Like the rest of young America, I’ve been blasting alt-rocker Ryan Adams’ cover of Taylor Swift’s “1989,” all week. What Adams is able to do with that album blows my mind! Like the rest of hip America, I had originally wrote off “1989” as a blatant, over-produced, and somewhat mindless attempt by Swift to push herself even further away from her singer-songwriter roots and into the pop mainstream.
However, Adams’ uses twanging guitars and echoing rim shots to parse through “1989”’s mess of synths and boom-claps and reveal not only the incredible song craft in each track, but the nuanced emotion of young woman reveling in the future that lies ahead of her while simultaneously grappling with the mistakes of her past. Like the rest of America, I guess all it took for me to realize how good of a musician Taylor Swift is a forty-year-old man telling me so. Go figure.
Well, guess what? Ryan Adams just released his cover of the time I went absolutely apeshit on the staff of an airport mexican restaurant on Spotify and (surprise, surprise!) it’s making me look at my violent, tequila-fueled blowout in a totally new way.
I’m still not sure how Ryan Adams heard about “my little scene” as I make my girlfriend call it if she ever wants to bring it up to me. The airport police said that they wouldn’t file a report as long as I apologized, paid my bill, and put all of the replica Aztec masks back on the walls in the right order, but I swear Adams got his hands a word-perfect transcript the twenty five minutes I spent giving each individual table a personalized and profanity-laced dressing down. I remember seeing a couple of teens take out their cell phones when I shoved a basket of tortilla chips into the manager’s chest, turned a ramekin of salsa upside down on his head, and called him “Mr. Sloppy Mariachi.” Maybe Ryan Adams was able to stitch it all together from from their Snapchats?
Either way, I’m just so honored that he chose to put out his take on the entirety of my meltdown and not just the “hits,” like when I asked a busboy how he’d like it if a white man stole his job for once (the busboy was also white) and started manically shoving people’s carry-ons into a dish bin or when I built a “border wall” along the entrance of the restaurant using barstools and highchairs.
Let me say that when I first started ripping the entire staff of Tequileria in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport a shiny new asshole, I thought I was just standing up for myself. Service was slow, the food was taking absolutely forever, and I couldn’t get my server’s attention for the life of me. I had to do something.
“We’re going to miss our flight!” I yelled finally. Then I yelled “Guess we’re staying here tonight, babe!” and I started to make a big show of unpacking my suitcase and laying my clothes out on the server station. Then I grabbed a stack of menus out of the hostess’ hand and used them as a pillow while I pretended to go sleep on the floor. Whenever someone would try to talk to me, I would just start cartoonishly snoring. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeegh! Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeegh! Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo! Honestly, I thought it was pretty funny.
But when I had my own words sung back to me in Ryan Adams’ warbly falsetto, I didn’t hear a man confidently, but good naturedly, asserting himself inside of a busy tex-mex style cantina. Between Adams’ sparse finger picking, I heard the harried yelps of a man afraid that he may be going invisible to the world at large. As he ages and begins to feel his own potentiality slowly wither and fade, his pleas for “mucho siesta, por favor” are not part of a charming if forward bit, but wild swings at the air, his way of testing whether or not he can have any effect on the world around him, positive or negative, or if he will spend the rest of his life shouting into a void. Honestly, I had no idea that was even in me. But Ryan Adams sure did.
Likewise, in Adams’ version the moment when I muscled my way up to the twenty-two-year-old bartender, “El Diablo Loco” margarita in hand, to demand that he “look me in the eye and tell me that this is Patron” does not come across as someone trying to “settle this man to man” as I had originally told the large number of staff and customers trying to restrain me. Rather, needling guitars and a hissing hi-hat turn, paired with Adams sneering delivery, give the impression of a lifetime loser trying desperately to bully his way into a small win. Sounds like I got a lot of stuff going on! Who knew?! I’ll tell ya who knew. Ryan Adams knew.
Adams is even able to work his alchemy on what was previously my LEAST favorite moment of the evening. In an attempt to answer the question “Just how hard is it to get rice and beans on a fucking plate?” I had made my way into the kitchen. Of course, my girlfriend gave chase and just as I was about to drop my shoe into the deep fryer so that I could “eat something with a little texture” she grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye and said “Babe. Why don’t we just grab a Blimpie?”
On first listen, I took her line purely as social self-preservation. She was just trying to shut me because my attempts at getting a little respect and the accent I had adopted while portraying “El Burrito Bandito,” a newly-formed alter ego of mine that held other customer’s cutlery hostage until my server brought me the extra side of guac that I had asked for, had started to “draw a few looks.” Well, so sorry that I’m not interested in saving face in front of a room of lime-sucking strangers, baby!
But when laid on top of Adams’ soft strum, her words turn from gag to salve. Lullaby-like, Adams’ coos and ahhs, trying to soothe the mind of a man consumed by his own self-perceived inadequacies. “Who cares about the enchiladas?” he seems to ask. “Our love is enough to sustain us.” I know it’s weird, but I would have never picked that up in a hundred years. Funny that all it took for me realize that my girlfriend wasn’t being a total bitch that night was a forty-year-old man telling me so. Go figure.