I just want to tell you a bit more about dinner last night, at the Marina Bay Sands.
When I was in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, talking about going to Singapore, Neill Dixon, who’s the majordomo of that event, told me all about this rooftop restaurant, where they even had an infinity pool, that he was gonna take me to. And when Jasper told me Neill, et al, we’re gonna go last night, I immediately got a hold of Neill to make sure I was included.
I’m not good with heights.
Actually, I’m getting better. You see it’s classic OCD. And the way they treat that, Freudian talk therapy has been proven not to work, is through exposures. Which means…you put yourself in the situation. Again and again. It works! There’s this lift at Mammoth, Chair 23, which is steep as can be and has no safety bar, never mind it’s windy as hell, after all, this is the backside of Yosemite. I used to avoid it, which to a great degree you can, there’s a gondola that goes to a similar point. But the doctor I see insisted I ride it… And lo and behold, I’ve gotten better! You never get over your fear of heights, but you learn to tolerate it.
So the Marina Bay Sands looks like it should fall over. It’s as if someone took the Greek letter "pi" and turned it into a hotel. And at the tippity-top, put a restaurant, observation deck and infinity pool. Yup, you can sit in the pool above Singapore and toast your luck! We just edged up to the plexiglass and looked over…and down.
Down there’s nothing. That’s the way the building is built. It’s totally freaky. You’re fifty-odd stories up and there’s nothing below you!
On one side is downtown Singapore.
On the other is the harbor.
But it’s more than that.
I got an Australian, who promotes concerts here, to point out the sights. Not only was the world’s largest indoor botanical garden right beneath us (with a lighted golf course close nearby), off in the distance that was…Indonesia. And on the other side? Malaysia. I must say as the hours passed, I got used to the thought, but at first I felt so small. In America you’re taught to believe you count. But we don’t really. And then I started thinking about Vietnam and centuries of conflict and I wished everybody could see what I was seeing, to get perspective, to be wowed at the gears of commerce in operation today.
And the conversations were so fascinating.
The Australian promoter does shows here, he’s got Jason Mraz imminently, and in China, everywhere in the neighborhood but Australia itself. He had Westlife in China. Eight gigs on the eastern seaboard. Only in cities in excess of ten million. And I’d never heard of nine of them. In one, the barrier between act and fans was a ribbon, you know, like at the movies, strung between silver poles. The promoter freaked out! The government representatives told him they’d just tell the patrons to sit down. Or if they stood up, that they couldn’t leave their seats. Turned out to work! But my newfound friend said that wouldn’t happen in Shanghai, or Singapore.
And then there was Bernie. Who went to Dartmouth but then moved to Korea, twenty years ago. He’s got kind of an agency/management company/record label. Well, not exactly. But what he does do is make 80/20 deals with acts dissatisfied with their record companies. He cleans up their social media, he gets them distributed all over the world. He’s got acts that sell 1,000 to 10,000 albums in the U.S., singing in Korean. It’s the social networks. And most of those in attendance at the shows are not even Korean themselves!
And then there was Steve…
I could have talked to him all night. And almost did.
Half a decade younger than me, he grew up in Victoria, B.C. From there he went to the U.K., and on a whim to Japan. Where he’s been for twenty seven years. With a Japanese wife, a school teacher, and an eighteen year old son, who’s about to go to university in B.C. himself. And Steve was the local "Billboard" correspondent. And now he does work for NHK, the big Japanese broadcast company. But what I liked most about talking to Steve was the references, the puns, the interweaving of our life history into conversation.
You see we know all these lyrics, we’ve seen all these shows, we’ve got endless information which we don’t believe is trivia and how we connect is by revealing it. Quotes from Elvis Costello records. Bob Dylan lyrics. Little tests back and forth to see if the other is in the know.
But it’s not about competition, it’s about bonding, connecting.
You see we’re all looking for someone simpatico. The media portrays life as a rat race, competing to get to the top. Trumpeting our triumphs and keeping others beneath us. But that’s not how life really is. We want to be close. Sure, it’s nice to get the accolades, but they don’t mean much if you’ve got no one to share them with.
And it really only takes one. A single person who sees the planet the same way. Who can laugh at what you do, see the absurdity of life, but has passion for it too.
Steve had read "Jacob de Zoet". Which blew my mind, because I’ve only found one other person in the music business who did (who sent it to me!) And Steve talked about used bookshops in Japan and sci-fi and mystery novels, which I care not a whit about, but I understood where he was coming from.
And I loved hearing about his choices and experiences. Did he wake up one day and freak out, I’M LIVING IN JAPAN! Kinda. I mean his in-laws helped with the down payment for his house, he’s entrenched. But he did insist only English be spoken in his domicile, so his kid would be bilingual. His son speaks English to him and Japanese to his wife, ha!
And Steve left "Billboard" because he’d done everything. There was no new challenge. How different from playing it safe. Then again, we play it safe in the U.S. because we need the health insurance, Canadians know nothing of this.
And it’s so weird yet thrilling to find myself halfway around the world speaking the same language to someone who lives in a foreign country. We spoke about stereo, 5.1, DVD-A and SACD, listening to Neil Young in all the formats…
This is what I live for, this is who I am.