Wednesday, June 15, 2005

These Vagabond Shoes are Longing to Stray

Imagine Sars as Jeter, and me as Johnny. Polite derision is the order of the evening.

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Beat the parade drum/ hit all the bars/ I want the moon and stars/ But I'll take New York... --Tom Waits

Perhaps meeting one of your favorite online writers should not happen when the plan is to discuss something you cannot disagree more on: baseball. Perhaps this is an especially bad idea given that you're voyaging into enemy territory to do so. Especially bad when going with your rabid Sox fan/Yankee detractor friend. But I'm young, feisty and the Yankees are sucking harder than a black hole right now so I'm fairly confident things will go well.
I love visiting New York, but the idea of living there makes me feel queasy, and not just for the obvious baseball-related reasons. New York is huge. The subway map has more colors and letters than a box of Alpha-Bits cereal. New York is more expensive than Boston. New York has fewer trees, more people, more noise. I enjoy feeling dwarfed by the size of the skyscrapers for approximately a day, then it starts to wear on me. There is one thing you have to give New York: people love to write songs about it.
Maybe it's the Woody Allen/immigrant ideal that makes New York such fodder for songwriting. For a hundred years, New York has been the place to go to "make it." Madonna lived there in the '80s and worked at Dunkin Donuts and ate popcorn for every meal. Writers, poets and playwrights try to work there. Trump branded his name all over the city. Things may be changing-- it seems most people that I know now view L.A. as the promised land with streets paved with silicone and gold. But not many songs have been written about L.A.
Yesterday the slow, torturous breakdown of Kristen's remaining sanity began with me singing "New York, New York" in an exaggerated Sinatra voice.
Kristen laughed politely.
"I'm so excited to go to New York again!" I said, clapping my hands in glee.
"I can tell," she replied in the tone of voice usually reserved for a kid going to Disney World.
Then I called our hotel to see which subway stop to take, and the very brisk receptionist told me to take the L. Then I started singing "L Train" by Shootyz Groove. "Riding on the L train/ I don't got no problems no more no more no/ Riding on the train/ Cruising on the L train/ I will reach my destination for sure I know..." Kristen pretended not to hear me.
Now I've got an annoying hybrid of the Ryan Adams song "New York, New York" (not the same as Ol' Frankie's) and the Tom Waits song "I'll Take New York" in my head. I wish that Boston had more songs written about it. "Dirty Water" is the first song that comes to mind, mainly because it's the most modern hit explicitly about Boston. "Please Come to Boston in the Spingtime" mentions Denver, L.A. and Tennessee as (far inferior) alternatives. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but I'd love for someone to write a hit about contemporary Boston free of treacle and references to the costs of the Big Dig. Not an improv skit set to music-- a real song about what it's like to be in this city built on fill.
So wish us luck in NYC. Hopefully it'll be good times for both Kristen and I. I can only promise to attempt not to sing songs about New York for the entire bus ride to Manhattan. Take up a collection to post her bail if she kills me.

ETA: Oh yeah. And "No Sleep till Brooklyn." Because there won't be. Because it'll be daytime.

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