Friday, January 15, 2016

Trains and Planes and Earworms

I don't know how road warriors do what they do, year in, year out.

My temporary home, Portland, Oregon, is a wonderful place, but I've been experiencing an earworm filled with loss and longing as I walk to work.

Wikipedia defines an earworm thus:
An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person's mind after it is no longer playing.
Studies have found 98% of individuals experience earworms, so I don't worry about my earworms. Generally they are simple music, and reflect my mood.

This song has taken up residence in my head:
Oh trains and boats and planes took you away
But every time I see them I pray
And if my prayer can cross the sea
The trains and the boats and planes
Will bring you back, back home to me
I reverse the "you" and "me" but you get the picture.

It's a sentimental song from 1965, disconnected from the politics of the time. While America was in Vietnam, composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David stuck to safe themes, music that could be played in elevators.

While I grew up in English public housing in the 1960's, the music represented a comfortable, prosperous, America.

In 2005 America was again squandering opportunities. I developed a new appreciation of Bacharach when he released his album "At this Time" with the opening track "Please Explain" where he speaks truth to power. Like me, he believes America is better than the way we act.

This week I have no choice but to allow him to speak for me. Today, unlike the song, I hop on a train, then a plane back home, grateful loss and longing are temporary.

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