I’m currently with my wife in France, en route to Berlin, where we’ll be living for at least a year. My company is sending me there to do some product management things for its relatively young European business; more generally, we’re using it as an opportunity to live outside the US during a both personally and politically anxious time.I don’t want to talk any more about politics, since that’s basically all that American news talks about and it’s all stress all the time, so instead, here’s a picture of the lake Alicia and I are sitting next to:This is Lac Annecy, a large lake next to a small and very cute city in Southeast France, right near the Alps. We’re here to detox from life for a few days before re-immersing in a somewhat different one in Germany.Because I naturally assimilate into the culture around me instead of actually trying to relax, here are a few quick observations about life in Annecy: – Service in restaurants is slower, but also it’s so pleasant that I rarely ever mind. – Everyone says bonjour, bonsoir, pardon and au revoir to each other – almost no exceptions. It doesn’t feel fake either; the locals seem genuinely cordial and kind, almost like a European version of Southern hospitality. If you don’t speak English, there is a genuine attempt to try and make the language barrier work (though the variability of English understanding here is wide). – I feel like an asshole trying to fake French, realize I don’t know what I’m saying, and then asking for English. I need to learn German quickly. – Espresso is much better than coffee here. The best espresso.I hear the coffee is fantastic in Berlin.
I maintain a theory that the happiest people in New York City are bartenders. They are decently paid, have flexible hours, can usually find work right near home, and pride themselves on being a friendly savior to those who so desperately need their service at the end of another punishing day. Those people, pretty much every other resident of NYC, is either miserable, tired or both. Even the rich ones.
NYC is great if you can embrace chaos, the kind of chaos where as soon as you leave your house you’re wondering how long it’ll take before you get hit in the face by something or someone, metaphorically or physically. It’s terrifyingly unpredictable and we found it difficult (at best) to enjoy much of anything, let alone exercising any free will or creativity. We went to dance parties because peer pressure. We went to dinner because we needed to get out of our (admittedly well-decorated) railroad car of an apartment. I performed in NYC…playing bass behind a house DJ (my friend Rich, he’s actually a really good house producer) shoved into a corner because the club needed to make room for more people to dance — far from my ideal gig.
Sometime in April Alicia was really worked up about some job prospect and I told her:
“You know, you don’t NEED to look for jobs in New York, in case something cool comes up somewhere else.”
The joy on her face when she looked up was something I hadn’t seen in months. We started rattling off companies, positions, cities…suddenly MA was back in the cards.
She started tearing up. For me, being close to family was nice but not a priority; for her, it was the reassurance that everything could turn out OK. If we found a place just north of Boston, we could work in and outside the city and be 30 minutes or less from parents, siblings, best friends. A work opportunity came up. Then 2 friends got engaged, another pregnant — Alicia suddenly had photography gigs. Only 1 of those, as a glorified intern shooter, actually panned out.
In June I got a job offer through some weird circumstances, with the caveat that I’d have to work on-site in Boston. The timing worked, and we were out by July. We looked around for a place for a bit; with very little effort we found a HUGE duplex right near Salem Common. 2 minutes to walk to a huge park; walk 2 minutes in the other direction and you’re at a cute little beach. It’s not even far from the city compared to how far away everything is from Ridgewood, Queens.
So we came here, and we’re both happy again.
So what’s Salem like for a bunch of young creative professionals?
I never thought it would affect me that much, but the prevalence of nature has really started to inspire both of us. We both love going outside again — I’ve got my Zoom H4 unpacked and for the first time in almost 2 years I’m excited to record the sounds around me. Alicia’s started to take pictures just for the sake of taking pictures. We’re eating healthy. (We can afford to again, thanks Market Basket.) We have space in our apartment to fully realize our creative ideas without stepping all over each other.
How is it in town? You know how everyone says that Bostonians are mean, sort of like New Yorkers but with a harsher accent and a perverse love of their sports team? Salem residents couldn’t be further from that stereotype — everyone is amazingly nice, humble, inviting. I really think that part of the inspiration of all Brooklyn musicians is their interactions with the city’s chaotic meanness (which coincidentally is what’s causing the homogenization of Brooklyn music, since the chaos is becoming so materialistic and almost predictable); in Salem, we’re being inspired by the town’s whimsy and warmth.
So instead of starting a blog and not touching it for months, I’ll write more.