love goes to buildings that are now luxury condos

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This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

New York is one of those few rare places where you can read about a place in the city one minute — an old building where someone once lived, an abandoned music venue, a corner where that one special scene in a movie from decades ago was shot — then find yourself actually there the next. Buildings are not just buildings. Streets are not just streets. At least, not to some people. At least, not to me.

The Apthorp. Macdougal Street. 52 West 8th Street. 315 Bowery. The Hotel Chelsea. I could write you a long list if I wanted to, a list of places that are not just addresses and buildings and random New York streets. They’re places that mean something. They hold memories, even if they aren’t really mine. The place didn’t make the place; the people who came before me did.

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself standing on a random sidewalk, perhaps insignificant to 80 percent of the world, still, closing my eyes, trying to cull memories that are built on second-hand information from my brain. And then I open them and stare at another luxury development and wonder where exactly it is I am doing and what exactly it is I’m doing there. I try to place the people back into the picture and start to wonder why it’s becoming more and more difficult to feel even a tiny bit of spark of inspiration, a tiny bit of understanding of what things were like before this very moment.

These are supposed to be haunted streets, haunted with our ancestors’ spirits, those living and dead, those related to us not by blood, but by spirit. The dreamers and artists and thinkers and poets. These are supposed to be haunted streets, but it’s getting harder to feel their spirits, harder to close my eyes and truly feel, harder to summon energy of a time I can’t help but think I’ve missed out on.

Joan Didion once wrote, “I am trying to place myself in history. I have been looking all my life for history and have yet to find it.” I came to New York to be a part of history. To revisit history. To make my own history. But history is quickly being renovated or torn down or overshadowed by high rise buildings that may sparkle in the sunset but still sit empty, homes to nothing more than investments, at the end of the day.

I wonder if anyone in the future will feel the same way I feel now. I wonder if the places that are significant to me now, the places that I will tell stories of, will mean anything years from now, or if they’ll all be whitewashed beyond recognition, the way CBGBs is now a men’s clothing store and the Palladium is now an NYU dorm and Pearl Paint now houses $16,000 a month condos. Will it still feel the same? Will anyone care?

The city giveth and the city taketh away. The only constant about New York is that it’s always changing. Maybe I sound very young and very romantic and very naive, but I know this. I have known this. I have known that, in so many ways, this city is better — I know that I should be grateful, that I should be acknowledging how wonderful it is that crime rate is down and I don’t have to push a dead hobo from my doorway when I leave for work in the morning or worry too too much about getting mugged on the subway — but I can’t help but wonder if better is always actually better. Or, if it is, who is it really better for?

This usually happens right around the time I notice how goddamn quiet it is, how homogenized things are beginning to look, how alone with my thoughts I am. I live in New York. Isn’t it supposed to be dirty? Isn’t it supposed to be loud? Aren’t I supposed to be making calls to 311 every other day, while knowing in the back of my mind that this is what I signed up for? Because, really, this is what I signed up for. I signed up for the scary and the tough and the gritty and the unpleasant and the bad that’s supposed to make the good all the sweeter in the end.

I still believe that New York is the greatest city in the world, still believe in its infinite possibilities. I wouldn’t have stayed here for as long as I have if I didn’t. But New York doesn’t feel like a city for the very young very often anymore. Is cleaning things up really making this city better? Do we need another brunch place that specializes in vegan avocado toast or a Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks or, as I saw recently, scrawled on the window of what was once an Urban Outfitters (I know) whose doors had been shut to make way for new businesses, another fucking bank? Do we need another bucolic residential development or another new high rise that only a handful of people can afford to live in?

I’ve been searching for history, but it feels like it’s slipping away from me.

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For Carrie, who drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra

This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

This past week has felt like some kind of bad dream.

I have nightmares like this sometimes. In them, I wake up to a text message or a Google alert that one of my biggest heroes, those few rare, celestial, magic people in my life, has died. Just as I’m about to lose it, I wake up for real. Sometimes a little sweaty and breathless, usually a bit disoriented, always frantically checking that it really was just a dream.

But this time, it was real.

Carrie Fisher was gone. It was real, and I didn’t get the news while in the safe cocoon of my own bed. It was a phone call from my best friend, followed by several texts from a slew of others, late in the morning on the Tuesday after Christmas. I tried to ignore them and keep running, but I just knew. I just knew, as I pulled my phone out of my pocket with shaky hands.

I crumpled to the ground and sat on the curb in the town I grew up in, a block from my high school, and began to sob uncontrollably.

I called my friend back. I don’t think I was coherent. I can’t remember what I even said. All I can remember is her calm, soothing voice on the other end as I blubbered and felt my nose begin to run. All I can remember is eventually standing back up and staggering home in a daze, gasping for breath, gulping at the cold air like I was drowning, trying desperately to swim to the edge of my sorrow.

Every time I think I’m there, I fall back under.

I’m trying to figure out why this hurts so much, why my heart physically aches sometimes, why I haven’t gone a day without crying. Mourning someone you never really knew in real life — as much as it feels like you did — feels strange. It makes me feel so different from everyone else. Why do I care so much? Is it because I had come to feel like Carrie was almost like some beloved aunt who I never got to see, but was always there with the right words to inspire me, to advise me, or just make me laugh, whether it was through a book or her Twitter account? Is it because Carrie helped me know myself better?

Maybe it’s because I saw so much of myself in Carrie, so much of her in myself: She was so self-aware, so self-deprecating and sometimes self-loathing, even when everyone around her was heaping on praise. She knew what it was like to be so inside your head that you can’t escape sometimes, how frustrating and exhausting and sometimes terrifying that can feel. I would underline passages in her books and send photos to friends. “See! This is me! This is exactly how I feel!”

She was irritated by so many things in this hostile world and made her opinion known at all times, without filter, without thinking about the consequences. It never failed to remind me of my tendency to do the same, how my mother has to constantly ask,“Carrie, is this the hill you want to die on?”

Carrie learned how to take everything that happened to her — being the child of two celebrities, reaching unexpected and perhaps overwhelming superstardom at 19, drug addiction, bipolar disorder, failed public relationships, aging, body image, and more — and spin it in her own favor. She learned how to draw upon her insecurities for inspiration, learned how to take Nora Ephron’s “everything is copy” motto and twist it. Everything is copy if you can make it funny, and trust — there is laughter to be found in even the most brutal situations.

She was bold and loud and even when she wasn’t actually confident, God, she did such a great job at faking it. She called bullshit as she saw it. She stopped apologizing for who she was. She took all of the punches and hit back, even when she was hurt. We owe her so much for that.

Of course, this hurts so deeply because it just seems so unjust. “Fuck a world that allows Carrie Fisher to die prematurely and for Donald Trump to be the fucking president,” one friend said the other day, and I sympathized. She had so much left to give, so many more one woman shows and memoirs and novels and emoji-laden tweets. It was too soon for her to leave. When I think about it like this, I get so angry that my heart races, that I want to yell at God or whoever it is that makes these decisions — Why her? Why now? What kind of cruel punishment is this? What did we do to deserve this?

But part of it hurts because I am very selfish. The world still needs Carrie Fisher, yes, but I still need Carrie Fisher. When I met her in November, we joked about having the same name and she signed my copy of The Princess Diarist dedicated to the “other, newer Carrie.” I may be the younger, newer Carrie, but she was the older, wiser, fewer-fucks-to-be-had Carrie. I’m nowhere near that, so I lived vicariously through her. I learned through her. Now she’s gone and I feel like I need her more than ever, more than I would typically care to admit.

“Our heroes are our lighthouses; they guide us safely home,” my friend Whitney wrote in an eloquent tribute. Carrie was one of my lighthouses, and over the past week, the world has felt a little bit darker and I have felt a little bit lost.

I’m sure that, in time, I’ll get better. It just might take me longer than others. I’ve been here once before, and the last time, I didn’t have friends like I have now, friends who understood, who felt the same way. I wasn’t confident enough to write my feelings and share them as raw as they were. But I still got better.

Carrie Fisher will always be in my life. I will continue to learn new things from her, to find new lines in books or interviews that resonate with me. A little bit of her will always live in my soul and come out every time I write, every time I call bullshit on something, every time I refuse to care what someone thinks. I can’t thank her anymore, but instead, I’ll be more critical of myself. Am I making Carrie proud?

I hope the answer will be ✌️📧💲.

Things that were not garbage even though 2016 was

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AKA, an “in case you missed it” with my best pieces of 2016

2016, you were a real motherfucker. You took some of my favorite humans, you made me question the sanity of most Americans, and you ushered in the start of what could be the start of the United States of Autocracy. I’m pretty sure I’ve said “fuck” more this year than I have in my entire life, and I say “fuck” a lot.

All negative things aside, this year wasn’t a wash. I did cool things and nerdy things and adventurous things with my best friends. The deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey earlier in the year ushered in a year of my own version of carpe diem — love thy olds — and I went to as many concerts and readings and discussions with my favorite living legends as I could. I wrote a lot of things I’m really proud of, for here, for Inspirer, and for Quartz. Here’s the sizzle reel of highlights, in case you missed things.

Things I wrote and am proud of:

I wrote a defense of Carrie Fisher in the wake of the New York Post’s gross, misogynistic body shaming opinion piece (of garbage) — even though she didn’t need me to defend her because she clapped back in the best way, a way only she could pull off. Technically this was December 31, 2015, but it feels so much more important now.

I wrote about the death of iconic rock stars, and with it, the potential death of rock and roll. Fam, this was only January. I had no idea what we were in for this year, and, again, it feels so much more important now.

The New Republic then tried to come for old rock stars with something about an “aging rock star cliché,” to which I said “this isn’t a real thing.”

Nora Ephron and the documentary Everything Is Copy gave me next-level feels, so I wrote about the significance of idols and what it means to mourn celebrity heroes in my first piece for Inspirer.

Drake covered Jackson Browne and I realized he has more in common with classic rock stars than we think. I fell down a rabbit hole full of pages of lyrics strewn around my room and diagrams and wrote my now sort of kind of infamous thesis that Drake is rap’s Lindsey Buckingham. (HEAR ME OUT.)

Lemonade dropped and it blew everyone’s mind and I said I couldn’t possibly write about it because Beyoncé is one tough cookie to crack. Jokes, because the next day I realized I needed to write about its timely and necessary female empowerment themes.

I went to Night of 1,000 Stevies and wrote about how incredibly special it feels — and how necessary (even more so now) it is — to celebrate our beloved icons while they’re still alive.

Then I wrote a piece for Stevie Nicks’s birthday explaining how there really is no simple answer about why she’s my hero, about just how great her influenceon my life and career has been.

I talked to a bunch of rad fucking women for Inspirer on a slew of topics like: growing as an artist (Greta Morgan), multiple sclerosis and the strength in owning your weaknesses (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), ‘70s Laurel Canyon rock (Shelly Colvin), diversity in entertainment (Lea DeLaria), comedy and growing into yourself (Jen Kirkman), ambition (Eva Longoria), and feminism (Pat Benatar). I juiced their mind grapes for as much advice and inspiration as I could and I learned so. much.

Kim dropped receipts about Taylor Swift and the public turned on her, which was honestly a moment I had been waiting for since 2006. Then Instagram started censoring negative comments on Taylor’s account (meanwhile Twitter was doing nothing while Leslie Jones fielded vicious, racist attacks). I said “oh hell no” and wrote about just how problematic that is in a piece for Inspirer, which was then picked up by Quartz.

Kanye debuted the Fade video at the VMAs and everyone was like “da fuq,” but I deconstructed the real meaning of it.

Of course, I wrote about the lasting legacy and under-appreciated significance of ‘Buckingham Nicks’ on its anniversary.

I went to cool things and wrote about them: Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, and Joan Baez (!!!!!!) put on a benefit concert for refugees. Carly Simon discussed her memoir “Boys in the Trees” with Sheila Weller, and Stevie Nicks put on the best concert of my year and dropped the most incredibly necessary wisdom (for all of life, but especially for a post-Trump world).

Finally, I wrote two things about Carrie Fisher, whose legacy and impact on my life will last forever. First, days before her death, on the importance of recognizing her impact on culture as so much more than just being Princess Leia. Then, my thanks, or the best I could do in the still mournful and shocked state I am.

Things I did this year and concerts I went to that were awesome and I photographed but did not necessarily write about:

  • Rang in the new year with Deer Tick and Vanessa Carlton.
  • Saw Jenny Lewis perform Rabbit Fur Coat in its entirety and sing a bunch of other amazing songs.
  • Watched Graham Nash discuss all things old.
  • Saw Jackson Browne perform a one-off Spanish-inspired concert.
  • Was a foot from Jenny Lewis doing her dope as fuck shit with Nice As Fuck when they opened for M. Ward.
  • Watched Lou Doillon be enviably French and cool.
  • Went to a Graham Nash concert and was maybe the youngest person there.
  • Tried the New York festival circuit by going to Governor’s Ball (highlights: Father John Misty and Haim) — before getting rained out — and covering Panorama (highlights: Alabama Shakes, Kendrick Lamar, Arcade Fire, Grace Potter, Kurt Vile, and LCD Soundsystem). New York, I love you, but when it comes to festivals, your crowd scenes are kinda sorta bringing me down.
  • Was second row two nights in a row at Mudcrutch. Made direct contact with my hero Tom Petty. LOLed with Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench about my Stevie Nicks For President shirt. It was dope, to say the least.
  • Was second row two nights in a row for Jackson Browne. (Can you tell I have an addictive personality when it comes to concerts with my favorite olds?)
  • Danced in the rain at Paul Simon’s (potentially) final US show in his hometown before working my way to the pit for an incredible, haunting encore.
  • Spent a lowkey Saturday on Hudson Pier with Anais Mitchell, Margo Price, and Deer Tick.
  • Endured a terrible, super lame Central Park crowd to see Ryan Adams.
  • Sang “Because the Night” with Patti Smith and a few hundred others who gathered in a Brooklyn synagogue to hear her discuss her devastatingly brilliant M Train.
  • Literally was the youngest person (with @canicallucandy) at a JD Souther concert. Candace wanted to die when someone recognized me from ~the internet.~
  • Went to a 120 person club to see Benmont Tench two days after the election and just hours after Leonard Cohen’s death was announced. Jackson Browne hung out with the audience, then came out at the end and they performed a tribute to Leonard and it was chills and tear-inducing and everything my heart needed on November 10.
  • Met one of my biggest lady heroes, Carrie Fisher. The first thing she said to me upon seeing my name on the post-it was: “You’re Carrie, too? Look at those gorgeous eyes. I would love to have grown up Carrie with those eyes.” Then she told me I must have good parents, based on their choice of name (I told her I’m named after my great-grandmother — “they’re not weirdo fans, don’t worry”), and dedicated my book to “the other, newer Carrie.” Thinking about it now makes me weep, but god, what a memory.

2016, you were a bitch. But you had your moments.

Carrie Fisher is More Than Princess Leia

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer.

Actress and author Carrie Fisher reportedly suffered a “massive heart attack” on a flight from London to Los Angeles Friday afternoon. She was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital, where her brother, Todd Fisher, told Variety she is currently out of emergency and in ICU, in stable condition, though “there’s no good news or bad news.”

News of the episode sparked an outpouring of support on social media and in the press. A common thread in all the discussion? Star Wars.

Identification of public figures is an important part of reporting. It makes sense to note that Fisher is most well-known for her role as Princess Leia — it gives the general public an iconic, familiar role to put a face to the name. It makes sense to lead with that, but not to make it the entire focus.

In the nearly 40 years since Fisher became an overnight icon as an outspoken princess with a memorable hairstyle, her resume has expanded to cover multiple fields. She has written four novels, three memoirs, two plays, and two screenplays, including the screenplay for the Academy Award-nominated adaptation of her first novel, Postcards from the Edge. She has acted in several other films, from Hannah and Her Sisters to When Harry Met Sally.

In the 1990s, she was considered one of Hollywood’s best script doctors (a writer brought in to rewrite or polish an already existing script), having worked on films like Hook, Sister Act, and The Wedding Singer. Her autobiographical one woman show Wishful Drinking was adapted into both a memoir and an HBO special.

Having suffered bipolar disorder and addictions to cocaine and prescription medicines, her activism around mental health and addiction has been recognized by multiple organizations, most recently Harvard University.

I shouldn’t have to list the contents of Carrie Fisher’s resume here. I shouldn’t have to remind people that she has done more in 40 years than don a pair of cinnamon roll hair buns and a white dress.

If we were talking about her co-star Harrison Ford in this situation, I’m fairly certain media outlets would not be focusing on his role as Han Solo. The overwhelming amount of tweets would have more than photos of Indiana Jones. Fisher doesn’t deserve to be reduced to a single role. She doesn’t deserve press coverage including a still of her as “slave Leia” — a degrading outfit she has vocally spoken out against — in their articles.

Women are reduced to singular roles, relationships, and images again and again and again. Women are constantly identified as someone’s wife or girlfriend, a single line summarizing their entire career, a former sex symbol. It isn’t lost on me that this time last year, Fisher was making news after a New York Post writer wrote a misogynistic opinion piece that if she was unhappy about people commenting on how she’s aged, she “should quit acting.”

Fisher is just one recent example. This is not unique; it is not special. It just shines yet another light on a problem. Women are more than one singular identity. It’s about time we started acknowledging it.

some thoughts on joni mitchell, for her 73rd birthday

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This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

If Joni Mitchell never broke your heart, you maybe never even had one to begin with.

No one can make you feel like Joni Mitchell can. Her words fill your body with both immense, overwhelming joy and sorrow. They make tears sting your eyes, make you gasp for breath, make you feel the weight of them in your gut.

Nowhere can this be seen better than side B of Blue, perhaps one of the most perfectly sequenced and emotionally loaded sides of any album, ever. She coats her jagged lyrics with a syrupy sweet voice; her songs are sugar dusted knives — they stab at your heart, but they’re addictive. You still crave more, still can’t wait to flip the record and start all over, knowing full well how much it will hurt. Why else do you think we feel the compulsive need to listen to “River” around Christmastime?

Joni made it okay for women to be imperfect creatures, to write about their faults and failures with candor — I’m so hard to handle, I’m selfish and I’m sad— made it okay for women to be unhappy and unsure — I’m just living on nerves and feelings with a weak and a lazy mind. Joni made it okay to make mistakes, to love deeply, to love the wrong person because sometimes your heart speaks louder than your brain — I see him in cafes, and I only say hello and turn away before his lady knows how much I want to see him. She made it okay to be honest. She made it okay to feel.

All human beings should be required to listen to Joni Mitchell, the same way we all have to read The Great Gatsby in the 8th grade. I can’t imagine a better way to learn about empathy, emotions, and the human condition. We should teach her lyrics the way we teach poetry (because lyrics are literature), should teach the significance of her unique chord progressions in music classes, should teach her impact and the multiple roads she paved for women in history classes.

We should teach our children about Joni Mitchell because she is Joni Mitchell. There was no one before her, and there will never be another one.

Carly Simon Brings Passionate Memoir to Life at New York Discussion

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer

If you couldn’t guess from her lyrics, you would immediately be able to tell from the eloquence, candor, and unabashed honesty of Carly Simon’s speech that, if you hadn’t yet read her memoir “Boys in the Trees,” you were in for a ride.

Simon brought her new book to life Wednesday night in discussion with author and journalist Sheila Weller, who had previously written about Simon in her 2008 biography “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation.”

“Few women writers in any genre write as passionately about love as you do,” Weller noted. Simon is part of a small group of female rock stars who have paved the way for women today, spending the past forty years writing, singing, and talking publicly about love — and sex — openly, freely, and with a refusal to let society shame them. “Boys in the Trees” is an extension of that, picking up where her lyrics left off.

“I am not a person who lets go of the past easily,” Simon said. But there’s no bitterness or regret when she reflects on it, from a childhood marred by a debilitating stammer and family secrets to a storybook marriage dreamed of with ex-husband James Taylor crumbling under the strain of his drug addiction.

Nor was there any salaciousness when Simon spoke at length about the famous men in her life, including Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger, as well as Taylor, leaving the audience hanging onto every velvety smooth word. Rather, Simon’s seduction of an audience lies in her ability to speak and write from a sensitive, vulnerable, and deeply caring woman’s perspective.

Every word, every description drips with poetic romanticism. Chemistry with Mick Jagger while recording “You’re So Vain” was like “trying to stay within a pink gravity that was starting to loosen its silky grip on me.” She likens her relationship with Taylor to music, like they were a perfect fourth, the reedy tone of his voice piercing through her husk. Even after the end of their marriage, he still has a place in her heart, she said, as if her body contains a part of his DNA. Her biggest revelation: “I’ve stopped trying to stop loving. The parts that were loving are still in me. They’re still there.”

Although “Boys in the Trees” is largely about her relationships with men, there’s more to it than that.

“Pay attention to who you like. You can imitate them — you’ll get your own voice,” Simon advised young women. No, “Boys in the Trees” isn’t a story just about the boys. It’s a story about how one woman stopped emulating other voices and eventually found her own.

Boys in the Trees is available in hardcover or paperback from Flatiron Books.
Keep up with Carly Simon on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

On 22, A Million, on change

This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

The first thing I thought when I heard Bon Iver’s new album, 22, A Million, was: “This is their Tusk.”

Twelve hours of listening to it on repeat later, that first impression still sticks. It’s a broad comparison, but, it’s also a very specific one. Both are the third albums from bands that built reputations on very specific genres, then turned everything upside down. (Ed note: of course, Fleetwood Mac had several albums before Tusk, but for the sake of this argument, I’m looking at the discography from the now-iconic Buckingham Nicks era of the band.)

Fleetwood Mac had built a reputation as California soft rock stalwarts; Bon Iver were beacons of the millennial acoustic folk revival. Instead of continuing to comfortably work with the same formula, they both decided to push the boundaries. This isn’t new; this isn’t unique. As Pitchfork noted, plenty of iconic artists, from Bob Dylan to Neil Young, have abandoned their roots to explore new territory. And it’s not the first time Justin Vernon has played with sound, but it’s the first time Bon Iver has gone all-in, 150 percent.

So many artists in the past were reviled for their experimentation; it’s taken us decades to truly appreciate how ahead of their time they were. What’s different now, what excites me, is that we’ve reached a point in pop culture where we don’t reject change. We expect it.

We want our artists to become innovators. We want to see them grow and explore and break new ground, push the status quo. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But when they succeed at trying something new, unconventional, and unexpected, it’s a jolt to your senses. It’s exciting. It reminds you why you love music in the first place.

22, A Million is radically different than Bon Iver’s previous two albums — it’s synth heavy, built upon layers of electronic vocals and distorted samples. But it’s also the same. Dig a little deeper: there’s still a haunting wistfulness, a desire to make sense of this world and what everything means, what life means, in every lyric. “It might be over soon,” Vernon repeats in 22 (OVER S∞∞N).

It might be. Maybe that’s morbid thinking, but the thing is, we just never know. Life is very long and very short at the same time. Life could be over tomorrow or in a month or in several years. But we just don’t know, so why not do all the things we were too scared to try? Why be complacent?

Change is good. Embrace it. Treading water will never get you anywhere.