The cabin of the outdated 757 grew dark as we passed through storm clouds on our descent into Jamaican airspace. Everything on the decrepit air ship began to creak and moan. The cathode ray tube screens from the 80’s anchored to the ceiling shook with either Howie Mandel or colored static, it didn’t make much difference. My stomach dropped into my balls, then tried to leave my body through my throat. I tried to focus on a point on the ceiling that wasn’t in motion and noticed it was so antique it actually had a patina. A woman up in first class screamed. I wondered how many internal parts had patinas too and which ones were chaffed, ready to spark and blow a wing off.
I grabbed the skymall catalogue and began frantically paging through it, looking for frivolous household products to ogle. I find that soothes me during tumultuous landings, and this was the worst. But one can’t help wondering what the hell we need all that for when plummeting toward an island where many people live with little more than love, music and great coffee. Or do they? I thought about that jerkoff Christopher Columbus. Then Ridley Scott’s “1492: Conquest of Paradise” flashed before my eyes. Scored by the great Vangelis (“Chariots of Fire”, “Bladerunner”), it’s my favorite film about genocide. Gerard Depardieu’s Columbus is more enlightened than the facts of history seem to dictate. But even if he was the passionate and relatively tolerant adventurer who treated indigenous nobles with respect, he helped pave the way for those who did not.
The fact is Jamaica, which Columbus landed on after first landing in “San Salvador,” was once an Arawak Indian paradise. The island’s name comes from the Arawak word xaymaca, but not a single Arawak remains on it. Modern day Jamaicans, like most other Caribbean nations, are descendants of former African slaves and European settlers, the original people wiped off the face of the earth for lust of gold, coffee, tobacco and spices.
Vangelis‘ compositions are sometimes too big and showy, sometimes too heavy handed in 1492 – here feel this way now. But in a way, he expertly captures the sound of holier than thou gold farmers setting out with bad breath to subjugate those they deem inferior (while pilfering their superior resources). The hymnal humming warms up the main theme while adding to the manifest destiny vibe, without which the score may sound too synthetic. Vangelis relies heavily on electronics, and while that’s perfect for hunting down “skin jobs” in flying cars it would be detrimental to a late medieval period piece.The soundtrack was more successful than the long winded film, which I suspect played to blind eyes. We do still celebrate Christopher Columbus, which is nothing short of baffling. If you thought the holocaust was bad, read up on the total genocide of these people whose island homes provided the cash crops that funded European expansion and the conquest of the “New World.”
A few feet from the ground, when it was clear to the pilot that we would crash, my plane rocketed back into the exploding sky. Landing aborted, accompanied by a soundtrack of gasps and children wailing, no Vangelis. During the ensuing 30 minutes of circling through turbulence for another attempt I had time to ogle every page of the skymall. But I don’t need any of that shit. All I need is music, film, and love. And great coffee. Maybe my laptop.
“Conquest of Paradise” by Vangelis.
Hope you had a thought provoking 4th of July. No more Caribbean, I’m back and moving on…. for now.