Monday, April 21, 2008

Classic Western Archetype Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

It began as a matter of my circumstances: living in a country I had no prior experience of and whose language I did not speak, with a daily routine wherein human interaction was a matter of choice, not fact. It was aggravated by an ever declining number of return communiqués, slowly snipping what tenuous telecommunicative threads connected me to overseas. Not one to half-ass anything, I began replacing conversation with records (see below) and soon found myself quoting certain fictional characters more out of expediency than referential exaggeration.

A trip was taken that would hopefully provide some context and settle a few ongoing quandries. Certainly, some quandries were settled (and I returned sans moustache), but this was also a fact-finding trip and - as always - the Truth is hardly the tonic we'd like it to be. I came back more uncertain than I left, not the least because of two specific exchanges.

The first was between an old friend and me. In discussing our Hell In a Handbasket prognosis for the planet and how relationships slacken through transience, she mentioned that a source of strength was the knowledge that certain people do, and always will, have your back. Her parents' neighbours, for example: though she hadn't seen or spoken to them in years, when/if the shit really hits the fan, she knew the block she grew up on would wrap itself in a protective embrace. This caught me off guard, as I'd not considered that I have no such safety net. No one I've bothered to stay in touch with was remotely geographically compact. I'd exchanged my friends for a loose-knit network of globe-peppering acquaintances.

The second exchange happened in that most seemingly-unlikely-yet-inevitable place for epiphanies: a 24-hour coffee & donut shop. Unable to sleep one night, I took a stroll from my paternal grandmother's house through my old neighbourhood, past my elementary school and towards the university hospital. I soon saw the familiar beacon of my favourite fast-food franchise and decided to pick up something for breakfast. Approaching the counter, I smiled and started calling out various flavours of donut with an insomniac's husk to my voice. The pear-shaped woman behind the counter cocked her head like a confused beagle and, in that nasal gargle of an accent my home province seems to have acquired in the past twenty years, she asked me, "You're not from around here, are you?"

I paused to calculate the percentage of my life that had passed since I'd left my hometown. "No, I guess not."

The woman grew a broad game-show winner's grin. "Are you from New York?"

A half-dozen glazed donuts is a pitiful consolation prize for having lost your sense of place.

All My Friends Are Dead
(Click on the title to download the mix)

1. The Dandy Warhols - "Be-In" (00:00)
2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Cabin Fever" (06:57)
3. Hot Snakes - "I Hate the Kids" (13:01)
4. Tom Waits - "Misery Is the River of the World"(16:05)
5. Pissed Jeans - "Fantasy World" (20:20)
6. Bachi Da Pietra - "Non Io" (23:54)
7. Fugazi - "Long Division" (27:28)
8. Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Anenome" (29:38)
9. My Bloody Valentine - "I Can See It (But I Can't Feel It)" (34:52)
10. Cody Chesnutt - "Juicin' the Dark" (37:57)
11. Faust - "Jennifer" (40:44)
12. Ringo Deathstarr - "Some Kind of Sad" (46:27)
13. Sonic Youth - "Death to Our Friends" (48:30)
14. Spiritualized - "Home of the Brave/The Individual" (51:31)
15. Burial - "Nightbus" (57:44)
16. Brian Eno - "I'll Come Running" (59:49)
17. Marvin Pontiac - "No Kids" (01:03:23)

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