Wasting away

May 11, 2016 at 11:14 am
Wasting away

Looking up, I realized that it was a sky-blue sky. The weather never really seems to change here, so maybe every day had seen this shade. My toes had been in the sand for a few hours at this point, and we were on day three or four of a belated honeymoon. I say three or four, because against even my expectations, I had let go. I was relaxed, or as I kept announcing, “I’m relaxed as a motherfucker!” The whole concept of island time had always sounded like something the locals would say to the resort residents to make them feel like they were getting the full-island experience, but I found myself quickly giving up any rush or care — my only needs consisted of the occasional body surfing and remembering to book a spot for dinner. The one thing I wasn’t ready to give up was my taste in music, but staring up at that light blue color, I only had a passing thought of Wilco’s album. It was hiding somewhere in the back of my mind, hiding for certain and probably confused at the lackadaisical look in my eyes.

The surprising discovery had happened the day after we arrived to Providenciales. Up early thanks to the family next door who awoke every morning like a rooster, if a rooster was prone to wake up screaming at the top of its lungs in the highest pitch perceptible to human ears, we grabbed a quick bite and made our way to the beach. My wife and I, both with our priorities in order, had made sure to download music onto our phones knowing that we wouldn’t be able to depend on any Wi-Fi on the island. Towels were draped, umbrellas tilted, sunscreen applied, books in place and headphones fitted. I’m not sure what she was listening to at that moment, but since I was in the middle of reading Carrie Brownstein’s “Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl,” I pushed play on the first Sleater-Kinney album.

It didn’t sound right, like a protruding puzzle piece. Up against what I was seeing around me, the music was almost comical, an Oscar vs. Felix of nature. The only time when everything worked with my senses was when I would see someone get walloped by an unexpected wave, knocked down to the sea floor for a few seconds, abruptly jumping up only to be smacked down again. Even with the music loud, I could still hear the pounding of those waves as they forced their way beyond my headphones, demanding attention. I let the album play out, but cut the follow-up short.

The next day, Jenn asked me to play something on the mini Jambox. I scrolled through my list and landed on The Smiths. Half a song in, and I could feel her comfort slip, as mine was as well. I switched to Radiohead, which only made matters worse. Stop. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. I looked up, staring off into the water, the sky overhead, the few scattered other vacationers around us, and waited for a song to arrive.

It was only a few seconds when a melody began to play itself in my mind. The melody was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. It was coming from somewhere deep and dark. Somewhere long-since banished. I started humming to help it’s pace, still unsure myself. And before I could stop it, the lyrics slowly rolled over my lips.

“Nibbling on sponge cake. Watching the sun bake.”

Oh my God. I’m singing Jimmy Buffett! And what’s more, it sounds good! What was happening? Is it possible that, against all my doubts, environment actually does play a part in what you listen to? That all of those artists weren’t just being picky when they went to a far off destination to make a record? Is this why there were no indie stations on the islands? No counterculture of outsiders? Was it possible that in this paradise, maybe a cheeseburger would be the perfect addition to the oncoming Monday? Certainly these changes in latitudes were causing changes in attitudes, and I was a son of a son of a sailor for trying to fight it!

Bewildered, but unable to resist, I grabbed a boat drink, lay back into my beach chair and contemplated where I would go when the volcano blows. Maybe I could grow a pencil thin mustache, become a pirate looking “at forty.” With just a few friends. Wasted away... •

Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Speed of Sound.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.