God Save The Kinks.  I was driving to the train station this morning and listening to Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire) when I had a vision of myself in Shangri-La.  I was shifting uncomfortably in my seat, nudging with one finger the sore spot a few inches below my sternum, wondering if it was a hiatal hernia, and dreading my arrival at the office where work has been, according to the lingo, a series of ‘fire-drills’ these past two weeks or more. Then Ray Davies sang:

The little man who gets the train
Got a mortgage hanging over his head
But he’s too scared to complain
Cos he’s conditioned that way…

My wife’s parents live on the east side of San Jose, up against the Diablo Range foothills that are so brilliantly green this time of year.  In line at a supermarket nearby I overheard a conversation between a clerk and a customer he seemed to know.  “So, how’s it going?” the clerk asked.  “You know how it is,” said the other, a big man, spreading out his arms, “…just another day in Shangri-La.”  “More like Shanghai,” the clerk said, with a guilty chuckle.  The three of us were possibly the only non-Asians in the store – but I suppose we each build a Shangri-La in our own image.

Flaubert wrote by way of advice that “[you should] be regular and ordinary in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”  Keep your head down.  Conserve your creative energy.  Pray to Wallace Stevens.  Play Prince Hal among the middle class drudges and office zombies till your sun of glory vaults over the horizon.  But what happens when you really are a bourgeois?  What happens when you’re too tired and well-fed to be violent and original?  Anyone want to take a mortgage off my hands?


Filed under Levity

9 responses to “Shangri-La

  1. A fellow Kinks devotee? That span of records they did from about 1966 to 1972 or so simply can’t be beat. You bring some fine things together in this little essay.

    I’m afraid I can’t pluck that mortgage from over your head, but I can prescribe what you will already likely have taken: side one of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation, which ends with Sitting by the Riverside:

    “Oh, golly gee, it is heaven to be
    Like a willow tree….”

    Ray Davies was and remains one phenomenal cat, whether in Shangri-la, on Hollywood Boulevard, along the strand at Wai-ki-ki, overlooking Waterloo Station, or atop Muswell Hill in that pub you see on the cover. Or for that matter complaining of his poor rheumatic back in his autumn almanac.


  2. Ian Wolcott

    Nicely put. And yes, a glorious era altogether. I put Village Green Preservtion Society on while doing dishes and my daughter dances through the whole album.

  3. elberry

    i occasionally consider simply disappearing into the wilds of the world, but then remember my monthly credit card repayments, and realise i need a job. i’m still too responsible, alas, to just leave debts behind.

  4. Have you ever heard Yo La Tengo’s covers of “Big Sky,” “Fancy,” and “Oklahoma U.S.A.”? They do the Kinks justice. I’ve later heard tell of a documentary now being made about the Davies brothers & the Kinks. I’ll be looking out for it.

    Indeed, what has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem?

    Mark (a 20th century man)

  5. Ian Wolcott

    Yes, I’m familiar with YLT’s ‘Big Sky’ and ‘Oklahoma, USA.’ The latter I like especially.

    Ian (Apeman)

  6. Gaw

    You probably know the Small Faces? If not, try them. They exhibit a similar sort of English R&B eccentricity. ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ is of a piece with the VGPS.

  7. Ian Wolcott

    I haven’t listened much to Small Faces but ‘Lazy Sunday’ and ‘Itchycoo Park’ are keepers. All the “getting high” and “touching the sky” is a little dated, maybe. Not much beats the Kinks, in my 60s-70s pantheon.

  8. I like it :). Thanks for that, but I have further thanks to deliver. I suffer from color blindness (tritanopia to be precise). I mainly use Chrome browser (no idea if that makes a difference), and several web pages are hard to read as a result of a careless choice of colors used. On this site, as the range of colors is reasonable, the design is quite clear and comfortable to read. I am not sure whether this was a premeditated and conscious act, or just a fortunate event, but just the same, thanks.

    • Ian Wolcott

      Really? I’ve had a few complaints about the (nearly) white text on black background, but yours is the first compliment I’ve had for the color scheme. Glad to hear it works for somebody.

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