by Kelly Lynn Thomas
PLAYLIST FOR THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU WAKE UP WITH A MIGRAINE, HAVE AN ALL-DAY ASTHMA ATTACK, AND LEARN YOU NEED A ROOT CANAL.
 Your body breaks down on you, betrays you. You can’t do what you used to. People tell you you’re too young to be this way. But you are. What are you supposed to do about it?
 All the good stuff that makes you feel better–sex, drugs, whatever–is out for one reason or another. It’s illegal, it’s immoral, your neighbors don’t approve.
 If someone tied you up to the railroad tracks and left you for dead, would someone come rescue you? Would someone care? Or is this the kind of story where the train doesn’t even run anymore?
 “He used to honk his horn.’ Maybe he wasn’t trying to make you laugh. Maybe he was trying to tell you something else.
 “It’s so hard to find it.’ Don’t be too sad about the clown. Kids don’t even like clowns anymore, anyway. Also, driving, just driving around, windows down, helps a lot.
 If you spend your vacation getting your root canal, this is a good song to listen to. You can drive around, looking for your sentimental hygiene, while the numbness in your mouth wears off.
PLAYLIST FOR WHEN YOU GO TO VIETNAM AND CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT WAR, COMMUNISM AND DYSTOPIAN NOVELS (EVEN THOUGH YOU HATE DYSTOPIAN NOVELS), AND YOU BECOME OBSESSED WITH THE CONCEPT OF JUNGLES AND THE ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION THEREOF.
 This song is just about the Russians (aka communists) fighting with Afghanistan. Also, you saw Vladivostok–“Can I go back to Vladivostok?’–on the flight map while flying from the United States to Tokyo, Japan, another country tangentially related to communism. Tangentially.
 “Je n’ suis pas le gibet / D’ Montfaucon:’ I’m not the gallows / of Mount Falcon. Or, you miss the buttery, flaky croissants served with warm chocolate sauce you got at every hotel. You wish you could speak that language, the language of buttery, flaky croissants covered in warm chocolate. It’s so beautiful. But you can’t speak French, either.
 “Everybody’s choking on monoxide fumes.’ And you’re choking on this music, the echoes of your thoughts. Inescapable.
 This song opens with a chant of environmental ruination: “4-Aminobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene dimethyl sulfate…’
 The cute waiter at the resort kept giving you the eye, but you were afraid if you slept with him he would read the mean things you wrote about communism and human rights violations and report you to the government, like the waitress who’s with the Russians. You don’t have any lawyers, guns, or money to get you out of a fix.
 Here, a chant of war, brutality, masculinity: “strength and muscle and jungle work, strength and muscle and jungle work, strength and muscle and jungle work…’
 “He ain’t been right since Vietnam.’ Amen.
PLAYLIST FOR TIMES YOU WANT TO WRITE BUT CANNOT FIND ANY WORDS THAT STICK TO THE PAGE AND SO LISTEN TO MUSIC INSTEAD.
 “Hold me tight … let me go’ (Except you don’t even know how to play the piano…).
 “Don Quixote had his windmills’ and you have Don Quixote, but what does that leave you with, really?
 “My cock is sore’ (You don’t have one of those, either.)
 “MmmHmmHmmMmmHmHmMmmmm MmmHmmHmmMmmHmHmMmmmm’
 “Not even you and I.’
 “I don’t need no one.’
 Eventually, the world will end. But not in apocalypse. You think it will just stop, and that’s how we’ll know it’s the end, because we’ll be stuck where we are and we won’t be able to leave. You know, like those human imprints at Pompeii. But it’ll happen to us because the sun will explode.
 And when it does, I guess Texas is as good a place to find heaven as any other. If it’s good enough for Byron and Shelley and Keats (according to this musician), who are you to say it’s not heaven? You’ve only been there once.
PLAYLIST FOR LEARNING TO PLAY THE PIANO WITHOUT A TEACHER (OR, THE “I WISH I WERE THAT GOOD AT ANYTHING, ANYTHING AT ALL” PLAYLIST).
 Do not attempt this song at first. Use it as a model for practice ethics. Perhaps also for career path, though maybe not, if you do not envision yourself taking drugs and becoming an alcoholic, getting blackout drunk, and hitting people you are supposed to love.
 The chorus is easy. Play it over and over again. It’s a good one to whip out at parties. Awhoooooo!
 At this point you will get frustrated because there is no real piano sheet music for any of these songs, and you must rely on your musically inclined friends to listen to it and translate it for you. They will not get it perfect, but this will be your only option. You won’t get it perfect, either.
 Once you have this down, try a piano-only version of “Desperados Under the Eaves’ (just slow down the opening to “Frank and Jesse James’ and then pick up the actual piano parts from “Desperados,’ but make sure to pay special attention to the end, when he hums the opening, because you’ll have to figure out how to make the piano hum, which is probably beyond your meager talents).
 Only attempt this once you have perfected the art of listening to a song and transcribing it to notes and/or can sight read YouTube performances, and can quit bugging your friends for help. It’s okay if you cry at the end of the song, when it breaks off, the first time you play it successfully.
PLAYLIST FOR TIMES WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF DEPRESSED ABOUT EVERYTHING, REALIZE THAT IS RIDICULOUS AND UNHELPFUL, NARROW YOUR DEPRESSION DOWN TO A RESULT OF YOUR ONE-TRACK MIND, OBSESSIONS, AND INABILITY TO FOCUS ON SO-CALLED IMPORTANT THINGS, LIKE WHAT YOU WILL DO FOR YOUR “CAREER,” WHATEVER THAT MEANS TODAY WHERE NO ONE STAYS WITH ONE JOB FOR VERY LONG, AND A CORRUPT CEO OR BANKER WILL LIKELY MAKE OFF WITH YOUR PENSION ANYWAY.
 The characters would have to do time, if they got caught. We all have to do time of one kind or another.
 “He stamped and mailed her.’
 You get ready for a big camping trip. Then you get in your RV and “drive it in the lake.’
 You look down at your feet for a second, and when you look up, the entire world has changed and left you behind.
 Maybe this was a bad choice for this playlist, since it’s not only about hell, but an obscene sexual act. Or maybe that makes it perfect.
 At some point, your nerves give up and you can’t feel anything.
 You’d like to borrow someone else’s feelings, for just a few hours. It doesn’t matter what the feeling is. Anything will do.
PLAYLIST FOR THOSE TIMES WHEN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FAILS YOU, AND SO YOU TURN TO OTHER LANGUAGES, EVEN THE ONES YOU DON’T KNOW, BECAUSE MAYBE THEY HAVE SOMETHING ENGLISH DOESN’T, AND AT ANY RATE YOU CAN GET LOST IN THE SOUND OF THE WORDS RATHER THAN THE MEANINGS, WHICH ARE PESKY AND UNRELIABLE.
 Spanish. The language of passion (or passion lost, more likely–nothing lasts forever, after all).
 Hawaiian: “Get to the point.’ (Or, get over yourself.)
 Russian: “I hear voices of enemies everywhere.’
 French: “Leave me alone.’ Let me be in peace.
 Not only the language of the Mau Mau tribe (presumably–no one seems to be able to make out the actual words), but the language of colonization and retaliation. And on a (less serious?) note, the language of 1980s music. The synthesizers here take over the song at points. Which kind of makes a point if you think about it: tradition vs. Western progress, especially when the Mau Mau language and the synth fight against each other for dominance at the end.
 A folk song, or, the language of tradition, of passing things on, of memory.
 Spanish: The language of passion, yes, and the language of war, and of families torn apart.
 Latin: “Rest In Peace.’
 Still the same hypnotic chant of ruination. The language of chemical destruction. The new human language. Maybe this playlist was a bad idea.
PLAYLIST OF SONGS ABOUT/FEATURING MONKEYS, TO LISTEN TO AFTER ANY ONE OF THE MORE DEPRESSING PLAYLISTS YOU SEEM TO HAVE INADVERTENTLY CONSTRUCTED (OR, THIS MUSICIAN IS OBSESSED WITH MONKEYS, AND YOU’D REALLY LIKE TO KNOW WHY).
 A telephone in the jungle, ringing, ringing. Don’t answer it.
 A friend argued this song shouldn’t be here, because it’s about Elvis, someone this musician did not like very much (see: “Jesus Mentioned’), but is it really? You think it’s about that certain draw of monkeys, the way they echo us. You think it’s about this musician not wanting to admit he has several things in common with Elvis: too many drugs, a fascination with monkeys, an inevitable death. This is perhaps why monkeys unnerve me.
 With all the money in the world, the gorilla still isn’t happy, and neither is the narrator.
 The only song to actually feature a monkey speaking. I’m not sure what the monkey is trying to say, as monkey is another one of the many languages I do not speak (and have no desire to learn).
 Here it is again, that connection between monkeys, hell, and death. You think you know who’s on the other end of that jungle telephone.
PLAYLIST FOR TRYING TO FIGURE OUR YOUR OWN OBSESSIONS (OR, I’M OBSESSED WITH THIS SONG AND I CAN’T ARTICULATE WHY, BUT SUSPECT IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH CALIFORNIA FALLING INTO THE OCEAN).
 This song is undeniably connected to the other(s), so you have to listen to it first. You can even see it in the title.
 Don’t you love how the piano in “Frank and Jesse James’ turns into a strings piece here?
 Whenever the sun shines through your window, it glints off a jar you filled with pieces of broken blue glass and throws patterns on the wall. They’re pretty, but sometimes they look threatening, like the light can see into your heart.
 Sometimes you get lost in this music. Other times you spend hours on YouTube looking at live performances. Whenever this musician looks at the camera, you feel a jolt, like even though he’s dead and it’s a video anyway, he can see even further into you than the light reflecting off your broken bits of blue glass.
 Desperado, desperation, desire, yes.
PLAYLIST FOR REMEMBERING THAT EVEN IF CALIFORNIA DOES FALL INTO THE OCEAN, YOU KNOW HOW TO SWIM.
 We’ve seen a lot of storms together. But we know how to swim. And so we do. And so we will.
 Sometimes, everyone needs a little quiet.
 But we can’t stay quiet forever.
 We need music: the music of notes, of written words, of spoken language, of love, of loss, of life.
 Don’t live a completely quiet life. Don’t stay in the quiet places for too long. Piss people off. If you do, you know you’re doing something right.
 Most people live only a few reckless years, but you’ve got to keep running straight to the end. What other way is there to live, but with your soul blowing in the wind made from your running?