DURATION:1 hour 21 min (20 tracks) | MOOD: Nostalgic, longing for elsewhere, but lounging for now
The Last Ticket Out Of Town is a prologue about a two-gear town and a playlist by Séraphin Turihamwe from The Eternal Audience Of One (Scout Press).
LYRICS AND THEIR FRAGMENTS
“…I know you’ve been talking ’bout leaving
You’ve lost all your feelings for this town…”
—Leaving Town by Dexter Freebish
There is a poison that infects the young, restless, or rootless. No cure can be found for it. It appears on the distant horizon as a shimmering haze of thereness, as a mirage in the heat hardening into a clear desire. It is in the stars, glittering and glorious, far away.
“…lately I’m beginning to find that I
Should be the one behind the wheel…”
—Drive by Incubus
It is in a travel magazine, disguised as a beach on a hidden shore. Sometimes it is on a television program: David Attenborough exploring tropical wilds in latitudes unknown or Anthony Bourdain sampling local delicacies in Hanoi.
“Are these times contagious?
I’ve never been this bored before
Is this the prize I’ve waited for?”
—Run by Collective Soul
It is in the air—a promise of adventure, an escape from conformity, boredom, and routine. It is also on the radio, as late 90s rock and early 00s pop. (And in the second spring of the pandemic in 2021—doing laps around misery, curfews, and confinement—it asks whether we still have a long way to run.)
“Some say, better things will come our way…”
—Someday by Sugar Ray
It whispers of other places, other times. It promises that somewhere out there—far from this two-gear town—are other ways of being.
“But where were they going without ever knowing the way?”
—The Way by Fastball
Destination: anywhere, everywhere, elsewhere, just not here.
“…some dance to remember, some dance to forget…”
—Hotel California by The Eagles
And when you find out how extended metaphors of imprisonment and escape work you begin to see and hear them everywhere and in everything. On the television. On the radio. Stabbed with steely knives the beast (boredom? angst? tradition?) still cannot be killed. A check out counter but no exit door.
“Oh, mother, tell your children
Not to do what I have done…”
—House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
If you stay you will spend your life in sin and misery.
“The ocean is a desert with its life underground
And a perfect disguise above…”
—A Horse With No Name by America
Like the new stranger in town, saddle up, and move on.
“The dust will choke you blind…”
—Hate Street Dialogue by Rodriguez
And on top of your small city’s three temperatures there is the unavoidable dust, everywhere.
“And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening…”
—The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
Restless dreams. Walk alone. Haloed street lamps. Narrow streets of cobbled stone.
“Why not leave why not, go away
Too much hatred, corruption and greed
Give your life, and invariably they leave you with nothing…”
—She’s Got Her Ticket by Tracy Chapman
The (first, second, third, fourth…) last ticket out of…
“Into the sun we climb
Climbing our wings will burn white
Everyone strapped in tight, we’ll ride it out
I’ll be coming home next year…”
—Next Year by Foo Fighters
Or never. Hopefully.
“Meet me with a way out through the lies…”
—Ten by Jimmy Eat World
Nowhere, going nowhere.
“Everyone’s got to face down the demons
Maybe today, you could put the past away…”
—Jumper by Third Eye Blind
Or not. What you have you hold. Forever.
“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories, and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while…”
—Good Riddance by Green Day
And hope you have the time of your life.
“I wish the real world would just stop hassling me…”
—Real World by Matchbox Twenty
It will not stop. Even if you ask it nicely.
“There is freedom within, there is freedom without…”
—Don’t Dream It’s Over by Sixpence None The Richer
This is a hard lesson to learn.
“I’m here, but I’m really gone…”
—Hand In My Pocket by Alanis Morissette
Sometimes. But mostly always.
“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…”
—Leaving On A Jet Plane by Chantal Kreviazuk
Gone, baby, gone.
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”
—From Closing Time by Semisonic
Or so we are told.
POSTSCRIPT: I am thinking about short stories and Michael K. Williams who played the best character in the best television series ever made: Omar Little in The Wire. The fractured wholeness of the actor and the character, the fierce intensity of their respective beings—I am thinking of their epic lines, dropped with such ease. (“This range? This calibre? Even if I miss I can’t miss.” “Oh, indeed.” “Omar don’t scare.” “A man’s got to have a code, yo.”) I am thinking of the way each on-screen appearance was a whole universe—a star with a scar and black holes—and how his stroll, his whistling, his persona shifted the narrative around him. I am thinking of his performance with that character, never once reserving anything for later. I am thinking about a conversation I had with Roland Watson-Grant (the Jamaican author of Sketcher, Skid, and numerous short stories) telling me about he went back to the roots of his craft to reinvent himself, to rediscover how to write with the same wonder and intensity he had in the beginning—never saving lines, bars, or scenes. “Drop the fire, mi yute. Drop the fire.” Michael K. Williams, one of my favourite actors, is dead and I am thinking about short stories being like traffic on a highway and how you, as a storyteller, do your best to merge with the flow as seamlessly as possible. You tell and ride your tale as best and as sincerely as you can and, when it is time, signal to take the next exit, leaving the stream to go on. I am thinking about how short stories commence but never begin, and how they conclude but never end. Let everyone in the hereafter know: “Omar comin’!”
READ—Books: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James • The Madams by Zukiswa Wanner | Short fiction: “House Girl” by Bongani Kona (Doek!) • “Our Girl, Bimpe” by Olakunle Ologunro (Lolwe) | Nonfiction: “A Few Rules For Predicting The Future” by Octavia Butler (Exit The Apple) • “How Have You Overcome Writers’ Block” by Alexander Chee (Medium) • “Remembering The Haitian Revolution” by CLR James (Tribune Mag) • “Shadow Man” by Nicole Ludolph (Doek!) • “For The Black Boys Who Never Got To Be Soft” by Deshawn Mckinney (personal website) • “The Postmuslim” by Youssef Rakha” (Sultan’s Seal) • “The Algebra of Infinite Justice” by Arundhati Roy (The Guardian) • “What I Heard About Iraq” by Elliot Weinberger (London Review Of Books) | Poetry: “The Mariner’s Progress” by Ishion Hutchinson (Poetry Foundation) | Visual art: “Reach” by Immanuel Nate Hafeni (Doek!) | Comics: Days of Hate: Volume 1 by Kot Žeželj & Bellaire Bidikar Muller | WATCH—Documentary: WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn (2021) | Film: In The Mood For Love (2000) • Hidalgo (2004) • Sword of the Stranger (2007) • Sicario (2015) | Series: Avenue 5, season 1 (2020) | LISTEN—Music: “You Will Never Know Me” by Imany • “The Big Unknown” by Sadé | Podcast: Hardcore History: King of Kings (Part II & Part III) by Dan Carlin • Between The Covers: Daniel José Older on The Book of Lost Saints by David Naimon | PLAY: Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled | TRY: A little bit of patience and plenty of silence