Woke up this morning to read a post by Enrique at a:456 and was amazed just how precisely he had nailed what’s been on my mind for the last two weeks.
Twenty years ago I was moving to the city to study architectural design (yes, at Columbia. Over that summer I came to realize that the music I was listening to (and, at the time, making) was giving me so much more than the formalist architecture of the day ever could. Unlike Enrique, I was a disappointed by Daydream Nation: my album was Sister. But Sonic Youth was still so important to reading the city as were other noise bands like Live Skull (and reading books like Gravity’s Rainbow…a whole summer of Gravity’s Rainbow). And at Sonic Youth’s CBGBs concert that summer I was right up against the stage the entire time. I remember thinking that the song Schizophernia in particular was much less about an individual and much more about a city and a world…this was, after all, still very much the postmodern moment.
As Enrique points out, New York was as dirty a city as could be that summer, gripped in a crack epidemic, and heading for riot that would end all that. Soon, like Ulysses, I’d be back to Ithaca where I’d do a Ph.D. and somehow try to understand what all that meant. And no matter how great the city is now and no matter how nostalgic it is to say this, I really wish the city was dirty again. There was a potential then that has been exhausted by architecture.