I guess it's been a while since I've been on an airplane. Shit's changed, man. My trip to Los Angeles last week was a rude awakening in the changing landscape of airline travel. This was the first time I'd ever had to pay to check my bag. $25, WTF! Indeed, just about everything in economy comes with a fee. Though I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a nip of small batch bourbon and a cheese plate came to a measly $15, which, for those of you keeping track at home, would have likely cost me almost twice as much on the ground, in New York.

In-flight entertainment was the welcome exception to the all-fee-all-the-time rule; there was so much to choose from, not only for movies and TV, but music as well. I was delighted to find a nice little record collection built into the TV screen nested into the seatback in front of me. There was also a playlist feature, where you could, you know, make a playlist based on their offerings. Needless to say, this kept me pretty well occupied for both transcontinental flights.

Solo air travel allows you the anonymity to act just as you please. As such, without the fear of my Spotify choices popping up on Facebook, without anything embarrassing scrobbling on my Last.fm page, I did some digging I wouldn't have otherwise. And I learned a whole lot. Of course, I didn't spend the entire five hours each way listening to Britney's Britney Jean. But for the first time, I definitely gave it a shot (verdict: absolutely unlistenable). The 'Altnernative/Indie' section left something to be desired, with only a few of the more popular titles offered, including The Lumineers, the xx, and Imagine Dragons. It wasn't all bad though. The collection boasted a robust Country selection, if you're into that sort of thing, and I got a nice little chuckle when I found James Blake's Overgrown solely in the 'Chill' section, and when I saw that Sigur Ros and Steve Aoki sat side by side in the 'Electronica/Dance' section.

All of this might teach us something about the state of musical taste in America. Or at least about conclusions corporate airline companies are making about that taste. But I also learned a few things about the music itself, as I stepped outside my comfort zone and embraced my anonymity. Notably:

  • - My blind hatred of Childish Gambino, based solely on both his name and the name of his album Because the Internet, has finally been confirmed. Yeah, there's that track with Chance the Rapper, but come on, people are (literally and figuratively) buying this?

  • - The Kidz Bop version of 'The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)' is surprisingly palatable.

  • - Eric Clapton is still kickin'! The cover of his newest record adorably (and grossly?) titled Old Sock shows us Clapton in a vacay selfie? And the record itself starts out with a nice little reggae tune; 'Further on Down the Road', which of course conjures images of palm trees and beaches and a maxin' and relaxin' Clapton sipping rum through a straw stuck in a coconut.

  • - Holy crap, Susan Tedeschi. The vocals on 'Do I Look Worried?' off Tedeschi Trucks Band's new record Made Up Mind. Just. God I wish I could sing like that.

  • - I'm old. There's a genre called 'Retro Rewind', which includes things like Nirvana's Nevermind, and Best of compilations from Public Enemy and TLC. Excuse me while I cry into my whiskey.

But after all the exploring, the hits and the misses, the flight tracker told me we were going to touch down in New York in a little over two hours, my vacation all but over. And I knew how I'd be spending those two hours. The 'Jazz' section offers not one but two Billie Holiday compilations. I programmed both into the playlist, and laid back with my complimentary nuts and cup of ginger ale, and cranked up the volume on a reliable old friend, Ms. Holiday. It only seemed right. It's great to wander, to travel, to discover things you wouldn't normally experience. But sometimes you need something familiar and steadfast.

Billie is the best, and I've always known that. Just like going home.