The Musical Treasure Trove

So, I have been thinking a bit about re-reruns (prompted, I must admit by a This American Life episode about re-runs). This thinking has dove-tailed with some of my thoughts about the repeatability of the cover song and the tension between one ‘performance’ and another. Part of this thinking is a tortured attempt to try to justify what I am about to do today: repeat one of our posts. What happens when you repeat a repetition?

Like my brother, I have found that the busyness of normal life (whatever that means) has gotten to be a bit overwhelming. The end of the semester has brought me a pile of grading, a CV-length of promised articles, and two children who are growing faster than I can imagine. This has kept me (guiltily) from having the time to write a quality post while also making me wonder whether or not this blog is doing what it should.

See, it has been suggested that the posts are too long and too discursive–and, as readership has ebbed and flowed, I have wondered what the worth is. This contemplation lasts a few minutes because, when it comes down to it, I enjoy writing this blog even if the act is entirely masturbatory.

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Airport Bar Music

Yeah I didn’t hear this song in the airport bar, but I wanted to include a cover of the John Denver classic and this one was my favorite after sifting through a lot of them. I always loved this jam and seeing as I’m very into hip hop right now, it felt like the right one.

I’ve written about airline music and dive bars, but never about airport bars and the music played through in the background. I’m currently in Texas visiting the Elder J and family, flying in last night from Portland, Maine to Newark, NJ then on to San Antonio. I had a three-hour layover in Newark and as I hate to fly, I naturally had the compulsion to have a few drinks to settle my nerves. I stopped into a Heinekin owned lounge and found no place to sit, so I moved down the concourse and found a NYC inspired oyster bar where I quickly got a table. Instantly and aptly, I heard this song.

The Outlaws are great and the guitar soloing on this track is amazing. This version is my favorite, even above Johnny Cash’s because of the instrumentation. I never saw the Ghost Rider movie but Nick Cage looks pretty bad-ass. I think it was an apt choice because of the flying occurring, not because I am part Native American because this song is about the plight of our Native brothers. Lastly, I am in no way a Native American, 100% Scandinavian. 

I rarely hear songs in restaurants that I like anywhere, much less in an airport so this  is pretty cool. Because of the proximity to NYC and my affinity for bourbon, I chose to order a Maker’s Mark Manhattan. Airports are weird because people generally don’t want to communicate too much and use every distraction available to trick themselves into thinking they aren’t just killing time while in transit. I like to have random conversations with people while traveling, but had picked up Keith Richard’s autobiography on the way to the airport and was trying to get into it. As I settled on the shrimp Po’ Boy, this next song came on much to my surprise.

It’s public knowledge that the Elder J and I love Soul Coughing and Mike Doughty so it was awesome/strange to hear this song sitting in an airport bar. I watched an interview with Doughty a few weeks ago where he blames the other members of the band for all of their issues, saying they bullied him into giving all of them credit for songwriting and kind of glossing over his significant smack habit. Who knows what went down, but I love their music.

I also think back to Fight Club when talking to random people while in transit, the whole concept put forth by Tyler Durden of single serving friends you meet at airport or on an airplane. You will almost certainly meet these people only once so you have ultimate control over their perception of you and the ability to talk about whatever you want. I had a five-minute conversation with a middle aged looking woman about how Maker’s Mark is the most drinkable bourbon and a roughly 8 minute conversation with how silly most airplane safety measures are with a teenager. Lets face it, if a plane falls out of the sky at 20,ooo feet, a seatbelt ain’ t gonna do much for you. I missed a few songs and my second conversation ended as this song came on.

My brother and I obviously love the Pixies and Fight Club so it was pretty cool and coincidental that this song came on at this time at this airport bar. This is one of the best songs by the band and probably my top ten use of songs in a movie which is another post we should write. However, the Elder J is annoyed enough that three days into my Texas visit I still haven’t finished this post so first things first.

I was feeling pretty relaxed at this point and my boarding time was near, so I wandered back to my gate and tried to delve further into Keef’s life story. It was pretty slow at the beginning because he felt the need to recount endless details of his childhood but it heated up as he got into his early love of music and the first time him and Mick Jagger met. I am very into this book three days later and glad I spent the twenty bucks on it. I got onto the plane and was seated next to a harried looking woman and what I assume was her very young son, although the ages didn’t really match up. From the get-go, this kid was running across both our laps so I smiled and plugged my headphones into the armrest like I did the last time I flew to Texas. This song was what I heard first.

The last time I heard about Fatboy Slim was when he did that sweet music video for “Weapon of Choice” with my boy Christopher Walken doing some gravity defiant dancing. It doesn’t surprise me that Slim would have a career resurgence because electronic music is so big right now. I hope he does well and steers clear of  dub step music.

The kid kind of settled down and his father, who was the next row over, bought me and the mother a Jack Daniel’s nip so that made me feel much better. Besides the kid and a terrible movie called Last Vegas, the flight was pretty uneventful. I got off the plane in San Antonio and as I waited for my brother, I watched a man get busted for drunk driving right in front of the airport. He literally had an open Dos Equis in his newer Chevy Sedan  and by the look on his face, you could tell he knew he’d made a grave mistake. Besides that, my trip has been very chill and spent mostly with the kids who now are much bigger and have equally bigger personalities. I love it and it makes me happy to see the Elder being such an adept parent and sad I live so far away. Every time we get into the car, they want to hear this song which I think I introduced to my brother a little while back.

Our enthusiasm for J. Roddy has not waned. I love this band and I hope to catch a show in Boston this spring. It makes me very happy I can enjoy this music with my family while on the other side of the country.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My brother just brought the kids to school and is hitting the gym while I finish up this post. I only came for a few days and as per usual, it feels like I just got here and I really don’t want to go back to the frozen north tomorrow at noon. We are going to go out tonight after we go shotgun shopping and then I’ll spend some time with the kids tomorrow morning before I get on the plane. I guess I should consider myself lucky for being able to come visit at all and cherish the time I got with my brother and his family whom I don’t see that often. This is what the Elder would do but as I am the youngest of the siblings, I’ve always been the emotional one. So on that note, I leave you with a happy/sad song about the fleeting nature of existence and the advice that you should spend as much with your family as you can because blood runs thicker than anything else. Also, take my other advice and spend some time in an airport bar, I know I will tomorrow.

One of the best shows I’ve ever been to is the Flaming Lips and I highly suggest you all check them out if you have the chance.

Rock the Casbah: Osama Bin Laden Playlist

The Osama bin laden is dead track list

Note: I wrote this last year and just thought it work well near Martin Luther King Jr. Day (as will be clear at the end).

So seven people texted me now the same thing, albeit in different wording: Osama Bin Laden has been killed. My first reaction is to think, “Well, finally”. I’m stoked, I think, but didn’t they set out to do this like ten years ago?

Then, I think of a conversation I had with a veteran who served in the 1980’s about having to sit on a tarmac in the Balkans with a planeload of soldiers waiting to invade Afghanistan on the side of Osama and his boys whom we’d been training and funding against the Russians. A local recently got into this with me, disputing my claim, but it’s true, look it up.

Now, I don’t think our involvement at the beginning takes away anything from this event, this stuff has happened numerous times in history, but it certainly does make you wonder. I am certainly not a bleeding heart liberal or a conservative, I am sort on the fence: no one extreme is the way to go, in my opinion…

What I do question is the reaction to it by the American public: as I am sure it will turn into a bi-partisan pissing match over who gets the credit accompanied by a short burst of new-found patriotism which I find sickening. Either love your country all the time or don’t. It doesn’t mean anything if you pick and choose times to use it. I like to think I’m patriotic all the time and I do fully support our troops even if I do sometimes question their orders.

I guess my point is I want people to know as much of the facts as possible because I believe an overarching problem in our country is people acting from ignorance. Maybe it’s a human nature problem? I mean, how we can even be sure Osama was ever at fault for anything specifically? Furthermore, everyone knows that there are scores of sleeper cells just waiting to be called up and that Osama was probably a figurehead that probably wielded little if any real power. Anyway, in this day of perceived victory, I am reflecting on such things and this is what I’m listening to:

1. “Rock the Casbah”-The Clash. This was the first song I really knew by the Clash and on the first cd I owned by them, Combat Rock . It’s a nice little diddy about  a Sheik banning rock and roll music and the populace fighting back and “rocking the casbah”.

But, it was and has been used as a sort patriotic, rah-rah song for Middle Eastern campaigns. A story goes that Joe Strummer wept while hanging out in Granada when he was told American troops were writing the title on bombs they dropped during the first Gulf War in 1991. The song is about fighting oppressive Sheiks for rock and roll, but the Clash was a super liberal band that supported no wars. So why am I listening to it? Mostly because it reminds of the fight in the Middle East and that a lot of the time, people take whatever meaning they see fit for things even if it’s not the meaning intended.

2. “Bad Days”, the Flaming Lips; So after many years on the lam, they pop the old boy, test his DNA and drop him in the ocean. A seriously bad day for him and an essentially good day for all of us back in the states who think now the war is over.  Well, that is far from the truth as our troops still fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere; so this song is for everyone. “And you’re sort of stuck where you are/but in your dreams you can drive fancy cars or live on mars and have it your way”.

I mean, I want to know if Osama even cared about the jihad in the end. Maybe he felt stuck where he was (not that I cut the crazy bastard any slack or think he didn’t get what he deserved if that was even him they dumped in the ocean). From some accounts, he was on dialysis at the end and probably very ill.

Whenever people who are extremists die, I always think back to Mother Theresa. Not that the two have anything in common except that they are extremists on the opposite ends of the  morality spectrum But, it came out from her diaries posthumously that she was actually severely depressed and doubted the existence of God even while performing His good work until the day she died.

So, I wonder if towards the end of Osama’s life, did he even give two shits about the fundamentalist rhetoric he’d built his whole life upon? Was he happy to die to get away from it or did he think he’d earned his way to Paradise? We’ll never know unless he kept copious diaries or shows up behind the counter of a 7-11 in Akron, Ohio someday. (Wow, all that from a Lips song, Wayne Coyne would be proud.)

3. “Working Man”-Rush: This was just a random song I was listening to and then it clicked that we all of work for someone and at times, it can suck. Osama was seemingly working for his perception of God and was in the line of terrorism, a job even if its intentions are evil.

I’d imagine that being a terrioist sucks most of the time: you are always on the run and people are trying to kill you. But, then again, I don’t carry any extreme ideology so that probably explains my lack of enthusiasm. “Working Man” to me, is about how maybe we could all live better if we didn’t have to work so much.

Alternately, I think if you love what you do then it doesn’t seem like work. I once asked an exiled Buddhist Monk what he did for fun when he wasn’t praying and through his translator he said that praying was fun for him. So maybe this is where devout people are at. Whatever the case, I know I don’t like all my jobs all the time right now and I am sure I could live my life a lot better than I think I am.

Post Script: I wanted to say something deep about not celebrating someone’s death unless it’s in mourning; my brother MLK Jr. said it better so here it is:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.