Is That What You Call A Getaway... Well, Tell Me What You Got Away With?

Is That What You Call A Getaway... Well, Tell Me What You Got Away With?

      Marie Antoinette once famously said (although falsely attributed, but for the sake of the post let's use our imaginations): “let them eat cake!” Now, why might I use this line as the beginning to my posting for this week? Well, after doing a little demographic work regarding my past posts, I’ve found that those most successful of them have been those involving my musical comparisons of my life and events while in the DC Metro area. In the wake of this discovery (while also desperately searching for some modicum of continuity between posts) I’ve ordained the rest of my blog posts to be created in this form. You, my friends, have chosen how the remainder of the semester will play out from your standpoint. I have submitted to the needs of the masses. This new method to my madness will spare you the daunting effort of trekking through those posts of mine where I don’t exactly know how or what to say, therein sparing you painfully-forced text in favor of more personally-driven recollection through a medium that is much more in tune with how I think. So, once again, let us prepare to embark upon another expedition into both the realms of my musical taste, as well as the vast experiences of the last couple weeks out here, in beautiful DC.

 

Band of Horses' "The Great Salt Lake" Vs. Road Trip Adventure

Highway
      Our first foray back into my musically-based mind takes us on a simple errand turned expedition. This past Saturday, a friend of mine and I decided to work our way throughout the DC area in search of edibles around lunch time. But, what we were unaware of was that our short little trip towards food would end up in a nearly three hour journey across the entire DC area, and well into Maryland. With this in mind, the song I chose had to be something evocative of the road and the long, unexpected, journey that we took. This, naturally, led me to a number called “The Great Salt Lake” by the Band of Horses.

Capitol Saturday

      Now, for those of you unaware the Band of Horse is an indie-folk-rock group with semi-ambient twinges throughout most of their songs. The soft guitar strokes, filled with spacey reverbs, many-times strange tunings, and paired with near-haunting vocals all come together to make chillingly-eerie melodies. However, after an extended play of LPs like Infinite Arms and Everything All the Time, one quickly relocates the soft melodies of the Band of Horses to the calming, more relaxed, section of the cerebral cortex. Throughout the last 2 collegiate years of mine, I’ve had a love affair with the Band of Horses, using them as the quintessential “de-stressing” music. The song “The Great Salt Lake” embodies everything that I love about the band. Filled with soft harmonies and a slow buildup to what only feels like breaking upon a secret meadow in wonderland, the song has continually been a track of choice when it comes to long drives, as it opens my mind to the true beauty of the land around me. The same could easily be said of my expedition around the DC Metro area. After grabbing gas and realizing that we had no idea where any restaurant of note is located in the city, we turned off onto a seemingly random street with the sole intention of finding the first highway and following it for as long as we wished, or until we found something worth eating along the way. Jamming out to music as we cruised along the sweeping highways, we found ourselves trapped solely in the moment. Minutes changed to tens-of-minutes and eventually into an hour or so before we had realized how far we had gone. After a quick scanning of our surroundings, we surmised that we had ended up somewhere shortly over the border of Maryland. We decided this was of little note, we on an adventure for god-sakes. Thus, as “The Great Salt Lake” breaks into that meadow-y interlude, so we too indulged in simply driving around the neighboring areas with no other goal that to witness all the land had to offer. However, all good things must come to an end, and eventually we found ourselves more lost than found. However, while we may have been lost, that didn’t stop us from simply “adventuring” our way back. A series of turns here, and exits there found us on our way back into the region around the Capitol.

Arial DC

      Just as we had brought our journey slowly to an end, so “The Great Salt Lake” winds down as melodies slow, vocals trail off, and sound disappears into the mist. It was a fitting end to quite the epic adventure. While our adventure was pretty much pointless (I mean we didn’t find any food up until that point) we still felt extremely satisfied at the overall journey we had taken. After all, we had not only learned the general driving routine for getting around the DC Metro area, but had also found an alternative way to relieve much of the stress we had all experienced over the course of the last couple weeks. It ended up being surprisingly therapeutic.

 

Jonathan Edwards' "Sunshine (Go Away Today)" Vs. Library of Congress

Supreme Court

      Picking up on the same vibes I had earlier that morning, I found a similar need for soft, mellow musical tones. Taking an excursion to the region around the Capitol to go see the Library of Congress, I could find no better song to add some pep to my walk there than the classic Jonathan Edwards tune “Sunshine (Go Away Today).” While the subject matter of the song might be slightly more somber and downtrodden than I would have enjoyed (“Sunshine go away today, I don’t feel much like dancing”), this song actually puts me in the exact opposite mood of what the lyrics purvey. Instead, the mere mention of sunshine in the song makes this song feel much more of a “bright-day-kinda’-song.” The soft, yet spunky acoustic guitar strums, paired with Edwards’ gentle notes, all create the perfect song for a good-ol’-fashioned walk in the park. While I wasn’t in the park, I was walking around the Capitol--a region equally as remarkable from a visual standpoint. There was not a cloud in the sky; a gentle breeze was blowing, and the various federal buildings stood tall and proud in the gleaming light. Simply put, I couldn’t help but have a smile streak across my face as I walked up the avenues and streets surrounding the congressional buildings. It made me appreciate the weather around me to a greater extent.

Library of Congress

      Usually around this time of the year, my home city of Chicago is cold, wet, and dismal. However, the fantastic weather of this past weekend was anything but. It was a welcome treat from the usually terrible weather that I’m used to. Edwards concerned himself with the overbearing presence of “the man” in his song, and I myself, couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the edifices of our nation’s government. Passing by the Supreme Court Building, walking along the Capitol Building, and eventually ending up in front of the Library of Congress, I couldn’t help but transition my gaze upward as the towering white buildings. Laced with elegant columns and broad, sweeping, staircases each of the three buildings are designed to instill awe in those that witness them firsthand. But while Edwards’ overbearing presence of the government is meant to instill bad vibes, mine was much more of a respect for the power structures that they have maintained over the years. Maybe this means I don’t quite get the true point of Edwards’ song, but, then again, music should be an individual experience. While the content of the song might not exactly fit with the situation of atmosphere I was in, it still evoked those emotions for me, creating a new identity for a song that has too-often been shackled to the anti-war, 60-and-70’s era protest phenomenon.

      The twangy picks and strums of Edwards’ guitar in “Sunshine (Go Away Today)” helped to provide that extra bounce to my step, as many songs before it (when placed in the proper context) are so apt to do to me. This in and of itself marked the song as defining my experience along the federal buildings surrounding the Capitol. However, that’s not where it all ended. In fact, I couldn’t help but hum the main melody in my head on my way home as I walked along the grassy parks and long thoroughfares that litter the surrounding blocks. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the song that kept it roaming through my head. While certainly no technical masterpiece, Edwards’ song, like many others before and after it, (in my opinion) maintains its notoriety through simply infectious instrumentals and vocals: the key to making some of music’s most beloved tracks. 

Library of Congress Indoors

      In the end, Edwards may have wished for the sunshine to go away, but I, on the other hand, wanted it to stay… and stay it did, making a pleasantly enjoyable afternoon outdoors all the more memorable (especially when paired with “Sunshine”).

 

NWA's "Express Yourself (Remix)" Vs. Capitol Hill

Hart

      With these two past experiences simmering in the boiling pot of your brain; all that’s left to add is a little bit of flavor. Cue in the dope tunes of 90’s sensations NWA and their hit “Express Yourself (Remix).” Now, for those of you too young to remember the reign of “Express Yourself” (hell, I’m one of em,’ it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I rediscovered the awesomeness of NWA), the song takes a Stevie Wonder sample, screws it up, and drops some heavy beats and knowledge harder than a wrecking ball. Simply put, the combo of Eazy-E, Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, MC Ren, Ice Cube (yes the same guy of recent “Are We There Yet” fame), and the immortal Dr. Dre squeezed all up into a blender and ground up into hit after hit after hit. If the beat isn’t enough to get you bouncing, then the catchy Stevie Wonder hook will. That’s when the lyricism hits. As if the past two pieces weren’t enough to sell the story, the actual rapping on the track is still hard to beat to this day. Opting away from some of their more controversial topics (see “F&%* the Police” and “Straight Outta’ Compton”) “Express Yourself” takes on a vibe of individual improvement through the proper expression of who you are. Throughout the song, NWA takes note of the up-and-coming rap stars, lyrically lambasting them for riding the “poser” train, absorbing the golden lifestyle of being rich and famous, only to dump their true expression in the process. Ice Cube lashes out “It’s crazy to see people be what society wants them to be, but not me,” signaling that you gotta’ make it for yourself, even if it means going against the grain.

Senate Building

      Now, you may all be wondering how this has to do with anything I did over the last week. Well let me tell you. Today, I had the distinct pleasure of crisscrossing all over Capitol Hill, delivering some invitation letters to dignified Congressmen and Senators for one of the Trust’s biggest and most celebrated, events of the year. While many interns might feel slighted at being retooled into a part-time deliveryman, I took it as an advantage to see all that the interesting facets of the Senate and House of Representatives buildings. While I may have been only delivering letters, the overall experience of trekking across the Capitol to visit the different offices of the many lawmakers of our vast nation was cool in and of itself. The sheer variety of people holed-up in these buildings was enough to get me thinking. Each one of these guys (and gals) is their state’s respective voice in the government. Each of them probably has extremely varied opinions on a wide range of subjects. Many of them probably have come from vastly different backgrounds and social circumstances. But, somehow, they’ve all ended up here: a place where they are all equal, where they all are one piece of an equalitarian, law-making puzzle. Yet, each of them ended up here through the excellent expression of the ideas, beliefs, and goals. If that doesn’t have something to do with NWA’s “Express Yourself,” than I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!

Each of them, as I mentioned before, has individual ideas to spread, individual issues to champion, individual proposals to bring to the table. But all this must be done through the individual voice of the state they represent. This was the most staggering aspect to me. How do they push their agendas in a sea of others just like them? How do they bring their individual state’s issues to the forefront of an area that’s, frankly, more concerned with federal, nationally conscious maters it seems than the seemingly petty problems of local towns, cities, and even state issues? Yet, while this may be a silly question, it poses a legitimate challenge that these brave men and women have to face on a daily basis, or risk losing their next term in Washington. This expression that they are forced to hone every day is a key part of their mission and goal. I guess when it comes right down to it, the difficult life of a U.S. Senator or Congressman can be boiled down in the almighty words of Dr. Dre: “Kickin’ reality, understand himself, but it’s important that you keep in mind to… express yourself… from the heart.”

Dirksen

      Well, I think that about sums it up for tonight ladies and gentlemen. I hope this has been equally as invigorating for you as it has been for me to write. Furthermore, I hope you’re getting a little better sense for how I think and how all of these experiences in DC are processed in my brain. But, most importantly, I hope it has presented each and every one of you, not only a better appreciation for good music, but an interesting and individual view of the overall DC experience. I hope I’m, in the great words of NWA: “Expressin’ myself.”

 

Image Credits:

Highway Image:  http://www.onejourneyatatime.com/site/images/09us37001.jpg

Arial Shot of DC:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/Washington,_D.C._-_2007_aerial_view.jpg

 

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More