clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, March 01, 2004
Some people say that New York get craziest when it gets hot, but that's not what I've seen. When it gets really hot you just don't want to move, let alone run around the city. Sure, it's good to hang around outside and get some air, but something about the thought of moving a few feet to make a pass at someone, let alone putting in a lot of physical exertion inches away from another person's hot, fetid breath (or, Christ, to make your way to a packed bar via stuffy subway or filthy cab and squeeze through the sweaty crowd to get to the person in the first place) just sounds like the worst idea ever. Which is not to say it doesn't happen, but it sure doesn't make it more likely to happen.

Partially this seems to be because of New York's atmosphere. If you haven't had the pleasure, the thing about the summer air in the city is that it isn't just hot, isn't just humid, isn't just sticky, but dirty. It's sort of like getting misted with lard and rolling around a vacant lot and then standing up and walking around for a while so it works its way into your crevasses and hair and clothes. You could be the cleanest single thing in existence, showered, shaved, toweled off, put in a decontamination chamber and had every stray particle picked off with tweezers, but the moment you stuck your head out the window, you look like a block of Spam: gently quivering and covered in a sheen of goo. Sure, when it's in the high 70s and low 80s, you don't get this effect as much, but it seems like for the last few summers it's been either raining or in the 90s for a solid three months, and then you just can't avoid the sand-and-Crisco effect.

Granted, this is partially a recent phenomenon--all you have to do is compare the hot-and-sticky blackout of the 00s with the hot-and-sticky blackouts of the 60s and 70s to see that people didn't always react to heat this way. Maybe it's something about air conditioning being more widespread. But regardless, people don't seem to get crazy primarily in really hot weather anymore.

No, as far as I can tell, New York is at its craziest when the weather suddenly shifts from cold to warm, as it did this weekend. It makes absolutely no sense, but just because all of a sudden you don't have to have your entire face wrapped in wool to go outside without having your follicles paralyzed by frost folks think it's a good idea to expose roughly 75% of their surface area to the all-of-52-degrees elements. On a certain level, I understand that we're so starved for niceness that we want to soak it all up as quickly as possible, but on another level I can't help thinking that if it were this temperature in October, you'd have at least two extra layers on.

But of course it's not just the clothes: it's the whole attitude that seems crazy, and when you walk around on a night like this (in the Village or Washington Heights or even Bushwick, where I was Saturday) everyone is running around like teenagers, and the teenagers are roaming like packs of wild dogs. Girls and gay boys aren't just wearing next to nothing, they're strutting; a lot of times in the city you'll see people dressed ridiculously but still kind of hurrying from one place to another, trying not to be noticed, but when the warm weather busts out--and this happens four or five times every winter--the walking is half the fun, the display is as good as the act. And the straight boys--good lord, the straight boys are looking to fuck everything that moves, even me, except they don't want to fuck me, they want to do what straight boys want to do to boys when they can't fuck them, so I did a lot of walking around with my head down.

It's not just the usual charged atmosphere that's around on summer nights four days of the week, it's a sort of collective mania, a delusion not just about the actual on-your-skin temperature, but about the reality of the city we live in, its relative safety and its actual weather patterns and its institutional loneliness. When the air feels like this, it doesn't matter, and that's nice.

I didn't listen to much music at all this weekend, mostly because I left my headphones at work on Friday. But, in a way, I didn't have to, because this was the feeling I'd want to get from it anyway. The attitude in the air when the thermometer mysteriously slipped from 25 to 45 overnight was exactly what great music feels like, especially pop music: sexy, welcoming, exciting, delusional, full of possibility, and dangerous, like it could make you do something you shouldn't. It feels open and occupied, not like a blank page on which you can write whatever you want (a terrifying prospect to many, as I need not attest) but like a perfect concert where everyone sings together at the top of their lungs to music they all love, or like an ideal race where everyone is running just because they have to, because their legs just want to do it, to burn off energy and run whooping with a mass of other bodies all bumping into each other but all propelled in the same direction toward the same nameless thing. It doesn't feel like the mystical singer-singing-just-for-you effect, but like we're all doing something and we're all excited about it and the excitement just feeds and feeds. Great music, great art, coupled with the enveloping and propelling cultural context, really feels like something we're all doing together. Even when it's just you and your headphones, that ultimate isolation among a crowd, you can feel it, you can feel everyone else listening, almost hear their yells and their singing in the background of the music, and there on that quiet train you can stomp your feet and bop your head and it feels just like that, just like strutting around a vast city with pretty people on the first warm day in months.

That's what great comedy, the most true comedy, feels like, too. It opens up possibilities and it includes everyone. It gets everyone together and it tells them stories that might be true in a way that will get them to go out and make them true. Comedy is delusional because in our constructed world appearance and assumption can easily become reality, and when you know something is true and bad and can never be changed, you're just going to have to pretend that it's not, and then maybe it won't be. "Hey Ya!" or "Love Me For a Little While" or "I Want To Hold Your Hand" or "Sweet Child O' Mine" or "Kiss" is the soundtrack to love and sex and drinking and drugs, yes, but also to believing in something stupid hard enough that it starts to become a little true.

And that's what I fucking want out of what I listen to, and what I read, and what I watch. That's the feeling I want, and I get it a lot, oh yes I do.

But I want it MORE.