Once when I was on tour with my buddy Caleb he asked me how my girlfriend and I met. We were driving somewhere, I think back to my house in Brooklyn to avoid having to crash in a basement in Connecticut. I told him that there were two versions of the story, one that we tell at parties to strangers and a much longer one. We still had days left in the van together, so he gestured my way and said, "well, what else are we doing?"
The short version is this: we met through a friend.
This is the long version.
New Year's eve heading into 2019 was supposed to be the occasion when we finally met. I had heard about this person for months, a sculptor friend of my sculptor friend who had been described as, "the best person" and "so fucking hot." My sculptor friend also said on a few occasions that she low-key wished that they could date instead. So I went to my friend's apartment and wondered if this person was going to show up or not. It was raining heavily outside, I remember getting soaked on my way to the liquor store. But this hot and best person I was maybe going to meet didn't arrive and I had texts from Nico burning a hole in my phone. They were gonna have a party at Brighton Beach and I was filled with an undeniable need to jump into the ocean. I made it to the piss-smelling concrete patio just in time for the firecrackers, just in time for the cops driving down the boardwalk to wish us a happy new year on their megaphone and turn a blind eye to us drinking Russian beers out of paper bags. The fireworks from Coney Island started, all diffused and gauzy in the fog, and I stripped down to my underwear to watch them reflect over the murky obsidian waves of the new year. I fell asleep salty and soggy on the Q train home as the sun rose.
A couple months later I was spending the weekend at a cabin in the woods with some friends celebrating a birthday. I went sledding for the first time in my life and we built wildfires and drank rosé in the bathtub, a wonderful time. I still hadn't met the hot and best person but we started following each other on instagram and that weekend, joy-drunk on sledding, I had occasion to slide into the DMs. The hot and best person was posting all sorts of stuff about her mom's miniature donkey, a heartbreaking, handsome tiny buddy named Chicken. A perfectly innocuous but deeply wonderful thing to comment on, this little friend. omg, I said, or something to that effect.
We kept chatting, I remember agonizing over what music to send when the hot and best person asked for recommendations for a long drive. She always seemed to be moving around, never in the same place whenever we talked. I wondered if I had made a huge mistake swimming in the ocean that night.
A little while later the hot and best person and my sculptor friend got a huge opportunity to make a big piece together that was going to be installed in the exact middle of Times Square. They were making this enormous, enameled pink lipstick of a geologic core sample, an artifact imagining the future's view of our ecologically doomed current, next century's dark chapter. It was a wild and towering piece of art, easily over six feet tall and a few hundred pounds, ambitious and attention-grabbing in the way I'd come to expect from both of their work. And it meant that the hot and best person was going to be back in the city. So we made plans to meet up.
But when the time came for us to meet there were more issues, and more rain. The two sculptors got some of the worst possible early March weather - freezing rain and freezing temps - and various components of the piece's installation were refusing to set in the cold. They were running blow dryers from a generator under a collapsing tent all night and were desperately sleep deprived. They kept having to pee in the lobby of the Hard Rock Cafe and they were surrounded by tourists and electronic billboards. So instead of meeting for a nice dinner, I went to Times Square instead. This was our first meeting: the two of them were in coveralls and run ragged, so exhausted that they were talking in a clipped, preopsition-less language that only they understood, warming their hands on each other's cheeks to keep their fingers from stiffening. I stood a little awkwardly wondering if I could help at all and took it as a huge sign that I managed to get the generator running again when it tried to give up the ghost. It hummed and coughed exhaust and I was happy we had met.
I left a little while later - they were still working and would do so late into the night. But the next morning there was supposed to be some kind of media event, a formal opening with TV crews and everything, so I decided to check back in on them before I had to get to work that morning. Times Square at 8am is a very strange place, freezing and abandoned at that time of year, plus the two sculptors had seemingly overslept entirely. Everything was vacant, dormant, unpeopled. So I was alone with the work in the early morning, hot pink and towering. Somehow they got it done. I went to work and on my way sent a text that, with as little awkwardness as I could muster, showed that I had tried to attend.
Finally that night the hot and best person and I finally got our chance to get dinner. It was a wonderful time, and I could feel every brick in every wall within me coming down as she told me about riding a motorbike through a field of wild flowers.
I wish that was the end of the story.
There's so much more - things that happened, both wonderful and terrible.
The circumstances changed, and then they changed again, and then they changed again.
When I look back on these people - eager and excited and so deeply hungry for love and connection - an undeniable part of me wishes that they could have had this simple little story, a happy and uncomplicated narrative. Something to rattle off at parties for strangers. Part of me feels that this is what they were owed by whichever cosmic string-puller, that there's a debt.
But then again, I can't imagine the happiness those people - we - have now without the transformative, horrible, wonderful, clarifying two years since we met. And I can't imagine having gone through it without each other.
So this wasn't the long version after all. Just the best parts of it.
Maybe one day soon you and I can get in the van.
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Good morning ~
Just the best parts of it.
I took the photo for today’s track art while I was up on a parking garage trying to get a better look at a building in downtown Troy that was totally engulfed in flames a few nights ago. It’s a wild scene - busted out windows, sharp frozen icicles from the firefighters shooting water at the fire for hours, and it smells like burned wood for blocks. There are a bunch of fundraising links here for the people who lost their homes if you happen to have some spare money.
The response to last week’s email were really overwhelming! I apologize if I didn’t get back to everyone, and I’m very, very grateful to everyone who shared it or reached out. A number of people also told me they wanted to pay for a full subscription to this project, but they couldn’t figure out how - well, here’s your button:
But what about you? Who is pulling the strings? What foggy fireworks are you swimming under? Are you allowing yourself to slide into the DMs?