The magical iPod nano, best present ever (10 songs)

The other day I was feeling annoyed. It might have been the fact that I was about to cover another lengthy town board meeting for the paper. It might have been the beginnings of holiday stress. I don't know. But I did attack the problem full on, and not by lying around watching "Beverly Hills 90210" reruns on Soap Net, which believe me, has become so comforting I'm a little concerned. I mean, they show two hours back to back. That's TWO hours of your day. And I'm pretty sure there's no good argument for how those two hours of television-watching are bettering your life. What I did, instead, was head down to the gym, iPod nano in hand, got on the elliptical, put on the earphones and played some music - loud. I try not to listen to the thing at high volumes all the time (I do care about my hearing and retaining that sense) but when you need to block out the world and really get into your music, well, that - along with the exercise-induced endorphin rush - can really lift your spirits.

J got me the iPod for our one-year anniversary. He'd even uploaded all my music from iTunes so I could use it immediately. I went with the whole paper theme and got him a couple used books (one of which he already had) and a nice card. Guess who won the "better present" award?

I love my nano. I love its sleek design and the adorable carrying J got me. I love its weight in my hands. Mostly, though, I love it because it's mine. I love my iPod because it plays my music, and hence, carries many memories. I hear songs that remind me of a night out when I was 22. I hear songs that remind me of my wedding, and this summer and some songs that force me to question my taste in music.

Because listening to my nano is always such a unique experience, drumming up thoughts and emotions I want to tell someone about (whether or not they want to hear it) I thought I'd follow the example of others, hit "shuffle" and write about 10 songs.

1. "The Swimming Song" by Loudon Wainwright III When we got in the car to drive to Maine this summer, Jennifer put in a CD she'd made, and this was the first song. She told me it would be an anthem of sorts, about our adventure, our trip to Maine, our finally doing that great and crazy thing we always talked about. So it wasn't living in a loft in NYC together after college, like we'd always planned. And it wasn't driving cross country - another unrealized dream. But we, best friends who've known eachother since 6-years-old, we're undoubtedly doing something in the same vein - taking some time to simply enjoy life, and, despite our doing the completely impractical and having no jobs upon our return to the real world, it was obviously the abosolutely right decision ("This summer I went swimming, this summer I might have drowned, but I held my breath and I kicked my feet and I moved my arms around, I moved my arms around.")

2. "Sweet Marie" by Crooked Fingers Crooked Fingers is a band I like because friends of ours like them and talked us into going to a show a few years ago at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, the scene of all that is cool in the music world. In fact, I grew to love their music playing a burned album someone gave us over and over again. This song, "Sweet Marie" is by far my favorite. Their music has always seemed very moving to me, the lead singer's raspy voice an urgent plea to the subject of each ballad, and in the case of this song, somehow both moving and subtly hilarious - "Maybe your new boy, he don't see it that way. But tonight, I swear I'm gonna set that pussy bastard straight/ So you and I can meet now while your other love's away, I now you would never cheat with anyone but me."

3. "Life in a Nutshell" by the Barenaked Ladies Whatever all you JMU people think since I issued that very mild statement that Guster wasn't my favorite band, I do like some of the same music as you guys. Take the Barenaked Ladies for instance. I like them. And I liked them all the way back when I was 18-years-old. I was introduced to the Canadian band by my freshman year roommate, Erin, who was a big fan. She was from the Buffalo, NY area, where the Barenaked Ladies, apparently, have always been a hit. We listened to that live album "Rock Spectacle" a lot while sipping on illegal Miller Lites and mini-bottles of Jack Daniels , decorating the door to our dorm room with little pictures we'd create on Power Point, taking naps in the middle of the day and being very cool in general. Or something like cool.

4. "Am-A-Do" by Bob Marley My ex-boyfriend Brian is a huge Bob Marley fan, and huge reggae fan in general. Not in a frat boy-let's-have-a-keg-party-and-throw-"Legend"-on-the-stereo-way. He was a fan in an I'm-from-the-valley-in-California-and-once-smoked-pot-with-my-dad-at-a-music-festival-kind-of-way. So he knew all the old stuff, all the obscure stuff and, in my opinion, really good stuff. I like "Am-A-Do," because Bob and the backup singers have a casual teasing/flirtatious thing going on, in which they (the singers) tell him to "do it to your bad self" after he informs them, "I'm a do you, too." Marley replies, "Do it to my bad self? How nice of you to tell me," all of them singing melodically to the relaxing reggae beat. This is good music. Reminiscent of trips to Jamaica (whether you've been there or not) and rum drinks.

5. "Gone for Good" by the Shins "I find a fatal flaw in the logic of love, and go out of my head." Steel guitar, highly emotionally charged male vocals in harmony. I'm in a stable, committed marriage, and this song still makes my heart hurt.

6. "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers I highly predict this part of the post is going to yield most of the (negative) comment traffic, but I'll say it anyway: This is the best Doobie Brothers song by far as well as one of the best songs of all times. Michael McDonald is the epitome of the late 70s early 80s disco sound, and every time I hear him crooning I, once again, can't believe he's white. According to my mother, this song came out when I was 2-years-old and I'd dance every time it came on the radio. It was my favorite song, she said. With my diaper on, bottle in hand, I'd bend my little knees in time to the music. When I hear it now, I do the same thing.

7. "Jesus, Etc." by Wilco I know this sounds like a weird answer, but when asked what albums I'd take with me if stranded on a desert island, Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," is always on the list. It's truly one of the few I can listen to time and time again, all the way through, completely into every song. "Jesus, Etc." is my favorite. The song is complex, and I don't feel I have adequate talent to explain, in writing, exactly how it makes me feel, so my advice is to listen to it right now, if you haven't already. Be warned, I may be tempted to beat you if you disagree that it's pretty much the greatest song of all times. There's a violin, need I say more? Before moving away to Pennsylvania, my friend Sara and I, along with other friends, sat at the Wine Bar on Franklin St. singing parts of "Jesus, Etc." (which I'd recently introduced to them) in our glorious voices. We were sad Sara was moving, and wanted to mark the occasion with an appropriately beautiful song ("Last cigarettes, all you can get, turning your orbit around.") I'm pretty sure Jeff Tweedy would have been proud.

8. "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5 100 percent impossible to listen to this song without dancing. Go put it on. Test my theory. If I come to your wedding and you don't play "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5, I am never coming to one of your weddings again.

9. "Ce' Sempre Un Motivo" by Adriana Celentano When J and I spent a couple weeks with my brother in Ferrera Italy two years ago, we'd hear this song every time we sat down in a bar for an espresso or glass of wine. I couldn't get enough. Although I didn't understand the words, I completely identified with the sentiment. It reminds me of donning our scarves and hats, walking down the main road in the town, stopping in cozy restaurants to eat the most delicious pizza we'd ever had. Taking train trips through the Italian countryside to Venice and Florence and Monselice. Natives riding their bikes everywhere. Little dogs in little sweaters. Campari. Nice leather shoes. Knowing enough of the language to order fizzy water and say "thank you." The song was such a smash hit in Italy at the time that when hearing the song on the radio while riding home in a taxi one night, I got Vinnie to ask the cab driver if he knew who it was. He excitedly replied that he did, and held up the Adriano Celentano album. "Ce' Sempre Un Motivo." There's always a reason.

10. "Someday" by the Strokes This song reminds me of Max Bobbitt. It reminds me of parties, and of going out in Georgetown, and singing along in the car. It reminds me that I don't care if The Strokes are cool or not anymore because, seriously, this is such a good song, and, it just so turns out, there is no better song to kick off the weekend.