Music is very important to me.
In fact, it is highly essential and compliments my daily life in the most vital way. I listen to music every day, the whole day.
I turn on the radio in the morning as soon as I walk out of the bedroom, I listen to the radio while I drive to and from work. In the lab, music can be heard in the background the entire day and as soon I come home in the evening, I put on one of my favorite CDs.
There has been many songs in my life that have captured my senses, due to the rhythm, the enticing harmonies or the poetic lyrics. Today my memory holds a collection of various melodies, which have stayed with me for one reason or another. As soon as I hear the first familiar tunes, in a split second I am taken back in time, recollecting particular moments of my past and the people in it, while my being is infused with bittersweet contemplation.
Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel is one such song, which brings smile to my face and amusement to my mind. Hearing it on one of the radio stations the other day, my mind traveled back twenty years, taking a sentimental walk down the memory lane.
I was twenty two, going on twenty three, celebrating New Years Eve in the company of a dear friend on the Island of Furteventura, one of the Spanish Canary Islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa. We were two young girls who decided to escape the cold winter of Scandinavia, spending two weeks in warmer latitudes, as the year crossed into a new decade. Little did I know then, that this would be such a life changing trip for my best friend and in turn for me as well.
It was more than two decades ago, yet still today I remember the trip vividly. Particularly the excitement when we realized we were assigned to a studio apartment with a large terrace and a magnificent view of the ocean and the stunning sunsets, which would take place every single evening above its turquoise blue waters.
Furteventura, at least the part where we stayed, was unusually pristine, rugged and unexploited. There were very few hotels and all one was left with was unspoiled beauty. With that said though, some of the hotels directly on the beach were luxurious. Particularly the German ones, which were part of a type of Club Med vacation resorts, a term that was quiet unknown to two young girls, who traveled and stayed on a budged.
A few days into the new year, my stunning friend, a true Scandinavian beauty, a cool blond and very sophisticated young woman, caught the eye of a man in his early thirties, walking along the beach one day. After the polite introductions we realized he was German and involved with television entertainment. Within a short while, we were both invited into his hotel later that evening for dinner. I guess I was mostly invited as a chaperon, or as I later realized, a date for the traveling companion of our new acquaintance.
The evening came and when we crossed through the gates to the hotel, it felt as we entered paradise. We were greeted by opulence and beauty, not just in landscaping and architecture, but also in the entertainment and amenities. And the dinner to which we were secretly smuggled into, consisted of a rich buffet, where the tables were literally breaking under the weight of the food offered. Anything from meat to exotic fish, grilled, cooked, baked or fried, fruit and vegetables, some that I have never seen before or since and deserts that even today make my mouth water.
The evening progressed and my friend and her new suitor disappeared at one point, while I was left with his companion. An old man in my eyes then, but my age today. Many years later I often contemplated with amusement what he must have thought off me, a young girl who could have very well been his daughter. A playboy at the best and apparently a photographer by profession, he was tall and striking, with long blond hair, wearing a hat and cowboy boots, his face weathered by the elements, but very distinguished and his manners sophisticated. And he was a perfect gentleman the whole evening, while we walked around the hotel premises, trying to communicate in a broken German and poor English.
Our walk and the innocent, but memorable evening finally ended in the hotel's bar on the other side of midnight, where he bought me a glass of my first good wine. Even today I recall the odd and long looks of all the mature women present in the intimately lit, smoke filled room. Many of them looked lonely and what I perceived desperate, something unknown to me in my youth. I felt terribly out of place and surprised over this scrutiny then, as the man I was with held no interest of mine. Today I know better, as time has caught up with me as well...
All this became strongly etched in my memory, an odd moment frozen in time while the bars piano man played Just The Way You Are softly in the background.
He played many more songs that night, but this one stuck with me for eternity.
Eventually our lovely vacation came to an end and as we boarded the plane, my friend knew she was in love. She found a soul mate, even though the infatuation came to be short lived. After our return home, she packed her bags and left to be with her love in Germany, where she stayed for many years to come, long after the relationship ended. Even though we are still in touch today, I lost my very best friend on that island and no more than a couple of years later, I left Sweden too, for good. I guess in some way her departure was a catalyst to my own.
What is even more fascinating about this story is the fact that today, the man she left her family and friends for is a famous television commentator and a talk show host, with his own very popular talk show, interviewing prominent guests on German television.
I wonder to this day if fond memories of Furteventura ever cross his mind - or that of his friend. After all, when translated, the name of the island means something like "Grand Adventure".
And it sure was one indeed.
Authors Note: To those of you who read this to the end; I humbly thank you for your patience and effort in making your way through a very long post - and I dedicate this beautiful compilation below to all of you.
It is a classic and a beauty, both in harmonies and lyrics.