“You need to learn how to work with people or you’ll never work in this town or industry again,” said the somewhat post-pubescent, mascara wearing director of my short film right after the film’s premiere to raucous boos; from an audience of family and friends no less! For a 17 minute film, my eyeliner fanatic protégé made a 25 minute introduction. I had to clap him off the stage. Then push. His rage, as an “artiste,” had been building for quite some time.
The beratement continued, “You yelled at people, screamed at them, manipulated to get the film made on your terms, and were just the biggest jerk of life…like…like…you’ve ruined your career and I will never ever work with you again and that’s a big loss because I’m going to be a big deal.”
All I could do is sit back and take it, knowledgeable of the fact that he had gone personally bankrupt making the film and my co-producer had put everything he had into it (both financially and reputationally). As for me, I spent $29.75 on Tim Hortons for the crew. I’m a nice guy. But not too nice.
The crew hated my director. He had no idea how to direct a film and I was constantly bombarded with threats of a walk off – from both the union and independent contractors. It was a brutal experience but trained me to become introspective and most importantly, patient. I took a hard look at what I was doing wrong (I was, truly, a jerk – worse than Ari Gold) and what I was doing right (I saved the film on multiple occasions and I was really passionate about the product). My immediate reaction after the fight at the premiere was to find a way to get back at him immediately. But because I decided to be patient, I took what he said to heart and continued with my life and pushed forward. I owe patience everything.
Patience is something sorely missing from our generation. It’s hard to be patient in a world of instantaneous gratification, hate tweet fights that last for no more than five seconds, and transient polyamorous sex. I was just told the other day that I’m the “three month job man.” And I’m not alone because when things aren’t working for any of us, isn’t it just so much easier to move on to one thing and another and another until something – anything really – works? Applying for hundreds of jobs out of college with no employer interest? Moving back in with your parents after college because your part of the 1 in 3 in North American twentysomethings that cannot afford to live on your own? Deferring your dream of even gainful employment and independence? Often, what we do, is just try a bunch of solutions in the hope that they’ll work so that we can achieve our dreams or even just what we may want at that moment. But that may not fix core problems. So, if what you’re doing now is not working. Guess what. Take a look at things around you and be patient. Fixing core issues takes time. And time takes patience. It will all work out in the end.
Anyways, after our premiere, my director and I went our separate ways and never really talked again. My lipstick loving director sat around Toronto attempting to kick his career into high gear in fits and starts. I went to law school and ended up working for a digital studio in Los Angeles. My director hit me up one time when he was out in LA and came to ask me if I had any leads on work. This! Really! From the guy who would never work with me again! You may be thinking I felt vindicated. But I wasn’t. I just felt that patience pays.
By Alex Egan
The idea of music dedicated to the idyllic city of Florence sounds elegant, as if it would be filled with sweeping violins and sultry women crooning about love in Italian. But the majority of the music that permeated my personal experience studying abroad in Firenze during my junior year of college was, ironically (or not?), American pop music. Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous Girl” played on repeat and the only live music I experienced there was Xzibit and the Ying Yang Twins in concert.
I’ve heard people who’ve visited the city complain about how it’s over-Americanized, and I admit I’m only helping to prove their point when I say the song that reminds me of the romance I had when I lived there is Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Gianni, a slim, striking Albanian with dark eyes and an explosive laugh tried to explain once why an American pop song about cheating and revenge was “our song.” It didn’t make sense then either, but the Justin Timberlake bobblehead found at a flea market in New Jersey that I keep on my desk at work still reminds me of the time I clung to his waist on the back of a moped as we rode up the steep winding streets into the hills above the city, whipping past crumbling walls spilling over with wisteria, and to the uppermost point of Florence, where the massive curved roof of the Duomo loomed above the burnt red brick of the city for miles.
I don’t think anything can truly convey the watercolor loveliness of the place I called my home for six short months, the way the packed cobblestone streets suddenly ended on the south end of the city and the view cracked open to reveal the broad, bright sky and rolling green hills dotted with tiny villas and cypress trees above the olive brown stillness of the Arno. On a bridge hung with colorful fairy-tale-like shops in a graceful arc, lovers promised forever as they inscribed their initials onto locks and threw the keys into the water below.
This mixtape is a dedication to that magical city but also to everything about who I was at that time. The spring of 2007 was a transformative time in my music life—I was finally starting to shed my “emo” skin from high school and to change into more of the person (musically and otherwise) I am today. I was still listening to Something Corporate (I’ll admit it) but I was starting to listen to the National and the Shins, and to anyone going through something similar at the same time, this mix should sound familiar. Fiona Apple’s “Paper Bag” is for the many times my roommate and I belted the song as we tripped drunkenly down the narrow streets of the city—one headphone in her ear, one in mine; James Kakande’s “You, You, You” for the last time my friend Vini twirled me around in our bar. There’s some dance music to cover a whole lot of dancing (I figured we’ve all heard Akon’s “I Wanna Love You” quite enough) and I couldn’t resist Florence and the Machine’s cover of Beirut’s “Postcards to Italy.” No song truly conveys the way I felt about my experience than “Such Great Heights”—it’s why it’s there twice, and also I like both versions. The overall feeling is of longing and missing, more of what I felt after I left than when I was there; five years later, it’s what reverberates much stronger with me (I was/am never going to lose that emo girl completely).
When I first returned home from Florence that summer after my semester ended, I thought my life was over. Luckily, at 20 years old, my life was not over. Living in New York for the past three years has made me feel something I thought I would never feel again that day I arrived back in the US, crumpling into tears as I saw my mother greeting me at the arrivals gate; only this time I think it’s meant to last. New York is my true love, but Florence was my first love, and you never ever forget your first.
Alex Egan is currently living in Brooklyn, New York. She works at Scientific American magazine, where she wears many (nonscientific) hats. She enjoys all things flavored pumpkin, has an abnormally large head, and prefers dancing on her own. Sometimes she posts some of her other mixtapes here: http://soundisthecolor.tumblr.com/
By Vanessa G.
It took a lot to love Manila.
I was born in Manila and moved to Toronto at the age of one. A decade later, my family moved back to Manila for (oddly) better opportunities. My parents made the choice to move, which I initially resented them for. These types of life events don’t really make sense for an 11 year-old. The awkward pre-teen years of puberty are a confusing, angst-y time. But radical life changes like these really force you to grow up faster than you should. So eleven-year-old me had no choice but to suck it up and face Manila head-on.
The first few years weren’t so bad. Okay, I’m lying. It sucked… for SIX years. I was a living recipe for social disaster – an Ugly Betty-looking pre-teen that couldn’t speak the language; a westernized-Asian ball of Kinetic Awkward that showed no signs of slowing down. I’m Filipino, but I was not prepared for the culture shock and ridicule I’d receive for the years that followed, because I was different. The culture shock one experiences at a young age is honestly more difficult than experiencing it as an adult. As an adult, you reason, take chances, forgive. As a kid, you fight, cry, stay silent… or (in my case) sleepwalk to your parents in the middle of the night, and wake them because you want to “go home”.
But, I grew up. (Thank God. Really.) I opened my mind to new surroundings, music, people, interests, and real things suddenly began to matter. Living in a third world country, where both poverty and opulence are palpable realities you are exposed to everyday, it’s quite easy to feel overwhelmed and even indifferent. My university years changed the landscape of how I viewed the country and how important it was for me to make something of myself. My longing and sense of responsibility to do something good and right trumped whatever negativity I bottled up inside. At 25, I still feel the same. In a strange way, I feel like Manila and I are both works in progress – flawed, with much to prove… but full of potential, ambition, and more than anything… hope. And I love Manila (and myself) for that.
And so, I have prepared the most random collection of songs you will ever hear. But they all remind me of Manila, my beloved enigma.
I start with some absurdities, like Super Thug simply because the intro mentions ‘The Philippines’, Won’t Do by J Dilla because Dilla… Man-illa… right, riiight? And Stellar because (1) I was Gaga over Incubus, and (2) I’m pretty sure Brandon Boyd meant Manila, not Outer Space.
I include default mainstream hits, such as Billionaire and Weekend, thanks to Filipino artists Bruno Mars and Apl de Ap from the Black Eyed Peas. Also, a cover of Pharell’s Frontin’ by Maroon 5 and Filipino N*E*R*D producer Chad Hugo (with Mos Def throwing down some ATCQ).
Happiness and Rise remind me of alcohol-induced mindless dancing, from the (not-so-distant) where-did-I-get-these-bruises-from years. I have also 110% convinced myself that Kaskade’s 4AM is an ode to the Manila night scene. It’s the sound of breezing through EDSA (the main highway and central artery of all motorists in Metro Manila) going to / coming from a Saturday night OUT.
I’ve also added some home grown favorites from Bamboo, UrbanDub, and UpDharmaDown. All of their songs are about love, pinoy-style. They also came out around the times I thought I was in love. (Ha!) Lastly, something from an unknown genre, jazzipino… My Funny Brown Pinay.
*Besos*, from Manila.
Vanessa Gabriel is a project manager for a multinational bank currently based in Manila. She is also a yogi that never fails at face planting. Find her musings and mixes at http://thesoundmuse.wordpress.
It was 4:57 PM on a Friday afternoon and I was getting restless. I had just started my new job on Monday and it was one hell of a first week of work at my new company, a consumer advocacy group based in San Francisco of which I never anticipated to be working for. I wasn’t feeling well, had a doctor’s appointment at 6:00, and the only thing on my mind was whether I could have time to stop at that new salad place next door to my doctor and try the truffle arugula salad. I know, Yuppie problems. Anyhow, my phone rang and the person that answered was a woman from New Zealand who sounded enthusiastic to the point making me want to puke.
“Yeah what,” I answered.
“Hi, my name’s Kaila from Ministry of Awesome in Christchurch, New Zealand,” said the nauseatingly cheerful other voice on the phone.
“Um yeah great…what’s up,” I said.
“Well, you contacted us earlier in the week because we are your top traffic referrer and I wanted to say thanks,” said Kaila.
“Thanks for what,” I said.
“Thanks for empowering my community. The model pioneered by your organization played a key role in rebuilding a community devastated by the Christchurch earthquake that left thousands homeless. Its given the community the strength to tackle problems themselves instead of waiting for outside politicians or capital…and I just wanted to say thank you,” said Kaila.
Just then, a feeling settled over me that I never anticipated in this position: fulfillment in my work. This was funny because for my entire life, I had only thought that professional fulfillment could come from becoming a studio executive.
In many ways, I have been training since I was seven years old to be a studio executive. You know those guys who yell at underlings, spend all day having lunches, and act as big shots for no real reason (see Les Grossman above). Yeah, I wanted to be that. I grew up on Jerry Bruckheimer disaster films and have never given a shit about artistic integrity. If it was going to make money, I was in.
I did everything possible to become a studio executive. I worked In nearly every type of media company. I went to law school. I produced my own film. But something happened along the way: the world changed and as a result, my own priorities did as well. Film was not as simple as the weekend box office reports of the 1990s. And the Internet changed the way people consume creative content. If I wasn’t going to change with it, I was going to be left behind.
So, I didn’t become a studio executive. And in some way, I think I’m like many twentysomethings who have had their carefully crafted life plans, etched in stone since grade school, upended by changing technologies and the economy. We all know the statistics on a macro level: one in three are moving back home after school; one in four are delaying marriage because of financial worries; and students leaving professional schools graduate with approximately $100,000 or more of debt. But often, the best indicators are anecdotal: the aspiring journalist who can’t find a position they’ve dreamed of, or a law student who’s dreamed of taking on the big guys since watching Law & Order who’s now working at the Apple Store.
What my own experience, and those of my fellow twentysomethings indicates is the need to adapt your dreams to changing circumstances. I think that’s easy enough and somewhat well known. What is less discussed is how adaptation may lead to fulfillment in unexpected places. Didn’t achieve your dream of becoming the next Julia Roberts? Adapt and you’ll be shocked. One specific professional goal is not going to be the sole means for fulfillment. You’ll be able to find it in whatever you do.
Christchurch, New Zealand is a long way from The Soho House, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sometimes not everything goes according to plan. And maybe that’s the plan.
By Yasmin Tayag
We’re too hard to admit it, but New Yorkers are nostalgists. This city was built by dreamers following dreamers following dreamers, all of them wanting to be, as Frank said, a part of it. But ‘it’ is so often a time and place that has already come and gone. Harlem nocturnes, ermine and pearls, Chelsea mornings, Vaclav Havel, the Sex Pistols, 8BC! — the city they evoked has long been painted over by years after years of new tenants, but it was captured in song, and I moved here with its music humming in my ears. It’s told me that though the city will change, the experiences it brings will not, and that, in turn, has kept me sane these three years.
So you’ve got to be a bit of a romantic to survive here. It’s what gets you through the embarrassment of paying at Mamoun’s with a handful of dimes and the emptiness of your roommate and dearest friend’s bedroom the day she abandons ship for China. Then it gets you home when you’re despairingly drunk and alone on holy, misty Bleecker Street. I’ve been accused of being an idealist and an optimist, but Dylan knew it, Art and Paul knew it, and Regina Spektor and St. Vincent know it: there’s beauty and humor in the loss and loneliness that you feel so acutely in this city.
In our first year my roommate and I, like everyone who is new to the city, would come home from our internships at night to what was essentially a high-ceilinged closet, but we were lucky to have a fire escape overlooking a lovely, overgrown garden. To get outside, we had to crawl out the window at the end of our narrow bathroom, past the steaming shower with its mildewed curtains, and climb up on the humble fridge that faced our toilet. It was summer then, and for us, to step out onto our rusted grate into our own sanctuary of green was it. It was what we’d come for. We’d sit there until the lights came on in a hundred surrounding apartments, two sweating, misplaced Canadians, realizing that for those moments we were E.B. White’s young worshipful beginners; we’d come to look for America and found it. She moved away a year later, and I was quickly swept into another life; these memories are now another layer of nostalgia in my own ever-changing New York. Those were perfect days indeed, and any of these songs could have been playing then.
Yasmin Tayag is a trained scientist and occasional musician currently living in the LES in New York. She is a scientific copy editor by day and aspires to be the next Bill Nye. She last wrote for GCFC about being a couple in New York.
By Chris Stevens
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner is the king of outrageous behaviour. One MRI famously blew-out a venting pipe, causing liquid helium to erupt into the scanning room, jamming the room’s doors shut and simultaneously exploding the ceiling off. For this, and other reasons, the MRI is unique among medical equipment and would basically make a hilarious party guest. Unlike the boring old defibrillator, or a dullard kidney dialysis machine, the MRI is a hellraiser and does not give a shit about you or your neighbours. If it was somehow possible to wheel this helium-cooled electromagnet into a party, all sorts of exciting things would start happening.
Come close enough – say five meters – and almost nothing metallic escapes the MRI’s magnetic field. This thing is a maniac. Take, for example, the story of the German firefighter who foolishly strayed into the neuroimaging wing of a burning hospital and found himself suddenly airborne, dragged by his metallic air tank straight into the hole in the middle of the MRI scanner. It promptly folded his body in half. Or the cop whose gun was flung out of its holster and into an MRI scanner, shooting a neat little hole into the wall en-route.
If you ever get an MRI scan, you will not be allowed to bring anything metal into the scanner room. The MRI scanner simply cannot behave itself around metal.
Ok, now you have a sense of the MRI’s capacity for social faux-pas, let’s talk about my experimental government-funded MRI scan. Typically you’d only get an MRI if a neurologist suspects that your brain is fucked, so it’s an unusual privilege to get one without the spectre of death spoiling an otherwise quite fascinating day out.
My MRI scan results were to be used as an example of a healthy brain to compare to other not-so-fortunate brains. This is not to say that I entered into this experience as a vacuous thrill-seeker. It’s hard not to lie in the scanner and wonder about the numerous others who have entered the MRI’s big donut hole and emerged to discover some horrible tumour.
It may be of interest to future biographers that this was not my first MRI. Many summers ago I was bitten by an insect in Croatia, diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia (electric shocks down the face) and for some peculiar reason decided I was dying. At the time, a neurologist detected abnormal synapses (where they tap your leg with a hammer) and had my brain MRI scanned as a precaution. Turned out I was fine, but the existential crisis has always lingered, yet lying in the MRI scanner again brought me to a vivid state of meditative calm. I know this is not supposed to happen, in fact MRI scanners are notorious for causing claustrophobic mental meltdowns, but for me, the complete opposite happened.
I was so relaxed that, as I lay in a state of peace in the MRI, I recalled an academic paper from 2011 entitled Existential neuroscience: a functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of neural responses to reminders of ones mortality.
In this study, a bunch of scientists tried to figure out exactly what part of the brain recoiled in horror when faced with the prospect of death. In other words, the researchers were looking to pinpoint the biological source of our existential crisis. They put twenty volunteers from Osnabrueck University in an MRI scanner (presumably not all at the same time – a crowd of existentialists can be dangerous, not to mention they would not fit) and asked each volunteer to either agree or disagree with statements like ”I am afraid of a painful death”. Interestingly, it seems that they avoided using more existentially provocative material like: “What are you doing with your life? You idiot.” or simply showing the volunteers an issue of Vogue Magazine.
So, what part of the brain lights up during existential panic? Turns out it’s the right amygdala, left rostralanterior cingulate cortex, and right caudate nucleus. Now, none of this means very much to me, I generally consider my brain to be a vague-shaped enemy that sits in my skull delivering a depressing commentary on everything I do. A bit like those two men in the balcony in the Muppet Show, but with an intimate backstory from which it can pull endless examples to furnish its awful accusations of deficiency. But still, it’s nice to put a name to the bits of the brain that are responsible for this. It makes it easier to shout at them to shut up.
My MRI scan was a functional scan – this means that my brain was observed performing certain problem-solving tasks. When I emerged from the big plastic donut an hour later, I felt oddly alert, all my molecules freshly aligned in a single polarity. This is the rare and wonderful thing about an MRI, it’s like a giant hair-comb that straightens out your formerly messy magnetic composition.
As I took the train home, it was as if the uniquely well-organised orientation of my molecules, although invisible to all those around me, was a special and enjoyable secret. I looked at my fellow passengers with their untidy, unkempt, randomly-polarised molecules and the strangest thing happened: My right amygdala stopped its chatter for a moment, nudged my left rostralanterior cingulate cortex, and they both smiled with me. This leads me to the purpose of this article: If you meet me in the street from now on, know that my molecules are tidier and better organised than yours, no matter what unfashionable shit I might be wearing on top of them.
Chris Stevens is a London-based entrepreneur and founder of interactive design studio Atomic Antelope. His e-book, Alice for the iPad, is one of the best selling apps of all time and has been featured in Fast Company, Wired, and Oprah — OPRAH! He is currently working on his first musical. His MRI was conducted at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging in London, England.
“Next Stop: World Trade Center.” I was on the PATH Train and already sweating bullets. On my way to an interview at JP Morgan, I realized I was wearing white socks with a suit. Much to my chagrin, I’ve learned only two people can get away with this: David Letterman and the Pope. Swallowing the gratefully bitter pill that I’m not Letterman (and even more so that I’m not the Pope), I got off the train, hailed a cab, and proceeded to Midtown. I was interviewing for a “Director” position at JP Morgan. Director of…? I had no idea. Reporting to…? I hadn’t a clue. All I knew was that in the “Worst. Job. Market. Ever.” with the “Worst. Generation. Ever,” I was lucky to get an interview.
You see, I was mere inches away from graduating from law school on the “Gold Family Scholarship” and quickly realized during my “wonderful” time in school that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. And worst of all, my dad, the eminent Trustee of the “Gold Family Scholarship” was calling me singing “Free at Last” and sending me YouTube videos of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington attesting to the freedom he would soon taste.
Worst. Job. Market. Ever.
So, my Professor, who shares my love for narcissistic schmoozing and comparing the vagaries of Washington DC restaurants (Jose Andres by a MILE), hooked me up with the venerable institution where most of his old Yale squash buddies landed. Since one of my former colleagues was the captain of the Harvard squash team and, needless to say, we didn’t get along, I thought I would be in like flynn with Team Yale.
Getting off at the firm’s stately offices in Midtown, I was introduced to a Tall Man, a Blonde, and a Cute Brunette who I was admittedly more interested in than the job. All Vice-Presidents, Directors, and presumably, “Masters of the Universe,” the Tall Man led as Master of Ceremonies:
“You have exactly thirty minutes with us. We are going to explain the position, how the organization operates, and what is anticipated from you. We will speak for approximately the next 6 minutes. During this time, we will be speaking to you. And you will listen. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied.
“Was that supposed to be funny?” the Tall Man retorted back to me.
“No, I was attempting to be deferential,” I said.
Tall Man replied, “Good,” and then proceeded to describe a myriad of points about the Director position, all of which I could not give two living shits about. It was at this point that my eyes drifted from the monologue to the window overlooking Midtown. I couldn’t help but notice the zeal with which the denizens of various office buildings tended to their tasks. Ever present drones on the assembly line of productivity. I was reminded of Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener: A Short Story of Wall Street from 1853. In it, Melville goes to great lengths to criticize the sterile and robotic nature of office work and its effects on the humans inhabiting such environments.
Reflecting back on my own situation, I asked: Do I really want this? Does anyone really want this? Maybe we think we do because we want to “win”, right? We want to be “Winners” and to do so we have to join. The Skulls exist for a reason. Bottles. Models. Big homes. Private planes (admittedly, a personal weakness of mine). A utopia of conspicuous consumption and embourgeoisement awaits us all if we work hard, bide our time, and please whoever orders us around. All we have to do is get in the door, join, and win.
But the dirty little secret is that this is all a myth. And we know it. We all know that this panacea will never hold true for most Americans. The reality will always be more Bartleby the Scrivener than Horatio Alger. But! We have always held out hope – or at least left room for diminished expectations – that even if we did not become Rupert Murdoch, we could become his incredibly wealthy lawyer. If not a private plane, then maybe a NetJet share. Guiding this hope is a fundamental truth: each generation’s achievements and wealth will be greater than that of their parents and as such, each successive generation will achieve some measure of success. This is nothing new.
But here’s what’s new: we will be the first generation worse off than our parents. One in four are moving back in with their parents while 1 in 3 are delaying marriage because of financial worries. We will be paying off our parents’ Social Security debt and other entitlement costs and be resigned to years of economic stagnancy. So, what does this mean? Pushing papers in that office today? Well, you’ll be doing that a few years from now and probably with less pay. Or you, like your co-worker, will be a returning champion unpaid intern. Seems that joining doesn’t necessarily equate to winning anymore. Which means: I had to get out of the interview as fast as possible and find the new way to win. Yes, of course. Alex Gold and millions of others! But, at least it’s better than being exploited under the heavy weight of national myth.
“Are you there?” asked the Tall Man.
“Yes, I was just thinking about how organizational value is really driven,” I replied.
The Cute Brunette then began furiously typing.
“Now,” said the Tall Man, “we have had over 769 applications for this position and I want you to describe, for our spreadsheet, what value you think you could add to the organization. Remember, it needs to fit on a spreadsheet column.”
I stared back out the window and thought about my position. My value. How can I best fit in here? “Winners” join! Private plane…
“Well, I really think I can drive value…”
I cut myself off. I wasn’t telling the truth. They would see right through it. You know how I knew? The Cute Brunette wasn’t typing.
“You know what? Not to sound too conceited, but I think its incredibly challenging to categorize someone on a spreadsheet. I am not the typical candidate by any means. But no one is. And that’s the point. I really don’t think I’m the right candidate, I really don’t think I fit in here, and I really don’t think I want this position. I actually really want to leave.”
The Cute Brunette couldn’t stop typing.
And with that, I bolted out the door. As I stepped back onto the street, I felt a sense of freedom I had never felt before. Like millions of others in my generation, I was going to find a new way to win. And if I couldn’t find one, I was going to make one.
Just then, my phone rang. It was JP Morgan.
By Rodrigo Davies
I went through four pairs of headphones in two years in Mumbai. A mixture of wear and tear, loss and the need to upgrade to progressively better noise cancellation were to blame, but each investment brought with it increased levels of happiness and peace. Headphones should be prescribed at the airport for all newcomers to Mumbai, since the level of ambient noise is far above anything you’ll experience in most other cities. It’s almost exclusively mid and high-frequency noise, too: squawks, squeaks, shouts and honks that are at first amusing and atmospheric, but quickly become an incessant stream that is best excluded using ear-plug, in-ear headphones.
Even with a good pair of headphones, the ambient sounds still intrude from time to time, a reminder that you can’t outrun Mumbai. Beyond the sounds of machines, people and live concerts, the following mix is mostly 70s and 80s tracks or re-edits that I re-discovered on trains, on streets and in bumblebee taxis. The one outlier is Gold Panda’s “India Lately”, which was released shortly after I moved to the city, and became both a staple track and a tag line for photo albums, email subject lines and, of course, gchat conversations.
Rodrigo Davies is a researcher and digital strategist in Cambridge, MA and one-third of the DJing collective “The Idiots”.
At my first sleepaway camp, I broke my mother’s heart by not calling home once the whole summer. I was blithely unaware of the certain sadness that befell my camp mates. To this day, homesickness remains an illness that afflicts others, an illness to which I remain immune.
Truth is, the peripatetic nature of my family has meant that I have never felt at home anywhere. (Even as I write this, my parents are busily packing up their lives for yet another schlep across the world.)
This might explain the delay in mixtape love letter vol. 2. It is not for lack of trying; it turns out I simply don’t know where my home is.
What is a home anyways? Is it the place you are born? Or where the most members of your extended family live? Where you spent the largest portion of your cumulative years? Where you fly home for Christmas?
If, however, your home is where your heart is, mine might be in Beirut.
I spent the summer after senior year in that devastatingly beautiful city by the water. I was working for a local English-language daily at the time; the walls of our office building were riddled with bullet holes and the few working computers fell prey to daily power cuts. Years later, I would read Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary and marvel at the uncanny parallel between Paul Kemp’s San Juan Star and that of Beirut’s own.
And so whenever I am asked the question, when were you the happiest? I think of Beirut.
I think of mezze dinners in the mountains. Late night manaeesh runs. The Hamra flat that my roommate Alexa and I shared just off of Rue Bliss. That summer, the tomatoes tasted like tomatoes, and gin and tonic was our sick drink. I felt socially sanctioned to lick the civilized world.
This is my billet doux to that place and that time. Some of these songs were regulars at bars we frequented after work. Others, like the Joan Baez cover of Bob Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather, played in the background as Alexa and I downed bottles of Bekaa Valley wine before going out. (For this, I will always associate Joan Baez’s lilting soprano with red wine-stained lips.)
One song, Beirut’s Nantes, was playing at that French creperie in Yorkville when I first decided to go to Lebanon. Some will lapse into the maudlin. Others still (cf. Black Eyed Peas) are straight up terrible.
But all remind me of Beirut. They remind me of home.
We are happy to announce the start of a new series on GCFC Magazine called Mixtape Love Letters.
In reviewing May and my Gmail histories, it became clear that music has played a significant role in our respective lives and friendships. Whether it is Gchatting the lyrics and actions of ‘Nsync, or gushing over a new musical discovery, or in my case, defending the legitimacy of the country western genre, music has been a constant wherever we go.
Each mixtape in the series will feature music about a city we have grown up in, lived in, traveled to, or in some way fallen in love with. Volume 1 is dedicated to the city that gave birth to me and whose warm folksiness I have only grown fonder of since leaving: Calgary “Cowtown” Alberta.
Some of the songs are from city natives who’ve “made it big”, like former-17th-Avenue-busker-turned-moderately-successful-indie–singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen and ’88 Olympic Opening Ceremony colour guardette Leslie Feist.
Some are from bands who rose to but never beyond local hero status, like Chixdiggit!, The Dudes, and my high school’s own The Pants Situation (as far as notable alumni, I consider The Pants second only to Tommy Chong, from Cheech & Chong).
Others are songs whose lyrics speak of the infinite landscapes, chilled winter nights, highway driving, and claustrophobic ambition that shade the image of my hometown.
A couple – Bon Iver and Death Cab – just name check Calgary, which is good enough to win my eternal love and affection.
Then there are songs that have nothing to do with Calgary except to me. In Dolly Parton’s ‘Applejack’ (song #13), she sings about a banjo picker she met as a little girl who lived in an orchard shack and taught her how to jam. Dolly is from Tennessee, is 66 years old, and has 40DD breasts. On paper, there is no reason for me to connect with her or her music. Yet, no matter where I am, it is the one song that instantly reminds me of home.
I have a clear picture of myself as a kid playing in the family room of my childhood house. It is winter, but sunny, possibly the start of a Chinook. There is a smell of freshly steeped tea in the air. My mother, wearing a black and white striped Club Monaco sweater, is standing in the kitchen humming along in a slight falsetto as ‘Applejack’ plays over our desk-sized vinyl record player.
And that is the beauty of music and the point of this series. Even a single melody or note can conjure back images, feelings, moments, big and small, of a specific place. It is the most intimate way we experience a city, a way to literally and metaphorically feel its pulse and rhythm. Music can etch a place in our minds forever, or completely alter how we see it.
Music is also the most tangible way of sharing these cities with others. So in the coming weeks, we hope to offer more songs and memories of cities from around the world. If you are interested in creating your own mixtape love letter, feel free to get in touch with us at email@example.com.
As the closing verse of ‘Applejack’ goes:
That’s when I was just a kid and now that I am grown
All I have are memories, old Applejack is gone
Oh but he left me his banjo and it always takes me back
And every time I play it, I still hear Applejack
By Yasmin Tayag
A girlfriend of mine summoned me to a happy hour last week. The matter, it seemed, was too urgent for sentences:
“Friday! Hangout? Lots to tell you.”
It was, of course, about boys, and gleefully so. I don’t mean to sound dismissive; in fact, I was thrilled to discuss at length the minutiae of the individual men, their texts, their manners, their willingness to pay. I was thrilled because it’s been almost three years since I’ve experienced the urgency and excitement of a first date.
Everyone will tell you that New York is a city for single people. It’s here that your social network begins at a local bar and proliferates like arteries into every borough. There are beating hearts at the end of each thread, waiting to connect with someone like you. Perhaps not permanently, but that’s what makes it fun.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Call me lucky, or call me lazy, but the radius of my social sphere expanded about a hundred feet, on the first day of grad school at NYU, before I found what I was looking for. His little brother, still in college, chastised him: you moved a thousand miles from the Midwest to the greatest city in the universe, and you end up with the first girl you meet?
We live together now in a small apartment, doing our best to approximate the feel of a suburban household, plants, cats, coffee, as much as living on the Lower East Side allows. It’s nice. I have no complaints.
What I can’t shake, however, is the sense that I’ve betrayed my twenty-two-year-old self, the girl who left home to live alone for the first time, leaving behind the Catholic guilt and loosening the chastity belt, to make up for a prolonged and dreamlike adolescence. I had the idea that I would find bits of myself in strangers—and strange situations—and piece together a woman with what I found. I was supposed to lay my heart bare and let the city ravish it. I was hoping it’d come out smarter, fuller, and a whole lot tougher.
The feeling comes back to confront me from time to time, and it’s ugly and sexy and twisted up with jealousy, threatening me with regret. It creeps up after hearing a girlfriend recount a cinematic kiss in the rain and even after hearing about the bad ones: the ones fifteen years older than they claimed to be online, the racist ones, even the married ones. It tells me I’m just as coddled as I was at home in Toronto; it tells me I’m still a child.
Wondrously, my transformation into a woman still seems to be underway, despite these kinks in my great plan. It’s just not happening the way I’d expected it to. And I don’t think it’s a result of domesticity or an increased capacity for love (though those are nice, too). It’s due, I think, to a firmer grasp on sex and what it means to control it, rather than being under its control, and I can thank the security of a long-term relationship for that.
When I’m out, there’s no longer any pressure for me to be sexy—though I could be if I wanted to—but what do I care whether a man wants to take me home or not? That interesting guy at the party is no longer a potential next date or a future stalker but just an interesting guy, who could, potentially, be an interesting friend. And if he gets flirty, I have no qualms about walking away. Seeing the strangers of this city through a lens where sex is one but not the only filter has changed the way I understand them and, more importantly, the way I understand myself.
My happy hour girlfriend and I are becoming women in our own right, thanks in part to the strange situations this city has cast our way. But if it comes down to supportively day-drinking with my boyfriend’s teammates at an East Harlem baseball diamond versus learning that the last guy I dated was an online sexual predator, I think I’d be happy to avoid the latter, though perhaps more interesting, option.
Yasmin Tayag is a trained scientist and occasional musician currently living in the LES in New York. She is a scientific copy editor by day and aspires to be the next Bill Nye. You can find out about the music she listens to at http://yeahyeahyasmin.tumblr.
We were almost done our Innis and Gunns. Miranda was in town for what has become a typical 48 hour last minute visit, and we had met up for a nightcap before her 8am flight back to Beijing the next morning.
As is the nature of our reunions, we discussed, in no chronological order: parental idiosyncrasies, passing of reporters we admire, the value of an Ivy League education ($80,000 not a penny more), the ills of comparing yourself to others, the romance of New York, xenophobia in China, the humbling experience that is learning a new language, Facebook forensics, job interviews antics, the Mayan calendar, potentially libelous stories we were pursuing, and oh, the future of journalism.
Ending on that particular note had felt too depressing, too hopeless, and knocking back the last of our beers, we were now in a manic rush to find something, anything, more uplifting that we could end the evening on.
Neither of us could come up with anything satisfactory, so we went home with our usual see-you-on-Gchat goodbye. Next morning, watching the sky lighten up in bed, I revisited the question from last night: Will everything be okay?
And then I remembered Adam Gopnik. This is a story about the writer and his 10,000 hours.
When Adam came to give a speech at my alma mater last winter, I went with my friend Gabe. Adam was all lambent wit and immeasurable grace, talking about poetry and faith.
At the reception that followed, Gabe and I managed to ask a question (“What did you do in your early twenties?”) without revealing its subtext (“How do we become you?).
Ever the storyteller, Adam drew us into a circle and began. One day, his son Luke, came into his study with a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Luke asked Adam, hey dad, is this 10,000 hour theory true? Adam brushed his son off, no son, Malcom exaggerates. (They’re friends, it’s cool.) A devout Gladwellian, Luke insisted that they calculate Adam’s 10,000 hours.
So the writing audit began.
Luke: When did you start writing?
Adam: When I was 23, when Martha (his now wife) and I took a bus down from Montreal to New York.
L: How many hours did you write a day?
A: Oh, I took it seriously back then, so I’d say four hours a day.
L: Did you do this every day?
A: No, every year Martha and I would take two weeks off to visit family in Montreal.
Luke finished punching these numbers into his iPhone and out came the result. The verdict: Gopnik senior’s 10,000th hour of writing would have taken place some time in May of 1986.
“And then,” Adam pauses for effect before telling us, “And that’s when it occurs to me that my first New Yorker piece was published on the 19th of May, 1986.”
I suppose there are two ways of processing this anecdote. One is accepting it as proof of why your twenties will suck: because you will not be good at what you do until you hit your 10,000 hours, which, simple math will tell you, won’t happen until much later unless you are Sara Ganim or Téa Obreht. Another interpretation is this: If you work hard at what you love, everything will be okay.
Miranda spent her 25th birthday drinking and writing on the bank of the Chaophraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. Below is an excerpt from her luminously beautiful letter, which arrived in my mailbox today. In classic Millennial tradition, below is her dispatch in list-form, on the reasons why the best is yet to come:
1. We are no longer young – nor do we wish to be. I bristle when people assume I’m still in college. Whereas “in my younger years” (a phrase I use more and more with less and less irony), I feared the burden of responsibility, I now expect and hope my decisions have real consequences, tangible outcomes. I want my dreams and ambitions to take shape (or at least start to). I want people around me to take me seriously, to depend on me, and to know that I will do the same to them.
2. At the same time, we are not old: we’re not even at the halfway point of our lives, probably not even a third (though hopefully more than a quarter – who wants to live to a hundred?!). If I think about all that I’ve learned about myself in these first 25 years – even including the first 4 where I was essentially just a blob of adorable baby fat, as well as the following 10 where I was a self-obsessed, moody tweenaged asshole, and the next 6 where I was in an alcohol-induced stupor – really we have not even begun to scratch the surface of what we will learn, experience, and become in life.
3. We’re not bad off: no, we don’t have careers, disposable and/or consistent income, savings, boyfriends/husbands, good credit, investments, assets or mortgages. Worse, we haven’t made it on to any ’25 under 25′ lists. But we do have friends we can count on despite being on opposite sides of the world, friends we can build global media empires with, friends who know who you’re sleeping with and who you’re in love with, friends you can send first drafts (and first prints!) to, friends forever aeaeae…
4. The best is yet to come: just imagine what life will be like when we do establish career paths, earn that income, put away those savings, meet our boyfriend/husband/life partner/etc., acquire assets, get approved for a loan, go viral, finish our novel(s), get published, find happiness. The best is yet to come.”
May spent the weekend of her birthday drinking whiskey in a subterranean bar down a dubious Chinatown alleyway in New York City (Doyers off of Bowery). This is her response to Miranda’s care package, which arrived exactly two weeks after her birthday.
I was at Strand the other week and picked up a copy of Susan Sontag’s latest diary collection: As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh. I remember reading her first installment, Reborn, at the Tate Modern gift shop when it first came out. I picked it up casually and ended up inhaling the entire book standing. I couldn’t even allow myself to pause and pay for it at the counter. It all felt so urgent.
Watching her private tragedies unfold, I remember feeling awe, horror, and relief. Awe at the rawness of the text. Horror at the fact that it was all laid bare for everyone to see. Relief at knowing that this great woman whom I idolized and the world lionized, was also insecure about her place in the world, that even with her intellectual prowess, she questioned her self-worth. Some books come to you at just the right time and others don’t (cf. War and Peace). Reborn felt as if Sontag was blazing across her masses of admirers to address me directly.
The year was 2008 and we were just finishing off our third year of university. The poles of my interests swung wildly – from farmer (something about tilling the land, a vague desire for honest labour) to an academic (something about summers abroad and a vague desire for producing a social good). I think you had just written your LSATs. There were rumours of a DFAIT exam. We were lost.
I was twenty years old, but I had no idea what that meant. I thought nothing of my relative youth because youth was something that was so securely mine. Other things were in need of acquiring: discipline, respect, career, fame even. But youth, youth would never leave me. It would be mine now and forever. Or so the internal monologue went that spring.
Four years later, not much seems to have changed: I am still seeking solace in Sontag. But this time, I am with a college degree. I have finally paid off my student loans. I have written from Beirut and Bombay. I am wisdom tooth-free. I have fallen in love and I have fallen out of love.
In the same time, you went and got yourself a Master of Science (actual science kids are still pissed about that). If that isn’t a feat enough, you also spent a rose-tinted year in New York, moved to a foreign city, and did other incredible things like learn Photoshop (magic) and HTML (witchcraft).
The first half of my twenties was about positive freedom: the freedom from conditionalities, limits, restrictions. For me this meant new experiences in the form of traveling, meeting people, trying out things. But it also meant having no permanent address, no sense of cumulative success, and $25 in my savings account.
If the first five years had been about unmooring, I hope the next five will be about anchoring of kind.
Back to Sontag. In quoting Helvetius, she writes, “One becomes stupid as soon as one stops being passionate.”
I may never have a permanent address. I may never know cumulative success. I may also never find out what I want to be when I grow up. But I will always have passion and I will always have desire. And so will you. And this is a good thing. Happy birthday to us.
There is a month-old email in my inbox from Alex Gold. It consists of a 12-point ‘To Do’ list of things that must be done before we can officially launch gchatfortunecookie. Alex has finished all of his tasks. He finished weeks ago. He is just waiting for us.
May and I are both on the verge of 25, an age that arbitrary or not, seems like the official beginning of adulthood. Not the whoo-I-can-legally-drink-and-vote type of adulthood, but Capital-Letter-’A’ Adulthood. It’s the kind that involves real responsibilities to yourself, your family, society, etcetera. It’s the kind that terrifies us.
And yet, despite growing expectations to do something with our lives and a secular guardian angel offering to help us do it, May and I can’t help but procrastinate.
we need to write an ‘about us’ section for the site
you mean i have to be witty?
slash did you see shteyngart yet?
did he bring his weiner dog?
There is a month-old email in my inbox from Alex Gold, the man helping us turn our random snippets of absurd Gchat banter into something more. Alex believes our Gchats represent more than just May and I at our most honest and manic. He sees something generational and wants to grow it into a full site, maybe one day a zine, or more intimidatingly, an actual business. All of this makes Alex Gold at once the most dazzling and terrifying man I have ever met.
Alex is everything I hoped and sometimes still hope to be: he actually made it to law school (although if he’s partnering with people like us, I don’t know what good it did him); he’s actually been gainfully employed for over a year by a real profit-making company; and he once uttered the words “I don’t give a shit about the money.” (For the record, I totally give a shit about money.)
Meanwhile, THERE IS A MONTH-OLD EMAIL IN MY INBOX FROM ALEX GOLD AND I HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED THE FIRST TASK.
can we just write the about us page in emoticons?
Like most relationships these days, May met him through a friend she sat next to in a ‘Constructivism in the Middle East’ seminar. I have never met him at all except through Skype and the dizzying number of emails that he generates from his iPhones (plural) every day, each with action words and catchphrases.
who are you?
Minutes after May told Alex about our GCFC Tumblr, he bought the .com domain name and laid out a plan for worldwideweb media empire building.
what is this?
(devil) (angel) (beer)
May and I claim to want to be writers, to be thoughtful women of substance, but our understanding of what that means – what it looks and feels like and most importantly how to achieve it – remains vague.
where is this going?
Someone is handing us an opportunity pretty much on a silver platter, and yet I have almost negligible motivation to see it through? Where is my entrepreneurial spirit?
when did this begin?
(puke) (first year)
My immigrant drive?
My sense of survival?
let’s send this to alex
(he will faint)
There is a month-old email in my inbox from Alex Gold. He believes gchatfortunecookie offers something meaningful to the world, and therefore by proxy believes May and I, soon-to-be 25-year-old Adults, also have something meaningful to offer. This idea dazzles and terrifies me.
By Jenny Bahn
Time is like that shirt I keep putting in the dryer, convinced it doesn’t shrink, though it does every time, little by little. The hem rises, the sides pull in, the collar at the neck becomes unforgivably misshapen. The fibers grip onto each other and squeeze tight, and they do so with such a sneaky slightness that I wonder if I am imagining things, if the shirt didn’t look exactly this way when I bought it at a thrift store in California two years ago.
Two years ago.
February 11th, 2010.
I moved here in the middle of a violent blizzard, in one of the only planes making it out of Los Angeles in a series of panicked days, specifically those of a New York Fashion Week variety. Famous people wanting to sit front row. Stylists flying over to tease the hair of beautiful, overpaid fifteen year olds sitting in foldout chairs calling boyfriends in foreign countries. The entire plane filled with absurdly beautiful people and the occasionally famous.Me and Jared Leto and all of my old hopes to live a new life traveling on Virgin America flight 41.
February 11th, just yesterday. February 11th, forever ago.
Sometimes it feels like I was eleven years old just last Monday, listening to The Smashing Pumpkins in the back of my mom’s near-vintage Mercedes while she drove me to middle school. I’m still in the sixth grade and Valdas Karalis and I are standing in the middle of the road and he hands me the ruby red tie he wore to mass that day and I take it home and forget to give it back to him.
Time folds over on itself. Last year and three years ago and the ten years before, lights and darks and hand washables, thrown into some bastard washing machine while they bleed into one another, leeching logic out of everything.
I fill my palm with a sea foam goo and run it through my hair. It smells like being in Paris. It smells like standing in a bathroom looking in the mirror at a naïve and blissfully happy girl, toes wet from the lake of water that had spilled from the Parisian shower and onto the green tile floor. I am not yet twenty-seven and I am alone in a white hotel room waiting for someone to come home, but this time does not feel recent. No, this time does not feel recent at all.
I feel the weight of the bottle and worry about running out, not because I don’t have more but because this is The bottle, the one I purchased for the first time on that trip. It’s been with me since a time that feels as though it’s never happened at all. But the bottle is proof, I think, the bottle is proof that it did, and if I keep the bottle, the very same one, then I am not crazy, I am not insane. Here, the aftermath feels real. The event feels like a story I made up about a luckier girl and a colder winter.
I’m holding onto evidence. I’m keeping plastic bottles and ruby ties, salt and pepper shakers and nubs of white chalk because, for as long as I keep these things, time will not move. Time cannot be so far away, you see, because just yesterday I was standing in the middle of that street, just yesterday I was barefoot on that tile floor. I have proof, I say, and I hold these totems up with aging hands, doing my best to avoid the mirror’s argument.
Jenny Bahn is a writer and fashion model currently living in Brooklyn, New York. She writes for The Flip Collective and her own outlet titled Jenny B Loves You. She has two scripts and a series in development. We are proud to have her as the first gchatfortunecookie feature writer.
It was December 6, 2011. A Tuesday. According to the Internet, that day it reached a high of 3.7 degrees Celsius in Toronto and a low of -2 in Beijing. May had written me an email earlier in the week that closed with, “my moral compass wavers,” and now sent me a Gchat message that opened, “I AM WAITING FOR YOUR CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK.”
Our chat lasted for 44 minutes. We discussed, in no particular order: becoming trades women, maturing into monogamy, the future of the Indian race, and buying art vs doings arts & crafts. And then we typed out the words and actions to ‘Nsync. Somewhere in between our bitching and moaning and groaning and consoling and manic laughter, we came up with the idea for gchatfortunecookie. Here is our chat, redacted somewhat, although still exposing incredible truths.
May: do you remember us talking about being content vs. happy (or some variation thereof) at manpuku (or some variations thereof)? this is years back.
Miranda: i do. at the noodle place below the grange?
May: yes! okay so i have something revelatory to share
Miranda: ok i have to run to class soon.
May: okay! quick version. basically some people either like something or they don’t. if it’s a maybe, then it’s a no. whereas so much of my life is about not knowing. sooooo the point being, their life isn’t cluttered the way mine is. and it’s not about being happy vs. content. it’s just a state of mind. you could have accomplished nothing and still be happy. you could have ticked off everything on your monster to do list and still feel hollow. i now realized i have complicated my life far beyond the point of reason. this will not make me happy.
Miranda: i really gotta run but if given the choice between a simple lifestyle and yours, i’d choose yours hands down. life’s no fun when it’s defined entirely in black and white terms. the grey is where all the good stuff is. and certainty is overrated. i rest my case.
May: sigh. okay let me mull that over. you go off to learn chinese
Miranda: you mean: 学习汉语 tada!
May: that looks menacing. i hope you weren’t swearing at me
May: lolz back
Miranda: ok, i’ll go learn about squiggly lines, you go learn about life xoxox
Miranda: good luck to both of us
May: report back with highlights. same thing right? squiggly lines. life….
Miranda: wow, that’s like a fortune cookie right there. we could make a multibillion dollar biznass out of our gchats
Miranda: DOMAIN NAME IS AVAILABLE
May: PLEASE GRAB WE WOULD BE SO GOOD AT THIS
Miranda: now don’t you feel so much better about the future
May: funnily enough, i do. (not sure what that says about my mental state….)