Inspired by a Trip to Vegas: 'I'll Fly Away' BPP producer Dan Pashman returns from a Southwestern vacation with Vegas culture shock and a renewed love of a song.
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Hear how I came down with Post Traumatic Vegas Syndrome

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Inspired by a Trip to Vegas: 'I'll Fly Away'

Hear how I came down with Post Traumatic Vegas Syndrome

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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BPP producer Dan Pashman, producer extraordinaire, was actually producer in absentia, as he was out on vacation for a week. But does Mr. Pashman ever truly stop working? Gets into the office yesterday. He is full of 35 story pitches. Everyone he met along the road became, hey, would you cover this guy? Would you cover that guy? And he also comes armed with a Best Song in the World Today. Hey, Dan.

DAN PASHMAN: Hey, Mike. How are you?

PESCA: Well, tell me about your BSWT?

PASHMAN: Best Song in the World Today, you mean?

PESCA: Sure.

PASHMAN: OK, well, you know, I went out last week, and by the way, I want to thank you for refusing to host the show while I was gone in protest in my absence. That was really a nice show of solidarity.

PESCA: I chained myself to a different studio down the block.

(Soundbite of laughter).

PASHMAN: So I went out west with my wife, Janie. We went to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, you know, they're in southern Utah, and the Grand Canyon, and we stopped at the Grand Canyon, last of the three. And so we were staying at a lodge right on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

And, I mean, one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. We woke up every morning on the edge of the Grand Canyon. This mind-boggling work of nature, beautiful and massive, created over hundreds of millions of years with absolutely no human involvement, I mean whatsoever, just nature at work.

(Soundbite of Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt")

PESCA: Was the music this cliched?

PASHMAN: It was, just this cliched and beautiful. And our last night there, we went to a cookout where this husband and wife team, The Cochranes, they performed. And you know, it's a pretty long tradition, musicians coming to entertain tourists at the Grand Canyon, playing traditional American songs. And so they finished their set with the classic spiritual "I'll Fly Away."

(Soundbite of song "I'll Fly Away")

ALISON KRAUSS AND GILLIAN WELCH: (Singing) I'll fly away, Oh Glory I'll fly away; (in the morning) When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away (I'll fly away).

PASHMAN: And, I mean - that's not actually the Cochranes' version. That's from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, but it's the same song. So the Grand Canyon was really nice, and the next day, we left.

Our flight home was out of Las Vegas, and for various logistical reasons, we planned to spend about 24 hours in Vegas. We just had to before leaving. So we went from a place created entirely by nature over several hundred millions years to a place created entirely by humans in a geological instant.

Now, my wife and I, we're not big Vegas people. We don't really like gambling. We don't love clubbing. But I got us a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel...

PESCA: That's a good one.

PASHMAN: ...which I heard has a man-made beach. I heard it was one of the really nice ones. And we love the beach, so I figured after hiking almost 40 miles around various canyons, who's going to argue with drinking a beer on the beach, right?

PESCA: I'd take it. I'd take it.

PASHMAN: Yeah. Just one problem.

(Soundbite of song "Everybody Dance Now")

C&C MUSIC FACTORY: (Singing) Everybody dance now!

PASHMAN: This was a Vegas beach, I'm sorry to say, and that means - so techno music is blasting, the sand is strewn with trash, lounge chairs crammed one on top of the other. Beers cost seven bucks. A fight broke out at the pool, Mike, right next to us, between two hooligans, one of whom was wearing a Butt-weiser t-shirt which proclaimed him the king of rears.

PESCA: So it was a pun that kept on giving.

PASHMAN: It really was.

PESCA: Pretty funny, right.

PASHMAN: The gentleman was really proud of that t-shirt, too. That night, so we decided to go to an Italian restaurant in the hotel for dinner. It took us a half an hour to find it because they don't provide maps or directions at these places.

They just hope you'll spend so much time wandering aimlessly that you eventually lose all hope of eating and sit down at a slot machine to gamble your life's savings away. We finally got to dinner, and I ordered pasta. It came so fast, it must have been microwaved. I'm not a scientist, but I'm pretty sure water doesn't boil that quickly.

PESCA: You must have been a pleasure to be with at this time. Oh, to have been your wife.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: It was quite a lot of fun. So after dinner, we skipped the gambling. We headed to the roller coaster at the New York, New York Hotel three hotels down the strip. Simple.

C&C MUSIC FACTORY: (Singing) Everybody dance now!

PESCA: And was C &C Music Factory still playing?


PESCA: Oh, my God.

PASHMAN: At least in my head it was. I couldn't make it stop.

PESCA: Yeah. Now one thing, if you go to the New York, New York Hotel, I have to point out that the Statue of Liberty isn't right next to the Chrysler building, as depicted in the New York, New York hotel.

PASHMAN: Yeah, it's amazing. They took out all the junk in between the landmarks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Like the people and streets.

PASHMAN: Like the people. But so walking three hotels away to New York, New York for this roller coaster, not as easy as you think because there's no sidewalk on the strip. That would allow you to walk in a straight line, which is the last thing that they want.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: You have to go through the casinos. Now, a day earlier, we're hiking in the Grand Canyon. Now, we're traversing the catacombs of King Tut's Luxor, the turrets of King Arthur's Excalibur, and a footbridge littered with MTV Spring Break cast-offs.

We finally made it to New York, New York, and I will say this, the roller coaster was pretty great. We eventually get back to our hotel.

PESCA: Wait, let me - stop...


PESCA: One of the great things in New York, New York, they have these sewers in the - on the floor, and they have fake steam coming out of them.

PASHMAN: Right. It's pretty amazing.

PESCA: Also Village Voice canisters that are spray painted, unlike the real Village Voice ones here...


PESCA: Which are kept clean. Anyway, go ahead.

PASHMAN: What - they basically fake-reproduced the vandalism even. That's nice.

PESCA: Yeah, they fake-reproduce it a little worse than it is in real life.


PESCA: Thank you.

PASHMAN: So we get back to the hotel. We dropped a few bucks in a slot machine. Janie actually won 50 dollars.

PESCA: Awesome.

PASHMAN: It was awesome, and we decided to buck the most common Vegas trend of all by walking away in the black. So in the end we found - you know, we found our own little slice of fun, but we were ready to head home, no question.

The next day, we're on the plane waiting to leave, when the pilot announces that our plane has too much weight on it to take off in the intense Vegas heat.

PESCA: Maybe Janie shouldn't have taken her winnings in gold doubloons.

PASHMAN: Yeah, seriously. I didn't even understand the explanation. It's something to do with air pressure and mountains, but he said some passengers would have to get off the plane.


PASHMAN: Now, I'm not sure how Delta failed to account for heat in Las Vegas in June.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Or how they failed to account for fat people in Las Vegas at any time of year, but they did.

PESCA: And also, they didn't know what elevation Las Vegas was at.

PASHMAN: Yeah, seriously. So fortunately, Janie and I were not among the unlucky half-dozen who got the boot, and as the plane finally lifted off from our own personal inferno, I plugged in my iPod and tried to transport myself back to those halcyon days at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Now, "I'll Fly Away" was written by Albert Brumley in 1929. Since then, it's been covered by just about everyone. Steve Goodman says this is the song that proves you don't have to know very much about Jesus to like spirituals.

I'll go with the Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch version off the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. This is "I'll Fly Away," The Best Song in the World Today.

(Soundbite of song "I'll Fly Away")

ALISON KRAUSS AND GILLIAN WELCH: (Singing) Some bright morning when this life is o'er. I'll fly away. To that home on God's celestial shore. I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, oh Glory. I'll fly away in the morning. When I die, Hallelujah, by and by. I'll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have gone. I'll fly away. Like a bird from these prison walls I'll fly. I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, oh Glory. I'll fly away in the morning. When I die, Hallelujah, by and by. I'll fly away.

PESCA: That is how you do it. Dan Pashman bringing us Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch from the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

ALISON KRAUSS AND GILLIAN WELCH: (Singing) Oh, how glad and happy when we meet. I'll fly away.

(Soundbite of music)

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