I just finished my seventh cross-country drive, and this latest one featured a few new things of note: a wedding in Minneapolis (which resulted in a bell curve drive across America, where I went all the way north to come all the way south again), an overnight rock star stop in Vegas, a stop in a Colorado town that smelled, mysteriously, exactly like peanut butter, and…my new iPod, sitting, tiny, in one of my Saturn’s cup holders.

Just like I thought I’d never be able to make this drive without the help of cigarettes (once, I drove by myself from New York to Houston on a diet of Snickers, Lemon Ice Gatorade, Parliaments, and NOTHING ELSE), I now don’t know how I ever did this drive without an iPod. It was so nice to hit that click wheel and not worry about the entirety of my CD collection littering up the front seat of my car. My CD collection wasn’t even in my car. It’s in Brooklyn. It’s also in my iPod.

After listening to the radio for about two hours and playing a sad game of “This is on my iPod, this is on my iPod, this is on my iPod, this is Third-Eye Blind, this is on my iPod,” I decided, “Y’all. iPod.” In honor of the 2304 songs currently taking up less than a third of the machine’s total capacity, I hit the “Shuffle Songs” feature in Pennsylvania and just let the thing fly for about five hours. The first ten songs that played represent a perfect cross-section of some of the music I love. Shuffle them today.

1) “Look Sharp” by Joe Jackson – From his “Look Sharp” album (1979), this song fits perfectly into the larger framework of music I was listening to when I was ten years old and playing “Hardball” on my Commodore 64 in the basement. The only problem is that while this sounds like The Police, Squeeze, Elvis Costello and REM’s most intuitive crossover music, I didn’t actually discover this album until I was in college. The years I wasted. The years I’ll never get back.

2) “Underground” by Ben Folds Five – From their first, self-titled album, this song kicks ass. If you don’t know this album, get it. Pop it in. Listen to “The Best Imitation of Myself.” Call to thank me.

3) “Lie Still Little Bottle” by They Might Be Giants – It’s either because all of their songs are really short and they put a billion of them on a CD or because I was a bigger geek in ninth grade than I remember, but I have a LOT of TMBG on this iPod. And my iPod really seems to like playing their songs, disproportionately to all other music. We can learn two things from this: a) if I don’t already know a TMBG song, I have no interest in ever learning it and b) I still would have preferred “The World’s Address,” but I’m trying not to be picky.

4) “The Stonecutters Song” from Songs in the Key of Springfield – On the aforementioned drive to Houston in 1999, I listened to this CD so much my ears almost bled. The fact that it’s the Stonecutters song is, as some of you will know, especially revealing.

5) “Fifty Years After the Fair” by Aimee Mann – From her first solo release “Whatever” (1993), this song rules. Also learned on this drive: the very, very early music of Til Tuesday is not a harbinger of the brilliance that was to one day come from this singularly brilliant artist. In fact, the very, very early music of Til Tuesday is just flat out terrible.

6) “Casino Queen” by Wilco – Rock on, rockers.

7) “Lacrymosa” from Mozart’s Requiem – Because I heart high culture.

8) “Tumble” by Jale – Thanks, Wing and Glark!

9) “Poor Heart” by Phish – Left over from a playlist of a mix Pam and Stee put in the microwave before torching the house and moving to Antarctica, this bluegrass throwback to the pot-smoking college days almost caused me to get pulled over for a contact DUI from the past.

10) Act II, scene ii of Monica! The Musical from the 9/16 reading for the New York Musical Theatre Festival – Featuring the infamous “Dear Tori” speech that wowed the crowd, this was a perfect, self-loving ending.

Anyway, I’m back in LA. Hi, Pam.

Posted in Dan