Traveling immerses us in the world, but sometimes in the less eventful moments in between destinations, we just need to escape. “The Layover” is a weekly roundup of books, music, podcasts, and other forms of entertainment brought to you by your favorite world travelers.
This week, we reached out to Dakota Arkin Cafourek, a published writer, editor, and poet from East Hampton, New York, with a passion for travel, storytelling, and the arts. Today, she discusses the entertainment she turns to during travel’s quieter moments.
“Tender is the Night” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Traveling allows us to indulge our senses. Fresh details and unfamiliar scents lie in wait around every bend, set to the tune of peculiar chatter. Even the act of sitting still in a coffee shop — a regular occurrence during my month-long stay in Bordeaux — is a process ripe with diversion as my eyes are drawn to the local fashion, my taste buds livened by un café express. I have a good command of the local language, but as it’s not my own — I can tune it out just as easily and sit among its gentle murmur. In such quiet, I opt to open a book. Reading allows me to exist on two planes — the scene of my reality and that of the book accompanying me on this stay, “Tender is the Night.”
A fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s since reading his first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” and a general admirer of writing from the Jazz Age through the Beat Generation, I chose his final, completed work for its setting in the south of France. The Côte d’Azur is a few hours from Bordeaux, but it’s an area I know, and the narrative acquaints us with an expatriate collective indulging in their surroundings. I’ve been an expat, a traveler, and a general tourist. What does it mean except that there are streets that feel like home and strange streets that lure us curiously?
In “Tender is the Night,” a story of infatuated love unfolds. Meanwhile, another passer-through stumbles through a coffee order, lifting my attention from the page to the scene in the Quartier des Chartrons. Peering above the spine of Rosemary’s tale of naiveté, I am absorbed by the setting: the tune of Buena Vista Social Club, the clacks on a keyboard, the inhaling of a cigarette, the spinning wheels of a passing cyclist, accessible to catch a stranger’s smile.
In music, I am a daydreamer. Headphones are my transport to the mind’s eye, and when I’m listening to melodies, I zone out — especially on any long journey that includes a window. On my most recent trip, this included the two-hour-and-thirty-minute bus ride from the eastern end of the island I live on to the closest international airport, as well as the two-hour-and-nine-minute ride on the TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Bordeaux Saint-Jean. My selected list of songs filled my ears and my imagination as I gazed upon the passing scenes.
No fewer than nine of my Spotify playlists are dedicated to tracks that bring a place to mind, and each is aptly named “I’m moving to Amsterdam,” “I’m moving to Los Angeles,” “I’m moving to Minneapolis,” and so on. Music is the soundtrack to small scenes of my life, like the rerun of a movie in which I am the main actor. I fuel my energy and excitement with festive beats, usually some combination of indie-electro artists like Flight Facilities or Poliça. Right now, I’m digging the Carters’ new album, and the most recent song I’ve added to a playlist is “Brighter” by Rüfus du Sol.
When I look at a map of my current location in Bordeaux-Chartrons, it occurs to me that this place is someone’s center of the world — like home often seems to me, and maybe to you.
Podcasts transcend both borders and frames of reference. WNYC’s “Radiolab” and its co-host’s newest show, “More Perfect,” plainly divulge into history and its many narratives. Interviews on “This American Life” have led me to pick up books that I may not have otherwise.
I like podcasts because they give the satisfaction of a great conversation — stories with nuance and multiple layers — even as I listen to them alone. An interview on “Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin” or “How I Built This with Guy Raz” makes me feel like I am in the room too. I listen to Gimlet Media’s “Reply All,” an exploration of the internet — how it’s used, how it’s abused, and how it amuses. For current affairs, I listen to Slate’s “Political Gabfest,” a talk-radio style show that delves into American politics.
Podcasts can also be meditative, even healing. Holly Lowery’s “Well + Weird” and Jocelyn K. Glei’s “Hurry Slowly” remind me to enjoy the moment when my mind moves faster than my body.
I’m a car ride away from about everything where I live, and I didn’t realize how much I’d grown to lean on FM 91.3 Connecticut Public Radio until I stepped into this pedestrian-friendly city for a month-long stay. Podcasts are like travel for the brain and they’re great for traveling by train, plane, or vehicle.