Spotify, Love and You

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I have an interesting relationship with Spotify, so I wrote it a love letter. Well, I wrote a letter about it, not really to it. When I’m writing, I’m usually actually getting lost in all the bands and songs there–it’s my procrastination.

When I saw TechCrunch was inviting others to write about how current technology impacts the stuff of love for a series unambiguously called #Love, I knew I had to participate. And I knew right away what I wanted to write about: mix CDs, what we made and awkwardly gave each other when we wanted to give something that mattered. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But mix CDs have kind of vanished, with digital tools like Spotify picking up where they left off. So what’s to be said?

I recently found a stockpile of CDs I made–some for myself and some for others that I never shared–and cringed at how awful some of them were, and cringed again after admitting to myself I still enjoy that terrible music. For the most part, Spotify is the new mix CD. This essay is me making my peace with that. It feels like something worth making peace with.

There Is No Shortage of Pizza (And 9 More Things I’ve Learned About New York)

One. There is no shortage of pizza. No matter what avenue, no matter what street, there will be pizza that costs no more than one dollar.

Two. The quality of pizza—even across options that cost no more than one dollar—varies…profoundly.

Three. A single piece of cheese pizza is called, simply, “a slice.”

Four. Despite prevalent high fashion, subway stations will never be clean. The two clash in a way that is somehow distinct.

Five. People are polite, generous, funny and kind to one another.

Six. People regularly defeat perceptions, conventions and stereotypes.

Six. People are loud. This is not a stereotype.

Seven. Wherever there is a cash register, there will be a long, impossible line to accompany it.

Eight. Every day is trash day.

Nine. Street musicians play the following: saxophone, trumpet, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, drum, bagpipe, trombone, piano, other.

Ten. There are more lights than stars, more scaffolding than sidewalk, more pavement than green space and prices that are higher than mountains, and yet, through this, and among countless others who move through the city like a blown circuit, I’m happy.

Straight From His Bones, A Place In His Heart


Late at night on the subway platform a saxophone player in a white tank top and dress shoes was met by a standing ovation. A woman had been sitting on a bench listening, shaking her head and stomping her feet whenever Saxophone hit a riff that came straight from his bones, a place in his heart he was still searching for. He kept playing as the train banged down the tunnel, as its doors opened. “Thank you, thank you,” the woman kept saying, looking back. Saxophone smiled and closed his eyes. He lifted the bell of the sax into the air. “Love you,” the woman said, kissing her palm and holding it out, kissing again, shaking her head, kissing and kissing. “You,” she repeated, speaking loud. “I love you.”

Each morning when I board the train there’s an old man who plays the flute. His beard hits his chest and the frames of his glasses are thick, his hat wide. His fingernails are dirty but you can tell he’s proud. It’s his routine. It’s his day’s business to set up and play, not to find people who will listen but to make them. But I’m already anticipating the morning when his music is absent and when there’s new noise to fill his place, and I wonder if I’ll in some way miss him. I wonder if a week after he’s gone, or even after only a few days, I’ll forget to remember that he’d even been there, still hoping he’s become a beautiful ghost. But in another train station, or somewhere else—in a park, maybe, or on a street corner—Saxophone will be kissing back.

There Are Two Ways To Belly Flop


When I was the youngest I remember being, I went to swimming lessons at a house on the other side of town.

I went to swimming lessons once a week during summer.

I went to swimming lessons during June, July, and August.

The woman who taught me how to swim had short brown hair, and she wore a bathing suit but never got in the water with us. She taught us how to float on our backs and on our fronts. She taught us the forward crawl, the backstroke, the sidestroke, and the breaststroke.

On the day we learned to breaststroke it was raining.

On the day we learned to breaststroke cold rain hit the pool water over our heads and we couldn’t feel it until we broke over the surface for air.

The woman who taught me how to swim also taught me how to dive. She taught me how to put my feet on the ledge of the pool, or on the ledge of the diving board, and how to put my arms in front of me like the letter “v,” and how to put my hand on top of my other hand so that my two hands became one, and how to jump into water, and how to kick.

The woman who taught me how to swim said I was a good diver, except one time I belly flopped in her pool.

I belly flopped in July.

There are two ways to belly flop: on purpose and not on purpose.

I’ve never been afraid of belly flopping, but it hurts. When you belly flop you hit against the surface of the water and your stomach turns at least one shade of red.

Some people are joking when they belly flop.

People who are joking when they belly flop yell “Belly flop!” and then they do it.

When you belly flop you don’t actually hit against the surface of the water like rain because you don’t actually explode into pieces. And you’re not that small, even if you think you are.

An Index Of Personal Admissions


I am not afraid to admit that spaghetti is one of my favorite foods, and that in order to eat it I do not twirl the pasta on a spoon, but rather cut it with fork and knife.

And that I don’t get enough sleep.

And that I don’t mind not getting enough sleep, at least not yet.

And that even though I love books more than a lot of things and that I also seriously love most movie adaptations of books.

And that, randomly, I’m a big fan of John Mayer even though many John Mayer fans preface their explanation of fandom by saying they prefer the John Mayer Trio (which is noticeably groovier and maybe more musically mature) than his solo work. Truth is, I like solo songs like “Why Georgia” and “In Repair” and “New Deep” and “Clarity” and “The Heart of Life” just as much as Trio songs like “Another Kind of Green” and “Gravity.”

I am not afraid to admit that I’m colorblind but still don’t know which kind, exactly, because either I don’t care that much or I have a bad memory.

And that I don’t have a bad memory.

And that out of all the stuff of the world, I am most afraid of bees.

And that I once spent over one hundred dollars on Phish CDs at Newbury Comics, and that the look on the cashier’s face will forever make me laugh.

And that I like the Rolling Stones more than I like The Beatles.

I am not afraid to admit when I’m afraid, which actually does make it easier to sleep at night even though I really do get very little.


Why I Am Not Discouraged

Like a lot of people I would love for others to read my writing one day.

It’s one of those dreams that you have in kindergarten but never really let leave your head, even after you’ve woken up.

(No doubt, between kindergarten and now, there’s been a lot of waking up.)

Barnes and Nobles is in slow decline, and now it’s put a timeline on its official ending.

I’m sad because I like books a lot, and even though I’ve picked up most of mine from thrift stores, used bookstores, and library sales, I know that retail stores are extremely important.

Retail stores are important because they help major publishers survive.

Retailers keep major titles relevant, which keeps reading relevant, which allows writing to become something more than a hobby.

But even when the last brick-and-mortar store is cleared out, and after the empty bookcases are sold to the highest bidder, and after there’s this thing I still don’t understand called liquidation, there were still be a need for content. There will still be emotions and experiences and questions and technology and maybe an answer or two, so I’m not really discouraged. I’m more excited to see what writing turns into, and how writers continue to pump out their work. I’m excited to keep dreaming, even while awake, and I like to think that you are too. I like to think that we are all being extremely brave.

What I Like Most About Chocolate


Right now I’m not writing because I’m procrastinating. I’m cleaning up my iTunes, and I’m watching videos of bands playing songs on YouTube, and I’m reading different books so that I can get lost in a certain bend of language that only helps, which is what I’m telling myself. And I’m telling myself that after the next book I’ll be able to somehow write better. It’s probably not true, but maybe. Today I’ve written a page and in two weeks time I want to write at least 50 more, because I’m not only a procrastinator, but a procrastinator with dreams. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I type out a line of dialogue on my phone and save it as a draft. Sometimes I wake up out of nowhere and do the same thing. Sometimes I’m too lazy to lift a finger, and then I forget. A friend asked me what I like most about Boston and I thought about how small it is. I like that it’s small even though it’s a city. A really big city. So big that there are 21 neighborhoods and 53 zip codes. But still, it’s small. Big enough to get lost, small enough to find your way. And I like that. I do. Maybe I wouldn’t if I actually lived there, and not just near it, but what do I like most? I couldn’t say. I’m not sure I could say what I like most about anything. Except chocolate. What I like most about chocolate is that it tastes like chocolate.