Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How Manuel Noriega Felt

Last week the missus and I traipsed through the most charming part of Marmaris, Turkey, the so-called Old Town adjacent to The Harbor, it occurred to me that there might be nowhere on earth I would hate more than Bar Street at midnight at the height of the season. I could easily envision it being full of drunken young yobs (obnoxious persons) throwing up on each other to the accompaniment of deafening house music, the worst music in world history, music dumbed down so far as barely to be recognizable as music.

Before we’d set out for the Old Town, we’d asked the leisure company representative by whom we were supposed to be welcomed our first afternoon about the free moonlight dinner cruise offered as an inducement to submit to the welcome, which traditionally involves the rep trying to persuade you to sign up for a slate of overpriced, invariably disappointing tours. We figured that on the moonlight dinner cruise, someone would try to talk us into subscribing to a timeshare arrangement. 

If only it had been only that bad. 

I got an odd, unpleasant feeling on noting that the ship on which we were to cruise was the pirate galleon Barbarossa. The ship, uh, weighed anchor and sailed for around 90 seconds toward the middle of the bay, where, to our astonishment, it stopped. And then the horror began — the dreadful, moronic “music,” with its relentless four bass drum beats per bar and its gall bladder-liquifyingly loud synth bass. THUD! THUD! THUD! Every 16 bars or so, the bass takes a powder while the synthesized snare drum plays eighth-notes, and then sixteenth-notes, and than sixteenth-note triplets, and finally thirty-second notes (a “roll,” we used to call it at Orville Wright Junior High School). Then the bass, re-entering, does a wonderful impression of the Big Bang. THUD! THUD! THUD! It’s undeniably exciting — the first couple of times you hear it. After 750 times over the course of an hour, you cease to be excited, and begin to know how Panamanian dictator (as “we” began calling him after the memo telling us to stop calling him “ally”) Manual Noriega felt when the U.S. Army used horrible music to induce his surrender. 

Is the idea that Kids Today can’t dance to Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Born to Love Her,” say, because without THUD! THUD! THUD!  they can’t figure out where the beat is? Is this some sort of drug thing? If I’d ingested a large dose of MDMA or acid, would I have been enjoying myself? Would I have felt that I and everyone else on the ship were, well, throbbing as one? 

I’m reminded of what’s happened to major league baseball. When I was young and foolish and a fan (it makes no more sense to root for a professional sports franchise than for a new Walmart or Home Depot), one had to make his own fun between innings. At best, Helen O’Dell might play a few bars of some tune beloved by The Whole Family — “Roll Out the Barrel,” let’s say. Nowadays, little entertainments are hurled at the fan not just between innings, but between pitches! We are a nation of spoiled four-year-olds. 


At a few minutes after eight, I asked a member of the Barbarossa crew when we would be returning to shore. At 11:30, he said. We had in front of us 210 minutes of THUD! THUD! THUD!, over which conversation was impossible. But we could always avail ourselves of the bar, with its outrageous boomtown prices, perhaps the highest in all of Turkey. I thought briefly of trying to organize a mutiny, but the first two people I approached with the idea — a couple of…lads from the North — turned out to be big fans of house music. I suggested to Spousie that we swim back to shore. Doing so was likely to take less than 210 minutes. Spousie reluctantly nixed the idea on the basis of not knowing how to swim. We looked hopefully at our wristwatches. Forty-five seconds had passed since our last look. We had 209 minutes and 15 seconds to go. “I wanna hear the fuckin’ bass,” someone growled malevolently through the ship’s immoderate sound system. 

I have always regarded Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” as purest crapola, and not because it’s impossible to hear without envisioning Tom Cruise in his underwear. But when mealtime arrived, and the DJ awarded us a wee respite from the house music, Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” sounded like Mozart’s Requiem. Real music! The meal, of course, was just awful. 

The original DJ, whom I’d somehow resisted the urge to strangle, had been joined in the booth while we dined by two accomplices. I think one of them must have been tasked with inserting American-accented interjections into the infernal thudding. “I wanna hear the fuckin’ bass,” the malevolent voice kept growling in an American accent, leading me to think, “If you can’t hear the fuckin’ bass, buster, you are what medical professionals call ‘deaf.’ The internal sloshing of what used to be your gall bladder should be more than sufficient proof that it’s there. THUD! THUD! THUD!  

By and by, we lost the will to live, and that might have been our salvation. We continued breathing and swallowing, and my best guess is that our hearts kept beating, but otherwise every other system shut down. THUD! THUD! THUD! went the music, but we had ceased to care. About anything.

After around 72 hours of this, the DJ’s caused blue foam to rain down on the handful of dancers. “Orgasmic!” I thought. “It must nearly be over now!” It’ll go to the bathroom, come back, lie down, and smoke a cigarette. No such luck. Before we finally weighed anchor anew, the torture persisted for another couple of months, or maybe it just seemed that way. When we finally reached the shore, I didn’t kiss the ground, but don’t imagine that the thought didn’t occur to me.

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