I was recently driving in LA with a friend who, like me, is a huge fan of Sex and the City. We often try to stump each other with SatC trivia and regale one another with our knowledge of the minutia of each episode. For example… Q: To which two potential SNL hosts was Carrie worried that Nina “The Face” Katz might speak ill of her for breaking Aidan’s heart? A: Gwyneth Paltrow and Ian McKellan.
We take this stuff seriously.
Playing on the Sirius XM 70s station during this particular drive was “Born to Be Alive,” a 1979 disco hit by Patrick Hernandez. I turned to my friend and asked, a little smugly, “In what episode was this song featured?” She guessed – incorrectly — that it was playing when Stanford and Carrie went to the LGBT prom. (Season 6, Episode 10.) “No,” I said, “it’s from season one where the girls attend a party for the launch of a new fragrance called ‘Fallen Angel’ for which Stanford’s then boyfriend designed the packaging.” Score!
I then went on to say that the song Carrie and Stanford danced to at the prom was a ballad by Chicago, but it was escaping me at the moment. I knew it wasn’t “Wishing You Were Here,” but I totally blanked on the song. Just then, as if on cue, “Born to Be Alive” ended on the radio and the opening strains of “If You Leave Me Now” started playing. We both knew instantly that was the song we were trying to come up with and we totally freaked out that the satellite radio gods handed us the answer. Out of the thousands of songs in their ‘70s catalog, they played the one that we were just discussing. What are the odds?!
I’m a big fan of harmonic convergences like this, especially when it comes to music. I’m not really sure if “harmonic convergence” is even a thing, but it’s the phrase my friends and I have used for years to describe the phenomenon when a song perfectly synchs up with a moment. It can be a simple coincidence: you’re thinking about a friend and a song that reminds you of him/her suddenly comes on the radio or your iPod Shuffle. Or it can take the form of a life-changing event. (OK, that might be a little dramatic.)
My favorite of these incidents – and the one that I’d qualify as a life-changing moment — took place years ago on the Baltic Sea. I was traveling from Stockholm, Sweden, to St. Petersburg, Russia, with some friends on what I suppose could technically be called a cruise but certainly had none of the amenities I see in those TV ads for Carnival and Royal Caribbean. It was late at night but still light out, as it was the middle of summer and we were way north. I went up to the top deck by myself and was watching the sun set over the Baltic while listening to a random mix on my Sony Walkman. (It was the ‘90s.)
You know how amazing the light is when the sun sets over a body of water? The yellows, golds, oranges and reds mix with the dark blue of the sea and it almost feels like the sun is being swallowed up by the water itself. I was taking in this breathtaking visual while thinking how amazing it was that I was on my way to Russia. When I was growing up, Russia was the evil empire and I couldn’t imagine ever stepping foot in such a scary place. But here I was, en route to St. Petersburg. I wasn’t really paying attention to what was playing on my Walkman, but suddenly I heard Michelle Shocked’s voice sing these words into my brain, “the sun was sinking into the sea, but a ball of fire inside of me.” (“Come a Long Way,” 1992.) Those words were so perfectly in line with what I was looking at and how I was feeling that I got a little dizzy and had to hold onto the railing to prevent myself from falling into the drink. ‘Twas the ultimate harmonic convergence.
Although they’re rarely as dramatic as that one, these wonderful moments happen all the time. Pay attention and you’ll be delighted by these happy little incidents.
The Last Stand