a reverie of Nino Nardini & Roger Roger "Jungle Obsession"
When you go around your town in an hour, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole place, for better or fuck-o. That makes a change, and it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for thrust
It is one of those long, slithering articulated buses that kids love to ride in the accordion tunnel in the middle for after school kicks. Me, I'm sitting at the front, like a model student, but really because that's where you see passengers only getting on and off the bus, and you get to see things. The tricksters in the back might see everything going on in the bus, expecting trouble, but I find that looking at passengers only interests me for a brief window of time, the few seconds outside the doors and the first steps inside the bus, when every step and misstep can be subject to peer review. Much happens on that threshold, before they settle for the voyage in the non-space of the bus. What I like however, is the fragmented jungle out there, the interrupted avenues, opaque front doors, busy dead-ends, rear windows, clips of incomprehensible activity and purpose.
This is the 32 bus, spit-roasting the whole town, connecting the dodgy projects to the posh suburbs, through the city center, where I got on. I'm visiting my friend at his parental's, it is a bright hot day and I miss my stop, drowsy from the X-ray cure. I walk a few blocks, passing gardens, old villas to my friend's building, a 50s apartment flat where he shares with me a number of good things: words, weed on the balcony, and one of the sunniest albums out there: Jungle Obsession.
By the time I stumble on the bus back to my girlfriend's, I am well zoned-out, and don't know what to make of this CD in my earphones, double roger and italo-alliterated Nino Nardini, the title had me expecting two 160 bpm ravers in Puma windbreaker; it all starts indeed with soft percussion, electric piano and discrete analog synths, I wonder if this a new kind of drum'n'bass called drum'n'drums, but it turns out different, shreds of Wah guitar and actual drum solo, this has to be the other kind of jungle then, that exoticologist's obsession.
"Murmuring leaves" ruffles on and there is no doubt: I hear the jungle alright. An ancient man gets on the bus, the operation of hoisting the old suited body inside the public vehicle breaks down into dozens of precise movements, hand on rail, knee up, foot down, other hand securing both rail and walking stick, this is a gentleman who won't be bothered choosing between safety and dignity. He seats across the aisle from me, I get a whiff of Old Spice and a vision of his house, certainly one of those neat villas up the road, trimmed hedges, piles of folded newspapers, a trusty wooden coffee mill, a Mack on a rack, tan tiles, displayed flowery porcelain; he watches tropical wildlife documentaries every night, the old TV set is black and white but he figures out the colors.
The third track is named after "Mowgli", who I must look like to the wise old man, and it is pushing me farther on into drowsyland, X-rays, grass, half-empty bus at cruising speed, and the mellowest jungle I know of. I'm about to fall asleep when a quartet of noisy birds board the bus; I eyebrow them briefly before their nubile chatter fades away as Bagheera" takes me away deeper into the jungle, more sun than you can imagine and more brain than you thought you had, the city disappears, the territory is gone; I exist, barefoot within a cryptic map, alien locales, lines that could be roads or rivers or ancient forgotten writing systems, the "creeping danger" is that I would never go back to the city. How do you get out of a place you can't even imagine properly?
I am forced to admit I have never been anywhere at all, where is "Malaysia" anyway? Do they play this kind of music there? The spies are everywhere, reflexively collecting samples for the old boys club back home.
"Jungle spell": I see the Malaysians now, one minute they're wearing tiger masks and banana leaves, the next they look like slick tanned Beatles selling me purple apples, who to trust?
"The white snake" is the hazardous river, the evil invader, or an actual poisonous serpent, this is the foe in any case.
There is a commotion at the rear of the bus, a wheel-chaired woman rolls in, I feel like I've just discovered a crashed biplane tangled in the canopy overhead.
I can't remember who "Shere Khan" is in the jungle book, can't remember the jungle book anyway, I picture some suave Asian magus, he too likes to have his flowery porcelain on display and he's got the best opium in town, just don't turn your back on him, he's got an appetite for human liver...
"Tropical call" I am ready to answer, if only I knew which bus... mine is hot, drops of sweat on the driver's neck, he's not equipped to withstand the tropical heat, in a sweater vest and short-sleeved shirt, he's thinking about the summer holidays with the family; right now he's on a trip without knowing, this is bus 32 to Bali.
"Bali girl" is nothing like the girls I know, her whole family was eaten alive by a tiger, she lost everything but her wits, now she dances in a red-light watering hole but that's temporary, she's got plans, can't be bothered with James Bond types asking her out, she doesn't fall for suits and gadgets and she can hold her snake liquor. could she be the one? where do I know her from? I've seen that swing before... underneath the mango tree.
"Jungle mystery" is the jungle-noir conclusion to this crypto-journey, Bali girl spiked the martinis and the double-0 exoticologists all drowned in the rapids, now she's gone and although I'm begging to stay, that's my stop, I get off amidst venomous eyes, the empty main street on a warm Sunday night no longer familiar as I try to remember my Bali girl's face, she left the night district far behind, she's on a quest, she'll follow the sun on an endless dérive through the jungle, dancing for herself. Me, I'm starting to feel truly lost here.