The radio station I listen to has been celebrating The Beatles all month, in honor of that remastered collection thing that you probably heard about, unless you've been living under a rock or perhaps don't listen to a station that decided to talk about The Beatles all month. Tonight, the whole thing culminated in a countdown of the top 50 Beatles songs, as ranked by listeners. (Or rather, as ranked by the listeners who actually took the time to vote. I did not, but obviously that won't stop me from complaining about the results.) It was a reasonably solid list... not that I am any sort of expert on Beatles discography and therefore qualified to weigh in on this, and maybe the fact that I am not a Beatles expert accounts for my reaction when they played the number 1 song. Hey Jude? Really?? The song that starts out promising enough but then ends with approximately nine and a half gratingly repetitive minutes of "Na, na, na, na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na! Hey-ay Jude. (JudyJudyJudyJudeJudyJude!)"? That song? Better than all other Beatles songs? OK then.
It occurs to me that my dad once voiced that exact same complaint about Hey Jude, so now of course I am terrified I may be turning into my father. Next thing you know, I'll be driving as if every other car on the road is invisible, bringing my own spoon to restaurants, and spouting off about how that Rush Limbaugh really knows what he's talking about. Yeesh. Perish the thought.
In truth, I don't really have a problem with Hey Jude, but best Beatles song of all? Hardly. Of course, now I have to tell you what IS the best Beatles song, which is bound to be a bad idea, because at least 96% of you will disagree with me, and at least half of that 96% will actually lose respect for me because of my disturbingly bad choice. Or so I've been led to believe the few times this topic has come up in the past. Some people are serious about their Beatles cred. It may be on par with the pop/soda divide.
So I won't tell you what the best Beatles song is. Instead, I will tell you what my favorite Beatles song is. And then I will explain why it is my favorite, in an effort to calm whichever among you will tell me it is not a valid choice.
My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday. Not because it is lovely and sad (though it is) and not because I have a scratchy old version of it on a tape that my little sister once dubbed for me--a version that ends with Paul saying, "Thank you, Ringo; that was wonderful," which for some reason makes me smile. My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday because every time I hear it, I remember winding my way up the narrow staircase that circles the interior of Brunelleschi's dome in Il Duomo, the Florence Cathedral. I remember climbing to the top of that dome during the spring break of my semester abroad, with two German boys walking the steps in front of me, singing Yesterday to amuse themselves. Wait. Were they German? They may not have been German. All I remember is that English was not their first language, and as such, one of them mangled the lyrics into something entirely unrecognizable as English words. I know I have mangled some Spanish over the years; I once tried to sing the Tortilla Song that I learned in high school Spanish to a bartender in Cozumel, and though I was confident I was remembering all the words just right, he had no idea whatsoever what I was singing about. Mangled English I'm less familiar with. It's hard to imagine mangled versions of a language you know well. So when I heard the German teenager singing Yesterday and injecting words that were not words, my ears perked up in confusion and surprise. So did the teenager's friend's, because he whirled around immediately to correct him. "Half the man! Half the man!" he sputtered, one hand pounding the other for emphasis. After that chiding, the poor kid looked like half the man he used to be. But still, he kept on singing.
So when I hear Yesterday, I think of Florence. I think of exploring new places and learning new things and realizing the simultaneous fear and exhilaration of being in another country and knowing there is no one on the planet who knew exactly where I was at any given moment. And I think of those two boys in Brunelleschi's dome and I wonder what lyrics they are mangling these days.
Incidentally, Yesterday came in at #11 on the radio listeners' poll, so obviously I am not the only one for whom that song holds a special place. At #12 was In My Life, which is my second-favorite Beatles song (by a very close margin). I don't have a story to go with that one. I've just always liked it is all.
I wasn't actually planning on talking about the Beatles tonight. I certainly wasn't planning on talking about them for seven paragraphs. No, I was going to talk about my second vacation in the course of a month. Remember? I was so overdue for a vacation that I decided to take two? So last weekend was my long weekend in L.A., where it was ridiculously hot and where I saw more of the highways than of anything else (which, as far as I can tell, is about as accurate a picture of L.A. as one can get), but where I had an excellent time with some excellent friends nonetheless. I went to visit Darren and Heather (who some of you may remember from Look at Me... and Nabbalicious fame). I went with my friend Melissa, who lives in Minneapolis but who I had to meet through another blog friend in California (everybody's favorite tech support and car repair guru, Steve, who is the reason Heather and Darren know Melissa as well). See what a small world it is? Look at the Internet, bringing people together even after their blogs are long defunct. It's almost like... REAL LIFE. Crazy thought.
Anyway, we had a hilarious time. Seriously, I do not remember the last time I laughed so much in a 72-hour span. We went to the observatory in Rebel without a Cause. I saw the beach club that served as 90210's Beverly Hill's Beach Club. (Or was it the beach club that everyone worked at on Saved by the Bell? Were they actually the same beach club? My memory of them is the same.) I had my first In-n-Out burger. I celebrated Guinness's 250th birthday. I lost a bar fight because I had only one arm. We had Darren's famous Cincinnati chili and Roscoe's famous chicken & waffles. We took pictures of creepy statues. And we made more terrible "That's what she said" jokes than Michael Scott has made on all five seasons of The Office thus far. Also, we learned all sorts of interesting things about each other. I learned that Melissa is an exhibitionist and that Heather hates Colonial Williamsburg. (She has a point: Why do Americans need their history safe and spoonfed, like Applebee's and network sitcoms?) In turn, they learned that I spent $18 on a bottle of deodorant, because the Internet told me to.
In short, I had so much fun that I don't even mind coming home with a cold that's left me feeling weak and stuffy for days. I probably picked it up on the plane, but since Heather was sick when we got there and Melissa was sick by the time we left, we've decided we must be passing it along to one another in batches, like Amish Friendship Bread. It is the Amish Friendship Cold. Who wants it next, folks? I've got plenty of germs to share, and plenty of Internet friends I'd love to see. Come on over!