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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Another Day In Paradise

Before I launch into another edition of the Sunday Jukebox, I wish to tell you a story about something that happened to me a couple of weeks ago. As always, whenever I tell you a story, I will usually tie it in to the theme of today's topic.

You know, I've been trying my best to get back in shape this year. It's not really what one would call a New Year's Resolution because I have been in what is probably the best shape I've been in my whole life. Let's put it this way, I can walk all the way from my apartment to the waterfront and back again in just under an hour and a half. As far as distance goes, I'd estimate it at anywhere between five and ten kilometers. Considering that I spent most of my public school gym classes gasping for breath and collapsing in a pool of my own sweat, I'd consider that remarkable progress.

However, since I lost my gall bladder and part of my liver two years ago, I've found that my metabolism is kind of stuck in neutral. I'm at the point where I am maintaining my weight, but I'd ideally like to slim down to what my weight was two years ago (which was roughly around 215). Not that being 6'2” and being 240 is necessarily bad though. At least I'm trying...and that's what counts.

Anyway, I'm going off on a massive tangent here, so I'm going to take control of the wheel before we end up steering this Sunday Jukebox over a cliff.

My walks down to the waterfront are often filled with many different things despite the fact that I more or less take the same exact route each time (I live in a small town). When I strap on my iPod, I set the controls to “shuffle mode”, so I get a different soundtrack each time I go out. Sometimes I'll take different side streets to give off the impression that I'm exploring new territory (even though the destination is always the same). And, depending on the time of day that I decide to go on my mini-adventures, I will see a whole variety of people. If I go out at three in the afternoon, I'll likely see teenagers getting out of high school. If I wait until six in the evening, I'll see people of all ages going outside of the various restaurants nearby.

(I live about a block away from the neighbourhood known as “fast food alley”. Which in turn gives me more incentive to keep on my goal of staying in shape.)

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was walking down the main street of my hometown on my way back home when outside of one of the drug stores in town, I came upon the sight of a man who was holding a sign. According to his sign, he had come down upon some hard times, and he was requesting a couple of bucks from anyone who happened to be walking by.

Here's the situation. I very rarely carry cash on my person. On that particular day, I didn't even have my wallet with me. So, long story short, I could not spare the guy a dime because I didn't have one. And, so help me, I felt just a slight bit guilty about it. I am generous to a fault sometimes, and if anyone was in need of help, I would try to do the best that I could to see if I could lend a hand. The fact that I couldn't made me feel about this small.

But I suppose I wasn't the only one who passed this man by. I imagine that several people walked by this man, completely ignoring him as they went about their daily business. And, I imagine that some people believed that he was putting on a show, and that he was embellishing his plight. And, I imagine that some people were thinking that he needed to just get a job.

I'll admit that all those thoughts went through my mind as I continued my walk home. At the same time, who was I to make judgments about someone that I don't even know? Yes, I suppose he could have been a charlatan who was taking advantage of patsies. At the same time, he very well could have been down on his luck and needed some help to get through another day. Some may have found it easier to ignore his plea, but I was conflicted the whole time.

And, naturally to make me feel even more conflicted, this song happened to pop up on the iPod just five minutes after passing the guy on the street.

ARTIST: Phil Collins
SONG: Another Day In Paradise
ALBUM: ...But Seriously
DATE RELEASED: October 9, 1989

Yes, that song could not have come at a worse time, I tell you. Just my luck, huh?

I guess since we've already heard the song, we may as well talk about the artist who recorded the single.

When you think of Phil Collins, you may consider many adjectives. Creative. Goofy. Silly. Talented. Happy-Go-Lucky. Upbeat.

When you take his solo work as well as his work with the band, Genesis, Phil Collins has done some rather incredible things. Prior to 1989, I would say that the vast majority of his songs (excluding the haunting “In The Air Tonight” and “Against All Odds”) were upbeat, and a little silly. The video for “Don't Lose My Number” was a collection of music video parodies. The video for “Two Hearts” was a throwback to the days of the Ed Sullivan Show. He's the only artist who could take a nonsensical word like Sussudio, and turn it into a part of everyone's vocabulary during 1985. And, he incorporated a nice brass section in his 1981 hit, “I Missed Again”.

USELESS TRIVIA: “I Missed Again” was a song that I had misheard the lyrics of. It's not my fault I thought he was singing, “I'll be your Michigan J. Frog”!

Anyway, when 1989 came around, Phil Collins was working on his “...But Seriously” album, his fourth solo studio album. In contrast to his previous album, “No Jacket Required”, the songs on “...But Seriously” matched the tone of the title. All of the songs were serious in nature, with strong ballads, and songs that took a stand on serious issues.

In the case of “Another Day In Paradise”, the subject of the song is homelessness. Phil was inspired to create the song upon visiting Washington D.C. Collins was quite stunned at the amount of people who were homeless in the city, and just how many citizens were living at or below the poverty line. He was even more stunned at the complacent nature of the city in regards to helping the homeless get back on their feet. The song title was almost considered to be ironic, or sarcastic, given that the very people who could have helped the homeless the most (congressmen, senators, politicians) seemed to look the other way everytime. In the mind of Phil Collins, this situation was filled with lots of bitter irony.

And, listening to the lyrics of the song, you can understand why I felt a little bit guilty and shameful when I passed that guy who was holding up the sign. In the song, a young woman happens to come across a man who is clearly doing better in life than she is. He seems to have a home, a great life, and everything he could want in life, while she's desperate for a place to sleep. She tries to get the man's attention in hopes that he can direct her to a place where they can help her, but he seems to be very uncomfortable being in that situation and actually goes out of his way to get out of there. He crosses the street and begins singing a song to himself hoping to drown out her crying so that he can make out as though she didn't exist.

It's really a very moving song, and the song was honoured with several awards for Phil Collins. Aside from the United States, the song hit the #1 position in Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. It was ranked the seventh most popular song of 1990 (the song was the very first #1 hit of the 1990s). The song won the 1990 Brit Award for Best British Single, and was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 1991, winning one for “Record of the Year”.

I should note that the song was also re-recorded by R & B artist Brandy and her younger brother Ray J in March 2001, and while their version did not do so well in the United States, it did reach top 10 status in several European nations.

You know, when I got home after my walk, I kept thinking about that song, and how I passed that man on the street. I kept thinking about what might have happened if the situation was reversed. If I had been the one on the street holding a cardboard sign begging people for loose change. I wonder how I would have felt if people just walked past, not even acknowledging my existence. I probably wouldn't feel very motivated to try and make positive changes in my life.

So, what have I learned from that event, as well as that Phil Collins song? Well, I learned that sometimes I might have the tendency to complain about how things are going...but I also have to take into consideration that some people have it a lot worse than I do.

So, the next time I go out for a walk, and I happen to come across someone who needs a bit of a hand...well, hopefully I'll be able to help them out...or at the very least not just walk on by.

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