My Valentine

Let us say you move to New York after the bold liquidation of some chutzpah, and that your friends back in west coast cities want to know what you’re up to. They want to know how you like NYC and what you’re doing on a daily basis ever since you moved there. Naturally, others are curious about who you’re seeing romantically, if anyone at all. What’s up, they ask (inquiring minds, etc.).

Shot of bizarre elephant head at Harvard ClubLet us also say you’re vague on the answers, mumbling something about a startup, about Sanford Meisner, about films, and about some writing that you intend to do. You like what Woody Allen said about how much of life and success is just showing up, so you show up a lot: you’re seen loitering at TEDx events; you attend meetings at; you fidget in the background at writer’s meet-ups in Brooklyn; at the New York Public Library, you find the quietest reading room possible and skulk there with your laptop; you hang out with web developers at a hackspace, doing something; once, you’re even seen on stage in an off-off Broadway scene. The vagueness doesn’t bode well, since it doesn’t douse the curiosity about your structured sabbatical, and certainly doesn’t help answer the hardest questions of them all: are you happy and do you like NYC? To complete this picture, let us also say that on Big Love Day in mid February, you aren’t certain that you even want to go out, really. You don’t like Valentine’s Day, owing to circumstances beyond your control.

But you do go out, in the end. Your buddies Dave and Dhruva — the guys behind Sub Swara — tell you it’ll be a cool house party, and something about staying in by your lonesome smacks of concession to the winter (you resolved earlier on that you wouldn’t bail on things because of the cold). Before long, you’re in the Village, and you find yourself in one of the nicest apartments you’ve ever seen. You look around and have some questions. Like, why is everyone at this party so tall? And who is the host? And who are these people? The food’s really good, though, and soon you’re in line waiting for a shot at the punch bowl. A really intense young woman plays piano and sings her ass off about heartbreak. She’s a friend of the host’s, and you’re impressed with her song. The host has musical friends, and an incredible record collection.

“GORDON is going to sing soon! Right after Joan!” someone tells you.

Oh, you say. You politely nod. She seems a bit nonplussed by your attitude, and walks over to someone else.

“Do you even KNOW who Gordon is?” she says to no one in particular.

So you feel embarrassed. You want to ask her how you can possibly know who Gordon is, since you’re new around here? Or who Joan is. You just walked in, and you only know the two people you walked in with. You want to point out that her irritation is unreasonable, and express that you wish she wasn’t so snooty, but then, you’re afraid you’ll seem unreasonable, and you’re not actually unreasonable. You lose yourself to the punch bowl for a while, and make small talk with people.

You soon discover that you’re surrounded by musicians, and by music. And then, when Joan finally does sing a lovely song with a piano accompaniment, you realize that Joan is Joan Osborne (who is demonstrably one of us — unlike God — but with more ethereal beauty). The Gordon mentioned haughtily earlier is actually Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes.

You find yourself enjoying yourself at this party now. You marvel at the fact that you could have stayed in, but you chose to go out. When Gordon actually sings, you know you’d recognize that voice anywhere, really, given enough context. He’s really short, and he’s losing hair (but so are you) and you flash back to long discussions about his unique voice in college. You remember listening to Blister in the Sun and Kiss Off and Gone Daddy Gone and you remember a beer-sodden conversation once about how much Gordon was in all your favorite music at the time: Gordon Gano from the Violent Femmes, Gordon Downie from The Tragically Hip, and then the album Gordon by the Barenaked Ladies. Dave is playing drums at the party while Gordon is singing, and it is all improvisational, and you suddenly feel awed by circumstances beyond your control.

It dawns on you then that this year, with her fluoridated water and her ad hoc punch bowl and her frigid winds and impatient snootiness, New York City is your Valentine, and you resolve to court her for some more time yet, as best as you know how.

3 thoughts on “My Valentine”

  1. I think you feeds might be a tad off (I just got this in my reader on March 11th). But, a very enjoyable read. It does seem you’re having fun in the big Apple (no relation to that other apple). Anyway, here’s to your new mistress.

  2. great post, arun. sitting in a lonely coffee shop in hong kong catching up on my feeds. this post makes me remember how incredibly powerful that city is. see you back there in a few months.

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