Monday, February 11, 2008

Eight Miles High

North-West Airlines Flight 9728
Somewhere between
Osaka and Honolulu

I'm on my way to Los Angeles via Honolulu, cruising at an altitude of 42,000 feet. That's eight miles high: "When you touch down /You’ll find that it’s stranger than known."

I don't feel so good. I just had the worst airline meal of my life, after giving the wrong answer to the question, “Chicken or Beef?” I chose the beef after playing paper, rock, scissors with myself.

Endeavoring to distract my thoughts from the heinous crime perpetrated on my digestive tract I set my iPod to 'shuffle' mode.

1. 4 Minute Warning - Radiohead
In a democratic band vote this was vetoed from the initial version of In Rainbows, proving that generally five heads are indeed better than one. “This is just a nightmare”, sings Thom Yorke. He should try the beef.

2. Down is the New Up- Radiohead
Another In Rainbows reject, and in perfect synchronicity the plane plummets ninety feet as we hit turbulence, prompting nervous gasps around the cabin. I feel the beef trying to do an about-turn and I remember: I really don’t like flying. This track proves that the rejects of mega-bands are only marginally more interesting than those of no-hopers. Are we in
Honolulu yet?

3. Mr. Grieves - The Pixies
Hmm. This oldie still packs a vicarious punch, but as the plane ducks and weaves its way through the turbulence, negative thoughts continue to percolate in my mind. I recall loudQUIETloud, the 2006 Pixies documentary which proved that famous musicians are just as boring and dysfunctional as we lesser mortals.

4. Girls on LSD - Tom Petty
Reminds me of a girl who had a cat named Alexander and a goldfish named Sebastian. She was my first true love. On rainy days we sat in bars or walked on the beach. She was raised on a ranch and told me, “You don’t know much about animals, do you?” As usual, she was right. Talking of animals....

5. The Past is a Grotesque Animal - Of Montreal
No one with an iota of life experience could dispute the truth of this assertion. Sometimes you knock things down only to build them up again. Even if you succeed, there will always be something missing, in particular the purity and innocent joy which made it special in the first place.

6. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart - Wilco
The singer’s egomania and self-delusion merges with my own, and I wonder if I will end this flight in one piece, or in many pieces. As my pal Red used to say, the devil has his price to pay.

7. Dusty Nothing - Black Mountain
As this one pummels my senses, the plane stabilizes and I begin to feel better.
Have all my epiphanic, life-defining moments been refracted through a musical lens? Can the only possible meaning to existence be reached through the amorphously precise and hazy joy that is musical expression? Nah.

8. It Stoned Me - Van Morrison
As the plane banks steeply I glimpse the Pacific shimmering many miles below, and I am gripped by a feeling of inexpressible gratitude. This is a song which communicates the majesty of pure experience, and I sense the vast gulf which separates Van from a multitude of artists who can never hope to approach his genius. As I look down I see Maui sparkling in the distance, and it truly stones me.

Listen: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High"

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