Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soundtrack to Paradise- Part 2

   Good DJs get people to dance; better DJs get people to drink. The best DJs get girls to take their tops off.
    Based on that universal principle, the DJ aboard the Pirate Ship was very good indeed. Parked 50 meters off the main beach at Gili Air, the faux two-masted schooner, ersatz tourist 'pirate ship', had just dropped off its day passengers. A handful of lithe young women remained aboard, quickly doffing their tops while music throbbed hypnotically from speakers tied to the masts.
    A phalanx of heads snap to attention from the recliner chairs on the beach, tanned young men peering over their dark sunglasses to try to make out the just-visible naughty bits offshore. Tomorrow's ticket sales for the pirate ship were assured.
   I make my way from the beach and head back to the house. The sky is darkening, rumbling thunder in the distance.
   Sexual tension is muted on Gili Air, the most laid-back of the three islands off Lombok. Gili Trewagan is the party island, filled with bars and flops and besotted vagabond 20-somethings. Gili Air is the 'newlywed and nearly-dead' island. Older couples, quieter, less booze flowing- and far more frustrated local boys as a result. While the odd one scores a young traveller, most are left to leer and awkwardly cat-call unattended women walking down the beach road.
   Trance music, electronica, and reggae mixes play from the beachside bars to accompany the tropical tension, the game.
    But for me there's just one music that fits afternoons on Gili Air. The Doors, raw and animal, threatening and poetic at the same time. And with thunder in the distance, clouds of ultramarine blue forming overhead, I cue the iPod to one song: Riders on the Storm.
    The piano slowly building tension, the tinkling of keys like the first fat drops of rain splashing into the sand.
    Take a long holiday
    Let your children play

   Doors music just works in Southeast Asia. The opening strains of The End plays in my head every time I glance at the cathedral of cocoanut palms. Lines from When the Music's Over raise up unbidden with every plastic bag I pick out of the surf:
      What have we done to the earth/
      What have we done to our fair sister?

  The Doors music was born in the chaos of the 60s. Now it is crystalized, perfect, bounded, like our memories of that time. But not safe, still. Powerful, weaponized.
   The tune takes me back, to being 10, maybe 11. On Friday afternoons CBC Ottawa local television ran a preview show about the Rough Riders football club game that weekend. One time, some editor had dubbed 'Riders on the Storm' over footage of the team play. It worked so beautifully. I remember running outside afterwards, energized. The sky darkening above with a full summer thunderstorm, about to break. Playing football with my brothers. Being a Rider, being a Door, in the storm, being that cool.
   Of course, I never was and never would be that cool. But the power of the Doors music still works in this island, in the blue-glow calm before a tropical cloudburst.
   But tonight the clouds blow away, the sky lightens. On Lombok, across the bay, the rain is falling in grey curtains. The local boys pull out their guitars, play soccer together. Taking long glances at the women walking by.
   The song ends with the hissing of rain- from 40 years ago, fading keyboards, fading feelings.
  On the ocean, in the distance, boat lights on the horizon make a string of pearls in the deepening dusk. The pirate ship is among them, no doubt, heading for her harbour.

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