Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speaking of Zeppelins

I live 5 floors above an intersection, where, frequently, drivers who don't want to let other drivers merge or drivers who want to merge but aren't allowed to express their displeasure by pressing their hands against their horns for 1,2,3, 4, 5, 10 or 20 seconds.

The neighborhood is also heavily populated with clever funsters who play the music of their homeland at full volume as they drive at all hours of the day and night.

The wife likes the window open at night, so the full brunt jiggles the photo of my Aunt Sadie from Pasadena on the mantle.

But a few minutes ago, a car went by blasting music. I caught three seconds of it, and it shocked me to my core.

Do be do, bop bop a doo-woah

That's right---Robert Plant's end ad-libs to "What is and what should never be".

How strange that I should feel pleased and comforted by one of the loudest, heaviest, screechiest bands of all time when a snippet of their song zips by the window, like a robin's sweet serenade.

It was like hearing music from my home country, though it may be but 40 miles away.
Another planet, where boys drive Camaros, girls wear jean jackets, and Zep is the soundtrack to every gathering at the Croton Dam, the K-Mart parking lot, the back of the school.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I test-drive the Goodyear blimpie

Fly the friendly skies, folks. Click dat.

And some additional photos:

JM next to the gasbag. Self-portrait.

Your pilot, Jerry Hissler

My passenger, JJ.

Nav system.


Jerry and JJ, as seen from the rear of the craft.

My left foot over Long Island.

Perspective, or, what you start to do when you've been in the sky for 3 hours at 30 MPH.

Throgs Neck bridge.

Madonna. Wait...!

And down we go, bump.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What's on yer iPod?

I was at a gathering two weeks ago upstate where automakers had made a total of 43 hybrid or low-emissions vehicles available for journalists to tool in.

I came across an elderly man, not a surprise in the auto-writer world. Big, tall, friendly guy. Three of us--man, car flak, me---were talking about--something.
Saw an iPod on the guy's belt buckle.

People's iPods intrigue me. And here was a man of about 70 wearing one. Get to know the iPod playlist, you get to know the person.

Asked this man what was on his iPod. Ready for anything.

"I don't know what's on it," he said. "My daughter loaded it."

Ok, no sin. When I was a kid, I did not know the names of any of the artists whose songs I heard on the radio, which was then full of actual songs one could sing. I didn't know, for example, that Foreigner was popular. Who cared? It wasn't like I was going to go see them.

So this man listens to his iPod without judgement or expectation. Doesn't know what's on it.

I listen to jazz in that way. Songs play all day long on XM next to my desk---I cannot work if there are vocals---and if I hear a song I love, I download it into the arsenal of music that gives me sublime joy, pleasure---and combats the music Washington Mutual, Starbucks and Barnes 'n' Noble would force me to listen to.

On another level, the man's lack of knowledge into his own playlist is astounding. My iPod, which I got last summer, contains about 2000 songs I've personally uploaded, and I am never without it.

That said!

Top 5 downloads this week:

Donovan, "Atlantis": I'm reading Donovan's autobio, and am surprised to find him much more popular and influential than I gave him credit for, knowing him only for his hits like "Sunshine Superman," "Mellow Yellow", "Hurdy-Gurdy Man" and the rest. I also find him, in his writing, appropriately mystical, like his songs. He says he dropped out of the music business in the 70s, disgusted over the business aspect of it.

Enrico Caruso, "Over There": It was 1918, and the trenches were packed. (I just got done reading "World War One For Dummies", which my scholar brother Nick Max says I shouldn't be embarassed of as it sums nicely and is well-written.)

When Caruso, the greatest tenor the world has ever known (but whose high C always gave him trouble) gets to the lines, "That the boys are coming/The boys are coming/The drums rum-tumming everywhere", it sounds like the goddamn studio walls are going to fall down. You've never heard that patriotic call to arms sung with more feeling.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, "Hoe Down": I've played this song in public dozens of times, all before I was 20, and I'm reuniting with the same cats I played it with as a lad at a party come August. My chance to play bass, and the bass on "Hoe Down" is quick quick quick.

Leonard Nimoy, "The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins": Bass saxophone. Cute backup singers. Flat, ugly vocals by Nimoy. And charming. Very 60s.

Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'": 80s bloat at its best, but perfect pop song sung perfectly. I heart Steve Perry, even though Neil Schoen has replaced him with a soundalike, Arnel Pineda: