"I Think I'm in Love..."

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Giu 4 2011, 0:17

…probably just hungry."

Transit delirium. I’m sure it’s some sort of medical classification for that state of sleep deprivation that comes during the middle leg of long haul flights. I find myself at what my laptop tells me is 7:16am at what the large signs in various languages on the walls assure me is Changai International Airport in Singapore. I do know that some time before it got light again, back before when it stopped being light, I was in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. According to the thin sliver of paper with a barcode on it slipped into my passport, I should be back in Perth sometime today which, if I recall correctly, is where my bed and things are. (Thank you HS).

What I find incredibly interesting in these situations is the body’s resilience. I’m not a transport sleeper. At all. I think it stems from suffering from motion sickness as a child. To that end, I still suffer from it if I choose to try and read while in motion. The exception is once an aeroplane has taken flight, though I can feel queasy if I read whilst taxiing. It’s all to do with points of reference and your body’s centre of balance being tricked by moving stuff. If I sit back and sprawl out in the luxurious comfort of my seat [citation needed], my head will loll about somewhat for a period of about 30 minutes where I will close my eyes, but not actually sleep. This plethora of microsleeps, however, seems to be sufficient at 3am to assist me in staying awake for the best part of 36 hours as I transit hemispheres and tropic lines from North to South.

I think maybe it’s a function of the kinetic energy attributed to being in motion. Sure, energy is conserved always, but I feel in some ways the body can sense, perhaps not consciously, that it is hurtling along at close to the speed of sound in a silvered, desiccated projectile. And through the wonders of friction or other such things, however small, we feed on a little of that energy hurtling by us and are able to sustain ourselves just a little longer. We are destination orientated and therefore count the hours between the next meal, between the next stop, between the next boarding, until the destination.

And yet, if I were just sitting around on a Friday night wanting to stay up until 6pm the next day, my body would laugh at me uproariously and promptly bang my head against my desk in some manner of ‘go to sleep you fool’ suggestion.

Reclining on one of the more comfortable seats I’ve ever found in an airport, I can’t help but feel that some of the delirium or maybe disconnection/out of body type experience is caused by my choice of ear adornment. Last year some time I purchased a set of noise cancelling headphones and to this day I argue they are quite possibly the single greatest accessory, not even travel accessory, but accessory to my life that I’ve ever handed over money for. Even now as I clack away on my keyboard, I cannot hear the tactile response of the keys, nor the couple one seat over chatting, or the throngs of people streaming back and forth past Duty Free Shops, heading towards the departures board to see when their connecting flight is leaving and what gate it’s on (which reminds me, I too should probably do that at some stage). Music is all I can hear, and it’s not even that roaring loudness that you usually need in public situations that leave you ringing and numb after hours of listening whilst travelling. The cancelling reduces the noise to a imperceptible background hum, leaving the music to gently cascade its way into your brain.

I spent some time and thought on this trip as to what I would listen to whilst in transit. It’s odd, when I’m away, I don’t tend to listen to music much, preferring to read, explore, or watch local TV for the kicks. This is in contrast with my usual habits where I will listen to music for almost all of my waking hours. But the time in transit is most important, because honestly if you’re going to look silly with a couple of big cups wrapped around your head, you may as well enjoy it.

When I say that I ‘…spent some time and thought…’ it meant perhaps a change in my habits for selecting music. Usually my procedure is ‘crap, my flight’s in three hours and I forgot to put tunes on my iPod’. And so then I spend the next two hours trying to frantically drag tunes and remember ‘what’s good’ from my rather large (read 42k tracks) library, all the while packing my suitcase and cursing iTunes for loading one song everything 22 minutes for some reason. No, this time I actually started loading my iPod days in advance.

This actually afforded me some variety and so I’ve ended up with about 9k of songs to choose from. It also provides the luxury of choosing tunes that will match the time of day and my general mood, something that I’m associating more with music. In recent months on last.fm I’ve felt the need to start categorising some of my most favourite songs into general buckets; in a way it’s how I visualise music, the way that I perceive and respond to it, both mentally and physically. This selection then, of songs for appropriate times of the day, is an extension of that. An entire album can ‘feel’ like night time, or it can feel like a new day dawning.

This trip just now for example, I was listening to Painful by Yo La Tengo prior to having one of those microsleeps; to rouse myself from it when I felt energy returning, it was Hourly, Daily by You Am I, followed by Good News For People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse. Each have their own energies, though the later also shares some songs which I consider ‘driving at night’ type tunes. Sum of its parts and all that.

One album in particular that I’ve latched on this year, but also on this trip, is Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized. There are a few schools of thought about the album; some have written it off as a ‘drug album’ while others see it as a tale of love lost (which given the circumstances are pretty easy to understand). For me though, there’s something that encapsulates all of that, but also gives the album a certain sense of collapse, introspection and rebirth. Sure, it’s probably simply reflecting the steps of heroin sensation, but it also analogues very easily to the cycle of the day, the circadian rhythm of the body, even the flow of life itself. It helps too that the music is deliciously melodic and something you can sink into it like, well, this comfortable airline lounge chair. Caught somewhere between indie rock and shoegaze, the sound is palpable, nourishing and tactile.

On the way over to UB, the timing of my songs meant that I Think I'm in Love from the same album played just as the sun broke the horizon as we descended into Singapore. The song, ever before then, sounded like day dawning and now it will be eternally scratched into my soul (thank you Craig Finn) as that moment. And well, I’m okay with that.

And now as I proof this piece whilst watching the natural light wash in through windows and start to take over from the globes dotted across the ceiling, I start to feel more in tune with the rush and flow of people around me. I begin to yearn for the next leg, knowing full well that all of this inconvenience, this discomfort, is but temporary. I also realise too that in my heightened state, where the sympathetic starts to take over from the parasympathetic nervous system, I can more easily connect with the music I listen to and will ultimately have a greater experience with those songs.

And isn’t a greater experience what we’re all seeking?

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