slaughterhouse90210:

“Yet, I didn’t understand that she was intentionally disguising her feelings with sarcasm; that was usually the last resort of people who are timid and chaste of heart, whose souls have been coarsely and impudently invaded; and who, until the last moment, refuse to yield out of pride and are afraid to express their own feelings to you.”― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

slaughterhouse90210:

“Yet, I didn’t understand that she was intentionally disguising her feelings with sarcasm; that was usually the last resort of people who are timid and chaste of heart, whose souls have been coarsely and impudently invaded; and who, until the last moment, refuse to yield out of pride and are afraid to express their own feelings to you.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky,
Notes from Underground

Freshly archived: my memoir of Santa Cruz and celluloid. Also mentioned: Secret beaches, serial killers, hoodies, buskers, reclamation, gentrification, home.

Susan Orlean helped me annotate her 1992 Esquire cover story, “The American Man, Age 10.” It’s one of my favorite profiles, celebrity or otherwise, and she is a consummate pro and a class act, so if you like journalism or humans you should read it maybe.

"It would be comforting to believe that we live in a world where quality content chosen by experienced editors and authored by talented people will get more clicks than celebrity gossip, fear-mongering headlines, and snake oil salesmen peddling the next generation of tech bubble pyramid schemes. But that’s almost never the case."

LadyBits’ First and Last Year on Medium — LadyBits on Medium — Medium (via janefriedman)

(via janefriedman)

littlebrown:

Ask a Debut Novelist - Question 4
In which thompsonted, author of The Land of Steady Habits, answers your questions about writing, publishing, and making good work. Have a question? Ask away.
Anonymous asked: Is there a good reason to seek to be published through Little, Brown and Company rather than self-publishing as an ebook?
This is a question I initially skipped because it seemed a little too practical, and I am by no means a publishing expert, or anything close to it. But then I found myself talking out my answer in the shower, and again at night before I drifted off to sleep, and I guess that’s an indication that there’s a lot more to this question than I initially thought.
So here are my initial, practical responses, the ones I would probably cite at a dinner party if we’d just met, Anonymous, and it seemed like maybe you were making chitchat since you’ve heard a lot about how digital technologies are disrupting traditional publishing and I maybe get the sense that the subtext of your question is that it’s a little old fashioned or backward-looking to be doing business with a company that still primarily traffics in paper and glue (a scenario that, for me these days, happens about every other month):
1. MoneyYes, there are best sellers that are self-published on Kindle, where the author ends up making enormous amounts of money on royalties because there are so few middle men involved, and every time I hear one of these stories I’m enamored with them, amazed, and filled with a kind of wild optimism about writers and readers and the narrowing gap between them, and the ability for words to find their proper homes in other people’s lives, despite things like the retail supply chain and its gatekeepers in tall glass buildings.
But just because there are lottery winners doesn’t mean playing lotto is my retirement plan. The fact is a traditional publisher will pay you an advance—they’ll put their money up as a gamble and a gesture of their belief in the book—but more importantly they’ll cover all the considerable expenses involved in getting the book to readers. As I’ve mentioned before I had no idea how much work it was to get a book into stores (both physical and digital). It takes an enormous amount of person-to-person communication for this to happen, which requires relationships and trust and a reputation for not leading people astray, and all sorts of other intangible things that take time to forge. Also: money. It is possible to do this on your own, through social media, or by building a community of readers with a series, but I wasn’t writing a series, and working on a single book sucked up pretty much all of my time. So given the option, I’d still rather spend the time I have writing another book and let a huge, experienced company take care of a lot of the rest.
2. Real, professional readersYou can hire a structural editor and a line editor and a copyeditor. (I happen to do all of those things freelance, and enjoy them immensely, and give those projects everything I have.) But it’s not the same as having other people with a vested stake in your book. In fact, it seems to me having someone else whose fate is also tied to it is the only way to be sure you’ll be called out and challenged on the things you need to be. Editors both purchase your book (thereby laying their own reputations on the line) and also work with you to make it better, which they have a huge personal interest in doing. “Make it better” in my experience comes down to running your manuscript through their own minutely calibrated bullshit detectors. This also applies to agents, who edit as well, often extensively, and if they’re good at what they do won’t let you send anything out that’s not ready, no matter how brilliant you might think it is. One thing I’ve come to realize is that the series of (sometimes endless) gates you have to pass through on the way to publication make your book better. Like so much better. And in that way it’s actually a lot more of a team sport than any tortured writer mythology might have us believe.
3. But, really, moneyThere’s just no replacement for not being broke. And an advance allows you, on a very practical level, a chance to get started on the next thing. It buys you time.
But say I got the sense, at this dinner party, somewhere around the main course, that you’d decided to self-publish a few books of your own, books you were proud of but felt were maybe underestimated by the traditional publishing establishment and particularly the authors it supports. And say I liked you, which I probably would since in my little fantasy here you’re taking such an interest in me and we’re really getting along and genuinely laughing at the other person’s jokes and like some of the same books—in that case I would probably add:
4. I’m not sure I have the gumption to be my own book’s salesman, publicist and marketerFrom my limited experience, publishing is about 10% making a book available and 90% talking about it. If it were just a matter of uploading a file onto Amazon and calling it a day, this would be different, but I know enough to know it’s a whole lot more than that, requiring time and skills, not least of which is a healthy dose of entrepreneurial salesmanship. If there’s anything in this world that seems to run counter to the persistent low hum of my natural self doubt, it would be having to also constantly pitch people, to convince strangers one at a time that they should spend their hard-earned money on my writing. Nothing makes me quite as uncomfortable as being pitched (“Excuse me sir, do you have three minutes for the environment?”), and the idea of doing that to other people about a book I wrote myself makes me want to just evaporate into a thin mist.
5. I am naturally suspicious of self-promoters and salesmenThis is especially true when it comes to creative people, and I know it’s probably not the best attribute in me, and that it comes from both a place of uptight protestant manners—I can hear in the back of my head the word “unclassy” come bubbling up with all its problematic implications—and also one of snobbishness. Salesmanship is somehow an indication of a lack of integrity, of crass motivations peeking through a curtain that, for a real artist, should remain firmly drawn. Of course we all engage in it (ahem), and even those who refuse are eventually creating a kind of persona (“reclusive” “camera shy” or if you’re really lucky “enigmatic”), but for me the separation between writer and seller is already nicely built into the traditional model of author and publisher, so I guess you could say it’s convenient. Having someone else vouch for me is probably more important to me than I’d always like to admit.
But, okay, say we were getting toward dessert, and had gone through all the red and the white and a half-bottle of rose someone found in the fridge, and we already had headaches brewing and knew tomorrow was a lost cause, and say our host broke out a dusty old bottle of port she’d been given by someone who knew about such things, a good one, though at this point neither of us would be able to tell the difference, and we were swirling that dense liquid in those little midget port glasses and realized we were the last two left at the party, that the candles had all burned down to goblins of wax and that the host was off in the kitchen scraping the plates that we really should have been scraping were we better guests—here are the things I would probably say then, in that setting, the things I would probably regret the following morning, when I woke up with that headache and wondered what the hell I had said after that second glass of port (and, you could argue, therefore the real reason):
6. If I’m totally honest, the one thing I write for is some sense of acceptanceI know how slippery that statement is, and how uncool, and that I may lose any shred of real artist cred I might have had, but if I strip away all of the  layers of motivation that get me up and to my desk every morning, what’s left is some version of this. I think it’s important to note the difference between changing my writing to try and please some imaginary club (a trap if there ever was one, and one I’ve also fallen into many times), and writing what is truest for me, what is often uncommunicated in the daily chatter of life and yet is felt so deeply—trying to put that into words—and wanting to feel a sense of acceptance coming back at me, a sense that the work of communicating that subterranean life is worthy, and therefore, by extension, that I am worthy too. The moments of feeling this, acceptance for not only talent or craft but the substance of my unspoken feelings—whatever they are, dreams and desires and fears—are the real payments I’ve always been chasing. Of course acceptance is probably an unhealthy drug to get hooked on, because the who of it will always continue to change, the clubs whose entry you’re yearning for will continue to get smaller and more exclusive, and there will never be a moment of arrival. (Having a book published by Little, Brown should be that moment, and several years ago to me it would’ve been, but now I see it as just the beginning, the summit of one peak that’s granted me entry into a park of towering others.) If there’s one thing I admire so much about those who choose to self publish it’s this, this sense of sovereignty from the approval of others, which of course can translate into a fierceness of expression, though often it seems that the measure of acceptance is just transferred to sales, to the terms of the free market, which can be a blunt tool for measuring anything. I can beat myself up about this motivation, choose to see it as an indication of weakness, of a warped or malnourished self-esteem, but I also know that the yearning for acceptance is a kind of acknowledgment of the reader, a sign of respect for other people and maybe even humility before them. I can’t imagine anyone writing anything in language they hope will communicate not wanting acceptance. In a way it’s a beautiful thing, the reason so many of us continue to take what’s internal and make it external, the reason to dig deep and share.
*
Previously on Ask a Debut Novelist:
On Writing and Revision: “Throw away the scale. There is no scale, there is only your story.” 
On the Book Business: “Selling a book won’t change your life—except it kind of will.”
On Compliments: “And maybe every piece of writing is an act of trust.”
Have a question for Ted? Drop it in our Ask Box.

littlebrown:

Ask a Debut Novelist - Question 4

In which thompsonted, author of The Land of Steady Habits, answers your questions about writing, publishing, and making good work. Have a question? Ask away.

Anonymous asked: Is there a good reason to seek to be published through Little, Brown and Company rather than self-publishing as an ebook?

This is a question I initially skipped because it seemed a little too practical, and I am by no means a publishing expert, or anything close to it. But then I found myself talking out my answer in the shower, and again at night before I drifted off to sleep, and I guess that’s an indication that there’s a lot more to this question than I initially thought.

So here are my initial, practical responses, the ones I would probably cite at a dinner party if we’d just met, Anonymous, and it seemed like maybe you were making chitchat since you’ve heard a lot about how digital technologies are disrupting traditional publishing and I maybe get the sense that the subtext of your question is that it’s a little old fashioned or backward-looking to be doing business with a company that still primarily traffics in paper and glue (a scenario that, for me these days, happens about every other month):

1. Money
Yes, there are best sellers that are self-published on Kindle, where the author ends up making enormous amounts of money on royalties because there are so few middle men involved, and every time I hear one of these stories I’m enamored with them, amazed, and filled with a kind of wild optimism about writers and readers and the narrowing gap between them, and the ability for words to find their proper homes in other people’s lives, despite things like the retail supply chain and its gatekeepers in tall glass buildings.

But just because there are lottery winners doesn’t mean playing lotto is my retirement plan. The fact is a traditional publisher will pay you an advance—they’ll put their money up as a gamble and a gesture of their belief in the book—but more importantly they’ll cover all the considerable expenses involved in getting the book to readers. As I’ve mentioned before I had no idea how much work it was to get a book into stores (both physical and digital). It takes an enormous amount of person-to-person communication for this to happen, which requires relationships and trust and a reputation for not leading people astray, and all sorts of other intangible things that take time to forge. Also: money. It is possible to do this on your own, through social media, or by building a community of readers with a series, but I wasn’t writing a series, and working on a single book sucked up pretty much all of my time. So given the option, I’d still rather spend the time I have writing another book and let a huge, experienced company take care of a lot of the rest.

2. Real, professional readers
You can hire a structural editor and a line editor and a copyeditor. (I happen to do all of those things freelance, and enjoy them immensely, and give those projects everything I have.) But it’s not the same as having other people with a vested stake in your book. In fact, it seems to me having someone else whose fate is also tied to it is the only way to be sure you’ll be called out and challenged on the things you need to be. Editors both purchase your book (thereby laying their own reputations on the line) and also work with you to make it better, which they have a huge personal interest in doing. “Make it better” in my experience comes down to running your manuscript through their own minutely calibrated bullshit detectors. This also applies to agents, who edit as well, often extensively, and if they’re good at what they do won’t let you send anything out that’s not ready, no matter how brilliant you might think it is. One thing I’ve come to realize is that the series of (sometimes endless) gates you have to pass through on the way to publication make your book better. Like so much better. And in that way it’s actually a lot more of a team sport than any tortured writer mythology might have us believe.

3. But, really, money
There’s just no replacement for not being broke. And an advance allows you, on a very practical level, a chance to get started on the next thing. It buys you time.

But say I got the sense, at this dinner party, somewhere around the main course, that you’d decided to self-publish a few books of your own, books you were proud of but felt were maybe underestimated by the traditional publishing establishment and particularly the authors it supports. And say I liked you, which I probably would since in my little fantasy here you’re taking such an interest in me and we’re really getting along and genuinely laughing at the other person’s jokes and like some of the same books—in that case I would probably add:

4. I’m not sure I have the gumption to be my own book’s salesman, publicist and marketer
From my limited experience, publishing is about 10% making a book available and 90% talking about it. If it were just a matter of uploading a file onto Amazon and calling it a day, this would be different, but I know enough to know it’s a whole lot more than that, requiring time and skills, not least of which is a healthy dose of entrepreneurial salesmanship. If there’s anything in this world that seems to run counter to the persistent low hum of my natural self doubt, it would be having to also constantly pitch people, to convince strangers one at a time that they should spend their hard-earned money on my writing. Nothing makes me quite as uncomfortable as being pitched (“Excuse me sir, do you have three minutes for the environment?”), and the idea of doing that to other people about a book I wrote myself makes me want to just evaporate into a thin mist.

5. I am naturally suspicious of self-promoters and salesmen
This is especially true when it comes to creative people, and I know it’s probably not the best attribute in me, and that it comes from both a place of uptight protestant manners—I can hear in the back of my head the word “unclassy” come bubbling up with all its problematic implications—and also one of snobbishness. Salesmanship is somehow an indication of a lack of integrity, of crass motivations peeking through a curtain that, for a real artist, should remain firmly drawn. Of course we all engage in it (ahem), and even those who refuse are eventually creating a kind of persona (“reclusive” “camera shy” or if you’re really lucky “enigmatic”), but for me the separation between writer and seller is already nicely built into the traditional model of author and publisher, so I guess you could say it’s convenient. Having someone else vouch for me is probably more important to me than I’d always like to admit.

But, okay, say we were getting toward dessert, and had gone through all the red and the white and a half-bottle of rose someone found in the fridge, and we already had headaches brewing and knew tomorrow was a lost cause, and say our host broke out a dusty old bottle of port she’d been given by someone who knew about such things, a good one, though at this point neither of us would be able to tell the difference, and we were swirling that dense liquid in those little midget port glasses and realized we were the last two left at the party, that the candles had all burned down to goblins of wax and that the host was off in the kitchen scraping the plates that we really should have been scraping were we better guests—here are the things I would probably say then, in that setting, the things I would probably regret the following morning, when I woke up with that headache and wondered what the hell I had said after that second glass of port (and, you could argue, therefore the real reason):

6. If I’m totally honest, the one thing I write for is some sense of acceptance
I know how slippery that statement is, and how uncool, and that I may lose any shred of real artist cred I might have had, but if I strip away all of the  layers of motivation that get me up and to my desk every morning, what’s left is some version of this. I think it’s important to note the difference between changing my writing to try and please some imaginary club (a trap if there ever was one, and one I’ve also fallen into many times), and writing what is truest for me, what is often uncommunicated in the daily chatter of life and yet is felt so deeply—trying to put that into words—and wanting to feel a sense of acceptance coming back at me, a sense that the work of communicating that subterranean life is worthy, and therefore, by extension, that I am worthy too. The moments of feeling this, acceptance for not only talent or craft but the substance of my unspoken feelings—whatever they are, dreams and desires and fears—are the real payments I’ve always been chasing. Of course acceptance is probably an unhealthy drug to get hooked on, because the who of it will always continue to change, the clubs whose entry you’re yearning for will continue to get smaller and more exclusive, and there will never be a moment of arrival. (Having a book published by Little, Brown should be that moment, and several years ago to me it would’ve been, but now I see it as just the beginning, the summit of one peak that’s granted me entry into a park of towering others.) If there’s one thing I admire so much about those who choose to self publish it’s this, this sense of sovereignty from the approval of others, which of course can translate into a fierceness of expression, though often it seems that the measure of acceptance is just transferred to sales, to the terms of the free market, which can be a blunt tool for measuring anything. I can beat myself up about this motivation, choose to see it as an indication of weakness, of a warped or malnourished self-esteem, but I also know that the yearning for acceptance is a kind of acknowledgment of the reader, a sign of respect for other people and maybe even humility before them. I can’t imagine anyone writing anything in language they hope will communicate not wanting acceptance. In a way it’s a beautiful thing, the reason so many of us continue to take what’s internal and make it external, the reason to dig deep and share.

*

Previously on Ask a Debut Novelist:

  1. On Writing and Revision: “Throw away the scale. There is no scale, there is only your story.”
  2. On the Book Business: “Selling a book won’t change your life—except it kind of will.”
  3. On Compliments: “And maybe every piece of writing is an act of trust.”

Have a question for Ted? Drop it in our Ask Box.

(via italicsmine)

"If I could catch the feeling I would: the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by loneliness and silence from the habitable world."

— Anne Carson, Decreation (via proustitute)

America, Your Food Is So Gay

itsjohnbirdsall:

I was ten in 1970, a shy kid growing up in a scrub-oak suburb south of San Francisco. Our house was pitched on stilts sunk in a steep hillside, looking out onto a little arroyo and into the house of two men I loved like uncles (and more deeply than some of the uncles whose DNA I shared).

But besides me and my older brother, Walter, my mom, and my dad, everybody on our street despised Pat and Lou. At a time when it was still a crime in California for one man to give another man a blowjob, the neighbors hated them because they shared the same enormous bed, draped in a regal turquoise coverlet. Hated them because Lou stayed home like moms did, trolling Safeway for steaks and stuffed potatoes to fix for Pat when he got home from the office.

(Why didn’t my parents share the general loathing for Pat and Lou, a disgust expressed through passive avoidance, active shunning, and the occasional high-pitched catcall? I discovered later that my mom, bless her, is a total fag hag. And my dad always hated bullies—it trumped his ambivalence about the gay thing.)

Pat and Lou did cocktail hour nightly from a pair of velour bucket chairs, in their beam-ceilinged, ranch-style canyon house overlooking masses of scarlet and purple irises under the oaks. They put on matching poplin jumpsuits and corduroy house moccasins to sip Gibsons, tossing nuts to Kurt, their sleek miniature schnauzer, from fingers studded with big-jeweled cocktail rings. On nights when my parents would go to the Iron Gate restaurant for shrimp scampi and saltimbocca, they dropped us boys off at Pat and Lou’s for babysitting.

On those nights, Lou would cook us crazy shit our mom never fixed, food so rich no adult should ever serve it to a ten-year-old. There were casseroles that used Monterey Jack as a suspension medium for olives, ground veal, and button mushrooms from a can. And there were Lou’s famous burgers, so rich and salty, so crusted with a mixture of caramelized onions, Roquefort crumbles, and Grey Poupon—a thick impasto gilded beneath the electric broiler element—I could only ever eat half before feeling sick. I loved every bite.

Looking back, I recognize in Lou’s burgers my first taste of food that didn’t give a fuck about nutrition or the drab strictures of home economics. They were calibrated for adult pleasure, acutely expressive of a formalized richness— exactly the type of thing James Beard taught Americans to eat (for all I know, Lou’s recipe was straight out of Beard). I see them now, those burgers, as unflinchingly, unapologetically, magnificently queer.

Read More

The Record Daily: Best of Bill Withers

In 2011, I did a project in which I listened to one vinyl record every day and wrote something about. Here’s Bill Withers for a foggy morning far away from Harlem:

Columbia Records, 1980

Saturday afternoon in Harlem

I listen to The Best of Bill Withers on a rainy morning in San Francisco, which is not generally the type of atmosphere I associate with Mr. Bill Withers, legendary singer/songwriter. To me, The Best of Bill Withers is all about “Harlem” – the song of that title and the city of that name. West Harlem, in 1996, to be exact. Which is interesting, because although he wrote that infamous ballad to the capital of Black America, Bill Withers mostly lived in Los Angeles. But I don’t care. This artist is not L.A. sunshine and freeways, or, today, San Francisco mist in the morning. Bill Withers is Harlem, that legend filled with grandma’s hands, Saturday nights, lovers and players and junkies and humanity buzzing around in the sharp high hat snap that hits it every time. Harlem of my first New York summer.

The day I moved to Harlem, I took the Metro North train into the city from Yonkers, where I was crashing with friends who were in college up there. I got off at 125th Street, remembering that my new apartment was at that street and Broadway, and I soon realized I had a long walk across the entire width of Manhattan before I reached the West side from the station.

So I started walking. A 19-year-old white girl from a hippie town in California, a too-cool-for-school college dropout who’d lived in cities a bit already (SF, Boston) but had never really been in New York before. There I walked, lugging a duffel bag the size of myself down the Main Street of Harlem in 90 percent humidity on a Saturday afternoon in the first week of summer. It was bright out, and blurry. There were corner stores, streamers flapping from awnings, sidewalk sales bustling in every direction. There were the famously burned out buildings, which beneath the boards looked beautiful (or formerly so), and the famous Apollo Theater, and there were loud taxis and chugging buses and the hot exhaust breezes they blew on my hot red face as I lugged all my possessions down that hot, famous street.

And it was loud; the cars and the honks and the music crowding the stifled air around me. From every storefront speakers pointed at me, most playing HOT 97, New York’s hip-hop radio station, or blasting home-made, for-sale mix tapes of HOT 97-endorsed singles side by side with local un-signed emcees. It was May, 1996, and the soundtrack of New York City at that moment was the Fugees (“Fu La La La…”) and Junior M.A.F.I.A. (Biggie Smalls was alive and happening) and Lauryn Hill was hanging out with Nas singing about “If I Ruled the World.” This was the summer before Tupac was killed, and days before that guy from Sublime OD’ed, sending my roommate into a deep sadness I could never come around to. (I never really liked that band.) In addition to the music blaring down 125th street there was a chorus of voices, too, friendly and amused, the shouts of shopkeepers talking to one another, customers, kids, people sitting on folding chairs outside. These voices mingled with direct addresses to me from bystanders– “Hey white girl, what are you doing up here?” “Are you lost, shorty?” — in a mix that quickly became the daily background noise of my time spent living uptown.

But mostly there were people. I had never before seen people out and about in this way, when the combination of unbearable heat and East Coast in-your-face-ness combines to put everybody outside, just out, sitting or standing or talking or working or waiting for something to heat up or cool down. That summer-in-the-city feeling I grew to love, the unspoken knowledge that the rich and privileged have left town for cooler shores and all that’s left of the city is owned by whomever wants to come outside and be in it.

Living in Public

In New York, and in Harlem especially, there was a sense of public life I had not previously encountered. On these warm sticky days and nights, we all had transparent lives, whether we were standing outside or in hot apartments with all the windows opened wide to the passing city. We all listened to the same songs, heard the same neighbors’ drama, knew the same sound and vibration of the train rattling overhead every few minutes. This was and is still one of my favorite things about New York– everybody there (and especially the not-rich) lives in public. That’s why they always give you a paper bag even when you buy just a soda at the corner store, or something as small as gum, or cigarettes. Because in a city packed tight vertically and horizontally, privacy is a luxury. Most people just live our lives in view of everyone else. A paper bag with every purchase is the New York economy’s way of saying hey, here’s added luxury value to your day: no one can see what you’ve got in there. Come again soon.

Just weeks later I’d be walking down 125th street to the strains of “No Diggity,” the BLACKstreet song that samples Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” and features Dr. Dre and Queen Pen. And later that first day, after I reached the apartment, I would put my Bill Withers record on the portable record player/boombox combo my roommate imported from her previous year’s dorm room and blast “Harlem” while I unpacked. Because when you’re 19, music is that literal. So, even decades later, that summer remains “Harlem” – three girls, plus various paramours and friends, sharing a one bedroom apartment just below 125th Street. This was my first time living in public, outside, in the streets. This was 125th Street at the crest of a new wave of gentrification, and we were middle class college-age kids smoking weed and kissing friends in front of Grant’s Tomb at night, running out to the Bread Store to get short light & sweet coffees in the morning, walking down avenues in afternoons. Smoking cigarettes inside. And listening to Bill Withers.

I left Harlem after six months and two apartments; the short story was, I wanted to live downtown and in my own place. And I wanted, also, very much, though I wasn’t able to verbalize it at the time, to not be the white person who gentrified Harlem. Harlem is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world, and at the time I felt I didn’t want to be one of the people who ruined it. That’s not to say that it wasn’t already ruined by a variety of forces in many very real ways for a great many people who lived there and couldn’t just move on out whenever they wanted — Harlem was and is complicated. And of course gentrification, with all the loaded meanings that word unpacks, happened, and of course I was part of it, and I never felt quite right about that, but then of course no young white kid would say they did. But at the time I did the only thing I could think to do, and I stepped out (and into another rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, but that’s another story.)

I took my Bill Withers record with me, but the only song on it forever after that was “Harlem.”