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Adam Yauch, a Primitive Campsite and the Playlist I Share With My Daughter

There’s this place I like to take my family. A place my buddies and I always go. It’s south of town, over a hill and through forest, smack dab on the shore of one of the most beautiful finger lakes you’ve ever seen. When I take them, my step-daughter and I are always the vanguard sent before the rest of the crew. The ones who procure our site.

The place means a lot to me. Not just the campsite, but the entire lake. I’ve hiked its surrounding mountains, swung on its rope swings and floated its every last cove, some of them by canoe and with the permission of a low-hanging moon.

It’s the kind of place that’ll tell you a few things if you’re willing to listen. Important things.

Anyway, That hill you go over? It’s a mountain pass that’s called the Tail of the Dragon what with all of its twists and turns. And I have a tradition of sorts that whenever I get to the beginning of the Dragon, I put on a special playlist to send me off into the wilderness. And the last few years, it’s been the same one, a mashup of my three favorite Beastie Boy albums — Paul’s Boutique, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.

The first time I took Alli camping at this particular spot, she was eight, the perfect age for initial and prolonged exposure to the Beastie Boys. You know, with maybe some creative volume control here and there. Or so I figured. But I wondered if she’d like them? It’s pretty much hit or miss when trying to exposure her to significant music of my era. Or any music of my era for that matter. And more often miss. So I was prepared to put on one of her playlists if she didn’t like it. But she was so amped about camping that she was more game than I would have thought.

More inquisitive, too. She’d never heard music like that before (hell, who had, right?), and she was really into it. She wanted to know names of other bands that sounded like them. I told her there were none, and that the Beastie Boys were transcendental for that very reason (along with countless others) in whatever words one uses to try to convey such things to eight-year-olds.

I wondered if she even got it at all, though I eventually decided that she did. But it wasn’t on account of my explanation. Instead the credit belonged to the same infectious vibe that fueled the soundtrack of my (only slightly-misguided) 20s. And a touch beyond, perhaps. At one point, shortly before we arrived at our destination, she asked me to rewind and play Johnny Ryall again.

Nice choice, I thought.

She loved her first weekend camping alongside that mountain lake. So much that she always longs to return. And I’m always happy to oblige. She looks forward to the boat rides, the rope swings, the swimming, the canoeing, the food, the campfire, the tent and countless other things. But before it all, she looks forward to the Beasties.

The last trip we took went down on Friday, May 25th of this year. Three weeks to the day after Adam Yauch had died. She already knew. I’d told her before. Still, though, we talked about it for a little while when we hit the Dragon. But mostly we just listened. Again, we let their music do most of the talking, framing if not explaining Yauch’s life far better than I ever could.

She gets it. Them. Him. I mean, on whatever level she’s managed to process it. And the end result is that she associates one of my favorite bands of all times with one of my favorite places of all times. One that she now loves, too.

Me? I’ve associated the Beastie Boys with too many places to assign them just one. But I will say this: that campsite belongs to that specific playlist. Or maybe it’s the playlist that belongs to the campsite. The one that’s over that hill and through that forest, smack dab on the shore of that finger lake in the mountains of western North Carolina.

And that’s what I love about playlists. So often they belong somewhere to someone and something very specific.

What a gift it is to be able to share that with my step-daughter. You know?

Do you have a playlist that belongs to a certain place or experience?

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