The Eagles sang me out of Ljubljana. I was on my way to Slovenj Gradec, a small town in the north of Slovenia, located in the district of Carinthia. It’s a little over two hours away if you take the slow bus, and in my opinion the extra time is worth it. It’s a beautiful drive, and the other time or two that I’ve taken this bus, I’ve found that I passed that two plus hours very easily, staring out the window and pondering the sights I found there. But today, even in the otherwise empty bus, I had company, for as the city slowly transformed itself from bustling burgh to sprawling suburbs and finally to rolling countryside, Don Henley painted an olfactory picture of colitas and recounted the strange night he spent with eternity. As the gorgeous six-string rhythms of Felder and Walsh slid against each other, I looked out my window at the farmland and smiled. The trip was already off to a great start.
With the last evidence of Ljubljana fading away, and The Eagles on the radio having been replaced by something far inferior, I dig my computer out of my bag and search for something more to my liking. My walk to the bus station was accompanied by one of my favourite Southern rock songs, so I cue it up and let Lynyrd Skynyrd serenade me while the Slovenian landscape passes me by. Barns, old and new, towering over fields of crops, reflect the continued importance that farming has for Slovenia. Modernity, with all of its trappings and advantages, has in no way neglected this country, which enjoys a standard of living no less developed than that of its western neighbours, but farming persists and Slovenians can choose from a great many food stuffs that are locally produced. Still, with the draw of city life and the decision of many young people to move to the bigger towns, one does wonder just what the future holds for this tradition. The music drives my thoughts onward. Today is only Monday, and already Tuesday’s gone with the wind.
It’s getting darker. Rain has been coming down all day, and I’ve seen nothing of blue sky except for during a short break in the clouds around early afternoon. On any other day at this time of year, the sun would be out and I would have more light to see by. As it stands, this strange twilit evening lends a ghostly appearance to the kozolec we are now passing. A kozolec is like an open barn used for storage, and they give me a lonely feeling mixed with an unidentifiable memory every time I see one. As I consider this fact, Lady Gaga is dancing. She can’t find her keys or her phone, and she doesn’t even remember the name of the club she’s in, but it’s alright. Sometimes it truly is like that. I can relate, Lady Gaga, I can relate.
I am now being informed in my own language that the roads are slippery. The sign on the highway alongside of us flashes Slovene and English warnings, but it does not seem to affect the situation in the least. As rain pelts the reckless automobiles with even more gusto, I wonder how many people are paying attention to either the rain or the sign. With so little to see outside of the window, I am less enthusiastic about this ride, but Lenny Kravitz has just reminded me that it ain’t over till it’s over. Meanwhile, Louis Armstrong is asking for raw materials to construct a foundation upon which he can then erect the whimsical structure of his true desire. It strikes me as appropriate that this is his goal because given the material he’s asking for, the foundation would be unsound for anything beyond the most ethereal dwelling. All things considered, I wish him well. It sounds like a better place to live than the kind of house Madness is singing about.
I am now passing something that tears the eyes from the surrounding natural beauty and forces them to look upon it with a moment of doubt as to whether such a thing can truly have taken up residence in this idyllic setting. The rains have slowed to a soft but steady drizzle and allow me to take in the verdant atmosphere that spring has provided, but what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an art deco house painted yellow with orange trim. It seems so clearly incongruous with its surroundings that it is difficult to imagine just what the designers were thinking and who would choose to live there. The two must certainly be one and the same, but even as I sit in judgment of these unknown souls, Level 42 reminds me that it’s not so wrong-we’re only human after all.
We rumble on through the Slovenian countryside. The fledgling crop of a tiny vineyard stretches up slowly for the trellises above, while across the road climb the emerald hops that Slovenians refer to as their zeleno zlato, their ‘green gold’. Power lines crisscross their way against the sky, blending in with the poles that beckon the hops toward the sun. Countless rows of it spread out along white wires that hang taught and uniform, as though we might soon bear witness to a game of cat’s cradle on an enormous scale. My mind bends as we pass them and the lines blur rapidly, like shuffling cards. It is about this time that the Kings of Convenience inform me that they would rather dance with me than talk with me, and Martijn Ten Velden wishes, by the way, that I would. I choose not to stay with the latter after all, and instead I chase after MIA, who is not in the least bit worried about getting caught at the border because she has visas in her name.
Mist clings to the hillside like a worn out nightgown, revealing through its runs and tears the patches of trees beyond, occasionally allowing an unobscured glimpse at the foliage through a larger hole that still needs mending. It is here that Benny Benassi is looking for satisfaction, and MJ has told him not to stop until he has gotten enough. If this were not sufficient encouragement, Billy Ocean has got something to tell him about what happens when the going gets tough. Billy Preston is nevertheless confused about what precisely will happen, and he would like to know if it will go round in circles or fly high like a bird up in the sky. Bobby Darin, on the other hand, is not particularly interested in any of this. All he really wants to know is whether you agree with him about New York, Gershwin and pretty much anything else he can think of.
It is past eight o’clock, and the gas stations we leave in our wake have shut their doors and darkened their lights. I wonder where midnight motorists find their fuel. And now I pose a question: to the owner of the big yellow house with the red roof and the large black letters telling us POLAKE EKSTRA, are you trying to say that Polish girls cost more or that you have more of them? Either way, Britney Spears has something to say about how you objectify women. She claims that she knows just what you are, but she seems to be having trouble getting the words out.
We are coming into Velenje…not far away now. Beirut always brings my dear lost cousin to mind, and this is no exception. Ashley, Zach Condon is right, it has been a long time now since I’ve seen you smile. We all miss you terribly, cuz. The track changes to another from Beirut, and I behold the giant cooling towers outside of town. How fitting, as these are the closest I’ve ever come to seeing a white whale. As we pull through a bus station to bring us back around to these monstrosities, Geoff Muldaur promises that he will return to old Brazil, and now more than ever upon hearing this song, I see the face of Jonathon Pryce before me, humming softly to himself the very same vow.
A large stencil of industrial workers wishes us all good luck, but it’s too late for Michael Penn, who is the walking wounded. The trees are closer now, and they pull in the darkness, bringing a premature end to the day. This is acceptable, because as Miike Snow reminds me, with one of the purest and also sexiest lines I know, that without sun we pull what feeds us from the heat that’s in between us. And yet off to the right there’s the Gostilna Sonce, the Sun Inn, to remind me that the day will return.
We have emerged from the trees to find the sun truly gone for now, only the last vestiges of its rays and the ever-present city lights remaining. They paint my Monday sky blue as New Order confirms the colour of this day, even if the mood does not correspond. Tell you how you feel? I’ll let you boys figure that one out on your own. Your song is a good clue. Back among the trees, it is now truly night, and darkness has swallowed us whole. But I am not afraid because I am comforted by intense beauty and luminous magic as I am assured that every time you see me falling, you will get down on your knees and pray. Ralph Stanley’s dialogue with death, even amidst such darkness, does not trouble me, for I am at nearing the end of my journey, and this story is coming to a close.
Frankie Vallie is singing me on toward my destination, and my mind’s on a girl that I can never take my eyes off of. We sit at my last stop as the bus cranks out Mr. Saxo Beat. It’s groovy in its own way, and I give it a listen before I go back to my music and my musings. And now I’m coming into the station, enjoying a final orchestral manoeuvre in the dark, and dreaming of you, Courtney.