Let the Unfocused Fretting Begin

Among many, one of the reasons I was glad to go to Boston is just to be remined that I do actually like to travel.  When most of my travelling is for work, I forget that.  Because I really don’t like this part of travelling for work.

When I get to the airport, I’ll be fine.

But right now, I have to do laundry, pack, make sure I have my passport and some good reading materails in my bag, as well as my wallet.  I need to go deposit some checks.  I also need to do some dishes and make sure that the stuff that didn’t get in the boxes of stuff sent from work gets in my suitcase.

The truth is that there’s not that much to do, actually, and I will be able to do it all just fine.

Right now, though, I feel kind of paralyzed by it.

The Butcher is supposed to be getting me a new Ipod today, to replace the one he washed (Ipods–not waterproof, who knew?), so I will have that to take with me.  My flight to Montreal is all kinds of stupid.  I’m flying to Dallas to fly to Canada.  I booked my trip, so I have no one but me to blame, but I can’t for the life of me remember why I thought that would be a good idea.

I’m nervous about the money thing.  I know I’ll be able to pay by credit card for almost everything, but what about the cab from the airport to the hotel?  I guess I do need to get some cash exchanged.  I’ve never done that before, either.

The Professor and I were out looking at houses yesterday, just for kicks.  She goes out of couriosity.  I go just to feel justifiably angry at my lot in life.  Anyway, we were talking about how one of our mutual friends is really interested in understanding “class” not just as in how much money you make, but class in terms of culture.

In other words, it is a difference, not just in terms of income, but in terms of expectations and understandings of how the world works that you would spend ten thousand dollars on a purse because you found it more aesthecially pleasing than the five thousand dollar purse while I would decide that a purse ought to cost $20-$25 and I go to Target and get a purse that costs that much.

The Professor was saying how weird it is because when she’s at home, she feels like she knows more about music and art and movies than just about anyone in her family (so to them, she is “cultured” in some way that they are not), but within her own department, she feels like people, at the least, think it’s peculiar that she seems to really like movies instead of having a proper appreciation of cinema.

And I was talking to Martin Kennedy a little about this, too, about how you cannot underestimate the importance of knowing how to fit–who to go to in order to hear about jobs, who to listen to for financial advice, even how to best present yourself to get into college.  It’s not knowledge everyone had or has access to or is even aware that they’re lacking it.

In other words, sometimes it embarrasses me to sit here and say “Oh, gosh, wow.  I’m leaving the country for the first time in my adult life and I’m excited and nervous and a little scared and also thrilled” even though I know I’m not even going to be out of driving distance of my loved ones.  If something goes wrong, they can always come and get me.  In other words, I’m just going to Canada.  It hardly counts as international travel.

But I am excited and nervous and I want to share that with you, at the same time I know it marks me.  It tells you more about me than I might otherwise be comfortable sharing with you.

And I don’t really know why it embarrasses me.  Maybe for the same reason it pisses me off to drive clear down to Nolensville and see them selling houses for $300,000.  It makes me feel like I don’t belong–both things, that I haven’t ever left the country as an adult and that I’ll be lucky if there’s any place I can afford to live in Nashville by the time I can afford to buy a house, make me feel like the rube who doesn’t get how the world works in ways that are utterly obvious to everyone else.

I can’t help it.  If I’m not going to fit in, I want it to be because I’m a rebel, not because I’m a bumpkin.  I could play the game, but fuck your game, not there’s a game?  What game?

I want to be cool, what can I say?

I’m all the time bringing Mack music that I love and forcing him to listen to it and he always waits patiently through song after song that’s meaningful to me and hurrying to turn it off as quickly as he can afterwards.

It hurts my heart that Mack doesn’t like my music.  (He’s a little disdainful of my choice in movies, as well, but I figure, “I don’t really watch movies,” sounds sufficiently snobby as to not reveal that my bad taste spreads across genres.)  Of course I want the cool kid to think I’m cool, too.

But alas, folks, in the hours of music I’ve brought him to listen to, he’s only ever once said, “Hey! I love this.” (“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Whithers, if you’re keeping score at home.)  Mostly he’s all about how it’s too noisy or lacking in talent or whatever.

The other day, though, he said, “All your songs sound like hymns.”

Boy has that stuck with me and boy do I like it.  All my songs sound like hymns.

I love the idea of revealing, by way of my song choice, that I’m interested in finding the sacred in the profain, and that I’m still comforted and challenged and moved by the structures my parents instilled in me as a child.

Now I cannot wait for the arrival of my Ipod so that I can sit in airplanes and in airports listening to hymns I didn’t quite recognize as being such.

22 thoughts on “Let the Unfocused Fretting Begin

  1. Let’s see, I had on the last CD I made for him to listen to–

    “Clint Eastwood” by the Gorillas
    “Possum Kingdom” by the Toadies
    “Honey Now” by Gillian Welch
    Aretha Franklin’s version of “The Weight”
    Erma Franklin’s version of “Piece of My Heart”
    “Ain’t No Sunshine”, obviously
    Michelle Shoked
    “Train that Carried My Girl from Town” by Doc Watson
    “In My Time of Dying” by Bob Dylan
    “Right Hand Man” by Joan Osborne

    –You know, songs you can sing along to while you’re doing dishes.

  2. A lot of taxis take credit cards now. The bellhop at your hotel and airport taxi dispatch person should be able to flag you one that does if you tell them. I almost have 1/2 cds ready for you. :)

  3. Airport $ exchange rates are noticeably unfavorable to you – captive audience and all. But just suck it up for a little bit of money. In Montreal, there’s an exchange window right next to baggage claim (at the end between the conveyors and the last step of customs, on the way out to the taxi stands).

    Even better though, use your credit card for a cash advance. Those are the best rates anywhere. Just be sure to use a card that has $0 balance and then pay the bill in full right away or they will charge you high rates. And, if there is a balance that you don’t pay in full, then any payment will go to that before cash advances so that they can continue to charge you those high fees. There’s probably am ATM (or 5) in the airport too. You need to know your PIN number, which you can get with online or over the phone this afternoon. My SunTrust card didn’t work in Montreal, but none of my traveling companions had any trouble with the ATMS throughout the city.

    If you want to know how much to exchange for that taxi ride, check the hotel website or call the concierge. They should be able to give you an accurate estimate. They can probably also advise you about tipping expectations.

  4. I have no idea about Canada. Never been, always wanted to go. (Especially during Vietnam) And since it is the country that brought Rush here, let’s segue, shall we, into music?

    One thing I totally dislike about Nashville is how many music snobs I have met. I like to kid around alot about rap, I always say it hasn’t been the same since NWA. But I liked NWA, because it was “street poetry” and it had a beat AND it was all quite new to me. After awhile, every rap star was on about bitches, nines, ho’s and crimes, poppin a cap, bustin a rap, and, um, taking a nap. Ok, I made the last one up, they never rapped about nap time, pity.

    I find the whole I want to be cool about music thing kinda weird and frustrating. A brief perusal through my CD case (yes, remember those?) and I see Steely Dan, Sade, B-52’s, Rush, Frank Sinatra, Concrete Blonde, and Robert Ellis Orral. Each of them quite distnict from the other, no? My favorite band will probably always be DADA, and I’m like one of 13 fans they have.

    I think I sometimes like certain music that I discovered at a given point in my life. Some has lasted for decades, some of it for mere weeks. For instance, Rush. The early stuff reminds me of time spent with my best buddy, and all the traveling and carrying on we did, so, theres that. But then yesterday I was in my car, parked in the garage, listening to Xanadu and La Villa Strangiata at full blast and happy as shit, and I didn’t give my fiend a thought. I just liked the blend of noise that Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Niel Peart produce. My friend John Martinez turned me on to Concrete Blond long ago, and I was hooked on Napolitano’s voice. “Jenny I read” is a badass song.

    I could go on and on, but all I am saying is that music don’t make you cool. At least it won’t ever make me cool. Have fun in Canada, eh.

  5. True. But don’t you ever like some music So Much that you just want to share the pleasure? I mean, don’t you ever get tempted to make DADA mix tapes or whatever and get all your friends to join the 13? Not that that kind of thing ever works [sigh .. I’ve tried] but you want it to.

  6. Mack, if you look for good hip hop instead of just rap you’ll find lots of stuff that is more like NWA than like 50 Cent. Like any other genre (or even lots of other forms of art and expression) too many people get lost between trying to be artists who get noticed and trying to becoming rich and famous. Too many rappers let the music labels (and radio people) limit what counts as rap and not give airtime . Some of them did even worse when starting their own labels because it was all about the benjamins, not really about the freedom and creativity. And, since lots of the people buying are white people, there’s all kinds of other problems that have meant that the rap you describe is too often experienced as all there is, as all that ever gets media attention. Woo really wants to hear black folk talking about actually making the world better anyhow? I do! What about Mos Def and Talib Kweli (who, when together, are Black Star), De La Sol, the Roots? And then there’s reggaeton, which is part of the Latin rap scence.

    Otherwise, I like what you’re saying.

  7. “I could go on and on, but all I am saying is that music don’t make you cool. At least it won’t ever make me cool.”


    When I was in Juarez, the little girls sang a song about a handsome man with a jewel-encrusted penis and how they all hope to meet him in the dark of the night once they turn eighteen.

    That’s pretty cool. Not many people have a folk song about them.

  8. I agree with Mack on the whole “music snobs” thing in Nashville. I am amazed at how many of my friends wouldn’t listen to mainstream pop or country (even classic rock) if their life depended on it. There are a lot of obscure treasures out there, but it doesn’t mean that if you like mainstream, you are somehow not as “cool.” Most of what I listen to now either touches me emotionally, is fun to sing along with, or takes me back to a feeling at a point in time. eh, I’m rambling…

    Also, Mack, I’m with nm…I’d love it if you’d burn me some of your Dada stuff.

    Aunt B., enjoy making memories on your trip! I look forward to hearing all about it when you return. :)

  9. I am amazed at how many of my friends wouldn’t listen to mainstream pop or country (even classic rock) if their life depended on it.

    I’m forever getting chastised for loving pop music. I don’t give a shit. I love pop music. I write pop music. Oh sure, I listen to and appreciate more obscure stuff, and I can write some pretty artsy shit, but pop music is my most comfortable vocabulary.

    Just throwing that out there. Not sure why. :)

  10. Well, Ginger, and NM, the thing about me is that I grew up on stuff from the 60’s and 70’s. So, I learned to love harmonies from the mama’s/papas, politically chraged lyrics from Yardbirds and Buffalo Springfield, etc. Then came the 70’s, and I grew to love electric guitar, and strong bass. ELP changed me forever. Eventually, I came to be a Rush disciple, because all three were stand out musicians, and you either like Lee’s voice or you don’t. I did. LA Rock is till my fave, though, and sure, I’ll happily burn CD’s for you if you think you would enjoy them. But, ultimately, music is somewhat a private pleasure. If friends are over, I can’t concentrate on what I’m hearing, so anything light and easy in the background suits me. When I’m alone, I don spandex and rock out with my cock out.

  11. But Mack, the thing about me is that that’s when I grew up as well. And I loved all that stuff, too. Well, not ELP and not the BeeGees (sorry, Ginger), but I heard all the same stuff you did. But there’s been a lot of fantastic music since then, too. I don’t think they take your spandex away if you listen to it. And even if they did you could still … oh, you know.

    What you say about not mixing music and other people, though, I do get that. I don’t share that trait, exactly, except for listening to new stuff. I have to concentrate on that. But I do understand what you’re talking about.

  12. “I love the idea of revealing, by way of my song choice, that I’m interested in finding the sacred in the profain, and that I’m still comforted and challenged and moved by the structures my parents instilled in me as a child. Now I cannot wait for the arrival of my Ipod so that I can sit in airplanes and in airports listening to hymns I didn’t quite recognize as being such.”

    I thought that was kind of beautiful.

  13. Ipods–not waterproof, who knew?

    They can be ;-)

    I wouldn’t stress too much over the money exchanging. It’s easy to do.

    Of course you may find you don’t need to worry about it. When I was in Canada most places took US Dollars (of course I was in Ontario, and I’ve heard Quebec is one of the more snobby provinces). For that matter though, many places even took US Dollars when I was in Austria.

    Canadian money is really pretty though.

  14. I’m so happy for you, Aunt B., and envious at the same time. You’re going to Montreal!

    Anyway, in my sadly infrequent international travels, I’ve discovered something interesting and rewarding. You are right that you won’t “fit in.” But that could be a really good thing. Many people– especially urbanites, I’m guessing– enjoy variety, as much or more in their fellow human beings as in their wardrobes. As a tourist/visitor, you will be, to many people, a welcome sight. You are bringing a humble, eager desire to explore and to experience to their city, and that in itself will make you welcome to most.

    In this case, I think your lack of extravagant material wealth helps you, if not nearly as much as your natural charm. I think you will find that you do belong in Montreal, inasmuch as you are a citizen of the world and a member of the human community. Montreal will belong to you in the sense that you can share it with all of its citizens, as opposed to the sense that you could call your people and buy up a chunk of it for your exclusive use.

    I hope all of that bullshit was helpful somehow. I meant every word of it. Have fun.

  15. As a tourist/visitor, you will be, to many people, a welcome sight.

    Bwahahahah! You’re not a New Yorker, CS, that’s for sure. Tourists … clogging up the sidewalks, walking too slowly, holding up the lines at turnstiles because they can’t figure out how to swipe their farecards, riding on tour buses through your neighborhood and pointing at you as an example of a colorful ethnic native, keeping Cats running for year after year after year, asking you for directions and then not believing you … tourists, ugh!

  16. There are many different kinds of tourists, NM. I visited Manhattan with my wife and our toddler, and we had a great time wherever we went; most people were really cool to us.

    Perhaps it was because we provided our own ‘colorful ethnic’ variety, and (being of a metropolis ourselves) we aren’t surprised and threatened by ethnic diversity. Perhaps it is because we had no problems with the farecards (though some of the turnstiles can be a bit balky; even some New Yorkers seem to have occasional trouble with them), considering that we are veterans of the CTA. Perhaps it was because my wife and I are the kind of humble travelers that I alluded to above. Perhaps it was the presence of our daughter, who is a walking charm factory.

    Perhaps it was none of that. Maybe it was just that– to our pleasantly mild surprise– very few New Yorkers were the sort of arrogant, short-tempered assholes we were told to expect.

  17. Awwww, if you had your daughter with you everyone would have been sweet as pie — New Yorkers adore babies. A parent with a stroller, in particular, will get all sorts of help, waves, and smiles. And almost none of us/them are rude to anyone’s face; we/they just bitch about tourists when they aren’t around.* Especially about the ones who stop you when you’re on your way to work, ask you for directions, which you give them in detail, and then walk away remarking audibly, “let’s go ask someone else” because evidently you yourself aren’t credible enough for some reason.

    *Although about twice a month I used to see people yelling at the tour buses: “Yes, I live here! Yes, my hair is blue/I’m gay/I’m Asian-Russian-Latino-Italian (depending on the neighborhood)! Go away!”

  18. I suppose it all depends on who, where, and when you are (and where you’re coming from as an individual). As a well-compensated municipal employee, I’m glad to be an unofficial helper and greeter for anyone from out of town. This is especially true when I’m in uniform, but not exclusively. I guess that perspective affects my outlook, and it might affect me when I’m a visitor as much as when I’m a host.

    Generally, I like to think that most people are probably as friendly and helpful to visitors as they can stand to be, but there are always bad guests. You can only bend so far backward.

    Anyway, I don’t think Aunt B. will have any trouble in Montreal, at least as far as hospitality is concerned. She is quite engaging and attractive (in every sense that counts), and most sane people will be good to her just for that.

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