Cairo Reflections 2.5: Attempting Normalcy Through Music

I am exhausted lately, although my job is going well and my writing poetry has hit a stride again after working through a piece of prose as art instead of polemic. Listening to music from the late 1990s and early Aughts, oddly, has helped me revisit some particular nostalgia debris and work out the various detritus.  Bands like Les Savvy Fav, Archers of Loaf, Red Red Meat, Jawbow, Burning Airlines, Ghost and Vodka, Califone: instead of a diet of sludge metal and jazz, I have been listening to the hardcore, post-punk, and post-hardcore bands of my teens and twenties.  Angular riffs, partially obscure lyrics, strange time signatures, overly bright treble, or in other cases, lyrics of distortion and reverb over blue rhythms. It reminds me that my first semi-professional writing was very sloppy album reviews for various scenes, including some of the first “e-zines” of the 1990s.

I must admit listening to this on the Nile seems anachronistic in the extreme, but trying to chase down particular artistic phantoms and psychological ghosts while my partner is away and the people who love me are, for the most part, on different parts of other continents, this has been a welcome diversion.

Lately, I have been spending me time with colleagues ranging in age from twenty-five to forty, some married, but almost none with children.  I have been drinking Egypt’s overly sweet desert wine and its thin beer in haze of shisha smoke from the local cafes or from friends’ hookahs, but only on the weekend and realizing the dangers of this being a lifestyle keeps me from supplementing being around the more intimate in my life with.  Still, it has been relaxing.  Conversations and games of Phase 10 or poker, talk of other people’s trips to Italy or Doha, the normal soap-box rants of former teachers in America and Canada.

The trickling of some sense of normalcy into the my life is welcome, and returning to jangling music of my youth has led to some intense memories of the 1990s and aughts and poems come out of my actual youthful indiscretion instead my approaching middle age pretense to it in a course of transition and tragedy.

Yet the tricks have limits:  My partner is fighting with insurance, who seem to do anything to avoid paying for a cancer, and battling cancer at the same time.  My rage, something I had more of as a young man, has come back.  This jangle and growl seems more appropriate to the heart of the situation.  I do push-ups more and more to get off excess energy. I write more poems.  I listened to bands like Fucked Up, Helmet, and Orange 9mm.  The harder truths here are that I am not going to get hard enough for this not to affect me.  Music is a barrier, a way to but indulge and safely file away the emotions.

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