Let’s start a conversation

Victoria O’Brien
The Desert Island Dispatches

When I was first approach with the idea of writing a column, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. You see, I wanted to do it, but I’m shy, a chronic affliction which has followed me since childhood, and though I’ve gotten better at masking it with age and experience, the idea of sharing myself with strangers remains daunting. More than that, I didn’t really know what I might like to say or share on a weekly basis with people who haven’t met me. How did I want to present myself? How did I want to introduce myself to the community?
I turned it over in my head for a few nights, considering just what I might like to write to you about with regularity. There was a self-deprecating column about my journey toward running a half-marathon this autumn, but nobody likes a whiner (even if they’re funny about it); then there was a column about big ideas, but that just felt like navel-gazing and I can do that on my own time, thank you very much. Nathan suggested, based on my background, that I write about movies, maybe, or scripts, or something in that vein, and that felt closer, but still not quite right.
And then, as it so often happens, it clicked. I woke up to a text from a friend back in the city, a link to a song he’d been loving lately, and the message, ‘Try this.’ You see, we became friends purely by happenstance six or more years ago: I lived downstairs from him and we met on the patio outside my place one summer afternoon. We got talking about plants, then music. We ended up getting coffee together a few weeks later and spent an hour passing a phone back and forth, playing each other our favorite songs and swapping album recommendations. Turns out, we had a lot in common, although it wouldn’t seem that way looking at us from the outside: he was an established architect with a couple of decades on me, then a lowly assistant in the Studio System.
But that’s the beautiful thing about a piece of great music — about all art, really — it bridges the divides in our lives, dissolves barriers, removes illusions. Art, when I was a child, was my way out: when things got hard, I picked up a book or turned on the radio, or went to the movies. I read, and listened, and watched as other people experienced so many of the same things I was feeling, and it made me feel less alone in the world. I felt closer to someone, to something, and with age, I’ve learned that that someone and something is the true essence of our humanity: we’re creators, each and every one of us. Yes, you who is reading this and shaking their head, you do know how to create something. It’s in you. I don’t make the rules, it just is. We didn’t come this far to forget that we were painting on cave walls and putting stories to music to preserve our histories, did we?
The echoes of that storytelling nature reverberate in you whenever you hear a song on the car radio, nostalgia washes over you, and you go back to the first date you had with the love of your life, or when you pick up an old favorite book and find new meaning between its pages, something that feels tailor-made for the moment you’re in now. It’s in you when you go to the movies and the third act gives you that funny feeling in your chest. We make art and we love art because it connects us to each other.
That friendship I mentioned has endured largely based on this shared love, and we check on each other from across the miles with new albums, songs, and playlists (digital mixtapes, for those of an older generation). We’ve gone to concerts together, sifted through bins at flea markets side-by-side, and spent nights talking about what’s going on in our lives while a vinyl LP turns lazily on the turntable in the background. Is it the deepest and most profound of all my friendships? Probably not, but I honestly believe it is one of the most sacred.
So, if you’re still with me, let’s try this. Let’s start a conversation.
Beginning next week, I will write to you about an album, or movie, or book that I love. Let’s call it the desert island collective: these are the things I’d want to tote along if I washed ashore on some mysterious little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I want to tell you why I love it, but I also want to give you a little background history on the work and the person(s) who made it. I want to be earnest and nerdy about the stuff that’s made my life what it is today because I hope it inspires you to try something that may be new or revisit an old familiar favorite.
And speaking of you, this is where you come in. (Remember: I said I wanted a conversation.)
I don’t just want to write about the albums, books, and movies that moved me, but also to talk about the ones that have moved you. I’d like to invite you to have a real conversation with me, to send me the name of the album you’d bring to the desert island neighboring mine; the movie you’d watch on VHS ‘til the tape broke; the book you can still quote off the top of your head. I don’t care about genre, I don’t care about age, what I care about is why you love it. And I want to know what you love because I really do think that if you love it, there’s something I can find in it that I’ll love, too.
And that’s the point of it all, life in general: connection.
You can email your suggestions to me at desertislanddispatch@gmail.com.