Photo courtesy of Flickr user Chiara Tringali
My favorite friends are strange people. While well-adjusted people have their merits, they are ordinary by definition and rarely surprising—and by rarely surprising, I don’t mean they rarely show up at your apartment with cake and punch. I mean they hardly ever create moments of ingenious idiocy that simultaneously blow your mind and lower your brain-cell count. I live for these moments and cling to people who create them with ease.
My buddy Bas is one of those people. Our friendship is sporadic, but he never fails to shock me. A few weeks before I smoked pot for the first time when I was 14, I met Bas at a local mosque my dad had dragged me to for Friday prayers. I rarely attended mosque, so I tried to feel out the other kids. My friend Shoob introduced Bas as a bass player, and I told him I play the drums. “You could be, like, a rhythm section,” Shoob said. We talked for a few minutes about instruments and metal bands, and then Bas said something weird. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember walking toward my dad’s car thinking, Wow, that kid is fucking weird. My dad stopped forcing me to go to mosque after that night, and a month later, I moved away to another state to live with my mom, but that wasn’t the last time I heard Bas say something weird.
Throughout the next decade, I bumped into Bas and blazed with him about ten times. At each smoke sesh, he seemed progressively crazier. Once he repeatedly asked for milk like it was morphine, and another time he explained how Super Mario Bros. is a metaphor for the British Raj tearing up India. He went off on a tangent, making less sense every second, and then, right before I completely tuned out, he said something thought provoking: “The toadstools are little brown people serving Princess Daisy—the white monarch. The toadstools have little Aladdin vests on. Even their little mushroom heads look like turbans.” Somehow, Bas made symbolic, historical sense out of a video game about two Italian plumbers who fight an evil turtle for gold coins. His crazy rant was the most brilliant, far-fetched analysis of the classic video game I had ever heard.
More than a decade after the first time we met, fate and necessity made Bas and me bandmates. Bas needed someone to fill in on the drums for a few of his band’s shows, but after a few gigs, I became a permanent member. As the rhythm section, Bas and I had to lock brains like never before. We could play together, because we had more fluid synergy as bandmates than as friends—talking to Bas was like hearing someone recite an exquisite corpse aloud, but playing music with him was like telepathy. We clicked right into place every time we picked up our instruments.
During that time, Bas and I spent a lot of time smoking weed and listening to reggae. Bas’s knowledge of old reggae is only second to his knowledge of classic metal, and he regularly told me his strange theories about both genres. When he went off on a lecture, I usually tuned him out, but one night when I wasn’t listening, he demonstrated his most brilliant and ridiculous discovery.
On that night, a bunch of us were smoking in my living room while Bas sat at the computer, playing songs on YouTube. We ignored him until he dropped an immaculate reggae rendition of Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose.” We laughed and shouted props to Bas, but he was too busy dishing out the hits on YouTube to pay attention to us.
In about 90 minutes, Bas's reggaefied selection took us all the way from Johnny Cash to Radiohead—he proved you can find a reggae cover of any song on YouTube by searching for a song with the keyword reggae. Along with the strong body of reggae covers of top 40 songs from the weed-loving 60s and 70s, there is a cover of A-ha’s “Take on Me” and an unfortunate cut of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday.”
After hearing Bas’s impromptu DJ set, I can’t listen to the original version of any song without thinking about how there’s probably a ridiculous reggae cover of the tune online. A couple of times, I dropped “Kiss from a Rose” in the middle of a DJ set and watched everyone slowly smile as they recognized the tune. I learned that people find it more pleasurable to hear the reggae version of a familiar song than to listen to the original track.
If I didn’t know Bas, I’d still be listening to the original version of “Purple Rain” instead of this amazing reggae version. Bas spews a lot of crazy, incoherent shit, but sometimes when he arrives at his point, he sounds like a genius. I wonder how many other gems he spewed out while I was tuning him out for all those years.
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