Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An ode to the iPod

When you're feeling like a stranger in a strange land, when you feel alone in the middle of city of a million and a half people -- and it seems not one of them is anything at all like you -- there's nothing that brings you home like music from home.

Not the popular classics from rock and roll or country or pop legends -- you might hear those anywhere here. There's something a little unsettling about catching a ride from a toothless Pakistani cab driver who's tapping his fingers to Sweet Home Alabama as he barrels down Sheikh Zayed The First Street. (Nothing against toothless Pakistanis, of course, or even Lynrd Skynrd, but ... well, you know what I'm saying.)

But what really takes you home, what really calms your fears and soothes your nerves, is the music that's on your iPod, the music you believe belongs only to you and that tight circle of friends, both known and unknown, who share the same slightly-off-the-beaten-path tastes.

Put the iPod on shuffle and let it flow, from Lucinda Williams to Steve Earle to Fred Eaglesmith to James McMurtry ... I swear, when Pieta Brown launches into Sonic Boom, I don't know whether to curl up and cry or jump up and dance ... to Blue Mountain to Shawn Mullins to Albert King to Susan Tedeschi.

There's not much here to remind a lonely expat of home. But music travels easy these days. Board a plane in Atlanta with an iPod nano tucked into a shirt pocket and a Logitech player in the corner of a suitcase, and that's all it takes to bring a couple of thousand or so of your favorite tunes halfway around the world. Thank heaven for that.

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