1. So I’m in New York for the next few weeks, networking and reconnecting and using other words that make me sound like the douchiest possible LinkedIn profile, staring pensively out a different set of windows at a different row of buildings than I normally see. I hope that I look pensive to anyone watching from the sidewalk, but I know that my default facial expression is Mild Confusion, like I’m always listening to someone giving me an insanely complex set of driving directions.
2. ANYWAY. I’m here until early April, renting an apartment from an author I’ve liked for a long time. Her novels neatly line the shelves, her name san-serifed beneath titles translated into several languages that I can’t speak (which is every language other than English and Prog Rock). A picture of her latest is pasted to the front door of a local bookstore and there are extra paperback copies boxed in the closet, organized and ISBN-ed proof that she’s, you know, DONE something.
That’s the downside to keeping my career1 entirely on The Internet. I don’t have anything tangible to show for it, not without an active wifi connection. I can’t casually pull a paperback out of my bag and drop it onto the table at parties (not that novelists typically do this, although I’d sort of believe that Malcolm Gladwell might) so the best I could do is to corner someone by the guacamole, shoving my Twitter feed in their face and shouting ‘NO, LOOK AT THIS! DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT TIME I WAS RETWEETED BY PETER FRAMPTON?” I’m superfun, obviously.
1Honestly though? Caling it a career right now—or even referring to myself a writer—feels slightly dishonest, like trying to convince someone that your poorly stitched Canal Street knockoff is the real thing. I hope this feeling goes away.
3a. ANYWAY x 2. I’m staying in Williamsburg and—Frampton Comes Alive!2—stereotypes save time. On my second day, I had no idea whether I was on the right subway platform until I realized that if I just follow the people with the dumbest possible accessories, I’ll end up in Brooklyn. So if you have a pinwheel hat, a portable 8-track player or a small owl in a cage, I’m gonna be right behind you as you board that J train.
2 Can we please make this a popular expression of surprise? Like, “Frampton Comes Alive, I’m not pregnant!”
3b. “Do you want to board the J Train?” is totally my new pickup line.
4. “Can you hear your neighbors all the time?” was the first thing one of my friends asked me, like the walls in my apartment were going to be thinner than store brand lunchmeat. (The walls in my apartment are thinner than store brand lunchmeat.) My only set of neighbors speak in hushed voices, their French (?) accents barely audible over the clicking of their heels on the concrete floors. Whether it’s because they sound like the last disc in a Rosetta Stone lesson or because apparently THEY don’t dress like Kevin Arnold’s less successful sibling, I’ve decided that they’re sleek and elegant, all silk jumpsuits and distractingly sharp cheekbones. They’re in and out of their silverware drawer a lot, probably pulling out highly specialized utensils like a prawn sculptor or radish macerator or a fork that didn’t come in a plastic packet with their last takeout order.
Also, I’m now terrified of opening my own silverware drawer. I don’t want to disturb them.
5. On Monday, I went to the Beatles exhibition at the New York Library for the Performing Arts. It was a carefully curated collection but I went in through the exit door and walked through the entire thing backwards: it was like they bought razors, ditched the Maharishi and became increasingly wholesome as things went on. There was an assortment of recognizable guitars and carefully typed tour riders (a popular request was detergent) but the highlight was a thirty minute videotaped interview with their longtime recording engineer, Geoff Emerick. I sat in front of the screen, head tilted sideways like a spaniel in a Snausages commercial, listening to him talk about tape loops and technique (“John said he wanted it to sound like the Dalai Lama shouting from a mountaintop a hundred miles away,” he said—and I sort of paraphrased—about “Tomorrow Never Knows.”) It was the best half an hour I’d spent in forever.
Emerick said that EMI turned him down the first time he applied for a job there, but later ended up scoring that gig because there was an opening and nobody else could (or wanted to) fill it. I’m trying to pull some kind of Life Lesson from that, but mainly it just makes me wish I’d been a recording engineer in the mid-to-late sixties.
“Prince doesn’t hear Ravel when he wants to make love to his woman. He hears drums and shit.”—Miles Davis, according to a quote on the back cover of Prince: Shockadelica, a book I saw in the Oslo airport. At the current exchange rate, that ordinary looking hardback would’ve been close to sixty American bills, but I spent the nine hour flight home wishing I’d dropped it in front of the cashier and swiped my Visa card.
1) I cannot believe that enough people would get down to Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ for it to warrant its own stereotype.
2) Who are those people? That song doesn’t suggest sex as much as it suggests really unsafe roleplay, possibly involving an unsanctioned steeplechase.
3) No one knows what a steelo is, Ginuwine. NO ONE.
4) If you do plan to get down on Valentine’s Day, I strongly suggest “I Got the Hots” by the Soft Boys. That’s what I listened to as I had a surprisingly tender makeout session with a cup of Soup for One.
“If you have a song about nuclear war, you are new wave. If you sing about gay sex and nuclear war, you are Frankie Goes to Hollywood. If you are a hot German chick and you sing about nuclear war, you are Nena. If you sang about starting a nuclear war via making out, you are Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark […] If you start to sing the word ‘ass’ but change your mind and substitute a drum solo, you are Huey Lewis, which is as far from new wave as you can get.”—Rob Sheffield, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran
I saw a commercial for Kohl’s last night where two women who make their careers dressing the two-legged coat hangers from some Grade C Reality Show were explaining what ‘Punk’ meant to them. “For me, it just means anything goes!” the one with more elaborate eyeshadow beamed into the camera. Behind her, a bright-cheeked teen tried to look sullen while she stood in a tank top screenprinted with a repeating cross pattern.
When punk is defined not by music or a mindset but exclusively by what kinds of second-tier separates you can buy at a strip mall department store, it’s pretty much dead for real, smothered with the plastic bag that pair of distressed faux-leather jeggings came in.
False alarm, you guys! Wikipedia was so very, very wrong. According to other, more reputable sources (read: pretty much the rest of The Internet) Huey Lewis is only 63. Adjust your fantasies accordingly.
“Be sloppy, the snakes of cords on the floor are always cool, never leave the sidemen out. Make it smell like the spilled beer of r&r. Go tight almost always and just fuck up in general. Fuck up. You’ll do just fine.”—
A friend wrote these sentences in an email and meant for them to be a How To when it came to filming concerts for him at a local rock club. But it works pretty well as all-around life advice too.