Tuesday, January 19, 2016

That Time I Belonged to the City

It was August of 1986, which was the summer before 10th grade for me. My friend Mallory and I were walking down a street in New York City. This was the trip of a lifetime for me. The biggest city I had ever lived in was my hometown of Beaumont, Texas, a mid-sized town on the refinery-dotted Gulf Coast. I had been to Houston many times, but as far as cities go, New York City was in a league of its own. Mallory, her mom and I spent the week shopping at Bloomingdales and Tower Records and taking cabs through the streets of Manhattan. On this afternoon, we were headed down the sidewalk when I realized we were walking across large numbers that were inlaid in the sidewalk. I immediately recognized them. These were the same numbers Glenn Frey walks across at the end of his “You Belong to the City” video, which had come out the previous year. You can see that spot on the sidewalk at 5:15 here.

In a city like New York, you constantly come to face-to-face with things and places you have seen in movies and on TV. I’m sure the people who live there are used to that, but for this Beaumont girl, I could not believe it. I was so overcome that Glenn Frey’s name flew out of my head and all I could tell my friend was, “This is that place! In that video! With that guy!” I don’t think she ever figured out what I was talking about, plus the whole thing was a little embarrassing. Before the trip, we had vowed to each other that we would fit in and not look like tourists from southeast Texas. We would not look up in awe at the buildings. We would say “Houston” and not “Beaumont” when asked where we were from. And now I had melted down in an unintelligible fit on the sidewalk and totally blown our cover. Oh, well. We went on our way. But I kept thinking about it. For years, MTV had been stepping into my living room, providing a connection between me and a much more interesting world than the one I thought I lived in. That day on the sidewalk in New York, at least for a second, the opposite had happened: I had stepped into MTV. My mundane, teenage life and the endlessly fascinating realm of entertainment had briefly come together.

When news of Glenn Frey’s death hit the news yesterday, I remembered that he was part of this moment. Of course I knew who he was before his mid-’80s solo career. I had been an Eagles fan for years before that, and I would go on to see the band in concert in 2015, just six months before Frey’s death. But musicians like Frey give us more than their music. They provide a much-needed escape for 15-year-olds like the one I was in 1986. That day on a New York sidewalk, fantasy and reality came together in a way I have not forgotten.


Post a Comment

<< Home