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Mike Bukach

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Suggested Listening: Finding Zen at the Airport

In correspondence to the previous post regarding our airline debacle, I’ve asked my fellow travelers to pick an album they suggest to block out the insanity of airports. I posed the question: what is your  aural fulcrum of peace, and why?  Feel free to comment, let us know what you pick to block out the madness. 

Marti says: Fleet Foxes – ‘Ragged Wood’

Where I am traveling, and for how long greatly affects what is pulsating in my ear buds. Short trips – going to a big city – usually requires a good rocking-out, like the delectable sounds of The Black Keys or Queen. If I am doing a long, multi-stop trip, I have to pace myself similar to a solid all-day drinking binge. Fleet Foxes are the culmination of all of my favorite things; folk music, beards, plaid, and 5 men singing to me in perfect harmonies. Because Mike is forcing me to choose only one album, I think Ragged Wood is divine for drowning out the constant chit-chat, loud cell phone users and the Charlie Brown teacher announcements that flood airports. The handsome music these 5 guys from Seattle output is essential for lowering my blood pressure, and keeping my composure while traveling to certain countries, particularly those that rhyme with musshia. – Marti Babcock

   LISTEN ——>  Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

Paul says: Brian Eno – ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’ 

Over the years I’ve tried many different methods of staying calm while traversing the human slough/free-for-all that is an airport.  “Be calm.  Presence of Self.  Be in the Now.  Try meditating.” False.  You become far too docile when attempting walking meditation and you risk getting a pant-leg caught in the people mover. A traveler must be on the alert.  You wouldn’t zone out in a lion’s den. 

Ambient albums always seemed a noble, art piece type of concept to me, until the advent of the Ipod, and a particular layover (separate from the Russia trip) in Chicago.  As I was waiting in a line that seemed to last forever, waiting for the ticket counter to stop being bogarted by throngs of people with hundreds of pounds of luggage and no knowledge of airport rules, I found myself fidgeting and nervously tapping my foot.  The tension continued to mount and a cold sweat began to form as the attendant had to argue over the cost of baggage check with this traveler as to why the bartering system was not relevant in an airport.  Suddenly, without realization, my tensions began to wash away, soothed by the ebb and flow of synthesizer hums and quiet, repeating piano lines. The arguments and noise faded away, my posture relaxed, and every nerve calmed. It took me half the 17 minutes of ‘1/1’, the first track of Eno’s ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’ to realize my Ipod was on/the reason I was so at ease.

This album is subtle, soothing and utterly brilliant. It is not meant to blow your mind listening through headphones at home or sitting at the gate, it’s meant to ease the minds of travelers that have been overstressed by an industry that seemingly strives to take your hard-earned dollars purely to put you in a state of consistent discomfort, antagonism and psychological unrest. I know, I know, it’s not all that bad.  I’ve seen beautiful places, traveled the world; a beautiful, grand realization of one of the oldest dreams of mankind. Seriously though Delta, one or two extra inches between seats wouldn’t kill your profits. Seriously. 

So the next time you’re heading to Cancun for your all-inclusive vacation and you get stuck behind the owner of a thirty piece luggage set who doesn’t understand why checked bags cost so much, throw on Ambient 1: Music for Airports.  It was my best friend during the Russian debacle (sorry Mike).  It should be your best friend too. – Paul Costianes

 LISTEN ——> Brian Eno – ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airport’ 2-1

I say:  Grizzly Bear – ‘Yellow House’ 

After once drinking entirely too much coffee at ATL International whilst listening to Rage Against the Machine, having a full-on, sweat-mopping, stress-fit at the gate, I vowed from then on to only drink cocktails and listen to calmer music when flying. It took me some time to find an album that was both enjoyable to listen to, and capable of stripping environmental tensions. I remember riding on the 1 train heading uptown in NYC one particularly busy, miserably hot day. It was a mosh-pit of riders; people throwing elbows, and kidney jabs. A few songs into ‘Yellow House’ and I was hip-checked into a gentleman who started a verbal assault upon my being, my mom/anyone else related, but the headphones were up pretty high, and I could only hear muffled yelling. I apologized, watched him mouth a diatribe of obscenities for an uncomfortable amount of time, but was completely calmed by the sounds of Grizzly Bear. From then on, the band has been my travel sanity.

I’m in the same mind-set as Paul (Marti as well), musical minimalism is key to finding airport peace, but I don’t  find myself paying much attention to specific lyrics on ‘Yellow House’, in a good way. The lead vocals (Ed Droste) and harmonies are used, for the most part, as a hypnotic accompaniment to the orchestration of the songs. The album is captivating enough to keep interest piqued; is purposefully slower, non-invasive, and doesn’t put you in the drab, sleepy state of meditation at the airport gate (or subway) where you start nodding to sleep – violently catch yourself – look like a total dick trying to play it off. – Mike

    LISTEN —->  Grizzly Bear – Reprise

9 comments on “Suggested Listening: Finding Zen at the Airport

  1. Ziggy with a Neck says:

    I don’t travel.


    1. mabukach says:

      Well Ziggy, what do you listen to while drinking Pabst on your deck?


      1. Ziggy with a Neck says:

        Audible thumping of my heart due to high blood-pressure and excessive ham consumption.


  2. Mark Pagan says:

    Nervous “we are going to die” frequent flyer so I need something funny that makes imminent death feel acceptable. I like the Ricky Gervais podcast for longer trips. Jerky Boys should be the next step in assuaging any airline fears. I also get easily sentimental on the plane so 70s and 80s ballads like Phil Collins next to Foreigner loosens up the tear ducts and gets rid of catharsis before landing. Probably have sad too much already, but I’ll end with the Bee Gees. Probably have a high number of plays on my iTunes and I do a very conscious job of lowering the volume so no one hears how much I’m repeating “More Than a Woman” while silently crying.


    1. mabukach says:

      Amazing, Mark. Thank you. Crying to “More than a Woman” is okay. Happens every time I watch Short Circuit.


      1. Brad says:



  3. Nathaniel Hahn says:

    I for one have always been fond of The Shins on the ole Cycloptic Pod. Any album really fits the bill…a mix of upbeat excitement that lends well to where I am going, and some slower monuments to where I have been and that which I am leaving behind.

    At the very least they put a smile on my face and when walking down the long corridors or feeling like Sonic the Hedgehog on those flat-form escalators The Shins music really makes me feel special.

    I think it is important to have a travel soundtrack.

    Most of us wish for life soundtracks…like when you are on your way to a party and you wish that the Batman theme is playing for everyone to hear. Then you bust down the door with a roundhouse kick dressed in a mask and cape and suddenly the beer flows like wine and the women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capastrono to you… a caped crusader!

    Yeah, that would be sweet!

    Thanks you Steve Jobs for the Cycloptic Pod…making dreams come true one fantasy at a time!


    1. mabukach says:

      Good call. You have to have a travel soundtrack.
      I once roundhouse kicked a door…was having a bad sushi/out of body experience. Unfortunately, the mask and cape was all I was wearing.


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