Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Memories of the Summer
It’s very hot in here.
It’s 2:00 on an early-June afternoon, and a generously sunny day is being filtered to impotence by this building’s obstinate windows. The sparse rays that make it into the room quickly find they have little for company—some cubicles, a couple of printers, computers. The cubicles are small, like shirt cuffs wrapped too tightly. Everyone is playing music at bewildering volumes, a virtual staple at every music label’s corporate headquarters. Guys with names like “Oliver” and “Kevin” are wearing clothing with names like “American Eagle” and “D&G,” but playing to a hip-hop sensibility. They are fist-pounding (often missing) and trading barbs about Kanye West.
There is an oversized poster of The Bravery on the far wall, and as I begin to abhor my very existence, someone offers coffee. I follow her past enclave after enclave of Olivers and Kevins and arrive at the kitchen: a frugal collection of utensils, a severe-looking fridge, and a coffeemaker. “Allie,” she says, extending her hand. “The coffee here sucks. Sorry.”
I take her hand, then the coffee.
The coffee sucks.
“Is it OK if I don’t drink it? I feel bad. You made it.”
“No, it’s fine,” Allie says. “Actually, you’d be insane to drink it.”
The coffee swooshes down the tiny sink. Allie empties hers, as well, perhaps for moral support. I follow her to the reception area, where she finds that an artist due to arrive any minute for an interview—the reason I am here—is still not here. Moreover, nobody knows when the air conditioning will be fixed.
A rotund, polo-shirt-clad man approaches. “Allie, what’s up baby?” he asks, employing the half-hug, half-butt-bump that is so popular among music-label types.
“Nothing,” she flirts back. “Just looking for some air conditioning.”
“Woo-wee!” he exclaims, as if she suddenly reminds him of the copious sweat holding court along his hairline. “Yeah, it’s hot as a mofo up in here.”
There are few certainties in New York City. One is that you will not get a seat on the Queens-bound F train between 6 and 8 in the evening if you get on after 34th Street. Another is that people complain about the weather—admittedly, New York has deplorable climactic behavior, with about five hot months, five cold months, one nice month, and around 30 days, collectively, that serve to transition from one undesirable weather-type to another. New Yorkers have legitimate claims, but that the former air the latter so frequently is something of an anomaly.
The winter in Montreal is so cold that the residents live in an underground civilization half the year, replete with supermarkets and transportation. The humidity in Miami is wringing, as torturous and inescapable as a first date. New Jersey abuts New York City; most days, the two share a forecast. Whatever the reason, NYC’s moaning quotient is greater than those other locales’ combined. Although New Yorkers endure work more hours than anyone else, the sun scandalizes them.
Holding a cell phone to her face, Allie winces and apologizes. “Sorry, she’s not going to be here today,” she says, referring to my interview subject. “Maybe you wanna come back later this week?”
“Sure,” I respond, a little dejected. “Maybe when the A.C. is fixed.”
“Yeah, we’re all dying. You better come back later.”
In the elevator down to the street, a saturnine fellow wearing a double-breasted suit, a gold watch, and designer sunglasses clutches a handkerchief against his nape.
“Goddamn weather,” he exhales. “Goddamn weather.”
Stay Sweaty, New York