Hotel California

I recently saw the Eagles in concert. They are my all-time favorite band. They also wrote and (still) sing my favorite song of all time: Hotel California.

The band has been around as long as I have: 52 years. The group split up and then got back together. Original members have left. A few have passed away (RIP Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner). But none of those changes matter to me because Hotel California holds such a special place in my heart. I still remember the exact moment I fell in love with it.

I was a junior in high school, and my friend Cheryl offered to give me a ride home from cross-country practice. So, on a brilliantly sunny fall day, we hopped into her ancient, tiny blue convertible. Before starting to drive, Cheryl opened the top of the convertible and popped a cassette into the tape player. “Hotel California” came blaring through the speakers.

As we drove, I remember how good the warmth of the fall sun felt on my face. I remember the smell of the trees with their leaves just starting their annual ritual of decay. I remember how free I felt as we “sang” along to the Eagles at the top of our lungs. (Or rather, Cheryl sang. As I am tone deaf and am unable to keep a tempo, what I did was more screaming than “singing.”)

But I remember most how much Cheryl and I were smiling and laughing. And that the more we sang, the happier we became.

I had heard Hotel California long before, but I started to love the song and the Eagles that day. That love continued for the next 36 years.

Hotel California is MY song. I had a friend once play it for me on his piano. Other friends have had cover bands to play it for me when we are out. I even have one friend who sent me a video of a steel drum band playing it when he was on vacation in Antigua and another one of a guitarist strumming it out in a square in Rome. I repeat:  Hotel California is MY song.

I first saw the Eagles in concert and heard Hotel California live when I was 22 years old – when the band had just gotten back together. (The “Hell Freezes Over Tour!” Lol. My fave band also has a sense of humor!) Since then, I have seen them live so often that I have lost count. I have loved every single moment of every single performance.

But I knew the most recent concert would be different for me. It was part of their “The Long Good-Bye” tour and likely the last time I saw the band live. At the age of 76, Don Henley, the only remaining original band member, seemed to be calling it quits to life on the road.

I was beyond excited about this concert. We had amazing seats. The Eagles always make me happy. I was PUMPED and admittedly feeling very nostalgic. Then, just before Steely Dan opened, a very drunk woman plopped down in the empty seat next to me. Without getting into or dwelling on the details, the next hour with Steely Dan was not excellent. While I waited for the Eagles to come on stage, I could not help but think that this woman would ruin the performance for me. She would ruin the last time I would ever hear the Eagles live.

But then MY band came on. And because this might have been the last time I ever see them in concert, I completely immersed myself. I forgot about the woman next to me. I was in a totally other place for the next 2 hours – engrossed in the music and the powerful pull of my memories. 

Those memories of happy, sunny days, convertibles, and youth changed my mindset. I went from negative to positive in an instant. It is no wonder that evoking good memories has been known to calm anxiety and lower cortisol levels. My positive memories had precisely that effect on me. Change your mindset, change your life! Or at least your night!

The very last song they played during the encore was Hotel California. And as I “sang”‘ along, I could hear Cheryl’s voice singing along with me. I could feel the sun on my face. I could smell that earthy, musty smell of early fall. And I could feel the joy and freedom of being 16 years old.