The Alaska Blogs #6

I think I might like to join a choir.

That is an odd thought, perhaps, in the midst of the IMD and the TFW cruise now unfolding. (Yes, long hours of that New Crisis stomach pit/pain this morning, waking up too early and contemplating all that awaits. But none of that now.) But why not? I’ve always loved to sing, and even though I can barely tell a treble clef from a half note, I can usually carry a tune a goodly distance, once I locate it.

Fun is...wearing paper hats on a cruise!

The idea first came this morning, after a night of searching for music, for signs of life, on our grand vessel, the Zaandam. I’m not being sarcastic; I think it’s the nicest ship (if not the cleanest…) of the four we’ve sailed on. But the demographics are, as we knew beforehand, skewed a wee bit toward the geriatric crowd. Standing outside the casino, it hit me that the Holland America Line has a new source of gambling revenue at hand. Forget the slots and blackjack – go with wheelchair races. You could have an array of classes among our elderly passengers: manual chairs, motorized, wheeled walkers. A few laps around the promenade would give them a good workout and their shipmates hours of gaming fun.

I am of course kidding, and I apologize for the insensitivity to the aged and/or infirm. God knows I will be one or both sooner rather than later. But during the New Crisis, one must sometime sink to the lowest common denominator for a laugh.

Samples from the...

...onboard musical collection.

Back to the ship: For some reason, the Zaandam has a musical theme, with an array of antique instruments and more modern ones signed by various celebs (a guitar with Iggy Pop’s John Hancock seems a little out of place, but as the first round of baby boomers become the targeted market for these Alaska cruises, maybe it works). And of course, there is music on board. We roamed the various lounges last night (well, mostly I did, after dinner) searching out some entertainment. The guitarist Charlie runs a little too folky for my taste, but he did a decent version of a pretty obscure John Prine tune that I requested. The Dylan was a little weaker, but he went deep into the play list for that too, so it was cool. A jazzy trio did some decent selections from the Great American Songbook; a string quartet offered classical fare; and Dale, the “piano man,” put away the easy-listening stuff as the night went on. I closed up shop with his playing some instrumental medleys that ranged pretty far and wide. I was the only one there to clap.

So these acts were all worth checking out at least once. (The band in the “nightclub,” however, was godawful, from their name – Katrina and the HALcats – to their anemic versions of vapid pop songs. They need five pieces to so badly mangle the already awful?) OK, maybe not a Grammy winner in the bunch, but I respect tremendously all musicians who make a living with their art, especially in a setting like this, in which you have to please people with such disparate tastes. And those who actually have musical tastes of any kind, who actually listen to the music, are pretty rare, judging from the attention I see my fellow patrons paying.

I realize I won’t get any rock and roll on this trip, except for what I brought on my netbook. But live music of almost any kind soothes; singing along quietly or tapping a toe to a standard puts me in the moment. Softens some of the pain of the IMD. Connects me to something outside myself. Music, after all, is energy, and anything that puts me in touch with that universal force these days is good.

So, sitting in a lounge, watching us cut through the mostly placid Pacific on a decidedly gray day, I listen to Yo La Tengo (“And the Glitter is Gone” – doesn’t that seem appropriate…) and think that maybe singing will be a salvation. I know I’ve been playing more music at home, and the new used car has a CD player that works (yea! – the Civic’s was AFU), but singing along to my favorite tunes isn’t enough. As I saw last night during my music crawl, it’s the live stuff that’s the most therapeutic. And now I think I need to bring my voice together with others for the full energy effect. The key (no pun intended) will be finding some local group that will tolerate someone who can’t read music.

And finding one that will do Zappa might be even trickier.


~ by mburgan on May 31, 2010.

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