I love the "Shuffle Songs" option on my iPod so much that I want to marry it.

Notice how I didn't say "iPod Shuffle", which is a cost-effective but rather frivolous ploy to get you to buy something, anything Apple makes. I received a standard 20gb white model 'Pod for Christmas last year. While I wasn't particularly hoping to get one as a gift, it's given me more joy than I ever imagined possible. No more carrying around a rather awkwardly-shaped, semi-reliable Discman and a tattered, weighty nylon Case Logic CD booklet with me wherever I traveled.

The damn thing fits in my pocket and currently carries over ten days of music on it.

Wouldn't it be grand if the battery lasted that long? I could keep it running continuously for a week and a half and listen to all 4000 songs in alphabetical order by title if I wanted to, the conveniently sized but somewhat uncomfortable standard white ear buds permanently attaching themselves to my skin like two particularly tenacious deer ticks, sl-o-o-o-w-ly sucking away the outside world until nothing remains but MUSIC I LIKE.

But what I really, truly love is the shuffle option. It's like randomly picking out one card out of a deck of four-frickin'-thousand, and then doing it again, and again, and again.

Of course, I tend to skip over certain tracks it spits up if I'm not in the mood to hear them: don't want to fall asleep to Sigur Ros on my commute to work, for instance. But I live for that serendipitous thrill of randomly coming across something that fits my temperament and environment to a T (even if it's on the T).

This happened twice yesterday when I took a long walk around Jamaica Pond and the surrounding neighborhoods, my accompaniment firmly set in shuffle mode.

As I hiked through the more wooded, secretive part of the path around the Pond, Nina Simone's rendition of "Wild Is The Wind", the old standard first made famous by Johnny Mathis, came up. I've never heard Mathis' version (or David Bowie's, for that matter), but I can't imagine it topping Simone's. In her take on it, you can still hear faint traces of the song's musical stage origins, but her deliberate pacing and delicate phrasing transforms it into something more personal and almost crushing. As it builds towards its shattering climax, you sense impending doom taking over the serenity the title initially promises. The song first affected me in this way six years ago when I was walking through a secluded, leafy, pin-drop quiet neighborhood west of Harvard Square. Hearing it again at the Pond brought me back as if I hadn't heard the song ten or twenty times since.

An hour closer to sunset, I strolled along Parley Road off Centre St. It's a fairly hidden JP neighborhood that a friend of a friend pointed out to me two weeks ago. Until then, I knew nothing of its existence. It's like little else I've seen in Boston or any other city--a narrow, twisting road two steps beyond being dirt, nestled with homes (and trees) dating back a century if not longer. It's labeled a "private way", but on foot, one can easily access nearby, "normal" streets.

So, as I crossed busy, much-traveled Centre, heading in Parley's direction, Nico's "Chelsea Girls" came on. It's my favorite track of hers--I like it more than "All Tomorrows Parties", "I'll Be Your Mirror" or even "These Days", which was immortalized in my favorite movie. Something about the gentle instrumental palette of this one (minimal strings, flute and acoustic guitar) lies in perfect contrast with her weird, alien (but lovely) vocal. Like Simone's "Wild Is the Wind", this one goes on for over seven minutes, and I wouldn't mind if it lasted seven more.

The song was recorded for but not included in the Warhol film of the same name, and I can see why: it's tender and sympathetic and mournful. The film, while great, isn't any of those things. Whenever I hear the song, I don't think of the infamous, ratty ol' 22nd Street New York landmark, but of a world that exists only in dreams. Fittingly, Parley Road seems like something out of a novelist's imagination rather than an architect's drawing board. If the homes were a tad teensier and built into trees, I wouldn't be surprised to find hobbits living in them. Somehow, a song as individual and rife with contradiction as "Chelsea Girls" makes perfect sense in such a landscape.

I'll probably now and forever associate the Pond and Parley road with Nina and Nico, respectively... unless something else equally arresting and oddly appropriate turns up in the shuffle the next time I'm walking through those spaces.