I first discovered the magical properties of Neil Young on a family vacation out to Taos New Mexico. My father was driving our crappy rental car and began to play the album “Everybody knows this is nowhere.” Of course I had listened to Neil Young before, at dinner time, when I was doing my homework, when I was watching TV, but it wasn’t really until that very moment until I connected with his music. The lyrics in “Cowgirl in the Sand” were surreal and beautiful and fit the mood of the desert perfectly. They were filled with visions of loveliness (Hello woman of my dreams/ This is not the way it seems/ purple words on a grey background/ to be a woman and to be turned down) juxtaposed with dreads of pure desolation (the long guitar riffs in between verses). I was completely infatuated not by him himself but of the idea of getting lost in his guitar riffs or in his poetry.
This particular moment happened the summer before my junior year of high school and after my sophomore year. Both years turned out for social reasons to be relatively dreadful. After sophomore year I cut myself off from most of my friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them; it was more that I decided to become a temporary recluse and live in my head. The repercussions followed my junior year and quickly I entered into a spiral of intense teen angst. I wanted to have friends again but I messed up my friendships so much that it was too late. I began to spend hours and hours by myself on weekends watching reruns of crappy reality tv shows and study for tests hours longer than I needed to. One day, this mindset was halted abruptly when I decided to download “After the Goldrush” on my iPod. For lack of a better way of phrasing this Neil Young kind of got me. He was always kind of in this weird purgatory state in his mind. He spoke of trying to find spaceships in the sky and just wanting to sit in his basement. His songs about love were reflective and melancholy and his songs about death were sweet and beautiful. My first semester of junior year was largely related to hormones, I don’t think I was ever depressed I just think I was kind of having trouble where I fell in the grand scheme of things which freaked me out. After listening to Goldrush at least 80 times through I began to feel better again. Suddenly I wanted to go places and leave my house. I wanted to dance and I wanted to spend hours talking to teachers and friends about things that were important to me. While I was doing this I would relate it back to Neil Young lyrics.
It was Neil and me in my head together. I learned how to play Heart Of Gold on my guitar so I spent my cold winter Sundays softly singing about being a miner for a heart of gold while drinking tea then later skyping my best friend in Boston. I finally reached a state of equilibrium by the time February came to town. It snowed a couple of feet one morning and school was canceled so I listened to all of Harvest and watched the snow fall on my window sill. I walked outside and lied down in the snow.
Spring came and I slowly stopped listening to Neil. I didn’t need him as much anymore now that things were going on an upward trend. Neil was still important and would continue to be important but I didn’t need him living in my head like he used to. When I reflect back on my time as a teenager when I’m old its safe to say I’ll remember myself in my pajamas in the snow humming the lyrics to Heart of Gold.