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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lounge, Oh Lounge!

October 2008

Lounge, Oh Lounge!

Lyrical digression

Do you know you’re beautiful? Yes, you are… yes, you are…
Mandalay, “Beautiful”

On that very fine, if a bit cloudy September day we all went to the Organ Hall, to listen to Carmina Burana (a cantata by Carl Orff), where a friend of mine had to perform the baritone part. Of course, in the era of Britney Spears nobody cares about classics anymore – we prefer smoky clubs where we can shake it a bit, or, maybe, the fates of couch potatoes are more appealing to us, especially when there are many interesting things available on HDTV.

Anyway, I’ve hit the downtown much earlier than all other people in our little group, as a) I hate being late, and b) I love roaming the city when no one is watching. I ate lunch at a trendy bar, said hello to the bar manager, then went to wait for my friends at another trendy bar, bearing the loud and clear title of a lounge club.

Now, lounge is a rather ripened and mature tendency dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the so-called “supermarket music” came out for the first time. It is also a fashionable word to use in glossy magazines, a lucrative industry, and an entire subculture involving laidback clothing, loosened-up lifestyle (of course, if one is a rentier or a heir, it’s easy for them to do absolutely nothing and to refer to themselves to as loungers), and Jose Padilla compilations in their iPods and sound systems. It’s more or less of a label, like, say, rockers, Hells Angels, or Secretaries of State (just kidding). Anyway. Back to the lounge club.

The atmosphere was nice, if trivial: absolutely uncomfortable white leatherette couches, low rectangular glass-top tables that made you stoop in a most uncanny way reminding of Quasimodo, huffy arrogant waitresses (I wondered why, maybe because they thought they had miraculous careers), red-black-white interior and a rather decent DJ stand. I won’t tell you what I ate and what I drank, I was (as I always am) interested in people in the first place. It’s interesting to live in a small city (may this oxymoron be forgiven to me in such context), and watch everybody shake hands with everybody, and seem to know each other way too well.

I saw a young couple enter the room and shake hands with the bartender and with the deejay, then sitting down and ordering some tea, then I got up as gracefully as I could on my high heels and totally black and tight outfit, and went to the DJ to ask whether they could play “Death by Chocolate” by De Phazz for me. They turned out to be as haughty and watch-me-enjoying-my-miraculous-young-and-carefree-lounge-DJ-career, and said that they have only ugly De Phazz songs. Now I, as a devoted fan of the German magikians (reference to Robert Asprin, y’all), said firmly, albeit kindly, that De Phazz had no ugly songs, and promised to get them “Death by Chocolate” on a CD-R, as this is an old album and therefore a rarité. Anything for making connections, but I didn’t keep my promise till now. Maybe that was because Carmina Burana erased it from my memory.

Lyrical digression

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, what is to me this quintessence of dust!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

The human race is famous for inventing arts and crafts out of nothing – we probably took and assimilated it from the Japanese culture on a global level, and we all know that the Japanese are famous for their, say, art of untying the shoelaces – “shoelace-do” and art of beating the cheating husbands with the frying-pan – “frying-pan-jitsu”. Anyway, jokes apart, we made a fine art out of small talk, rest and relaxation: that is why we have lounge clubs, lounge areas in airports, and lounge music.

Well, airports are another story – I can’t imagine anyone having a real good time at Charles de Gaulle, but still, we all need places to emphasize our smartness and the fact that we are actually so cool that we never hurry. The art of relaxing also is, as the good old Prince of Denmark said, a mirror held to the nature, and lounge venues do have lots of mirrors, to reflect, so to say, the wonderful realms of far niente.

Yes, I understand, I perfectly understand that successful people need places to show off their success, but why, please, tell me why all the plasma screens in all those cafés and clubs are stuck for good with Fashion TV? What is so relaxing and comforting in watching stalking coat-racks and clothes you know you’ll never afford, successful as you are? Well, I’m sure some of us can really afford them, and this discussion of existential uselessness projected to the fashion industry has no point or meaning whatsoever. And ladies! How can you truly relax and find your inner goddess, or your inner poise, or your inner whatever, in a place where all you can see on a TV screen is some perfect body and perfect, if over-made-up, face? Will you really have a good time? The hell! You’ll order diet cheesecake instead of something healthy like a big fat brownie (just kidding, I wanted to suggest hot chocolate), you’ll ask for aspartame instead of sugar, and you’ll go home or to your next glossy-glittery party loaded with stress and insecurity. Do you need this? Whoa, stupid question. And my advice to the bar owners is to change it to Animal Planet or Discovery. Perfection in wildlife is something we can bear while sipping our mocha-frappucinos.

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous… or is it vice-versus? I left that extremely cool place (after eating some very decent sushi), and went – how ironic – to Mickey D’s, as I had to wait some more, and I got tired of the stale atmosphere specific, as I noticed, to expensive eateries. I actually welcomed the change, as it was warm, and noisy, and full of vivacious young people with their shiny eyes, loud talking, crazy outfits, and milkshakes in black-nailed hands. I bought an orange juice – you don’t mess with the stomach ulcer, you know – and I lost myself in thought and observation of that very lively set.

Now, the fast-food issue is one big controversial mess, except for those poor African countries where, I believe, no one would turn down a big juicy hamburger filled with those wonderful chemical compositions that have virtually obliterated our spoilt Western papillae. A friend of mine says he’d step over the threshold of the Mickey D only when the U.S. army gets out of Iraq. No comments here, I believe this particular geopolitical-slash-culinary problem is between them. I mean my friend, the U.S., and Iraq. But I, for one, have no other choice but to like the heritage of Ronald McDonald, because a) I’m a latent masochist, and nothing cheers me up more than an hour spent on the bathroom floor hanging for dear life to the loo after having a big mac, and b) they give jobs to young people.

So, that evening I just sat there, enjoyed my Minute Maid orange juice (full of chemicals as well, I believe), and watched all the squirming, the buzzing, the giggling – the big SpringChickVille ant hill. Who cares about lounge cafés with reasonably $20-priced cappuccinos and people so prim and proper that you instantly have the feeling that you entered UptightSnobBurg? I’d rather sit under the big fluorescent M, the beacon of globalization, sip on some of the Chemical Brothers (usually known as Coke, Fanta, and Sprite), or chemicalized orange juice (which, for sure, hasn’t been anywhere near a real orange), and watch those girls, one in bright yellow, the other in black, like a true emo girl, discussing boyfriend trouble and laughing their cropped capri pants off.

God, I miss those days when boyfriend trouble was associated with laughter, not with seven vodka martinis on an empty stomach, a bleak mood, and really bad language (well, I know Russian, and you haven’t been sworn at if you haven’t been sworn at in Russian). Lord is my witness, I don’t want to go back to my teens – it’s a horrible time for an intricate personality, but I’d rather laugh in Mickey D than cover the market in “fucks” and “shits” at the Penthouse Café. Alas. Those days are gone, and anyway, I’m not dating anyone now, so there is no issue, in fact.

Just as when I was ready to leave, full of nostalgia – well, it was mixed with a good dose of self-mocking, truth be said, they played this Arash video – Chori Chori. For those who don’t remember or don’t watch crap on music television, let me remind: the video plot is all about shooting, bombs, and aggressive people with obvious Middle Eastern appearance. I snorted into the remains of my orange-cum-polyvinylchloride juice. I realized globalization was quite an ironic thing. Talk about Happy Hezbollah Meal.

And then there it was: the Carmina Burana. And there are no words. This is a true masterpiece, pure enjoyment for the ears, the mind, the soul, and the social life – I met really nice people after the concert, when we went backstage to congratulate our friend the baritone. I even peeked in the men’s dressing room, but that was a genuinely accidental peek. Feel free to call me a liar. My only justification is that I was high on a healthy dose of Carl Orff, and it was a real trip. By the way, the concert was conducted by a woman – this is very rare in the classic music world, and she was astonishing. Her conducting moves looked like a dance. May I just say: long live Ms. Ilona Stepan! And that’s what I call lounge, really.


Still, there is a je ne sais quoi in lounge music, especially when you are in love, and listening to dulcet tones, romantic melodic themes with a soft beat is relevant. I’m not an expert, really. Last time when I was in love I listened to hard rock. As for the casual fashion, it’s not a prerogative of the lounge style. So, what is lounge, then? There is no deep philosophy here. It is pretty much summed up by Timon and Pumbaa: hakuna matata!

Even if your alarm clock is set for 8:00 AM, even if you work your ass off to be able to afford going to expensive lounge clubs, you can still be a lounger. The main thing is to have a flexible mood, and generally to be able to be in a good mood. I’ve never seen a pining lounger in my entire life, and I saw a lot of them. So, the good mood is the key, the Café del Mar is the soundtrack, the Sisley jacket and Dsquared chinos is the wrapping – what else? The mood?

Yes. The mood. The goal is to relax like there’s no tomorrow, to relax with all your might, to put all your efforts in the relaxing. Looks like a job to you? Add a box of Ferrero chocolate liqueurs and do your best to oversleep the next day. And welcome to the ranks of slackers! Because that’s all there is, baby.