Eat @ Joe's By Ralph Raffio
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Here's What I'd Take on a Long Haul I'll Never Fly
I recently had an opportunity to fly 18 hours nonstop from Newark to Singapore. For free.
The offer was presented by a friend and colleague. His idea was for me to review Singapore Airlines' service, not as a business traveler, which I ain't, but as the casual civilian vacation flyer that I am.
"Don't say 'no' right away," he pleaded, knowing of my extreme aversion to long-haul flights. "Think about it for a couple days."
Two days later, I reported back precisely and unequivocally.
"No way," I texted. "Forget it. Not gonna happen. Rather be mauled by wild canines. Chewed apart by a Great White. Swarmed by an army of red ants. Am I being clear?"
In the 48 hours between my friend's offer and my response, however, I did spend around three and a half minutes actually considering the 36-hour roundtrip. The rest of the time I found myself making a list of the music, movies and other things that might possibly sustain me should I ever choose to fly for so long a period ever again.
I mean, some stuff that's loaded onto the airline industry's in-flight audio and video systems is perfectly fine, but curating your own entertainment on the road is far more satisfying. Don't you think?
Anyhow, my friend wasn't happy when I turned down his offer. But he perked up when I shared this list with him.
JOBIM, EVANS-BENNETT AND THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
In November Bob Dylan released a six-CD package called More Blood, More Tracks. The box set features alternate takes of Blood on the Tracks, a 10-song album released in 1975. There are, if you can believe it, 12 versions of You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go. I've always been a big Dylan fan, but 70 different takes of tracks that I thought were just fine the first time isn't for me--no matter how long the flight. Instead, take the original along with you. I often do.
If there was a better pairing of a singer (Tony Bennett) and a jazz pianist (Bill Evans) on an album, I'd like to know about it. In 1975, Bennett was at the top of his game and Evans, well, he was a freaking genius. The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album, their first collaboration, is a masterpiece, plain and simple. It will even sound good coming through the crappiest of crappy complimentary airline earbuds. Load it onto your device of choice. You won't be sorry.
You don't have to be a bossa nova fan--I'm not a big one--to appreciate Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, the 1967 pairing of the greatest pop singer ever (deal with it) and Brazil's best-known composer. Stunningly beautiful does not begin to describe it. Slip off your loafers, ease your seatback just a little, close your eyes--and fly baby!
STAND UP IN YOUR SEAT
How long has it been since you've listened to "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television?" It is on George Carlin's Class Clown. So are a ton of other brilliant bits. Carlin got arrested for performing the 1972 material, so make sure to keep it down, lest you be scolded by the flight attendant or an unamused traveler in a nearby seat.
Forty minutes of vintage one-liners from Rodney Dangerfield on No Respect might just be enough to get your mind off the knucklehead in front of you. You know, the one who has to be fully reclined--even when wolfing down the complimentary snack and beverage. This 1980 album won the Grammy for Best Comedy.
The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart is set up as a series of one-way telephone conversations, each funnier than the last. Madison Avenue advertising man to Abe Lincoln: "You changed 'four score and seven' to 'eighty seven?' But Abe, we test marketed ... Do the speech the way Charlie wrote it, would you." The 1960 LP won Album of the Year and Newhart was named Best New Artist. And the material holds up.
I'M NOT AGAINST THESE MOVIES
Title notwithstanding, History of the World Part I has no sequel--or equal. We're talking Mel Brooks as Moses, breaking the tablet that held five of the original 15 Commandments. Or how about Mel as the lone waiter taking all the orders at the Last Supper? The 1981 movie moves from one "historical" sketch to another and will keep you rolling in the aisles. Oh, wait ...
Before you call the flight attendant and demand that I be escorted off the plane, allow me to explain why I'm selecting The Godfather Part III. Francis Ford Coppola's first two Godfather films are masterpieces. I know practically all the scenes in both movies by heart. Part III? Not so much. But it's not nearly as bad as Godfather aficionados claim. It's actually a great way to kill 162 minutes on an aircraft. Look at it this way: If the guy sitting next to you kept interrupting you to go to the lavatory during either of the first two films, you'd want to pop him, right? With this final chapter of the Corleone saga, the interruptions won't matter so much. (Spoiler alert: Michael goes to confession in the Old Country and comes clean about Fredo. Madonna!)
My wife does not get the Marx Brothers so I'm not allowed to watch their flicks at home. That makes a flight the perfect time to get reacquainted with their movies. Horse Feathers opens with Groucho being introduced as the new president of Huxley College and he immediately breaks into song. Your proposition may be good. But let's have one thing understood. Whatever it is, I'm against it. And even when you've changed it or condensed it, I'm against it. The only trouble with Marx Brothers movies is that they're very short. This 1932 outing is just 68 minutes long, so load some others on the laptop--The Cocoanuts, for instance--while you're at it.
It took three false starts, over as many years, before I could get into Deadwood, largely because I'm not a fan of westerns. But persistence paid off. This HBO series may just be the best thing I've ever seen on television. Created by David Milch (NYPD Blue), it spans three seasons and 36 hour-or-so-long episodes. If profanity puts you off then this show is definitely not for you. But the writing is nothing short of brilliant. I briefly considered the Newark-to-Singapore-and-back itinerary just so that I could immerse myself in this series.
I've spent hours watching episodes of The Dick Cavett Show on You Tube and now many are on aircraft-friendly DVDs. However, this You Tube link is a favorite of mine. It's from 1980 and features a nearly two-hour conversation (remember those?) between Cavett and actor Richard Burton. It's absolutely fascinating, and Burton's voice will lull you to a happy space no matter what else goes down during your flight. Promise.
Oh, and just for giggles: If you have reliable in-flight WiFi for about five minutes, listen to the brilliant Robin Williams on how golf was invented. But make sure you've got your headphones. There are enough F-bombs to offend an entire plane.
This column is Copyright © 2018 by Ralph Raffio. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2018 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Ralph Raffio. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.