This post is in the theme “Constructing an identity through media”. Read the first.
October 18, New York: One emerges from a dark bad time slowly and does not mark the passing upward from bad into good as starkly as the memory of the guideposts on the way down. I could probably mark both directions around the dark bad time in my twenties by my various trips to Joshua Tree, east of Los Angeles. I would, from time to time, escape to the desert to clear my head. These decisions were usually emotional and without pre-planning (hence one night I found myself in the desert right in the middle of a heat wave and thinking better of it, checked myself into a hotel). For the sudden decisions, I kept a tent, a camping chair, and a plastic bottle of Kessler whiskey stowed permanently in my trunk.
Camping in the desert alone or with a few friends is an incredibly soul-cleansing experience. You drink by a campfire into the night, wrapped in your heaviest garments. You stare into the fire and let your mind wander until the whiskey makes you tired enough to sleep. The sun rises and you rise with it, groggy until coffee, and you spend the day hiking around on rocks with your thoughts. I went to the desert at the lowest points, discovered its mental healing properties, and then I began to go to the desert to ensure that my upward climb would not backslide. To shore up the new foundations any time there looked to be a risk of flood or quake. You felt stronger in physical and mental fiber after a day of clambering across hot boulders.
Another great thing to do in the desert is drive. Roll the windows down, turn the radio up, put on your sunglasses, and go. That’s where The Faces come in. A friend gave me this Faces boxed set: Four Guys Walk Into a Bar which, in the depths of an iPod, is just a perfect shuffle of rock n’ roll piano, deep organ, fuzzy guitars, and Rod Stewart. It’s hours-long played in its entirety and one day I listened to it at least twice through, just driving. A bad time might have forced me out of the city into the desert, but that day is one of the happiest I remember from my twenties. It was pure being; an enlightened state.
Given that my listening to this collection is all about the shuffle, most of the music blurs together. A few songs still stand out: the BBC recording of “Stay With Me” is just incredible. I’ve always loved “Maggie Mae” and “Ooh La La”, but the covers of “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” and “Jealous Guy” are really quite special. Struck throughout is the sumptuous organ; I’ve long held a fantasy of buying and learning to play an old Rhodes, just hammering away on the keys.
It is just as fun to listen to this now as then, though I no longer own a car and couldn’t replicate the experience. (Instead I listened to this on an airplane while I worked on a Keynote presentation. Less pure being.) The one thing I had a hard time shaking this listen, however, was how perfectly representative The Faces are of white appropriation. Rod Stewart is blue-eyed soul personified. Forgive him that if you can, ignore that Luther Ingram’s “(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” is far superior, and let “Stay With Me” be the soundtrack to some long drive you’re taking.
Four guys, four discs, buy it for your next long drive.