Jukebox Etiquette

Trip Start Apr 12, 2007
Trip End Apr 22, 2007

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Friday, April 13, 2007

Good conversation makes a good drink better.  So does good music, as both the drink and the music seem to enhance one another in the proper mixture.  And it is no secret that good music can put even the grumpiest of tipplers more at ease - perhaps even producing a hint of nostalgia - with the unjust and ignoble world he makes regular endeavors to escape from.  It is for this reason that you shouldn't sabotage the soundtrack a fellow reveler may wish to hear while drinking the night away, not just because he paid his money or may be mad and become agitated, but because a central principle of the jukebox rulebook involves enduring what is almost invariably inferior music compared to the hit parade you so carefully selected with gusto.  Good things come to those who wait.  A good society believes in and follows such rules.   

On the evening before I caught my flight from JFK to Santo Domingo I stopped in at a pub after bidding my friends farewell in Queens. I had an appetite for a few more drinks in order to induce the stupor I needed to help me sleep a tad in the airport before taking my slumber upon the plane to be ready to hit the ground running once I arrived in Santo Domingo.  I ducked into a lightly-populated bar and ordered me a brew, going over my guide book so as to draft a rough plan for my stay in the capital.  To my chagrin, one of the other customers was filling the place with some god-awful country music, which isn't what I like to hear when in NYC or anywhere else for that matter, but as he paid to hear this rot I had to abide.  Since I was right outside the metro station from where I needed to grab the train towards JFK and planned on drinking a bit more, I realized I was going to have to do what I could to change the music, even if nothing more than to break up the string of increasingly annoying anthems spluttering from the jukebox.  I assumed my jukebox rights would be respected just like those of the wrangler mingling in the Big City who I had determined was the author of this practice in bad taste.  But you have to live and let live...

I proceeded to select what were no doubt among the best songs in the bush-league catalog of cds to choose from, noting that my adversary had selected the bulk of the few country songs to be found in the library.  Obeying the unwritten laws of the public jukebox, I avoided choosing any entire disc and registered the songs I had destined to drive the country out, hopefully sooner rather than later.  Well, as a rule you must wait your turn to hear the songs you're anxious to groove to, for other paying afficionados beat you to the box, though the wait isn't so bad when you're certain your prowess as a DJ will lift the mood of the entire bar.  But my cornfed antagonist wasn't having any of it.  Despite noticing a palpable change in the crowd once my first song made its broadcast, from the pie-eyed bogtrotter at my flank to the motley crew chucking darts, as soon as Beast of Burden put to bed his twangy songs about checking the air in the tires of your American Dirtmobile, changing your guitar straaangs and putting on your best ten-gallon hat, he grew restless and began nodding in disappointment, occasionally ejecting a sardonic guffaw.  Apparently he wasn't a fan of the Stones, and furthermore, felt he had some kind of monopoly on the evening's soundtrack. It didn't take him long to plop himself in front of the music machine in search of some undoubtedly cornpone drivel to once again pollute the air with.

But while I understood and accepted his desire to engage in a battle of the bands as we each went bibbing on, what he proceeded to do was a blatant violation of jukebox etiquette, to wit, he performed a pre-emptive strike and utilized the Play Now function that appears once you decide on a tune to play, an option that should only be used to discipline incorrigible friends with poor taste and in emergencies, such as having to interrupt the entire Indigo Girls disc some careless moron has insisted on playing to the collective dismay of the other tipplers with sharper ears.  And so while my other on-deck selections of classic rock weren't the best songs, they were surely among the most popular in the library, but Country Joe wasn't happy without his odes to idiocy.  Two of my five songs were aired before the revival of his cherished nonsense interrupted my playlist. 

Not looking for a fight, whether verbal or physical, especially with a patriotic rube chugging Coors Light, I swallowed my pride and finished my grog to what freedom and happiness must sound like in the jerkwater Eden that hurled this man into the world.  While I wanted to stick around to hear the remainder of the songs I had chosen to play (there's nothing worse than waiting for your tracks and having to depart before they bring the ambience to your own personal preference - with popular approval of fellow guzzlers if your taste is good - or at least rescue the bar from some mawkish tribute to Dixieland), it was getting late and I didn't want to risk falling asleep in the metro as I had a few months back heading out to catch an early flight to Colombia.  So I paid my tab and slipped into the street and on my way to an airnap.

I arrived without problems in Santo Domingo, passing through the most lenient customs check I've ever experienced.  It literally took me all of ten minutes to get from the plane to the busses waiting in front of the airport - backpack, tourist card and passport stamp all in hand, not to mention the complimentary rum and coke ladled out to visitors as a warm Dominican welcome.  I am currently staying with a family in the heart of the capital after meeting the daughter - who lives next to the hotel I crashed in yesterday and is visiting from NJ - before discovering that her mother rents a few rooms to foreigners.  And so I have a cheap place to stay and a local guide. 

I'll tell the story of my new acquaintance later, for she's had a wild ride going from the depths of Santo Domingo to the heights of US residency.  Of the two popular choices to get along here among single women with little money, especially single mothers, she chose the harder, but more expensive path, though with no small amount of risk - paying for marriage to a US citizen in order to obtain residency.  The other, more prevalent street is just that - the street, where there is no shortage of vendible women (or men - even boys - offering to procure them) and certainly no law to curb the market, much less opportunities to alleviate it.  I am reminded of La Habana when wandering the streets here, including the popular colonial zone, which can be quite annoying and embarrasing when all you want to do is snap some pictures, get a meal or just take in all the historic sites to behold.  But so long as I hang with my new friend/guide I will hopefully be able to avoid being hampered in the extensive half-world.

I'll post some pictures later when I have more time - and can find a PC with USB...
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