boarding in Brussels

Prologue: I have arrived from Bilbao on Brussels Air, a codeshare partner to United, and they gave me my boarding pass for the Brussels-Washington connecting flight, which is operated by United. When she handed me my boarding passes earlier this morning, the Brussels Air agent told me “your bag is checked through to Washington, so you are all set with these.”

Scene: Brussels International, Gate B33. The boarding process for our flight seems to involve individual security screenings where they ask each person if they packed their bags themselves, etc. I’m awaiting my turn. This is my third security screening line of the day, so I’m already annoyed. When I get to the front of the line, the agent takes one look at my boarding pass and sends me over to another agent—let’s call him Richard De Jerck—a jauntily-uniformed chap who is currently occupied by a group of about a dozen African women who have been sent to him in front of me. He’s speaking French to them, but I can tell he is dressing them down as if they are children. It’s obnoxious, even only understanding his body language. He spends a long time yelling at them, saying the same thing over and over again. Making “tssk-tssk” noises. They are nervous, shakily offering him various preciously folded documents like visas and embassy invitation papers (this is where I see they have invitation papers from a women’s conference). Also, they have several different passports among them, but at least one is Angolan, so let’s also assume that he is not even yelling at some of them in their own native language. He finally finishes with them, gestures them on with a look of disgust, and beckons me.

De Jerck: (looking at my boarding pass) “You should have come up and had your boarding pass reprinted earlier because it is forbidden to board a flight to the United States using a boarding pass from a foreign carrier.”

Me: “ Oh really? Sorry. I didn’t know.”

De Jerck: (incredulous, annoyed) “You’re American, aren’t you? You should know this!”

Me: “I’ve never heard of that. What should I do now?” (Boarding is proceeding while this conversation is happening.)

De Jerck: (righteous) “It is your law, not mine.”

Me: “Sorry, man, I must have missed that day of American classes. Can I get it reprinted now?”

De Jerck: “I will ask the gate agent to reprint it for you, but you really should know better.”

Me: “Okay.” (sarcastically) “Thank you so much for your help.”

De Jerck: (handing me a new pass) “Next time you must get the pass reprinted before trying to board. They don’t tell you this in America? No? Do you ever travel? Do you ever go to the airport?”

Me: “Okay. (Holding up my hand in the ‘calm down’ gesture.) “Got it.”

(At this point, De Jerck and I are finished with our business, but we are awkwardly still standing near each other as I wait near him and again behind the African women to re-attempt boarding. Emboldened by my new shiny new “American” boarding pass and knowing that all my shit is in order, I decide to break the ice with him.)

Me: (gesturing to the women ahead of me) “I suppose when you were yelling at them earlier, you were also asking them if their countries teach them about airline boarding pass rules, too?”

(I’m not sure if the women understand what I am saying, but they realize I am talking about them and am not simpatico with De Jerck.  A few of them giggle sheepishly.)

De Jerck: (visibly irritated, whipping his neck to see their giggles and also noticing my smirk, raising his voice) “All I’m saying is that maybe you should study American laws more!”

Me: “And all I’m saying is that maybe you should treat people like human beings!”

(The line advances, and we enter the jetbridge, where I get several nods.)


IJKGB2014: Ana Tijoux– “River Below”

Faithful followers will know that this is not Ana Tijoux’s first appearance on my IJKGB lists: her track 1977 appeared on IJKGB2010. Tijoux was born in France to Chilean parents in exile from the Pinochet dictatorship. She is, as we saw in 1977, an amazing rapper, but this song also pairs that with a lush orchestral arrangment and choral backup.

Slate has an exclusive audio track of the song via SoundCloud. Read about it here and then scroll down to listen. The Slate articles also includes the lyrics translated into English, but scroll all the way to the bottom and read their correction first: if you understand the song to be titled “Downstream” in English, read the rest of it as a poem about the downstream consequences of social and environmental injustices. Deep.

This os track 14 of 20 on IJKGB2014.


IJKGB2014: Bernhoft– “Come Around”

Making these blog posts each year is one of my great joys. Usually, because I only listen to the songs in audio form–often for many months. I’ve been surprised by the race, hairstyle, or dress of artists before, and even sometimes gender. But usually, it’s just a sheer joy to discover the music videos of songs that I love so much. This is no exception:

A couple of weeks ago, while I was finalizing this playlist, I was playing some draft versions of it in the car for Sam. This song came on and he said, “That’s not from your 2014 playlist, is it?” The song sounds so classically of the 1980′s that it’s hard to conceptualize it as contemporary. The Norwegian-born Bernhoft has an amazing voice, and this song has really tightly stylized instrumentals.

For comparison, check out this live performance of the song with only an acoustic guitar. I prefer the full version, but it’s great to hear his voice shine in both contexts:

This is track 13 of 20 in IJKGB2014.

IJKGB2014: Jenny Lewis– “She’s Not Me”

Man, this album is great. There were three or four songs that I could have picked here, so this one might be somewhat random, but her vocals are amazing, and the plot twist of the second verse is lyrically smart. Lewis reminds me of Susanna Hoffs, what with her poppy rock guitar, whip-smart songwriting, and sweet/strong vocals.

This is track 11 of 20 in IJKGB2014

IJKGB2014: St. Vincent– “Birth In Reverse”

St. Vincent has released a few albums before this one, an I’ve heard some of her previous singles, but none of them have the same rocking earworm nature of this one. This song also wins for best opening line of the year.

Warning: when I watch the video, I see a preview for a horror movie first. I hate that, so I’m warning you so that you can be ready switch to another tab quickly to miss that 30 seconds.

This is track 9 of 20 on IJKGB2014.

IJKGB2014: Lake Street Dive– “Bad Self Portraits”

I present here a live performance of this song, which has apparently been around since at least 2012, although the album that includes it (and is also named Bad Self Portraits) was released in 2014. I love their easy, rock/country style. The vocals remind me a Bonnie Raitt. And the lyrics are very funny when you listen closely.

This is track 8 of 20 on IJKGB2014.


IJKGB2014: Jolie Holland– “Waiting For The Sun”

Sam and I have been big Jolie Holland fans since her 2004 album Escondida. We loved that so much that we went back and explored her stuff when she was a part of The Be Good Tanyas, an exploration that paid off. In particular, if you’re not familiar with the Be Good Tanyas, check out their cover of When Doves Cry. It’s so great that I think Prince must even listen to it.

As you can tell, I was already predisposed to watch anything new from Houston-born Holland. Her voice is unique and just a little bit jarring. This song marries that with some bluesy, discordant, brassy, jazz to great effect.

This is track 6 of 20 in IJKGB2014.