What's behind the winning smile?
I have a song called "Orlando" about homophobia and gun violence and dancing in the wake of tragedy. It's coming out as one of a couple b-sides to the single "Dead Man's Shoes" later this year if we stay on target after this record drops. The takeaway line in that song for me though, and I think the most personal, doesn't have anything to do with the capital B Big issues. It's this one, "Some places you think aren't cool until you go." Awkward wording out of context with the melody. Whatever.
I'm from New York City and I used to hate everywhere else. Not hyperbole. Just a fact ma'am. Ain't nothing like the Big Apple. Hard stop. I've been gradually increasing my time on the road since 2014 until now when I pretty much live in a mini van. It has been a tough transition. I spent the first 18 months going from place to place sizing everywhere up in comparison to home like a guy with an OkCupid profile insisting that a woman has to be a vegan, atheist, sober, non-smoker, medium build, brunette, under 5' 10", who loves The Smiths in order to be dateable (as a side note, if that's you MESSAGE ME IMMEDIATELY). I measured everywhere I went against New York and that's ridiculous. It's like comparing anyone you date to a spouse that passed away. That person takes on a mythological level of majesty and perfection. Our memories have a way of inflating and stretching reality to fit our desires. Brains are crazy. The fuck do zombies eat them?
When you let go of your preconceptions life becomes richer. Seems obvious. But goddamn if it isn't the hardest fucking thing to do. I had to look past the things on my laundry list of "what makes a city awesome" and figure out what made wherever I was unique and valuable in that moment. It started small: this place has a Publix (the greatest grocery store chain ever), this town has a cool bar where the male patrons look like rednecks but they talk about Dostoyevsky (readnecks?), this place has fast traffic lights after 9:00pm. Eventually I came to realize that the cities themselves don't mean much at all. The buildings, rivers, all window dressing. Like blonde, brunette, red head, short, tall, etc. What's behind the winning smile?
That's it essentially. Dating principles apply to discovering the truth about urban spaces. People are the brains of any municipality just like, well, brains are the brains of people. ("That Rue Snider, he's a motherfucking wordsmith!"). Once it became clear to me that people are what make cities special I really started to enjoy touring. Longing for something I didn't have in the moment became the same as dismissing a date because of her lipstick (I have very strong opinions about this) or her record collection. Do you have any idea how many amazing women I know that own Taylor Swift records? It's ASTOUNDING. It's a whole "throw the first stone" situation though. I never confess to anyone that the second album I ever bought was "Age To Age" by Amy Grant. Please keep that to yourself.
Now I have a rich network of wonderful friends scattered all over the country who love where they live and through them I've come to love where they live too. I spend more time in Birmingham now than I do in Brooklyn and that's not happenstance.
It's been a struggle for me to put away my preconceived notions about most things in life but as I do I get so much happier. Yeah. Happier. I'm happy. Almost all of the time. That very bland sounding but spectacular state of mind occurs in direct proportion with my willingness to let go and learn. To listen and discover new places through other people's eyes. To be confident enough in myself to not be threatened by ways of living and thinking that are different than mine. It's a big fucking world out there.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin