25 February 2005

The Great iPod Swindle...

Well I'm buying a new iPod tomorrow, my third, and the only advice I can give to you (as a professional iPod purchaser?) is: if you have a mini, sell it.

I bought a mini for $230 as a present to myself for retaking the GRE in early December. Took the test at 5, was at the Apple Store in SoHo by 8:30. To South America it went. I listened to all "1000 songs" (650) by about day 12, and I always regretted not picking up another 20gb (my 2nd generation iPod broke this summer after I got sick of stepping on it and dropping it). But when I got back, the mini really came into its own. At the gym it is flawless, running its incredible. And the belt clip is like a 21st century fanny pack but I dig it. In essence, its perfect. It only does 8 hours to the charge, which my friends will admit is half a Manhattan day, but I read. So this morning I sold it.

Yesterday I got up at 9 to find out the new minis have come out. They're the same. But they have 18 hours of battery life (a full workday!) and they're $179 with a student ID. My old roommate Kevin called on this thing called Skype, talking from his computer in a single voice while mine echoed ominously and with a weird delay (like bad satellite feed) to the other side of the Atlantic. While he talked I typed, listing my 2 month old mini on Ebay with a $100 reserve; a day-long auction where I hoped to beat the news of the new iPod's release and hopefully get $150 toward a new improved identical mini. The auction closed this morning, and it fetched $221. A teenage girl in Utah. God bless her. After she won the auction she emailed to ask me, "How many Mega bits does it hold?" Isn't that precious.?

So the moral of this story is, sell your used junk for new junk. And keep the change.

In other news, my friend Pat lost his Genesis "I Can't Dance" cassette single when his GPX Sports waterproof Walkman ate it. If you could send him a Rubix cube, it'll cheer him up. He'll be in his bedroom munchin' on Boo Berry and watching Dinosaurs on TGIF.

23 February 2005

Che Guevara Didn't Have Two Blogs.

So I opened up a fresh blog this week, one with a simple theme. It can be found at the top link on the right, and should be updated fairly frequently. It documents a trip I took to South America. But not like a travelogue, just some thoughts that complement the photographs I took scuttling across the southern part of the continent. The blog itself is an experiment in 2nd person narration. Told chronologically. How exciting...

The pictures featured on the blog were taken with a Canon S500 at 5 megapixels. Each one is at least 2mb. If you find one particularly appealing and would like a copy, email me and I will pass it along. Flickr just doesn't do them justice.

I visited Argentina for 10 days, Uruguay for 2, Chile for 8 and Peru for 7. Enough time for a brisk stride from place to place, a sampling of hors d'oeuvres from a silver tray carried by a thousand waiters. I traveled with my friend Danielle from high school and college. When two former state champion* long distance runners get together, distance is of no concern. And this trip was all about distance. As a reference, here's the enormity of the trip measured out in its transit itinerary.

Begins at JFK, 12.29.04
Plane to Buenos Aires (13 hours).
Ferry to Uruguay (2 hours).
Bus through Uruguay (3 hours), to Colonia (to rent a Thrifty Car Rental golf cart, legal on most roads).
Ferry back to Buenos Aires (3 hours).
Plane to Patagonia, Argentina (3.5 hours).
Rental Car to Perito Moreno National Park (7 hours roundtrip).
Bus to Mendoza, Argentina (53 hours).
Bicycle to Wineries (5km).
Bus to Santiago, Chile (7 hours).
Bus to Valparaiso, Chile (2 hours).
Bus to Arica, Chile (29 hours).
1982 Crown Victoria to Peruvian Border, then to Tacna, Peru (45 minutes).
Bus to Puno, Peru (11 hours).
Bus to Cusco, Peru (10 hours).
Horses to Incan ruins (2 hours).
Bus and train to Machu Picchu (3 hours).
Train and bus back to Cusco (3 hours).
Bus to Lima (20 hours).
Plane to New York, by way of Raleigh, NC because of a blizzard that shut down LaGuardia (35 hours).
Ends at LaGuardia, 1.24.05

I'll post the rest of my "South America Stats" throughout the week. It will prove to very stimulating to a very large portion of my audience.


*she was a member of the 1996 Queensbury Girls Cross Country State Champions, or should we say, an official state champion. I was a member of the Queensbury Boys Track 1600 meter relay team that placed 6th at the 1998 State Championships. Which is technically "Nothing."

22 February 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, RIP

I read Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, The Rum Diaries, Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail, and half of Hell's Angels. I was reading pages of a copy of Hell's Angels my roommate Nick had received for a birthday present in early 2001. He lost it on a snowboarding trip to Vermont. I never bothered to finish it and never felt I needed to. I'd moved on.

But some things from 2001 I haven't moved on from: Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, espresso, The Op-Ed section of The New York Times, Pilot Precise-V's, and Curt Schilling, are all still important to me. What makes a mind with whom you have shared a dialogue as intimate as the reader-writer connection suddenly become silent? It is a priviledge to be at a stage in my life where answers are rather useless weapons, where questions can form an arsenal of their own.

But I ran out of questions for Hunter S. Thompson a long time ago. You have to quarrel with truth; it seemed we had nothing left to fight over. It hadn't started out that way.

I have influenced very few people with my reading choices over the years, but by senior year I'd managed to get a dozen acquaintances to read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in anticipation of the movie release. My paperback copy alone was read by five people. By my last few days of high school, his book had gone from a jungle of blue-veined sentences barely contained in a pale paperback skin, to a piece of literature people said they were reading. This I discovered was both essential to being an engaged reader and dangerous to anyone who truly loves books. "It's tough to get into," is what my friend Jamie told me the last time I saw my copy. I learned much from Hunter S. Thompson, but one thing in particular: that books could be fashion accessories. I shop at H & M. I wear this Hunter S. Thompson book out. It's my summer "book." Reading Eugenides, American Psycho, Fight Club, Stephenson, right up through Foster Wallace and Delillo, among many many others, is perfectly fine. What one should be cautious of is people who are perpetually reading these books, telling you not because they want to open a dialogue but because it complements them so well. Hunter S. Thompson suffers from this, he's fashionable attire. I often wonder if my friend Jamie, saddled with the obligation of having to read an effortlessly readable book, has ever hacked his way passed page 4. But I can't tell you how many times I overheard him say, "I'm reading Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas." You probably still are.

I saw Hunter S. Thompson briefly, from a half-football field distance, at a book signing he did at the Union Square Barnes and Noble exacly a year ago. It was by accident that I happened to be at the right place at the right time, and it was curiosity that kept me there long enough to catch a glimpse of him. The announcements before the signing were beauracratic and dull. "You must have a wrist band. You must have a copy of Kingdom of Fear. The author will not be signing any other books or memorabilia." The line to have a book signed was treacherous, but rarely are any lines in Manhattan small affairs. He said very little. I don't remember any of what he said, and am not ashamed. Throughout the signing I stood next to a scholarly older man in black rimmed glasses, a few books underneath his arm. "Look at this asshole. He's a fucking advertisement for himself. He invented himself." The man stood and watched as long as I did, visibly agitated. I have no idea why. But its incredible to see a writer of books provoke real live swear words just by his vague presence in a room.

Listen. Hero worship is a one-way street. And the prospect of having to face the death of one's idols is not as daunting as I'd like to believe. The majority of great works by great men are easily relegated to their pages, their canvases, their scores. Effortlessly. That's the way it should be. Most of my heroes, and I'm hardly alone in this, have been corpses to me. Thompson was alive and now he's dead.

And there may come a time when I have to contemplate the death of others I admire: Woody Allen, Updike, McCartney, Dylan, Jordan, Clinton, Didion, Vonnegut, Letterman. Whether the work of these men and women continue to inspire is the testament to a truly profound relationship between master and audience. As an audience however, we pull entirely from the past. If the past is populated with art we no longer praise but use merely as a measure of comparison, are we in any way less indebted to it? Again, I have no answers.

Hunter S. Thompson is one of the first idols I have had whose personality I could never contain inside of his work. What he did for the author-figure in fiction is worth commenting on, and the effects are irreversible. His legacy is part of the legacy of all great public figures who've chosen to be a persona in spite of yet in context with their art. Their immediacy may stretch decades only by anecdote, but these figures are just as potent to us as those long dead to their works. We speak of his novels, yet he was by trade a journalist. Journalists are not supposed to have partisanship or bias. Thompson had a dozen catch-phrases. He was always on one side: his.

What Thompson wanted us to do was be a conscious audience, which none of us want to be; the man doesn't let us suspend our disbelief. Thompson creates a pageantry where: journalism is one more gimmick in his bag of tricks, fiction is always on the edge of reality, and dialogue is eavesdropping. We get "Gonzo Journalism," to describe him. This is a phrase that to me sounds more like "Power Pop" or "Post-Structuralism" or "Docu-drama." Places where no emerging creative mind would want to set foot. A dead fad where one name lives. He's more than that. He's part of my education. I don't miss him but I know where we stand.

I'll leave you with my favorite obituary, from Giblets of "Fafblog!"

"HUNTER THOMPSON IS NOT DEAD."

"Don't believe their filthy lies. Giblets saw the Good Doctor with his own two eyes just a few hours ago, heading north in the White Whale. He said he was headed up to heaven to shoot God. "The great bastard's in season and it's long overdue," the Godfather of Gonzo said as he dusted off his elephant gun. "I have full reason to believe they will award me both the head and the tail. Expect me back by the apocalypse." Good hunting, Doctor Thompson. You'll be missed."

19 February 2005

666 Artists, 1001 Albums, 11,715 Songs, 31.4 Days.

I broke the 1000 albums mark on my iTunes Library today with the “purchase” of the new Chris Rock album, Never Scared. Although I won’t be reviewing it here (best moment: “K-Rock, nothing but white rap and Lenny Kravitz”) I have to say that my collection is too much music for any one person. I scanned the enormity of it this morning, cleaning up some duplicate songs, fixing some misspellings, etc. I realized doing this that because I sent home all of my “actual” CDs to my father, I missed a few albums when I uploaded them. Like maybe 50. Joni Mitchell’s Blue? Liz Phair’s Whip Smart? Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia? How could I have done this?

When I visit friends I try to upload an album or two a visit, to keep my listening options fresh and to have a central location (my 200GB external drive) to store all the best music I’d like to listen to in the future. I’m about 600 albums behind, but I also haven’t come close to picking up everything from everybody. Pat’s collection has been dabbled from but never taken as a whole. Bess’s, Derrick’s, Danielle’s, the list goes on… Josh has Hip Hop from the early 90s that’s out of print, and who knows where Max’s CDs are, probably just a little “astern” from the bottom of the Hudson River (he lives on a sinking ship).

Jaron, my good friend from Boston, visited for about 20 hours yesterday. I slept for none of them, and I will say that’s proof of a successful visit. At a bar last night Jaron opened his overnight bag and changed outfits twice. His traveling case for his CDs popped out and Max and I looked at the choices. Nothing I don’t have, is what I thought. Max was quick to point out a curio that iPods and digital storage has rendered obsolete: booklets. Jaron travels not just with CDs but with their liner notes. Max made a comment, impressed: “Just in case you need to know who engineered track 8?”

Booklets without printed lyrics are all the rage. I opened up one of the few albums I do have lying around (Beck’s Sea Change) and noticed the pretension of printing 6 or 7 colorful pages. I’m sure Beck is “consciously commenting on the uselessness of gatefold booklets,” but I will say this: most music is better off without them. Reissues and boxed sets should come with booklets, because everyone loves a little historicizing nostalgia. But a Linkin Park album with pages of contrasting metallic swirls and crap like that? Gimme an iPod shuffle.

No seriously, give me one.

And while I was typing this my father calls, and the following exchange occurs:

Dad: Hey, I’ve been burning* some of your CDs. Have you ever heard Westing?
Mark: You mean the Pavement album?
D: Yeah its really great! I like it better than Slanted and Enchanted! It’s really inventive and unusual stuff. I really like Box Ends**. Do you have a copy of that?
M: (consults library) Nope. You do.
D: Oh, then I’ll burn you a copy and send it down.
*his term for copying, downloading, uploading, and storing.
**Box Elder


If you ever need an album I might have it, and would be glad to pass it along. Whatever I don’t have, you can call my old man. And if you have a Mac and are passing through the New York metropolitan area, I’m the cheapest record store in town. Anyway, here are some fun iTunes Facts from the Library SO FAR...

Most Albums by Genre:
-Rock: 299
-Alternative & Punk: 273
-Jazz: 102
-Hip Hop: 75
-R&B: 71

Most Artists by Genre:
-R&B: 185
-Alternative & Punk: 110
-Rock: 107
-Jazz: 58
-Blues: 56

Most Albums, Single Artist:
-The Beatles: 37
-Bob Dylan: 28
(-tie) Miles Davis & Radiohead: 21
-The Rolling Stones: 20
-(tie) Bjork, REM, Frank Sinatra : 15 (each)

Most Songs, Single Artist:
-The Beatles: 507
-Bob Dylan 305
-Frank Sinatra 273
-The Rolling Stones: 217
-The Who 215
-Miles Davis 185
-Radiohead 168
-Blur 150
-David Bowie 146
-The Kinks 144

Most Popular Letters, Out of 11,715 Songs
-E: 11.676
-R: 11.373
-O: 11,331
-T: 11,309
-A: 11,303

Least Popular Letter, Out of 11,715 Songs
-Q: 419
-X: 1223
-Z: 1728
-J: 3018
-F: 4986

Percentage of Songs featuring the word “Featuring” categorized as Hip Hop:
71%

17 February 2005

On Films That Time Should Try Harder To Forget.

Today I watched a film in my "20th Century Italian Women Writers" class. I have always had the good fortune to select courses where no beautiful women will ever find themselves. Hell, I'll go so far as to say the occasional half-attractive gay man doesn't concern himself with my choice of curriculum. I have always faulted the English department for this, and have started to wonder if its both the subject and my peculiar interests within it. This semester was precisely the same as every other here at Hunter College until I walked into this one. Its a literature course but not an English class. It's offered by both the Italian and Comparative Literature departments, and with CL being my intended area of graduate study, I apparently (though this is premature) have a lot to look forward to. The class is composed of 4 strange looking men and more than a dozen attractive 20th Century Italian Women. I always had this theory that men with no particular interests or ambitions choose professions based on where there exists the strongest possibility of meeting attractive women. Although I have other priorities, I would be perfectly content with taking this class until I'm 62.

But we watched a movie today, and my main problems with it were few but essential to anyone striving to enjoy something on a screen. No context was given other than "This is what Italy was like in the early part of the 20th Century." I learned a lot, but I left the film asking more questions than I felt were answered. The characters were few but I couldn't figure out how they all knew each other. Some were related only by the fact that they slept in the same house and occasionally ate (what I think was) bread together. Things happened for no reason. And a panel discussion that resembled a 700 Club episode from the mid-80s would randomly interrupt the decaying black and white misery that was rural Italy. Or still is. Who knows. Oh, and the film was in Italian. But I suppose that didn't matter much, because I think they were speaking peasant Italian. Which sounds a lot like leaves blowing around. Anyway, it was incredibly informative and enlightening, even if I don't really know how to apply that enlightenment. Go see it, although I don't know the title, when it was made, where it was shot, who directed it, or if it was a film or a commercial for corn meal and death. Despite all these things, its my movie pick of the mid-afternoon. One gangrenous ring finger up.

REVIEW:

"Tomorrow you will have real cheese," the older man at the dinner table says to his son or child slave, in his only distinguishable line. A better line perhaps would have been,"Eat your cubed thingy that looks like bread but that I cut with a piece of string," The man has passed down his expression of asthmatic longing to this smaller person. The boy's face is a principle setting for most of the film's action. Beyond this, various truths are revealed about the culture of Italy. Life in Italy was hard and poorly lit, and you cannot deny ________'s attempt to portray this, cinematically, at every opportunity.

Perhaps you've been to Italy. You've never been here. The people are white and scuffed like the bottoms of doors. No one speaks in complete sentences. When times are especially tough some of the luckier people die. The living wrap the dead loosely in sheets (so they can be reused), place them on a table, and sit around the corpse wishing they were looking at food. Praying doesn't help, but they do it anyway.

All the girls look like boys and all the boys look like mud. Nothing is plentiful except despair. Just before we return to the slightly colorful 80s to speak in faster, well-nourished Italian, a pivotal scene takes place. The shepherd is not paying attention to the sheep, but instead carving nothing into an old tree stump. He looks happy but it may just be a stain on the film. His sheep do something bad. No moral is learned, but through a series of events (I won't give them away because I dont understand them!) we learn of The Food Chain of Misery. The sheep eat the poisoned grass, the people eat the poisoned sheep, and guilt eats the poisoned people.

This would deal a heavy blow to Italy if they had any use for pride. But whatever pride they do possess is turned into bad bread. Guilt is their only possession until late in the film, when just as the crippling depression and horror cannot possibly subside, it begins to snow. The men digging holes in the ground stop briefly to look. They may be thinking about why they're digging holes, what these holes are for (your bodies you idiots!), or if life will be happier in the future. But the snow tells them nothing, and the film that has passed before our eyes can tell us even less.

15 February 2005

Listmania Part Two.

So this is the movie list, hastily compiled three hours after the deadline for submissions to Bryan's Movie Top 200 had passed. I won't say this is as definitive, because I probably forgot every decent film i've seen, but I like it and I share it. So here it is...

FILMS I REMEMBER SEEING.
1. manhattan
2. talk to her
3. touch of evil
4. back to the future
5. cries and whispers
6. duck soup
7. on the waterfront
8. eyes wide shut
9. roger and me
10. the general
11. casablanca
12. dr strangelove
13. network
14. pee wee’s big adventure
15. the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie
16. city of god
17. 8 1/2
18. vertigo
19. buena vista social club
20. scenes from a marriage
21. greed
22. rushmore
23. red
24. pinnochio
25. a night at the opera
26. chinatown
27. the agronomist
28. in the company of men
29. his girl friday
30. citizen kane
31. singin in the rain
32. being there
33. birth of a nation
34. the graduate
35. animal house
36. general idi amin dada
37. straw dogs
38. the bank dick
39. mean streets
40. the empire strikes back
41. shakespeare in love
42. the 400 blows
43. sex and lucia
44. the producers
45. y tu mama tambien
46. magnolia
47. breakfast at tiffany’s
48. a woman under the influence
49. stardust memories
50. reservoir dogs
51. being john malkovich
52. the firemen’s ball
53. night of the living dead
54. the french connection
55. don’t look back
56. the philadelphia story
57. gone with the wind
58. the grand illusion
59. the professional
60. this is spinal tap
61. happiness
62. modern times
63. the postman always rings twice
64. beetlejuice
65. capturing the friedmans
66. the third man
67. last tango in paris
68. the good the bad and the ugly
69. an affair to remember
70. one flew over the cuckoos nest
71. seven years bad luck
72. strictly ballroom
73. the jerk
74. safety last!
75. a streetcar named desire
76. barfly
77. patton
78. west side story
79. bottle rocket
80. goldfinger
81. blood of a poet
82. do the right thing
83. life of brian o’connor
84. ghostbusters
85. the motorcycle diaries
86. nothing sacred
87. blow up
88. pink narcissus
89. escape from new york
90. la belle noiseuse
91. crumb
92. rumblefish
93. I was a male war bride
94. the virgin suicides
95. ferris bueller’s day off
96. top gun
97. blood simple
98. gimme shelter
99. the insider
100. mitchell

13 February 2005

Listmania Part One.

My friend Bryan has this thingy on his website, the QHS Top 200, which among many other accomplishments creates a definitive list of the greatest albums ever made. He took nine lists and held them in his divine palm, then presto! One List. And although I bow down to the glory of the List, am humbled by It, and acknowledge it to be the one true List, I feel compelled to post mine in the hopes of seeing everyone else's complete list. Or maybe just Pat's. On a BLOG!.

I have a feeling some changes are in store for this thing over the next few months, so I'm posting it now as a sort of "remember back in the day..." Only minor changes from the list I submitted for the QHS 2004.

100 ALBUMS.
1. Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
2. Beatles, Abbey Road
3. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
4. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
5. Bjork, Homogenic
6. James Brown, Live at the Apollo
7. A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory
8. Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours
9. Radiohead, Kid A
10. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
11. Miles Davis, E.S.P.
12. The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street
13. Stevie Wonder, Innervisions
14. Nas, Illmatic
15. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited
16. John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band
17. Ornette Coleman, The Shape Of Jazz To Come
18. The Stooges, Fun House
19. Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
20. Orchestra Baobab, Pirate’s Choice
21. Blind Willie McTell, Atlanta Twelve String
22. Nirvana, Nevermind
23. CAN, Tago Mago
24. Funkadelic, Maggot Brain
25. Led Zeppelin 1
26. Joni Mitchell, Blue
27. Michael Jackson, Thriller
28. Beck, Odelay!
29. Bill Cosby, …Is A Very Funny Fellow, Right!
30. The Velvet Underground, White Light White Heat
31. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP
32. Pavement, Slanted And Enchanted
33. OutKast, Stankonia
34. Chuck Berry, The Great Twenty-Eight
35. The Strokes, Room On Fire
36. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
37. Manhattan, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
38. Jay-Z, The Black Album
39. Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else
40. David Bowie, Hunky Dory
41. Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique
42. Portishead, Dummy
43. Johnny Cash, …At Folsom Prison
44. The Clash
45. Buena Vista Social Club
46. Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The 36 Chambers
47. Public Enemy, Fear Of A Black Planet
48. Dexter Gordon, Go
49. The Kinks, …Are The Village Green Preservation Society
50. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland
51. U2, War
52. Al Green, I’m Still In Love With You
53. The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols
54. Oasis, Definitely Maybe
55. Patti Smith, Horses
56. The White Stripes, De Stijl
57. Neil Young, After The Gold Rush
58. Slint, Spiderlands
59. Supergrass, In It For The Money
60. The Who, Who’s Next
61. Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music
62. Buddy Guy, Stone Crazy!
63. Liz Phair, Exile In Guyville
64. Jeff Buckley, Grace
65. Woody Allen, Standup Comic
66. Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model
67. Gil-Scott Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
68. Slick Rick, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
69. Jimmy Smith, The Sermon
70. The Shaggs, Philosophy of the World
71. PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love
72. Howlin Wolf, The London Howlin Wolf Sessions
73. The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
74. Belle and Sebastian, Tigermilk
75. Yo La Tengo, And then nothing turned itself inside out
76. Dizzie Gillespie y Machito, Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods
77. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
78. Terry Callier, Occasional Rain
79. Elmore James, Dust My Broom
80. Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele.
81. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
82. Wilco, Yankee Foxtrot Hotel
83. MC5, Back In The USA
84. Nina Simone, Wild Is The Wind
85. Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate, Kalunjun
86. Elliott Smith, XO
87. John Coltrane, Blue Train
88. Lee Dorsey, The New Lee Dorsey
89. Julio Iglesias, Tango
90. Tom Waits, The Heart of Saturday Night
91. Cassandra Wilson, Traveling Miles
92. The Sonics, Here Are The Sonics
93. The Verve, A Storm In Heaven
94. Alexander “Skip” Spence, Oar
95. Cab Calloway, Hi De Ho Man 1930-33
96. The Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole
97. Depeche Mode, Violator
98. Grant Green, Idle Moments
99. Stereolab, Dots and Loops
100. -tie- Every single Pink Floyd album except Ummagumma.

01 February 2005

Routine Maintenance. . .

I hadn't left New York for more than 5 days since I moved here on September 1, 2001. What I hadn't anticipated was not only how easy it was to actually leave, but that the reasons I hadn't left were entirely invented by me. I had no responsibilities that required constant attention. Yet I invented a family with three kids; a house, pool, garage and lawn. And like a perfect expanse of well-cut green, I manicured my routine into an endlessness that surrounded me on all sides. There was no grass greener on the other side, because to me there was no other side.

Being gone for a month - even just a month - was enough to awaken me to how New York requires a precise maintenance of your time. Routine is a rigid, inflexible thing here. Since I've been back, my conversations with friends have revealed how January was another month that they (for the most part) reinforced their routines. I can't imagine what I would look like after the same period of time here. But I will say this now and shed more light on it later: a month of summer in the middle of the Northeast's winter is essential for mental and physical well-being.

A friend said to me a few days ago when I asked him how New Year's was, "Wow, New Year's feels like yesterday." That night, my second in the Southern hemisphere, feels like an article I read about in a copy of The New Yorker several years before I moved to New York. Time feels so much bigger now than it ever has before.