Songs in all the wrong places

Country Western duets on Java

Terraced emerald rice paddies, swaying palm trees, dramatic volcanic mountains all whizz by as we listen to “Islands in the Stream.” Again and again and again.

After the fifth or so cycle of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, I politely tap on the driver’s only other cassette and request a switch. He gives me a resigned look and pops in the Balinese folk music tape. An audible sigh passes from the lips of the other passengers as their eyes roll and they think: “the damn foreigner wants the folk music, give me a f**king break.”

“Hotel California” in a far-flung hotel bar

The only thing worse than hearing this Eagles’ song, is hearing it played by a live band in the lobby of your lonely hotel. And the only thing worse than that, is when the band replaces “Hotel California” with the name of the actual hotel you are staying at.

Heard several years ago in Kigali, Rwanda:

“Welcome to the Hotel Umubano! Such a lovely place, such a lovely face. Plenty of room at the Hotel Umubano. Any time of year you can find it here….

“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door, I had to find the passage back to the place I was before, relax said the nightman, we are programmed to receive. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

When you hear the “Hotel California” intro-strains, the only smart move is to make a swift dash to your room. The endless BBC News loop is less depressing.

“All the Lonely People” in Ikea anywhere in the world

Moving to a new place (especially to an empty house awaiting a sea shipment) requires a trip to Ikea. However, the mid-week–why did I think it was a good idea to move yet again?–blues are not helped by hearing the Beatles’ “All the Lonely People” while wandering an empty Ikea.

“Ah, look at all the lonely people…”

Throw the cheapest set of punch metal forks, knives and spoons into the cart.

“Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been…lives in a dream…”

Debate whether to buy four ceramic plates. Remember the house has hard tiles floors. Throw four cheap plastic plates meant for picnicking into the cart.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?…”

Pull three folding chairs from the tall shelves in the self-service area.

“All the lonely people, where do they all belong?…”

The three folding chairs slide off the bottom of the cart into someone’s leg in the check-out line.

“Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name…nobody came…”

The three folding chairs slide off again entering the elevator.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”

Remind myself that the first four to six months after an international move are just plain hard.

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