Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Time Machines

I didn't realize it when I was a kid that all the songs that I heard on the radio would one day become little 2-3 minute time machines.

It happens all the time.

The other day on my Ipod, Jefferson Airplane's obscure 1960's song, Two Heads, came on and transported me back to a little hardware store in my hometown. It was there in 1968 or 69 that I first heard the 45 rpm. The smells of seeds and horse feed came back to me and I could see myself watching RCA's Nipper spin around on the record player.

For some reason, it was the first record I ever bought. I was nine years old. I think I liked the way Grace Slick kind of belted out the lyrics and the strange sound of the guitars and keyboard. I'm not even sure why the hardware store was selling records and record players.

A few minutes after Two Heads, Convenient Parking by Modest Mouse popped up on the Ipod -- it took me back to Tajikistan -- bouncing along on a twisting, dusty mountain road -- with boulders on both sides -- and painted on these rocks were the words "landmine. danger." written in Russian. No convenient parking there -- just stay in the road -- don't even pull the edge.

Paul McCartney's silly song Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey takes me back to the summer of 1971 -- and visiting my elderly grandfather in the hospital every Sunday. Most times, this time machine clicks in relating to the first time I heard a particular song, but not always. George Harrison's Dark Horse takes me back to the time my mom had just returned from Miami and brought me not just the single, but the entire album!

Hearing the Ozark Mountain Daredevils self-titled album -- the one with Jackie Blue on it -- takes me back to my grandma's porch. Listening to songs like Road to Glory and in the background -- the gurgling mountain stream -- across the bridge and beyond the dirt road -- my dad's Charolais cattle picking grass in the bottom land.

Or those long drives through the Virginia countryside heading to Washington, DC singing along to Hey Jude. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, Hey Jude!!!!!

Coffee Country

I'm not a coffee drinker, but living in coffee country, I am often tempted. Today, for instance, when I went to the sort-of secret place to buy coffee for friends. Secret in that someone has to show you where the place is or you'd never find it.

You drive into a huge compound and a guy at the gate holds out a sheet of paper for you to sign -- and then he raises the bar and you drive through and it's nothing but dilapidated buildings and weed growing everywhere. Then -- you smell it. Fresh ground coffee.

As I pulled up today, a guy was loading three large sacks of coffee into the trunk of his car. I walked in to the run-down building and the manager said -- "ground or beans?" The roaster was going full steam and, man, was it hot in that little building. In what was the lobby -- the thinnest man in Timor was placing a sack under the grinder. The sack was bigger than he was -- he was wearing shorts in a room that must have been close to 100 degrees.

A sauna with a coffee smell.

One kilo of coffee is five US dollars.