In Los Angeles, there are two kinds of people who ride the bus. Crazy people and me.
I use several strategies to keep the rest of 'em from getting their crazy hooks in me and crazying me up by osmosis. I adopt a vague smiley unthreatening lack of attention. I appear to be interested in the sights when in fact if I never take Wilshire from Koreatown to Santa Monica again it will be too soon. My eye trajectory is always at a 45 degree angle looking at feet and shins. Nothing higher or you risk being drawn into drama that sure, you have sympathy for, but on a crowded commute you HAVE TO IGNORE.
My primary weapons against soul infiltration from the psycho brigade?
Books and my iPod.
On this blog I've written about 50 Great Albums and 50 Great Books, many of which I've read and listened to on the 720 Local or 920 Express while studiously failing to notice the deranged lunatic berating the bus driver for being part of a conspiracy.
Larry laughs at me for giving my iPod human qualities that inform the choices it makes. But I don't care what he says. I am in great debt to the ones and zeros coded into that little friend of mine that make such a commute possible.
1. The Boy Who Ate Lasagna And Could Jump Over A Church - King Missile 'The Way to Salvation'
I bought this album because I liked the cover. I'd not heard a note. And I liked it so much that it wound up being one of the albums I took with me to France. This was back in Walkman days so I had to limit myself to about 20 albums that would fit in a case. It annoys me a bit now but there are still several fantastic tunes on here. This song occurs early in the album and is then reprised in such a way that a joke is told. It's a bit precious and self-conscious but I like it.
2. 11:11 - Rufus Wainwright 'Want One'
When Rufus sings "everything really does happen in Manhattan" it chills me to the bone. And for the first time I realized that he'd made a visual reference to the Twin Towers in the title of the song as well as merely saying "eleven". Truly a heartbreaking gorgeous love letter of an elegy/eulogy.
3. Bargain - The Who 'Who's Next'
There was a time in high school when I hated The Who on principle because they were classic rock. Then in college I changed my mind because I heard "Who By Numbers". This song reminds me of high school, frankly.
4. Bigger Than Need Or Greed - Andre Williams 'Bait & Switch'
I've written of The Black Godfather on this blog before. I've seen him four times now, twice in New York City, once in Amsterdam, and once in Los Angeles. I'll just quote him here to make my point. "Would I die for you, baby? Hell, no."
5. Where You Going - Jimmie Dale Gilmore 'Spinning Around The Sun'
I remember first hearing of Jimmie Dale Gilmore when he cut a track with Mudhoney, the grunge jesters from Seattle. I still haven't heard that song (what the hell am I waiting for???) but his name stuck in my head. I thought it cool that a country musician would cross that divide. This 'Spinning Around The Sun' album is sheer perfection.
6. Let's Do It - Joan Jett & Paul Westerberg 'Tank Girl Soundtrack'
I saw 'Tank Girl' in a $3 movie theater in Smithfield, RI. I love it. It is WAY better than it has any right to be and a great aspect of the movie is the music. Eclectic, hard-hitting, cross-genre, exciting. Of course I'm biased because Westerberg is my hero but, c'mon, Cole Porter? Joan Jett? Punk rock? This track is sick.
7. Mother Of The Bride - Billy Bragg 'Don't Try This At Home'
Unfortunately for Billy Bragg he later worked with Wilco on the Woody Guthrie "Mermaid Avenue" albums and made it impossible for me to care about his own work. Pretty much the same goes for Wilco.
8. The Garden - Guns N' Roses 'Use Your Illusion I'
The 'Use Your Illusion' albums were two of my France albums as well. I am one of the few who love Guns N' Roses the further they get from Paradise City.
9. What Do You Do/The Glory of Love - Lyle Lovett 'Lyle Lovett And His Large Band'
What's out the window? I'm on the bus. I'm reading a book. It's Friday. I hope I don't fall asleep and miss my stop because of Lyle Fuckin' Lovett. Good God. Ambien in an MP3.
10. Guilty Of Being White - Minor Threat 'Minor Threat: Complete Discography'
This'll wake ya up! Wow. Ian MacKaye had to beat the skinheads off with a stick after this one. He has always maintained that it is a song about racism but man is he poking a stick into a wasp nest.
11. Crackle & Drag (original take) - Paul Westerberg 'Come Feel Me Tremble'
Paul Westerberg has turned his back on the record industry. The result? Two different takes of a song about Sylvia Plath. Stay down in the basement, Paul. The greatest ever.
12. Bad Show - Soul Side 'Soon-Come-Happy'
This DC hardcore/emo band is important in an almost impossibly obscure way to a whole slew of fans. Their slow heavy emotional style was a precursor to Fugazi and they influenced a great number of young punks by giving them permission to stop chanting slogans and start singing about themselves.
13. Another One Bites The Dust - Queen 'Greatest Hits'
What is there to say? Queen is one of those bands that has fans in every quarter. If you don't love Queen you are just an idiot.
14. I Love A Piano - Tony Bennett 'Unplugged'
I have grown tired of this album over the years, mostly because they audience claps before each song when Tony introduces it even though you know NONE of the MTV extras planted have any idea what a Steinway is or who Irving Berlin was.
15. Neighborhood # 2 (Laika) - Arcade Fire 'Funeral'
I wish Scientology on no one but couldn't they just annex these douchebags? I hate this band.
Off the bus and now I can look up at the world again. Once again my trusty friend the iPod kept me safe from LA mass transit users.