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The Eagles’ hit ‘Hotel California’ played a big, yet strange, role in my life

Growing up in California, the Eagles’ songs have been like a permanent playlist for my life. But when one particular song repeatedly appeared in my life out of California, I began to take notice.

Anyone who loves music has a favorite Eagles song. To be honest, mine is “Desperado.” I just relate to the lyrics, particularly the line, “You better let somebody love you, before it’s too late.” Let’s just say I spent a good portion of my twenties running away from men.

But the one song that’s recurred in my life is “Hotel California.” Of course, the song’s writers Glenn Frey and Don Henley meant the fictional hotel to be a metaphor, but for what? Much has been written about the song symbolizing the hedonism of Los Angeles or the decadence of the rock-star lifestyle. For me it has a different meaning. For me, hearing the song became a death knell to a relationship. Three times, with three different men. No kidding.

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When I was in my twenties, I lived and loved to extremes, sometimes recklessly, though I have few regrets about that decade of my life. I searched for and found lots of adventures, including traveling three times with three men I loved but with whom I couldn’t make it work. Please note: The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

1. Chuck the adventurer

Chuck and I had decided to take the vacation of a lifetime and travel to Tanzania, Africa. Both of us had developed an interest in primates and our hope was to visit Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees in Gombe. Though the extreme weather prevented us from getting to Gombe, we did go on a traditional safari in the Serengeti.

Because we weren’t married at the time, I was told to wear a wedding ring and tell locals we were married, because an unmarried woman traveling with a man may be looked down upon. I was fine with this white lie, but it was too much for Chuck. In the middle of the savanna, as zebra and water buffalo migrated past our vehicle, Chuck felt the need to tell our African safari guide that we were, in fact, not married. The song playing on the radio? “Hotel California” by the Eagles. I was humiliated, but didn’t take too much notice of the song that was playing. I just thought it was interesting that a song about California was playing while the man I was with revealed details of my life in California to a stranger. Within a year, Chuck and I had called it quits.

2. Riley the Aussie

Not soon after, I fell for a new man, Riley, and had the opportunity to travel to London for a six-week stay while he worked on an exciting project. I went, but knew the day I arrived it was a mistake. I was on the rebound from Chuck and jumped into this new relationship too soon. I thought the adventure of being in a new city would ease any tension. I was wrong. Within a few weeks, things became a bit icy between us. The moment I won’t forget is being in a convenience store and arguing over orange juice. Such a dumb argument, but it escalated because it wasn’t orange juice we were really arguing over. The song playing through the ratty convenience store speakers? “Hotel California.” But I still didn’t realize the song’s significance, despite the fact we broke up as soon as I returned home.

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3. Jeff the comedian

Another whirlwind romance led to another international trip. Jeff was writing on a comedy show and got three weeks off, and I was flattered he wanted to spend the time with me. Excited, really. I lived in Los Angeles and he in New York, and what I didn’t know going into our trip was that he had a girlfriend in New York and had no intention of breaking up with her.

Jeff and I traveled to Morocco and Egypt in Northern Africa. For the most part, we had a great trip and I was feeling optimistic about our chances of staying together until I heard that one song in the back of a cab as we drove through the crowded streets of Casablanca. We both looked at each other, surprised to hear “Hotel California” so far away from home, but that’s when it hit me — Jeff and I wouldn’t make it and the song was proof. I tried to ignore the implications of the song, but soon enough, he broke things off with me.

Perhaps for me, the song indicated a lonely place in my heart where love couldn’t grow. Mostly because I picked men who weren’t a good emotional match for me. The line at the end of the song is quite telling. It goes, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” That line alone seemed to doom my relationships.

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The good news is that I did find love. Our first vacation together was to Australia for his sister’s wedding and though I kept listening for the Eagles song in fear, I never heard it. We are still together today.

May you forever rest in peace, Glenn Frey.

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