WELCOME TO NEW YORK.
(I’ve heard that a lot the past few days.)
On Wednesday, I moved to New York. Well, to Brooklyn.
New York City is a place that I’ve long peered at with endless fascination, a hive of both strangeness and obviousness (like, they aren’t lyin’ when they say that it’s humongous, and there truly does seem to be an unparalleled concentration of pizza and saxophone players). Also, it is clearly the best place on the continent for people-watching.
When I was a kid, maybe six years old or so, I learned of Brooklyn through a combination of the Super Mario Brothers series and cop shows. My impression consisted of an assemblage of very large, very impressive brick buildings filled with brave, mustachioed, virile Italian men with caring grandmothers. When I told my mom that I wanted to live there, she laughed at my naïveté. Brooklyn was a different place back then, a far cry from the mixologized leather-bag craft fair and emporium of long-legged women with competitive sunglasses that it has become in the post-American Apparel era.
In my teen years, I developed a new mental archetype of New York based on my obsession with The Ramones and Lou Reed. This time, I imagined an endless sea of tough-talking ripped-jean ugly-hot 20something men flicking cigarettes into gutters, tinkering on drums in warehouses, breaking hearts, and generally being “cool.” You know, occasional knife fights, The Warriors, that sort of thing. This concept is actually considerably closer to the modern reality of Brooklyn, but with fewer shankings and face-paint gang wars due to Giuliani’s much-discussed transformation of da big apple.
I never quite shook the desire to “check it out,” and when my 27th birthday passed, it became clear that my opportunity to experience it—even in its current incarnation—wouldn’t last forever. So I quit my emotionally crippling job, packed up, hopped a plane, and here I am.
Here is a list of the emotions that I’ve experienced since I arrived: enthrallment, anxiety, terror, joy, depression, exuberance, wonder, fear, sadness, excitement, happiness, exhaustion, and mostly being totally overwhelmed by everything.
The day before I left to come here, I finished a mixtape that I had been working on for weeks for someone very dear to me. I had made mixes for this person before, but this one would be different; it would serve as a physical embodiment of our goodbye. I deliberated over the inclusion of each song, the flow from melody to melody, and the imagined experience of listening to this musical sequence in a variety of contexts, even if most of them are unlikely. I don’t know how often this person will listen to the mix that I made for them, but even if they skim it and bury it, I find comfort in having made it, in trying to please someone other than myself in spite of the pretty selfish act I’ve just committed; the act of following some strong but abstract whim and leaving behind many people that I love beyond words to join a crowded ant farm of hustlers.
Here are five songs that are found on that mix.
1. Julian Lynch—Terra
This is the opening track. I couldn’t remember where I had found this album or this song—I thought perhaps Julian Lynch was one of these cult-followed 70s songwriter types, a Chris Bell or a Nick Drake or something. Then I suddenly remembered today that the person for whom I made this mix actually introduced me to Lynch and that he’s contemporary—Pitchforky, actually. But the fact that this song is timeless enough that I couldn’t immediately recognize that should serve as a testimonial to its qualities. Something about it reminds me of Coltrane, or psychedelic-era Beatles, or looking at pictures of my dad when he was my age.
2. Beach Boys—Diamond Head
Aside from maybe Debussy’s “Clair De Lune,” there is no piece of music more relaxing than this obscure, instrumental, hammock-swaying tune from the Beach Boys. An audible piña colada.
3. Lungfish—Fearfully and Wonderfully
This band is beyond underrated. The sense of straining, wanting, trying in every Lungfish song conveys a sense of masculine passion that I can hardly describe. I wish that this was always the second-to-last song at closing time.
It’s very interesting that this song is called “Joy” since its subterranean production seems to convey more of a tone of mystery, even a conversation with hidden subtexts, like staring at a lacy thing through a roughly cut crystal.
4. Fleetwood Mac—That’s All For Everyone
Does anything off of Tusk really need a footnote at this point? I don’t think so. But I will mention that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks went to high school three blocks from the house that I grew up in in Menlo Park, and that for many other reasons it was hard to put the Bay Area in my rear view mirror, even if it’s not forever. I really miss every lovely and terrible little thing, all the time.