Scoring Emotional Opiates
This was made more interesting when the singer
leaned into the microphone and asked “can we have a bit more base
in the monitors and switch the guitars over”. They were English.
Oh Joy! Suddenly we found ourselves in amongst a whole horde of
Spinal Tap references. Jonathan started bantering with them between
‘songs’ and when they finally came off the stage and sat down to
have a beer he went over to talk to them. I caught one part of the
conversation which will stick with me for a while “So why are you
touring the Baltics?” Jonathan asked. “We love it, ‘cos it’s kind
of depressing” came the reply.
As bizarre as that sounds, as a man who spent his
formative years listening to The Smiths (supposedly the band voted
most likely to slash your wrists to), I have some sympathy with
his reply. I always liked The Smiths because Johnny Marr was such
a stunning, often jubilant guitarist, and come to think of it, the
rest of the band were staggeringly talented too, but there is something
in Morrissey’s dry wit and somber outlook on life that was also
very alluring. Having said that… I never actually found their music
or lyrics depressing. It sometimes even cheered me up when I was
down, possibly because it was nice to know that someone else’s life
was crapper than mine, but more likely it was just good to know
that when down, I wasn’t completely alone in the boat.
It is true that Misery does like itself for company.
Tom Robbins wrote that ”Among our egocentric sadsacks, despair is
as addictive as heroin and more popular than sex, for the single
reason that when one is unhappy one gets to pay a lot of attention
to oneself. Misery becomes a kind of emotional masturbation.”
So maybe the quest for depression was merely a
search for similar souls, or maybe it was a case of trying to score
emotional opiates, but it did make me wonder why there should be
something so particularly depressing about The Baltics.
So far, I hadn’t experienced it, but I was surrounded
by a particularly creative group of people. Individual creatives
may get depressed. Groups of creatives tend to fire off each other
which can be stimulating or sodding annoying if they’re firing in
opposite directions, but I digress.
One of the reasons that I’d come on this trip at
this ridiculous time of year was that Jonathan had explained to
me that a lot of the children tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective
Disorder (SAD), which put simply means, when it’s cold wet and horrible,
there’s not as much daylight and very little sunshine, people tend
to get miserable. I know for a fact that I’m generally a happier
bunny in the summer than the winter so I have some sympathy with
this. Of course one of the other major reasons is that they’re coming
out of years of Soviet control, switching to a more capitalist economy,
and such a transition can hit pretty hard while it works itself
Having said that, it frequently amazed me at just
how western a lot of things were there. They had the same kind of
things in the supermarkets as we do here (I presume they’re also
all imported from China and the like), but although things like
food were much, much cheaper, consumer electrical goods all seemed
to be around the same price, so I’m assuming that the relative costs
of these things compared to earnings were much higher.
A constant source of amusement to us was the state
of the roads around their houses. If you ever want to get rich quick,
move to Latvia and set up a business fixing car suspensions.
In summation, reasons why people might find the
Baltics depressing is that the weathers crap in the winter, and
they’re coming out of a state of relative poverty. Reasons why you
might enjoy it are that you can have serious snow ball fights, and
… they’re coming out of a state of relative poverty. And
the booze is really cheap.