Recently, I met up with my friend Daniel at Starbucks. He was killing time before a party and stopped by to work on some music. I found him at a group table with a cup of coffee and two empty pastry bags, headphones on, laptop out, a purple waveform across the screen. He’d been there for an hour. Before he left, he pointed out that Starbucks covers up their outlets so people don’t linger too long, sucking their power without paying for a refill. A day or two later, he sent me a draft of the song he’d been working on. It is incredibly stressed out and dark, beginning with an unintelligible sample of a hysterical sounding woman rendered metallic, then some deep church organ and neurotic bleeping before the entrance of a rickety house beat. Later someone says, “We have to go” repeatedly. Daniel said he’d been having a tough day. The idea of making dark techno in a Starbucks sounds like something out of a Ryan Trecartin film (and some of the nonsense vocals from the song could fit right in with the artist’s warped chatter), but it’s different seeing art in a museum and your friend on the eastern side of Union Square. Both are hilarious and sad.
It’s Mother’s Day and I’m in a hotel in London, waiting to go home. Despite having had an uneasy trip, today I did get to see Einstein on the Beach, Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’ four-hour opera, which we covered extensively in our recent Philip Glass Icon Issue. I’ll spare you more fawning, but I will say that in between having my mind blown, I kept thinking of the economies of scale, even on such a small level. Marveling at some set piece, I’d wonder, How do you make a light box so mobile? Did they get a deal on light bulbs? Where do that many cast members stay? I guess when you charge 125 pounds for a ticket, you figure it out. And in Daniel’s case, with a three-dollar pound cake and a latte, you figure it out too.
A couple news stories have struck me since I’ve been abroad: the two-billion-dollar JP Morgan Chase loss and an in-depth report on the depressing debt that college students are incurring now and their potentially lifelong inability to repay it. One of the reasons cited for the surge in enrollment in more expensive private schools is the success of marketing departments in sweet-talking potential coeds into believing their dreams are within reach for about 50 grand a year. I majored in fiction writing; I feel you.
It was reported that three people at Chase will lose their jobs, one of whom made 14 million dollars a year. I misread that the first time around as four million, but after it cited her as one of their top paid executives, I knew it had to be much more. That’s the kind of thing you write a song about. Which I guess 2 Chainz did: I said when I went to school bitch, money was the subject. Seems like it’s working out for him.