di Beppo that evening, and we walked along Third Street afterwards. I somehow got into a conversation with Tenaya, one of a few people in the group that evening whom I didn’t know that well yet, and she commented on one of the many musicians who play out on Third Street hoping to make some spare cash, noticing that there was a female drummer. She thought that was great and would like to learn to play the drums herself. I mentioned that one of my favorite bands called Skillet had a female drummer, and it turns out she was a big fan of them. Small world! So I put this Skillet song on my CD, to commemorate meeting a friend who liked more rock-oriented music than most of my female friends did.
3) “Lift Me Up”, The Benjamin Gate (Contact, 2002)
Even though it was just over a year after their first album came out, I couldn’t wait for The Benjamin Gate to release another CD because Untitled was so addictive. Then along came Contact, and it was rather normal by comparison – less noisy, less out there, more poppy. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. It made it easier to get Christine interested in them – the very first Fish Fest was taking place in Irvine during her visit in late July, and they were one of the bands I hoped to take her to see. It just took a few weeks, and then I was just as addicted to this one as I was to Untitled, if not more.
4) “Tonight”, Pax217 (Engage, 2002)
I was certain that Pax’s blend of rap, rock and reggae would be too heavy for Christine (even if they were on the lighter end of that genre’s spectrum), and since Heather, Shannon, and a few other friends had come with us to Fish Fest, I told her I wouldn’t mind if she preferred to stay at the main stage and watch SonicFlood. She wanted to stay with me, though, so we ventured over to the alternative stage and bore witness to a whole lot of crazy jumping around. I don’t know if she got into it at all, but she seemed curious to explore my musical world.
5) “Belong”, Remy Zero (The Golden Hum, 2001)
This song is like the ghost of a late summer’s evening, after spending the whole season with a lover only to have her disappear on you. It certainly reflected how I felt after all of the adventures Christine and I had together that summer – we explored, we dug deep into each other’s interests and dreams… the experience was a dream in and of itself. And it felt like I woke up from that dream vacation and she was gone. Not forever, but I wouldn’t see her again until December. Saying goodbye at LAX in early August was hard, so I basically resolved to get it over with quickly, and the feeling of sadness didn’t get to me until I was home alone later that evening.
6) “Those Words Are Not Enough”, Relient K (The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek, 2001)
A praise-oriented highlight of Relient K’s setlist on the alternative stage at Fish Fest – I think Christine found them much more amusing than the other “alternative” acts that had performed that day. It was unfortunate that we had to cut out in the middle of their set to catch the rest of Jennifer Knapp and the Newsboys.
7) “John Woo”, Newsboys (Thrive, 2002)
Wow. Who knew the Newsboys could be so bad-ass and random? Every now and then, a youth group favorite steps out of their predictable box and delivers up a curious little number that doesn’t have to have a discernible spiritual lesson in it in order to be cool. This one seemed like it came from the soundtrack to a Pulp Fiction sort of movie (I don’t even like those kinds of movies, but the music fit).
8) “Fireproof”, Pillar (Fireproof, 2002)
Pillar can be rather moronic at times, but occasionally they got it right – like with this fierce little song, which manages to be very edgy and hard-hitting, and even a little bit musically inventive (see the time signature changes in the bridge). I’m not normally a fan of “in-your-face” confrontational songs by Christian artists, but this one worked for me. I’m not sure why.
9) “Disappear”, Jars of Clay (The Eleventh Hour, 2002)
A song about climbing into a person’s heart and mind and wanting to know all about who they are. It’s the antithesis of a purely sexual relationship (as a fellow Jars fan explained to me once) – a more innocent, but equally intimate, kind of wanting to get inside someone and truly understand who they are and what makes them tick.
10) “Romeo on the Radio”, The Normals (A Place Where You Belong, 2002)
A working vehicle, an open road, a day off from work, a lover by my side, and a good song on the car stereo. It felt like life couldn’t get much better than that!
11) “M”, Steve (Falling Down, 2001)
A mysterious little rock song that describes various characteristics with God that start with “M”, and no, it doesn’t sound like a song from Sesame Street. As far as atmosphere and slow-building pyrotechnics go, they might have even beat Delirious? at their own game with this one. And the last cymbal crash leads perfectly into the “whoosh” that gets the next song off and running.
12) “I’ll Rise (Asteroid)”, All Together Separate feat. Dave Tosti (Unusual, 2002)
We were hoping to catch All Together Separate at Fish Fest, but we got there too late to catch their early set. Anyway, this was their corny attempt at a funk/rap hybrid, and it’s got some pretty silly ultimatums about the end of the world, but it’s fun, and the dude from Pax217 does a guest rap.
13) “53 Days in June”, Phil Keaggy, Wes King & Scott Denté (Invention, 1996)
Christine had this mostly instrumental album by three of CCM’s best-known acoustic guitar players (at the time, anyway), that she had bought mistakenly thinking it was the male version of the Ashton/Becker/Denté collaboration from a few years prior. She wasn’t really into all of the guitar geekdom, so she passed it along to me. And I wasn’t really into the vocal songs on this album, because the lyrics were kind of blah, but the instrumentals were either very beautiful, lots of fun, or both. This one was definitely both – it’s a long, summery jam session with Scott Denté’s joyful, percussive guitar playing taking the lead, and a sitar in the mix just to add an exotic flavor. It might have just been a hand-me-down CD that she didn’t want, but this was a great gift that constantly reminded me of her during our time apart.
14) “It’s Alright”, Third Day (Come Together, 2001)
A song about Jesus going before us to prepare a place in Heaven, and how the physical separation from a spiritual being we can’t yet fully know can get very melancholy and painful at times. It was sort of a parallel to the long wait for Christine to move here permanently – not that I want to compare myself to Christ, but in a way, I was trying to set things up for her here, so that she’d have a community of friends and a place to live and an idea of where to start looking for jobs and all that. The song was written as a love letter, so it kind of works on both levels.
15) “No Greater Love”, Steven Curtis Chapman feat. Mincaye (Declaration, 2001)
This probably isn’t specific enough about the backstory that got it so much attention, but it is definitely one of SCC’s better ballads, and I do like the serendipitous way that the song he wrote turned out to be in the same key as Mincaye’s chant, which appears as the song fades out. I liked the theme of forgiveness and how Mincaye’s appearance exemplified that – he was one of the natives who was involved in the killing of several missionaries back in the 50’s (the film The End of the Spear was later made about this incident), and he himself later became a Christian, and befriended one of the dead missionaries’ sons. SCC actually went so far as to bring the guy on tour to chant during his performance of “My Redeemer Is Faithful and True”, and for all of the cornball sentimentality that can sometimes work its way into an SCC song, I have to admit I thought that was pretty cool.
16) “Who’s Got My Back?”, Creed (Weathered, 2001)
By omitting the lengthy intro to this song (which is a native American chant – it’s reprised at the end, so I didn’t feel too bad cutting it out), I was able to make Mincaye’s chant from “No Greater Love” fade into the guitar intro from this song, which in a way turned the theme on its head, vaguely alluding to the injustice done by Europeans against Native Americans (Scott Stapp is descended from both). This one’s got all of the gravel-throated bombast that Creed was known (and sometimes reviled) for – I found it to be less pretentious, and actually even rather captivating, when it didn’t drag out for 8 full minutes. This would be the last time that Creed would show up on any of my mixes before their broke up in 2004. I enjoyed them while they lasted, but I didn’t shed any tears when I heard the news. (Then came the cruel irony of their reunion in 2009, but the less said about that, the better.)
Another place we visited for the first time while Christine was in town for her birthday was the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach. I remember during the drive down there, we were talking about a lot of “what if”s, including what it would be like if we got married one day. I hesitated to respond to that because I didn’t want it to sound like I was promising anything. But even at that early stage, part of me was really eager to imagine the scenario, so I guess that was a good sign.
Where in the world is this?
1) “PSA”, Pax217 (Engage, 2002)
One of the highlights of Pax’s Fish Fest performance – I loved the trading off between Dave and Chef Bobbito (yes, their DJ actually called himself a “Chef”!) during the rap verses. For such a heavy song, it was great that it took such an optimistic tone. They had a way of writing convincing songs that urged me to “let go” of the things I was stressing about – the aggressive music mixed with the happy lyrics made for a great emotional release, which is probably why I played their CD more than any other that year.
2) “PTS.OF.ATHRTY”, Linkin Park (Reanimation, 2002)
Man, I just couldn’t say no to a catchy rap/rock act in 2002. You’d think that only a true Linkin Park diehard would have liked Reanimation, but I actually felt like it was a good experiment, to take their songs and play up the electronica and hip-hop aspects of them – even if the results were highly mixed. I loved how this song turned all sci-fi in its remixed form, with its 3D-gaming-inspired video and all. It reminded me of an emotional problem that I had more or less gotten over by this point – “You want someone to hurt like you.” That had been me after the breakup last year, and being with Christine brought so much healing to that situation.
3) “Impossibility”, Remy Zero (The Golden Hum, 2001)
“As the old man stands to judge us all, I believe I am reborn”. Surprising little statement of faith there from a band who was, for the most part, rather moody and melancholy throughout most of their CD. The lyrics really grabbed my attention here (as any happy song about coming out victorious on the other side of a struggle did in those days), but I’ll admit that it was mostly the hyper-speed drumming and the unresolved ending that got my attention here.
4) “Sweetness”, Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American, 2001)
“As we rise above our doubts and fears, sing it loud so all may hear”, said the Remy Zero song as it trailed off into unexpected silence, and then I followed it up with, “If you’re listening, WHOOOOOOAAAAAA!”, which I thought was rather witty at the time. This one really doesn’t need much explanation – it’s one of those quintessential “perfect pop/rock songs” that defines the era it came from well, even if nobody seemed to really understand what the heck it was trying to say. Just a simple, fun blast of a song.
5) “Need”, The Benjamin Gate (Contact, 2002)
“Whatever I’m needing, whatever I’m feeling, I give up to You”. There’s the surrender theme popping up again. I couldn’t get those two moody, spacey chords that repeated throughout this song out of my head.
6) “Million Pieces (Kissin’ Your Cares Goodbye)”, Newsboys (Thrive, 2002)
This one’s probably the #1 song that I remember when I think of the whole “letting go” mantra that I was honestly trying to live by in those days. It became one of the big defining moments for me and Christine when the Newsboys played it during their headlining set at Fish Fest – she had some sort of a necklace with a glowing star that she had bought at the festival (you know how they sell all sorts of cheap plastic fluorescent things at these sorts of events), and during this song, she tried to slip it over my head but it didn’t quite fit, so it was just hanging there around my forehead with the star bouncing off of my nose as I moved my heat to the beat of this joyful little tune. I looked like a complete dork, and I was so happy and in love with her that I absolutely could not have cared any less. There’s no single song that serves as “Our Song”, but if you were to ask me to pick one, this one would likely be in the Top Ten that I’d list off the top of my head.
7) “You Never Know”, Dave Matthews Band (Busted Stuff, 2002)
I was enough of a DMB fan to buy their records sight unseen at this point, and like many fans of the band, I was excited to hear that they had reworked a lot of their Lillywhite Sessions material into their next album, so that it would finally see a proper release. Ironically, most of that record kind of left me in a depressed funk at first. (Being impatient for my chance to see Christine again may have had something to do with it.) This song, one of only two that had been newly written for the record, really got my attention with its clever rhythmic shifts and its language of childlike wonder. Dave likes to muse about fate a lot, and he’s a lot more fatalistic than I’ll ever be, but this is one of his songs that encouraged me to embrace the unknown that lay ahead, rather then fearing it.
8) “Warning”, Incubus (Morning View, 2001)
Speaking of fatalistic… This song was either describing a pending apocalypse, or just a cultural regression to some sort of an Orwellian society. It was creepy, but I loved it for that.
9) “More Love, More Power”, Jeff Deyo feat. Toby Mac (Saturate, 2002)
I can think of few more inappropriate juxtapositions than an Incubus song about the destruction of society followed by a worship song by Jeff Deyo, but it was the way that the synth outro from “Warning” transitioned perfectly into the synth intro to this song that clinched it for me. It’s another case where I missed the old SonicFlood enough that I didn’t mind a SonicFlood-styled, revved-up cover of an old-school praise song that served as a surrogate. Looking back, it does seem a bit silly, though. This one definitely wins the award for “most useless Toby Mac guest appearance” (and there’s a lot of competition in that department).
10) “I’m All Yours”, Rachael Lampa (Kaleidoscope, 2002)
This one’s here because of another slick transition into a catchy song that worked out when these two butted up against each other with WinAmp on random, and because it’s catchy and I liked how co-writing with the LaRue siblings led to some interesting change-ups in the chord progressions here and there. Other than that, it’s fluff, as most of Rachael Lampa’s early stuff is. I ended up buying a copy of Kaleidoscope as a Christmas gift to Christine (teenybopper pop was still right up her alley at this point).
11) “Going Crazy”, Plus One (Obvious, 2002)
Fairly corny “boy band undergoes a process of self-realization and finds out that being a celebrity puts them under an incredible amount of scrutiny” sort of song. I think N’Sync wrote a whole album about things of that nature, right? The crunchy guitars were probably what clinched it for me here – there was that “trio” of rockier songs right in the middle of Obvious that appealed to me even though most of the album didn’t. Hey, it was enough to get me to stop making fun of them, which probably saved me from tipping Christine off to how vicious of a critic I could be until much later in our relationship, at which point she was mostly over this sort of stuff anyway.
12) “Flinch”, Alanis Morissette (Under Rug Swept, 2002)
Alanis’s keen observational skills struck right to the core of my being once again, with this mellow acoustic song that timidly described her fears of meeting up again with the dreaded ex, to the extent where she would cut and run when she learned of his physical proximity. I knew exactly what this was like – I told myself that I had forgiven Sharon and all that, but I still found myself afraid to go to some places that we had frequented as a couple. For a few months in late 2001, I went to great lengths to drive around the entire neighborhood that she lived in while I was commuting from work to Evergreen on the many weekday evenings that I went down there for various social/ministry activities. I had it bad. It wasn’t so bad by summer 2002, but I still had the occasional recurring dream that I was in a room, sitting at a table with both Sharon and Christine, being grilled about my past actions in front of my new girlfriend. “Soon I’ll grow up and I won’t even flinch at your name”, Alanis sang. It took a lot for me to get to the point where I could be reminded of my ex without making some sort of a snide and immature comment.
13) “Something Beautiful”, Jars of Clay (The Eleventh Hour, 2002)
A song about dealing with fears that you’ve been abandoned in the middle of a transforming process – that God has given up on changing you. I felt a lot of pressure to “grow up fast” in those early stages of my relationship with Christine, to not expose to her some of the immature and petty things I had done in my first serious relationship. The funny thing was that God actually used those things and taught me a few lessons later on the relationship, when I started to realize that my situation Christine paralleled the one with Sharon, but with the roles reversed. That gave a lot more perspective to the changes that I had to go through, and suddenly I understood how bad some of those conflicts had gotten and how I could make sure not to repeat history by having a lot more grace in similar situations with Christine.
14) “Angel Treads”, Phil Keaggy, Wes King & Scott Denté (Invention, 1996)
Just about anything with “Angel” in the title reminded me of Christine, but especially this beautiful, delicate, acoustic instrumental track from the hand-me-down CD that she had given me. More recently, I put it on a compilation of Out of the Grey’s best songs, which included their side projects, so this one was strategically placed after Ashton/Becker/Denté’s “Angels”.
15) “Journey”, Corrinne May (Corrinne May, 2001)
I had always liked this song, ever since Khat and I first heard Corrinne sing it at that tiny bar in Redondo Beach the previous year. At that point I was pleasantly surprised to hear such an openly Christian song in more of an “indie coffeehouse” sort of environment, but I found myself overlooking this song for a while in favor of her more romantic ones. One day in late August, Winnie and I had lunch together (she often met friends for lunch at CalTech since she did the majority of her dissertation work there even though she was a UCLA student!), and she had requested that I play this CD in my car when I picked her up. Later that day, it was still spinning in the car as I drove home, and I thought about how much had changed in both my life and hers since we had met the year before, and exchanged our collective complaints about various relationship woes. I trusted her judgment when I needed a female perspective on some sort of a relationship issue – she filled a role similar to the one Lina had in college. She was one of the first people on the mainland who got to meet Christine, and I was so thrilled to have Winnie’s “stamp of approval” on our relationship. I hope to one day offer the same encouragement for her.
16) “Only Hope”, Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember Soundtrack, 2002)
Another cheesy bit of nostalgia from the birth of my relationship with Christine is the movie A Walk to Remember, which we rented one evening while she was in town visiting, and we were hanging out with my Mom (it was the first time that they had met). It was a cute enough story – sappy, and definitely more of a vehicle for the music featured in the film than for the actual actors (I can’t complain, since it launched Switchfoot to unexpected heights of popularity), but I was in the right frame of mind for it at the time. Of course one of the highlights for me was Mandy Moore covering one of her favorite Switchfoot songs, and to this day I still honestly feel that her version is actually better than theirs. Christine liked Mandy Moore and I liked Switchfoot, so this film and especially this song worked as a bit of common ground between our musical tastes. (She’s a big fan of Switchfoot now. I think they might be her favorite band, but that changes on a rather sporadic basis.)