A Timeless Playlist
So I’m hammering away at these keys in Dublin’s best smoking area. The IFI. In my opinion anyway. It’s a bit chilly but their wifi works great even out here so I can’t really complain. I punch my earphones into my compact laptop, switch to Spotify and play my “Ryan Gattis: All Involved” playlist. A playlist I’ve just spent a whole hour compiling. It’s as close to the soundtrack of Ryan Gattis’s Lost In Music event that I can get. My head bops, the playlist soothes me while I light a cigarette and think about Gattis. He spent two and a half years researching his latest novel “All Involved” and I’m trying to write about it in only two days. It’s a paralizing thought. So I … scroll through twitter. I follow Gattis. He’s an interesting guy. From REM albums to Hamlet auditions I feel like I learned a lot about him in his one hour nine minute talk in the Liquor Rooms on Saturday. There’s nothing else to tweet about except Gattis. So I do. I tell the world what I’m doing but in a vague way. It’s a tweet, no space for superfluous detail.
The Supremes “Run Run Run” is still playing when my hands get too cold to be typing. There’s only a light but crisp summer breeze to complain about but it’s enough to drive me inside. I pause Ms. Ross and co mid chorus and I rock inside in search of a warmer spot to chill with my playlist, notes and this little blog post.
I find an empty table right near the entrance to that bathrooms. It’s not ideal but hey at least it’s warm. The waiter comes over to me in my new spot and I notice my stomach trying to claw its way into my consciousness. I haven’t eaten since breakfast and it’s almost 4. The waiter, Saleem, he speaks to me over the music in my ears. I take one earphone out and I know I’m being rude but Kid Frost’s Mi Vida Loca is on and it’s almost finished. I listen as its soothing sample peters out and ask Saleem how he is getting on, in French, ‘cos why not. As the song finishes I pop the other ear bud out, slap the pause button and order myself nibbles and a coffee.
My body has warmed up after nicely as I’ve snacked and bopped away to More Than a Feeling and Rock Around the Clock and so I go back to my laptop. I can’t quite remember where I was going with my sentence so I delete it and go back to my notes from the evening. And I am so thankful for mobile phones. Smart phones, man, they make it easier. I have everything I need to write this in my pocket if I wanted. That thought makes me pensive. I think about how riots today are fueled by social media. How Twitter and Facebook get the blame for horrific events. The London Riots in 2011 are a prime example. I guess it must work the way Gattis said the media fueled the 1992 LA riots, the setting for “All Involved”. People know the places and what’s happening and they just join in. We’re all just opportunistic sheep. The image of a sheep in a riot makes me laugh. It shouldn’t but it does.
When you think realistically though…Scary thoughts. Gangs. Rioting. Civil Unrest. It’s all over my Facebook. Ferguson, New York, Baltimore. I can read about it if and when I want to, but I can also not. I can just ignore it. I’m hit in the face by my own privilege as I type this. I think about the themes in Gattis’s bestseller and know that “All Involved” is timeless. Gattis is so right. When things don’t change, when cities and inner cities in particular don’t have access to jobs, education and healthcare it’s always gonna happen. It’s inevitable. We never learn. Do we even listen? Generation to generation? We mustn’t. After all I hadn’t even heard of the LA riots and I was approaching my first birthday when they happened. I mean they happened in my lifetime and if there wasn’t an amazing fiction book written about them I think I’d still be plodding along in my ignorance and I lived in LA for six month. Smack. There’s that privilege again.
Then just to hammer that thought home 5446 comes on. I lament that I couldn’t find the live version Gattis treated us to on the night. I enjoy the remastered version anyway. And I think about him, about Gattis, about how much he enjoyed his work and his reading, how hard he worked on such a mamoth task, how into it he got, how he managed to create 17 distinct, clear voices, and how he had to clarify there were, in fact, no snails in the book. He had tripped over the word snares. It was absolutely hilarious. It makes me smile. One of those broad toothy smiles that if a someone caught it they’d think I was mad. But snails! Hilarious.
A beat of a specials song bumps into my head as I stifle a giggle and I think about how many of these songs I actually know. Considering I was only a baby at their peak popularity. I sip my coffee. Only adults get to sip coffee. A Message to you Ruddy fades out and the playlist is played through. The melody is gone. Just like the final narrator in the brave book I don’t hear anything but background noise. Cafe sounds, a lot better than the cracking fires that consumed most of LA over the course of the 6 day riots. And I rebuild the scene from the Liquor Rooms in my mind before pressing repeat. Mixtapes might have died but the playlist lives on. This playlist is perfect. I think I’ll be listening to these tunes for a while. Thanks Gattis.
By Shamim de Brún