I have a playlist of music on my iPhone that is all bossa nova, samba, and jazz. It’s a simple playlist: four complete albums with a total of 54 tracks. On hot days, I like to roll down the windows in my car and put the playlist on shuffle. Zen on the 405.
Today, I selected the playlist, hit shuffle, and track one of album one started to play. There’s a 1:54 chance of that happening. This first track was Bebel Gilberto’s spectacular cover of Duran Duran’s “Rio” from her live concert in Rio on an album called “Bebel Gilberto in Rio.”
I created this playlist a month ago for a road trip I took through San Diego with my best friend. We were celebrating our last few days together before he had to (got to) leave for a 15 month national tour in a show so awesome his NDA won’t even let him post the production’s name on the internet. This particular track came on at just the right time when everything felt perfect and eternal and temporal and instant. Now I think of him every time I hear it, and that makes me smile. Unless he renews his contract, he’s slated to return to LA in June 2015. We’re supposed to finally move in together and adopt a puppy when he gets back. But that’s 15 months away, and lives change, and plans change, so I’m not giving it too much thought. He has only been gone a month, and I miss him so much, it hurts. He’s off having the time of his life, and nobody deserves that kind of happiness more than he does. Meanwhile, I’m jealous that he gets to have an adventure without me. This is a selfish and human reaction.
I don’t hear from him now that he’s on the other side of the country workshopping. I’m not surprised he’s not staying in touch. If good communication is my jam, it’s his Marmite.
It’s rough. So I listen to Bossa Nova.
It’s a risky venture to shuffle a live album. The applause that segues between tracks gets cut off, and that can be jarring when you’re trying to Zen on the 405. But it’s such a good album, and it’s such a good playlist, so I man up and push through. Shuffle chose the next song. It happened to be track two off the same album. The applause segued the way God (and the record producer) intended, and I allowed myself a moment to consider the odds of two tracks playing in a row, which are 1:54*53. (1:2862)
In high school, I was a math whiz. I scored a 5 in AP Calculus AB and a 4 in Calculus BC. I also got a 4 in Physics Mech. When I got to college, I used my AP credits to skip out of requisite math and science courses so I could just take the fun theater classes. It caught up with me, though, when I got forced into a CogSci course my senior year. I farted my way through it at the expense of my GPA. I also lit three plays and directed two others that semester, so priorities.
I used to be so good at math. I used to speak French. I used to know how to study. Somewhere along the line, that all disappeared. I barely remember derivatives, I forgot how to conjugate, and I procrastinate like a… [insert simile here]
I wonder if I’m driven enough to excel in the world. To an extent, it doesn’t matter – there are fifty bazillion people on the planet, and the odds of rising to the top are astronomical (1:fifty bazillion) – but I also used to be a bit of a child prodigy. I started playing piano when I was 2 years old. It must have been so much fun for my parents to show off their little virtuoso at parties. I can still plunk out a tune, but my ability to play by ear has faded away, as has my knack for sight-reading. Had I put a little time and effort into it, I could be making so much money as an accompanist, or a musical director, or a concert pianist. Now it’s a relic of my past. Just another thing I could have been but now won’t be.
At least I still remember factorials.
There’s a lot of traffic today. I’m not going to have time to stop for food before I get to work. That’s bad news bears. I’m going through this whole muscle-building thing so as to make more men want to sleep with me. I’ve struggled with weight and with food issues my whole life (my driver’s licence still shows a cherubic lil piggy faced Brandon at 200 lbs, which wasn’t even anywhere near my heaviest), and I wouldn’t have a problem with not eating all day if I didn’t now understand I need protein to gain muscle. God I’m hungry. Why didn’t I pack a sandwich??
Shuffle chooses the third track. It’s the third track off the same album. Like they say: two’s company; three’s a recognizable pattern.
I don’t believe in spirituality or superstition, nor do I put great stock in coincidences. The human mind evolved to look for patterns. There’s a reason we constantly see Jesus’ face in tortillas, grilled cheeses, and dog anuses. It’s called pareidolia, and it’s the same reason we see the man in the moon. I guess there are different definitions for a “pattern” but it seems clear that a pattern can emerge without being utterly remarkable. Three tracks in a row is fun, but so are crossword puzzles. I read somewhere (fancy way of saying I heard on a Radiolab podcast) that the odds of one person winning the lottery twice are crazy high, but the odds of no person ever winning the lottery twice are crazy higher. It’s bound to happen – it’s probably not going to happen to you. Probability.
Shuffle plays the fourth track off the album. This is still happening. That’s 4 tracks in order out of 54. The odds of this thing that just happened are 1:54*53*52*51 (1:7590024) (0.000000131751889%)
What are the odds I’ll ever meet Mr. Right and fall in love? What are the odds I’ll ever become a famous playwright or a famous lighting designer, or get cancer, or have a seizure while driving and veer into oncoming traffic? What are the odds the universe will descend into instant entropy and everything will just become plasma? What are the odds I’ll get to work on time today?
I’ve designed lights in SoCal, New York and Chicago. I’ve worked on operas, dance concerts, musicals, comedy shows, straight plays, weird things with naked people in them… And my plays have been produced in Los Angeles and NYC. Granted I produced them, but nonetheless, I got it done. Plus I get to spend a lot of time hiking and going to the beach and working out and being a lazy puss. Also, I have credit card debt and no savings. But the beach.
Track five turns out to be track five. 1:54*53*52*51*50. 1:379501200. I’ve now passed the odds of being killed in a shark attack and the odds of being killed by lightning. I really like this album. Track five is a mellow ditty called “Samba da Benção.” It’s 12:24pm on the 405, but in my mind it’s that final beautiful moment of twilight where you watch the waves gently lap at the beach, and the moon refracts in the water in just such a way, and there’s still a little bit of red light, but it’s not a menacing red, and you turn to the person you love, and you smile, but you don’t say anything. You don’t need to.
I was in love with a man. He was beautiful and gentle, and when he touched me, it was a feeling I’ve still never experienced with anyone else. It took a while to realize I was in love. It was almost a painful feeling, and I was addicted. December 31, 2010, a suite in Las Vegas, post-coitus, my head resting on his toned, muscular chest, I smiled and said “I just want you to know, you make me so happy.”
He looked me in the eye and said “I need you to understand that you’re just a physical sensation to me. When I caress your body and stroke your hair, it’s just physical. You’re not my boyfriend, and we’re not in a relationship.” (I thought) we had been together for three years.
He fucked me two more times that night. Once the next morning. Snow closed the El Cajon Pass, and it took us 22 hours to get home. We spent 5 of those hours sharing a small bed in a Motel 6 in Barstow, lying back to back. He was the only man I’ve ever loved.
The truth is, we weren’t in a relationship. He was a casual FB, and I had created a fantasy world around our relationship. I didn’t come to understand this about us until almost 4 years later when I found myself on the other end of the same conversation with another poor gentleman. That was not a fun moment of introspection.
Track six. Odds: 1:18595558800. (18595558800 is also totally a fake phone number in Kentucky.)
Since I started working out regularly, I have developed rather fierce callouses on the insides of my hands. I’m secretly proud of them, because they make me feel manly. I wonder if my heart is calloused, too. Not literally – that would be crunchy – but I’m trying to convince myself that “No Pain, No Gain” also applies to love. I’ll let you know how it goes.
My phone was never on shuffle. I realized it eventually. I could have (should have) realized it after track 2. It would be pretty cool if my shuffle randomly played 17 tracks in a row. Sometimes you just want to believe that something magical is happening, even if the odds of that magical thing happening are 1:2.308436973392412e+71. (Or the more dynamic 1:54!) (I guess I still am slightly good at math. Maybe I should try sitting down at a piano.)
I skipped to track 15, which is my favorite track on the album.
I got to work on time, and after a few hours, my boss let me jump across the street for a sandwich. It was a great sandwich. My life is pretty good. One day I want to visit Rio.