Posted by: cousindampier | 22 August 2013

Why the Roots are the Only Band You Need

I’ve spent the two days talking to myself. This is probably expected in a place where I don’t speak the language, but it also probably makes me look crazy. The difference is that I’m silently swearing at myself as I walk down the street.

“Goddammit Abe. At the least, be competent.”

I recognize this is harsh, given the context – I don’t speak Russian. I don’t know the city. I can’t read the signs. I can’t negotiate prices. Given all of that stress, I’m going to screw up other things. In a new place, you abandon any notion of excelling right away. You just have to.

But at the least I feel like I shouldn’t trip on the sidewalk; I shouldn’t try to get into the wrong apartment building; I should know my basic phrases and, when I speak English, speak it slowly and simply.

In short, I should be competent.

I suppose, if the definition of competent is ‘not ending up in the hospital,’ I’m doing pretty well. I haven’t done anything too stupid.

But I hate looking helpless; hate it more that I actually am helpless, and my emotions rest on that fine line between humbling and humiliating in that I can’t watch out for myself. It is the most uncomfortable of places to be, but also one of the best reasons to go somewhere new.

And so I listen to The Roots, because there are two lessons to being somewhere new the first week.

  1. You’re going to feel dumb, so accept it.
  2. Stay Cool. Always stay cool. Don’t ever let it get to you.

So as I walk through the streets of Almaty, in between bouts of cursing my own clumsiness and my lack of preparation, I sing to myself.

Stay cool, stay cool, stay cool.

So as I sit in Mocha Loca, with remade, lounge versions of the top hits of the early 2000’s on the speakers – we just finished ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ by Kylie Minogue – and the Russian – or Kazak? – version of cash cab playing silently on the TV, I hum to myself:

Stay cool, stay cool, stay cool.

And inevitably, when I have to get up in front of a class for the first time, I’ll probably do two things.

Not Panic.

And try to Stay Cool.

(The rest of the song may not apply to traveling/white people in general.  But the chorus still matters)



  1. LOL good advice

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