Updated: Feb 6, 2019
“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”
Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
I have a confession. A dirty little secret no one knows about. To do so previously would require allowing residency in the admittedly comfortable softness of my headphones. So this will be our secret. No one else needs to know this secret. It has been a consistent habit for roughly the last two years. Just between you and me reader. We good? All right.
Every time I store my bag and settle into my seat to embark on a flight to a new destination, I have a song I queue up in ritualistic fashion. That song: "Young Turks" by Rod Stewart. It may just be the greatest “take-off song” of all time, and I will explain.
First, a quick sidebar on the stickiness of rituals. For me, and perhaps for everyone else, they occur without me realizing. It works for you the first time around, you kind of enjoyed the experience and so you say, “what the hell...let’s do that again.” My unscientific assumption is that rituals remain rituals as long as shit does not go sideways. Hard to imagine anyone says “remember when I had that meal at that restaurant right before that job interview I bombed...sign me up for another round!”
So, back to my ritual with Rod. It occurred to me to share this after my most recent flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. They seated me next to a younger guy giving off a real nervous flyer vibe. I wanted to offer him an earbud. “Here brother, let the raspy pipes of Rod assure you that this exciting journey will be all that and more.” I did not go there for a lot of reasons but primarily because if a seat mate is willing to accept a prior used AirPod from a stranger, I did not want to be aware.
I will start with the execution. Take-off timing is a fickle game, so this requires a flight crew willing to play along. Typically, a pilot will give passengers and crew two key vocal queues (always devoid of any emotion). The first is confirmation of the place in line for departure and then a command for the crew to take the mandated positions.
This is my time. I have Rod at the ready. Once you feel the plane make the turn on the runway and come to a stop. Hit play.
First, let’s discuss the pacing and take-off tempo of this song. This banger wastes no time bringing the heat, and that neatly matches the furious drive of twin jet engines. Depending on the plane and eagerness of the pilot, you can luck out and have Rod come in on vocals right about the time the wheels break contact with the ground. However, this timing is not a requirement for the full experience. If it occurs, consider it equal to the double rainbow. Savor it.
Time to pivot to the lyrics. Again, these refuse to be reckless with the five-minutes allotted.
“Billy left home with a dollar in his pocket and a head full of dreams.
He said somehow, some way, it’s gotta get better than this.”
Come on! Are we not all Billy when we leave to a new and exciting location? Often, having saved up for that dream trip ensuring that it will be all the more rewarding. The unknown, but still hopeful, belief that the destination will not only deliver but exceed expectations. Rod does not stop there, he throws in a little love for the opposite sex as well.
“Patti packed her bags, left a note for her momma, she was just seventeen.
There were tears in her eyes when she kissed her little sister goodbye.”
For those of us blessed to have a loving family and friends, who has not experienced this feeling - especially on longer trips. With increased duration and distance brings equal parts excitement and a twinge of that separation sickness from those closest to us.
“We got just one shot of life, let’s take it while we’re still not afraid.
Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you’re undecided.
And like a fistful of sand, it can slip right through your hands.”
Preach Sir Rob, preach. He’s got to be a knight by now right?
“Young hearts be free tonight. Time is on your side,
Don’t let them put you down, don’t let ‘em push you around,
Don’t let ‘em ever change your point of view.”
A chorus that brings it all home. All of this happening against a melody backdrop that keep driving crescendo.
Some will interpret that last line of the chorus in different ways, but it is not symbolic of stubbornness. Instead, it serves as a reminder to always maintain an open and free view of the world and the limited time we have on it. It is a constant struggle not to allow others' negativity and lack of belief in goal accomplishment affect our own. This chorus says “stay strong."
The song goes on from there with some Cougar Mellencamp-esque lines that get very literal. High-level: they party, Billy gets his ears pierced, they get crazy behind the wheel carving some donuts and Patty has a baby (10 lbs.!).
For those curious, I do not have equally strong views on a "landing song." Usually I am wrapping up a podcast or audiobook that has helped to pass the hours. However, when it works out that my playlist is free, I find "Bitch" by The Rolling Stones to be an excellent choice. No deep dive there, just a rocker.
Typically, I do not require added inspiration to remind myself how blessed and joyous it is to travel and experience new destinations and cultures. But who can resist these lyrical lines that serve as a toe-tapping prompt of the ethos to stay young at heart and devour life?
I firmly believe everyone should have a form of ritual that brings them joy. It does not have to be a tune, but should be something that sparks a positive emotion or memory. Embrace those magical moments and the realization that the right time is right now.
Epilogue: if this post does not confirm the highly unlikely nature of my ever being a Drake fan, I do not know what would. See prior post on Bali if confused.