Friday, December 29, 2006

toward the end of the year

Sometimes, the hardest thing for me is to write lightly here, on Ocean. Events unfold. Floods, wars, executions; endless drama cumulatively played out in real life. How is it that I can draw attention to the free champagne on Air France flights (it’s true!), or write about the sheep slowing me down on roadways?

I bought a CD when I was in France. Pop music and, true to its genre, incredibly popular.

On m’appelait la cite pleine de grace (once called the city full of grace)
Dieu, comme le temps passe (God, how time passes)
On m’appelait capitale de lumiere (once called the capital of light)
Dieu, que tout se perd (God, how all is lost)
Je m’appelle Bagdad. (my name is Bagdad)

I’d say that in the summer, when I stayed in Pierrerue and listened to the radio daily just to have sound in the deeply cavernous studio apartment I had rented, I would hear this song at least half a dozen times each day.

Tina Arena, the performer, is Italian and she is one of the few non-French vocalists who has managed to excell on the French radio scene. True, she does sing in French, but so do I and no one is asking me for a return performance or even for a first run on French radio. Fine, it's not an apt comparison.

A hauntingly evocative melody, it would not leave me alone, all summer and fall.

Je m’appelle Bagdad (my name is Bagdad).

When I came back to France in September, this song was still… hot. Or at least it was played on Cherie FM (the equivalent of any of our light rock stations) over and over and over again.

So I wanted to buy it when I came home. Not so easy. Itunes did not list it. Okay, I did not try hard. But when I went to England (where it was also played, repeatedly) in November, I bought the CD.

Ocean is not exactly political, but then, in what way is this song political? It is a pop tune about a city that, over time (crucial unspoken query: what period of time are we talking about here?) has been destroyed. Arena herself says that it is an allegory: it’s not about Iraq, it’s about the destruction of physical beauty in general.

I suppose that one could sing it, therefore, in reflecting on the demise of spotted owl.

But for me, it is not about the spotted owl, nor about the demise of physical attractiveness over time. (Give me a break, Arena, you don’t really think anyone would buy that, did you?)

It’s the end of the year. I’m thinking about it – the year behind, the year ahead. There is nothing to be gained (but for administrative expediency) in numbering one year 2006 and the next 2007, except that in that break between the two you get to consider what is behind and what is ahead.