Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Culture Collector

Whilst sitting in my local cafe today drinking my large flat white coffee, I couldn't help smiling at the 80s pop tunes playing on the stereo. I of course came of age in the 1980s and since then the reminder of the infectious era of funny hair styles and crazy fashions emanates from all directions. Nothing brings a smile to my face quicker than a pop song of my youth.

Characteristic of the era were the irrepressibly upbeat melodies and clever assortment of electronic and acoustic instruments, combined with the blue-eyed soul singing styles. The 1980s were also the era that I began my life as a world traveller. When I arrived in Belgium in July of 1984, I noticed straightaway that the pop sensibilities were similar in Europe, but with a decidedly more techno and dark bent. Groups like The Cure were big in Europe, whereas in America they had a more cult following among the brooding set.

Arriving in Québec City in 1986, I began drinking in the local popular music sung in French but with similar upbeat song arrangements as in the English pop songs. To this day, I enjoy a vast array of popular styles sung in various languages, including Norwegian, a language I have never learnt, but which nevertheless translates well to the simple song structures of the era.

In keeping with my own hybrid personality that I have carved for myself over the last three decades, the music of multiple countries appeals to me because it expresses in three or four minutes the joy of my wanderlust. I realised that I am a culture collector. I seek out the bric-à-brac of Belgium, Québec, France, Germany, America, the UK and Australia that appeals to my own sunny outlook on life. I once mused that the climates of the Southwestern United States and Sydney appeal so much to me because they are as sun-drenched as my own personality. Whilst I do have my low moments, my overall theme is one of eternal optimism at my lot in life.

Let me pause to state that my family and friends the world over must find me an interesting egg, to say the least. Some might think leaving America for a life abroad must mean I am at odds with the culture of America. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only difference between me and other adventurous Americans is instead of moving to another American state, I have moved to another country. I remain as engaged with America as always - from afar. I liken my lifestyle to those adventurers of previous centuries seeking out new challenges - ever mindful of what I have left behind, but also excited about what I find in my new home.

Listening to those old songs of my adolescence and early adulthood reminds me of my carefree days, but they also ground me. They arouse in me the exuberance of my youth but also the possibility of what still lies before me. What do the songs of your youth conjure up in you?

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