I popped out after work this evening to run a few long-delayed errands, one of which found me rifling through my storage space down on Varick Street. During the course of same, I came across a huge box of photographs I'd stored in there sometime in 2003. For the hell of it, I grabbed a sizable handful of the envelopes therein and threw them in my bag, curious to see if there were any interesting shots that I'd forgotten about or that might be suitable for putting up here. As I was locking up, I glanced out the front window of the place and happened to catch the eye of my old friend RK, who happened to be walking by. I motioned for him to hold on a minute and went out to join him.
RK and I had recently exchanged e-mails with the intention of setting up an evening wherein to catch up and consume some beers, so it seemed like fate that we should be running into each other like this. After some rudimentary pleasantries, however, RK decided to get right to the meat of the matter. In no uncertain terms, RK wanted to emphatically express that he found many -- if not most -- of the things that I write here on this weblog, on Facebook and much of a decade's worth of entries I posted on the I Love Music discussion boards to be, in his own words, "deeply troubling." It was a little off-putting to hear this, but not entirely unexpected. RK has expressed similar objections to me before, but he took pains to point out that it was only because he knew me and counted me as a friend that he found the things I've written to be so "vexing." Over the next several blocks, we discussed some of the things I've written online that "annoy the fuck" out of him so much.
In a nutshell, RK believes that the things I have to say here and elsewhere are deeply entrenched in a fundamentally conservative perspective. Presumably knowing that said adjective irks me, he pointed out that he didn't mean that necessarily in a gun-totey, flag-wavey Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck kinda way, but by the literal definition of the term, i.e. that I write from a place that suggests that I firmly believe that things were better back at a certain point and that we've collectively lost something since then. I countered that there is inarguably an element of that in my writing, but that it was unfair to sweepingly categorize it that way.
In regards to my posts about the constantly-changing New York City, RK intoned that it seemed that all I was doing -- however eloquently at points -- was continually repeating that Manhattan was a better and cooler and more relevant place back when I was young, and wondered if I had anything else to say about it, being that people have been loudly engaging in this inarguably pointless activity since the dawn of time. I found this a somewhat hard point to argue, being that most of the things I post here about the city involve lamenting its gentrification, its transformation into an exclusive city of luxury and the dying embers and antiquated shrines of its once-thriving identity as a hotbed of the counterculture. Again, I'd like to think that there is a little more to my ruminations about the city than that, but I'm probably guilty as charged. I do firmly believe that this city is a less interesting place than it used to be and that it has indeed lost a vast swathe of its character. That all said, I still love it. You'll notice that I haven't pulled up stakes and abandoned it just yet (despite the many entreaties from various quarters to do just that). I continue to love New York, unsolicited facelift and all. If you think I'm swearily testy now, just wait `til I'm forced to move to some godforsaken suburb.
Regarding the topic of music, RK was more severe. Seemingly largely based on arguments I waged and needlessly volatile comments I made back on the afore-cited ILM boards that now date back several years, he accused me of being imperious, predictable and, well, ignorant in my narrow tastes and the exhortations of same. Fair enough, I suppose. If you do a search for posts by an "Alex in NYC" on ILM, you'll certainly unveil a slew of hot-tempered hyperbole and derision regarding a wide array of artists. In the instance of ILM, I probably did assume something of a persona when it came to expressing my opinions, but if anything, that was prompted by a need to counter some of the rapturously purple prose devoted to certain artists (usually pop acts). In a way, I suppose I felt it was my duty to be something of a contrarian -- however cartoony that duty inarguably went on to paint me.
Honestly, this many years after the fact, I'm not all that concerned about the things I may have written on ILM. At the time, most of those comments were composed in the dead of night during the quiet hours of my dreary overnight shifts at the TIME Magazine news desk. I don't necessarily retract the things I said, but the flowery language I utilized to express both my zeal and ire were never intended to be taken very seriously. I believed then as I believe now that nothing you read about another person's opinion about music should ruin your day. I'm not suggesting that music isn't important, I'm merely supporting that old cliche that opinions are like assholes... everybody has one.
In my defense, I do listen to and follow music that was made after 1987, and not all of it is guitar-based rock played by angry white guys (although, to be fair, most of my recent posts about music here regard that sorta stuff). I'm not going to pretend to still be able to keep track of what's new and cutting edge. I barely recognize a third of the names I see regularly cited on Pitchfork. I certainly find more stuff to read about on the unashamedly retro Slicing Up Eyeballs than I do on Brooklyn Vegan. I continue to write about new artists for the "Goings On About Town" section of The New Yorker, but I simply can't help it if my imagination is more fired by certain bands from older eras than by more of today's music. I'm not going to rage against that dying of the light. I have no intention of trying to be the old guy at the hipster bar.
In any case, after a very lengthy discussion with few punches pulled, RK confirmed that these points were not meant to be interpreted as some kind of character assassination, but he truly believed that I needed to re-address and reconsider some of the things I've been saying. Personally speaking, I can't see why an admittedly dismissive comment I made in passing on Facebook about Sheryl Crow and Michael Jackson should get him so riled up, but perhaps that's exactly my problem. I put a lot of stock in what my friend has to say, as his knowledge is pretty encyclopedic and his carefully-chosen words are viscerally articulate. By the same token, I don't think I've ever claimed to be any sort of authority on these things. I'm just expressing my opinions based on my own taste and experience. Coming across as humorlessly haughty or unwarrantedly critical or closed-minded & hostile is decidedly not the impression I'm striving to make here. Moreover, if I've suggested that people who do not share my tastes, perceptions, sensibilities and opinions are stupid and/or worthy of ridicule (or worse), then I've been way out of line. If I have come across this way (y'know, to readers other than my buddy RK), then let me apologize. I'm a perfectly fallible, self-contradicting hypocrite just like everyone else. I'm sorry if I've offended.
I was going to start going through the pictures in the afore-cited box from storage, but I've sorta lost the taste for it this evening. Maybe look for those soon. Incidentally, the image at the top of this post comes from the sleeve art of the single, "Mask," by the Californian industrial duo, Babyland. It was recorded in 1991 and I still listen to it today.