But New York's Not My Home

Monday, November 4, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

As I have said previously on this blog, as unbelievable as it may seem, music does not play an integral role in my life.  I do realize that for many this sentiment is utter sacrilege.  When someone feels the need to express their personal horror to me regarding this statement, I usually follow it up with the additional truth that I also don't really enjoy going to concerts, seeing bands play live.  If I say it with the correct inflection, I can watch as the part of their brain that copes with hardship pops in exasperation.  If they have the right look, I'll add, "And Phish sucks," just to kick them when they're down.

But all rules have their exception.  And I was reminded earlier this week that music has produced at least one moment of clarity across the duration of my opaque life's journey.  That accomplishment falls squarely on the long-deceased shoulders of Jim Croce.  

Living in New York City from 2001-2003 was a minor culture shock.  Coming from the overtly friendly confines of my liberal arts university, New York was a contrast in look, style, and attitude.  It also contained a few extra million people than I was accustomed to cohabiting around.   But I love a challenge, and I worked hard to inject myself and my existential footprint onto my community.   At a few places: the shawarma restaurant, beer garden, and corner store, specifically -- I was unarguably successful. 

But overall, the social ocean always felt too vast for this stalwart sailor.  No matter how hard I rowed my boat towards the bright lights, the destination was always an optical allusion shining from just over the horizon and perpetually out of reach.  I went to some shows.  "Shows," I learned, were what you called hip or indie versions of traditional performances like concerts or theater. 

The words, "Come to my show!" were 2001's version of Facebook in NYC.

Even when autumn came to the city, and the leaves in the park turned the familiar New England flame reds and crumbling oranges, it never felt right.  I couldn't lay in the park and pretend to be alone in a world of colors.  A speck of nature in a landscape whose vast enormity resides smack dab on the boundary of human conceptualization.  

Even meeting up with friends began to feel like an out-of-body experience where we were all simply placed in these various ultra-chic settings until the clock struck midnight and we  all retreated back underground to seek solace in the recesses of our distinctly unglamorous mouse-infested lofts.  Sure I had moments of calm and girlfriends of distinction, but each experience felt more impermanent surrounded by towering concrete and a speed-dating social scene. 

But I couldn't put my finger on what, exactly, was off.  I would tell people that New York just didn't seem like the place for me long term, but when questioned further on the subject, I had no satisfying answer to give.  And then one day, cleaning my room, Jim Croce's voice began:

Well things were spinnin' round me/
And all my thoughts were cloudy/
And I had begun to doubt all the things that were me . . .

And then, over the next 3 minutes, he sung the words that I'd been keeping inside the past 9 months. 

His expression of my sentiment was startling enough to stop me in my tracks.  I put the song on repeat and sat there listening to it on a loop for 40 minutes.  I was touched by the honesty of his music and the clarity with which he expressed a complex emotion that had been eluded me.  I certainly didn't waste any time pondering why music had chosen this moment to exert its sizable force in order to move me.  Cause music doesn't care about me or you or anyone.  But in the best cases, like this one, music can reach through time to tell you that it was there before you, and it went through the very same thing you're going through.  And when you hear your emotions being sung from the speaker across the room,  you can't help but feel a little less alone in the world. 

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