Monday Mixtape: Finding Your Beach

#cruiselife. #jealous.
jsburka: #cruiselife. nickburkaotm: #jealous.

Whenever it gets cold enough during these long New England winters that my toes feel like they would be better suited to serve as ice cubes in a glass of water rather than the useful instruments of basic locomotion they ought to be, I think about my enterprising younger sister Jenn and where she probably is at that exact moment.

Sometimes she saves me the guesswork as she did the other day by texting me and assuring me that she was just “you know, sitting at a beach in Kauai drinking a daiquiri.”

Poor girl.

You see, my sister works as a culinary instructor on a cruise ship, a cruise ship that is currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean touring the breathtaking and captivating sights of the Hawaiian Islands. Some people have all the fun.

All jokes aside, it’s an awesome gig, and she’s the perfect person for the job. Growing up she was always in the kitchen cooking meals with our parents (I didn’t learn to cook until later, being happy just to be able to sample the fruits of their labors, showing my gratitude by cleaning the dishes afterwards). She loved it from the start, and over time she became quite proficient in both the art of cooking all sorts of cuisine as well as the similarly important art of hosting of trendy, cuisine-themed dinner parties. So it was no surprise she might one day want to do something with those skills.

So she decided to take it on the road, as it were, and she tells me it’s been a lot of fun thus far. This is her second 5 month contract and her second time cruising in the Pacific (her first contract that ran from May to October had her touring the great Pacific Northwest along the outer Alaskan territories). And in case you’re wondering what the worst thing about living aboard a cruise ship is: “The days at sea,” of which there are plenty this time around, what with the ship alternating  itineraries between tours of Hawaii and tours of the Mexican Baja peninsula.

I don’t know about you, but I’d trade 6 days of polar vortex conditions in a drafty apartment for 15 days at sea on a fully-fueled and fully-stocked cruise ship in the tropics any day.

Whatever the case, this mix is really a toast to my little sister, who’s not so little now, taking on the world in fact, and who showed me how to follow your passions with gusto. Last year while most of us were reveling in the aftermath of another lovely family cruise vacation and thinking aloud how nice it’d be to work on one, Jenn was planning her path to doing it. Here’s looking at you kid.

1. Weezer – Holiday

For when you really just gotta get away. I like number 1’s that start off strong, and this track does the trick with its wailing, simple and concise opening riff and strike (it’d definitely make for a rocking start to a cruise band’s repertoire as the ship is heading out to sea on day 1. Just imagine the casual sunbather’s surprise when the steel drum band kicks this one in to high gear…). Can we start calling this a classic track? Because it is. It’s definitely a classic Weezer track if nothing else. Both music arrangement and lyrics have that playful, unfettered, i-just-came-here-to-rock mindset with the just-a-hint of sonic sophistication that made early Weezer so great (dig that half-step sliding harmony in the chorus, and that delightfully sparse, doo-wop breakdown). I would argue it’s one of the finer pieces of their career.

2. Robbie Williams – Beyond The Sea

Cliche? Maybe (read: yes, definitely), but it doesn’t matter. This one sets the leisurely, leave-your-cares-back-home atmosphere of cruise life down to the very last shuffleboard biscuits (and yes, that’s what they’re called). This tune’s a bonafide classic now, but with all due respect to the original, there’s something about rocker-turned-sometime-crooner-turned-rocker again’s rendition that brings out the peaceful, easy feeling for me in a way that Mr. Darin’s doesn’t. Maybe it’s how easy it is to hear him smiling on every last note and on through the fade out, like he’s already on the ship wondering why you’ve missed the boat.

3. Charles Bradley – You Put The Flame On It

This song speaks not of vacations, cruise ships, or getting away from it all, but it definitely has all the easy-going freshness and vibe to make it a perfect pairing. Heartfelt and sincere, this song exudes unending gratitude and love, and the combined talent of Bradley’s effusive pipes and equally exultant horn section could power any seaworthy vessel the duration of its weeklong voyage.

4. Ben Taylor – Nothing I Can Do

This one’s for the quieter, reflective moments. Times of momentary wonder and awe that can happen as much aboard a ship at sea as they can when on dry land (and, why not, on soft, wet sand): that first sunset or sunrise seen from a windy deck, waking up to a day ripe for new adventures in a new town, or that first dip into blue, crystal ocean waters after a good, long beachside mountain hike. Yeah… that sounds pretty good. How soon can we leave for the airport?

5. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Waiting In Vain

Face it: no compilation of music to accompany you on a trip aboard the seven seas can in my mind consider itself worth its salt without at least one track from Mr. Marley and his faithful band The Wailers. It’s a fact that the sounds of reggae are sounds that will forever be part of the island life and experience, and it’s due in large part to this band’s music and vision. Marley was of course more than just the simple, breezy tracks that are so oft heard in those cloying Sandals ads on television, and this one is truly a testament to that end. It’s a love song, sure, but it goes to a deeper, more vulnerable place. It doesn’t come from a place of pure happiness or tragic sadness, but rather a place of hope. Even still, it’s a hopefulness that aches.

Of course, the musics of the Hawaiian and moreover Pacific islands are distinctly not the same as those that hail from the Caribbean, but I’d put good money on the fact that at this very moment, even while floating in the middle of the Pacific blue, that good ol’ pool deck band is getting ready to fire up another Marley standard just like this one.

Photo courtesy of Jenn Burka

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8 thoughts on “Monday Mixtape: Finding Your Beach

  1. Funny that you wrote about this – while driving yesterday, “3 Little Birds” came on the radio and I was wondering if they play raggae music on a Hawaiian cruise????

  2. I am sitting here listening to your picks while I get ready for work – all bundled up for frigid temps. Thanks for transporting me to a warmer place!

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