Jorge Crisscrosses the Americas, Gets Really Lost (Also: Some Music.)

A hastily-snapped low-def picture of the view from my hotel room in Manhattan.

I am writing this from my hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia. My dog is sitting by the bed, staring intently at my face. I have a complicated relationship with Barranquilla. I’ve written about how much I hated growing up here, and yet I long to come back at least once a year, and am always surprise at the delightful ease with which I settle back into life in La Arenosa. Of course, that ease quickly evolves into boredom if I stay more than a few weeks. In this particular occasion, I’m only here for 5 days– 3 of which have already passed– and it’s a welcome respite from the absurdly jam-packed life I’ve had for the last three weeks.

Man. The last three weeks. They’ve been strange and wonderful in a hundred enormous ways. I’ve mostly spent them walking around unfamiliar streets, getting lost. Also I’ve bonded for life with strangers over drinks and under the umbrellas of Manhattan. I’ve been inspired by pieces of art hung up on the walls of an apartment in Brooklyn. I’ve spent a lot of time in other people’s bedrooms, in hotel lobbies, in taxi cabs and trains and buses and airport boarding gates. It’s been a wash– of the absolute best kind. A flurry of names and faces and scenes of ridiculous dialogue and bad lighting, smudged ink on bar napkins, knowing winks, convenience stores, conference rooms, sets of keys. I’ll never forget it, and I will return ASAP.

Because of this… because of my desire to experience these things fully (and also because of an all-consuming, unrelenting laziness), I have neglected my blog. I sincerely apologize if you’re one of those poor souls who kept coming back daily, hoping that this would be the day I’d conjured up some motivation and put together another awkwardly worded piece about how much I love Eric Bachmann (and, evidently, some of you folks did– even though I didn’t post ANY new content for a good two weeks or so, my daily blog hits actually increased in that time. That traffic spike is either from old visitors zealously checking back for updates, or it’s from handing out all those business cards all over NYC. If you are one of those hundreds of people to whom I drunkenly gave a business card: I promise I’m not a douchebag). As of right now, I am back on my old schedule. Three posts a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, come rain or come whine.

For the short time that I actually kept that Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, it felt a little bit like a ruse. Mondays were new podcast day, and those didn’t REALLY count as posts. Not really. Well, my conscience is now clear as Monday posts will no longer feature the Jor Mom podcast. No, I didn’t create another site exclusively for the podcast. Rather, Jor Mom has come to an untimely end. Yes, it’s sad, but hey, we had a good run– five fairly respectable episodes, with a pretty sizable audience. Not bad for a dorky podcast about blogs. If you’re aching to know, yes, the story of why Jor Mom ended is long and complicated and fraught with drama, both tangible and imagined. I was planning on recording a final, tell-all episode where I recounted the tempestuous ordeal (I was going to call it “Jor Mom: Denouement”), but, honestly, coming off of the experience, it seems a pointless and destructive exercise. I do love the podcasting medium, and I think that I was actually getting good at it, so expect to see a new podcast starting up soon. Hopefully featuring a co-host who isn’t completely fucking insane.

Now, because of the trip and the inordinate amount of time I’ve been spending (and will be spending) in transport from one part of the world to another, I’ve been listening to a lot of music. You know me, music is part of pretty much every waking moment, but it really becomes invaluable when it comes to long commutes, when the only other options are to either sample the “on-board entertainment” or suffer in silence. These are the records I’ve been spinning for the last three weeks or so.

Crooked Fingers- “Red Devil Dawn” (2003)

You see, man? The self-fulfilling prophecy. Can’t keep away from Bachmann for too long in this blog. Now, I’ve already written about how much I love this wonderfully crafted gem of an indie-folk-pop record, but I think I’ve rediscovered it in recent days. There’s something about the wholeness of it, the way the songs all complement each other while operating within the same melodic space, the ticktock rhythms and gentle string plucking that moves this record along. It’s a great companion to scenic train rides and contemplative staring-listlessly-out-the-window moments.

Mexican Museums- “Baseball in Heaven” (2012)

A breezy, summery, delightfully melodic EP to keep me company in the cold confines of public transport. Four tracks in just over 12 minutes, Mexican Museums is a dose of positive energy right when you need it the most: when you’re doing something as ridiculously soul-crushing as taking 5-hour train rides for work. Their angular indie-rock arrangements– with the Mike Mills basslines and circa-1982 Lol Tolhurst drumming and serpentine guitar arpeggios and placid solar-glare keyboard melodies– display a quiet energy and relaxed confidence that’s a dozen kinds of refreshing. Click here to download the debut EP by these talented young humans. A lovely listen all the way through.

Tegan & Sara- “If It Was You” (2002)

Hey. Don’t judge me. This wasn’t my fault as much as it was the fault of my ridiculously fickle iPod’s shuffle. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed the Quin sisters’ brand of plaintive acoustic mall-pop. That sounds harsh, but I mean it as a compliment: every one of these songs would sound at home during one of those third-act “everything is fucked up” montage sequence near the end of every episode of every WB teen drama ever. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because those songs are there for a reason; there’s a genuine gravitas to them, pathos in every chord change, in every harmonizing background vocal. You know what, fuck you. I’m not even going to try to aggrandize it. I love Tegan and Sara and I love this album. You can fuck right off.

John Coltrane, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Idrees Sulieman- “The Cats” (1957)

One of those stray albums you just kind of find and latch on to for some reason, and you wonder why you don’t ever hear other people talk about it. Maybe it’s because 1957 saw the release of about a hundred thousand million jazz albums. Whatever the case, this wonderful collection of tunes is tragically underrated, capturing virtuoso performances by the stellar lineup. Flanagan’s leads approach that stately Blue Note sound, Coltrane surrenders completely to melody, Sulieman shines (and, truly, is he one of the most underrated players in all of jazz history?). Combined, they create a genuine smokey, after-hours jazz classic, perfect for lurching about in boarding gates.

(Also: Yes, I realize the above picture is from Coltrane’s “Blue Train” sessions that same year. It’s impossible to find any hi-def images from the recording of the album in question, which gives further credence to the fact that it’s a tragically overlooked piece of work.)

The Beastie Boys- “Hello Nasty” (1998)

I received the news of Adam Yauch’s death by means of a text message, sent all the way from Argentina to New York. I was on break after being called in to work due to an emergency on the last day of my vacation, which resulted in blowing off a friend for lunch and spending the entire day in a hotel room working. After hours of hating myself and everything around me, I took a short break to wander around Manhattan, listening to music, taking it all in. I was listening to Road to Ruin, which felt like a good an album as any to listen to in New York city. The text message came from a friend and fellow Beastie Boys fan in Buenos Aires. I was immediately shocked and devastated, and like a sudden reflex I reached into my coat pocket, pulled out my iPod, shifted up to the Beastie Boys and played Hello Nasty, the brilliant album that served as my introduction to the Beasties. And as I walked around midtown Manhattan, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to burst out into song like a madman, leading those enlightened into an impromptu tribute to MCA. Restraint got the better of me. And then this sweet, heartfelt little song by MCA came on. And I wanted to cry.

I loved the Beastie Boys for their sense of humor, their wild energy and their genuine love of music. You could feel it in everything they did. MCA always felt like the cooler, more collected one who still knew how to have fun. I always felt like after Adrock and Mike D gave you a wedgie and poured beer over your head, MCA would be the one who’d bring you a towel and buy you a sandwich. The world is a poorer place without him. But his music is pretty much all I’ve listened to since I received that text message. It’s all I listened to in the plane trip between New York and Bogot√°, and then in the one between Bogot√° and Barranquilla. And that’s kept my head up. It’s kept me smiling. It’s a joyful thing.

9 thoughts on “Jorge Crisscrosses the Americas, Gets Really Lost (Also: Some Music.)

  1. I want to hear all about your trip to New York, and whether you got to everything on your list. Or rather, the list that I sent you. Next time we’ll coordinate our schedules better and make sure that I’m there.

    I also heard about MCA’s death through text- or, rather, multiple texts, one right after the other. I am a huge Beastie Boys fan, which you already knew, and I was so devastated- not only was he incredibly talented, but he was a great human being, and one that we’ll all miss. I’ve had License to Ill on repeat for a week. SO SAD.

  2. MCA’s death was a blow to music. The Beastie Boys were my first taste of “grown up” music. I remember finding my sister’s copy of Hello Nasty and nearly making it all the way through the album. The only thing that stopped me was mom calling me to dinner.

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