The songs in the “Going To…” series are all about more or less the same thing: the dubious belief that you can up and leave the place you’re currently in and settle in a new location where everything will be different and all of your past problems will be forgotten. Or, as JD has called it on multiple occasions, “pulling a geographical.”1 Essentially, moving to a new physical location without addressing any of the inner dysfunctions that are actually causing your unhappiness. You probably have one friend who has done it, most likely someone who has also had a really bad acid trip. The Alpha Couple does it in Tallahassee, to predictably self-destructive results. Rebecca Bunch did it in the series premiere of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Mondays at 8pm/7pm central on the CW, and now all of the American viewing public is better for it.2
Sometimes it’s clear what the people in these songs are running from (or what they think they’re running towards), but in the case of “Going To Bogotá,”3 things are a little more vague. There has been some shift in the air, maybe as mundane as a changing of the seasons, and it has stirred up a sudden revelation in the narrator (“I know what I want/And I know what we need.”) He and his companion have fled to the capitol of Columbia, where they appear to be sleeping in tent, and given the deteriorated state of the tent, one would guess they’ve been staying there for quite some time. It’s not clear how much time passes between the first and second verse, but it’s long enough that whatever faint hope in the future drove them to Bogotá has all but withered away.
The first verse is very focused on sensory details: the color and physical texture of the local fruits, the vibrant colors of the tropical climate and the colorful animals that live there. It all seems to be leading up to a glowing portrayal of Colombia, until the narrator hears a parrot singing, takes a moment to consider it, and comes to the decision that this bird is evil and that he must be stopped at any cost.4
After that, it’s no surprise that things go south5 in the second verse, but the end result of this ill-fated journey is especially pathetic, even for one of these songs. Many entries in the “Going To…” series involve a violent confrontation between two personalities, or at least a simmering dissatisfaction that threatens to boil over any second.6 But for the couple in “Bogotá,” the end comes slowly. The narrator doesn’t completely realize it’s coming until he watches a fateful sun rise in Columbia, but from the apathetic way he regards his companion in the second verse (“And if I knew how to form the words/I would ask what you’d come for”) makes it clear that he’s already lost interest in them.
It is one thing to leap into a grand gesture and have it fail spectacularly; it is another thing entirely for that gesture to pan out about as well as one could expect, only to leave you with the slow, draining realization that it was pointless from the start and fundamentally empty.
1. I know JDa did not invent this term, but I first heard it through him. I’ve also heard it referred to simply as a “pulling a geographic,” which doesn’t have quite the same pleasing shape, but is a full two-letters shorter. You’ve got to respect that razor-thin dedication to brevity.
a After enduring “Solomon Revisited,” I feel pretty comfortable referring to Darnielle as ‘JD’ from here on out.
2. This is not a joke, you should watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
3. The randomizer strikes again. After yesterday, I spent some time ruminating about eliminating the ‘random’ aspect of this project, and whether or not that would lead to an increase or decrease in the quality of the writing. I’ll spare you the full extent of my mental back-and-forth; just know I have decided to continue along the path I first set for myself, but that I still reserve the right to turn off ‘shuffle’ if I start to actively dread writing these.
4. “His little song/Is a very pretty song/But it’s something I won’t stand for” is a classic example of a character in a Mountain Goats song wildly mis-directing his emotions. These run the scale from Absurd & Funny to Horrible & Sad. This one lands more on the former side, but it’s in sight of the latter.
6. It is perhaps worth mentioning here that the “Going To…” songs aren’t connected in any real way except that they existed as a means for JD to make fun of people he knew who had poor conflict-resolution skills. It’s also worth mentioning that their supposed central thesis—going to a different place to fix your problems will never work—is not even always apparent. The couple in “Going To Port Washington” sounds like they’re doing pretty well, all things considered — and whatever’s happening in “Going To Queens,” it doesn’t sound like a guy running away from his problems.