I’m killing time before meeting Zeke and Lucas at Juilliard and since there’s really nothing else on the Upper West Side except Empire Hotel and PJ Clarke’s, I resort to the restaurant inside of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. I walk in as Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know the Better” plays. Probably no matter how much time passes, I will always associate it with my ex listening to it at our old apartment on a gigantic speaker that had the shape and girth of a tit. But at least as I look over the menu, Mazzy Star’s “Cry Cry” bears no associations to anything other than my general mindset at all times.
I order the soup of the day, red bean topped with pesto, I’m told. This place seems ideal for sitting alone, like it was built specifically with the loner in mind. The locale where serious filmgoers see movies about the futility of life. But I have no time to see a movie, I have to be at the Alice Tully Theater by 7:20 to pick up my ticket to see Zeke’s poems performed in an operatic sort of way with a backing orchestra of Juilliard students. It’s all very unclear.
“Don’t Give Up” by Washed Out feels cruel in sentiment when, for the most part, that’s all anyone wants to do in New York. That’s actually what Zeke and his constant roommate, Lucas, are about to do in another month when they move to Berlin, which I’m afraid to return to due to an outstanding unpaid fine for riding the train without paying for a ticket. You know how efficient Germans are–they would probably know the second I entered their country–from the mere scanning of my passport, then descend upon me to make an arrest.
“Vcr” by The xx again brings my thoughts back to “the one that got away,” who recently tweeted that the latest album of theirs put a cap on a certain phase of his life, meaning the one with me in it. I, on the other hand, just tend to listen to it ad nauseum and wish I could see them perform at Forest Hills Stadium in May. The soup arrives and it doesn’t look topped with pesto by any means. It’s orange with a red blob at the center. I’m on the wagon at the moment, so my area looks rather bare bones without a drink other than water.
“Walk in the Park” by Beach House makes my cares melt away as soon as I spoon some of the soup into my body. The song harkens back to a certain era of Brooklyn that can never be re-created again. I guess no era can, except those of a particularly oppressive nature (Nazis, alt-right–that sort of re-creation). Frankie Rose, too, conjures memories of peak North Brooklyn living, explicitly Greenpoint. “Minor Times” feels like a downplaying way to describe the year it came out: 2013. A title such as this would be more fitting for the present, in my opinion.
Midlake’s “Young Bride” is another attempt to cut me to the quick as I will never be young again, nor will I be a bride (even though it is one of my greatest fantasies to walk down the aisle wearing a black Vera Wang dress from the Fall 2012 collection–incidentally around the time I met him). Once again, Tame Impala comes on, and again, this particular band sounds louder than all the others. The taunting “‘Cause I’m A Man” is a song I used to enjoy, but now just makes my skin crawl with irritation that “I’m a man” is a way to somehow excuse being an asshole. Women don’t just get to be bitches–not without losing a significant amount of dick over it.
An old woman by herself–my future constantly beckoning to me–sits down to my right with a copy of Bill Buford’s Heat. I wonder what prompted her to choose this of all things to read, if there was any amount of calculatedness to it or if it was a random pick. The ironic “Cheerleader” by Grizzly Bear heightens the somberness of beholding this solo woman who is me if I make it out of my sixties alive. I hope I can at least afford to live on the fucking Upper West Side by that time. Or will it all be the dystopian ruins of where someone blew up Trump International Tower?
I know I’m going to have to stay at Indie another little while, so I order olives and cheese in spite of not being finished with my soup, still somehow hot. The old woman finally opens her book, thumbing through it in search of where she left off to the tune of Air’s “Playground Love,” of which there is often too much.
The server brings her a glass of white wine as Papercuts’ “You Can Have What You Want” narrates the scene. And she probably can have what she wants all the time. Her life must be filled with leisure and misery, just like mine. More Beach House comes in the form of “Used to Be”–this playlist is all nostalgia, which my existence already has enough of. Why must it be so difficult–require so much conscientious effort–to live in the present?
M83’s “Midnight City,” the only song that anyone really knows by them, is next. I briefly think of Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green wearing an MC5 shirt on Friends (similar band names, you know). I feel like Rachel would never listen to MC5, it’s just not who her character is. An Asian man with glasses and a fur coat joins me to the left. We’re making quite a crowd, us line of loners relegated to the bar space facing a wall, like modern dunces without need of wearing the hat.
Tame Impala’s “Eventually” booms over the speakers. It’s fucking thunderous. This has to be Tame Impala Radio. And while I’ve listened to them while in romantic and sexual situations with others since the aforementioned ex, still–still–it’s him that comes to mind. The song assures, “But I know that I’ll be happier, and I know you will too/Eventually.” I’m guessing eventually is going to come any day now. This mound of olives in the bowl is getting impossible to make a dent in, though I can’t imagine I’ve consumed any less than about thirty. The cheese, conversely, is gone in roughly three bites.
The playlist takes a sharp turn in comparison to what’s been playing with its sudden offering of Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime.” It’s a song that always seems to play in movies about suburbanites having an epiphany about how wrong their life has gone. The Upper West Side is the closest thing to a suburban setting in this city for a similar epiphany, one supposes.
Continuing the increasing shift in gear, “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club succeeds Talking Heads. Of course, it’s better known to most as the song Mariah Carey sampled from for “Fantasy.” Maybe now that it’s “a certain hour,” the powers that be of the restaurant are attempting to bring a tone of levity to Monday. All I know is that I’ll never eat all of these olives. Like credit card debt, the mound will just have to stay there. I ask for my check, pre-aware that the price is going to be disproportionately exorbitant.
After I get my card back, I take one last look at the old woman reading. It’s forever 1981 from her vantage point. And maybe mine, too.
Tame Impala-“The Less I Know the Better”
Mazzy Star-“Cry Cry”
Washed Out-“Don’t Give Up”
Beach House-“Walk in the Park”
Frankie Rose-“Minor Times”
Tame Impala-“‘Cause I’m A Man”
Papercuts-“You Can Have What You Want”
Beach House-“Used to Be”
Talking Heads-“Once In A Lifetime”
Tom Tom Club-“Genius of Love”