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Why I Missed Frank Ocean’s Album

I was out for a walk the other night, and I wanted to listen to Frank Ocean’s new album, which I’d already listened to once, but probably did not pay the proper attention to, partly because it was so long, and partly because I was also looking at the internet while I was listening, which is never the best way to listen to an album, but is more often than not the way most people listen to albums, so I felt I had not given it its proper attention, when, it would seem that everyone on earth, at least according to the way the internet and social media can tend to look when taking a quick glance at it on a daily basis, was in love with Frank Ocean’s album.

And so I loaded up Apple Music, which I subscribe to, along with Spotify and Tidal, because I don’t think subscribing to more than one service is a waste of money, and of course because all these companies are now competing with each other on an exclusive basis, and I have not wanted to miss out on records like Drake or Beyonce, even though I have not particularly felt as if I was in love with either of them, or anything else that has been offered on an exclusive basis, including Kanye’s new record, which I like, but probably do not love, because loving a record and liking it are two entirely different things.

But I’d recently gotten a new phone, another Samsung Galaxy S6, because the last one had fallen on the floor and the screen cracked and after it had fallen a second time and a third time and a fourth time, one night, it began to turn blue, and when I woke up the next morning, the entire screen had gone black, because it seemed whatever liquid is inside the screen, had leaked out and basically made the phone useless.

This is my fifth or sixth Samsung Galaxy S6, and I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly good phone, though I don’t know what a good phone is anymore, since a phone is basically a computer that one can take in their pocket, and they are all seemingly more powerful than a flip phone, which is probably a better device to have on the whole, but has certainly fallen out of favor, since people want to have all the power and accessibility of a computer, no matter where they go, and yet they also like to complain that they are stressed and overworked, and wonder why, when it is apparent that it is because during off hours, if there ever are off hours anymore, they are staring at a screen.

Nevertheless, I began walking, in the dark, up 6th avenue toward 34th street, passing numerous homeless people, since New York has a homeless epidemic now, with people sprawled out seemingly everywhere there is an open space, including pedestrian plazas, which are ideally made for tourists to sit down in during their long days of shopping for meaningless bullshit they can easily obtain on Amazon but travel long distances to the Big Apple to spend even more money on.

The plazas are, in many ways, like little homeless communities, some might call them towns, but you would have to venture out of your apartment after midnight to see them, and New York is very vanilla now, what with all the people glued to their phones and their netflixes, so the only people out on the street at that hour are the homeless and the tourists, and besides, even if they were out, they would likely be too busy in their ubers or walking while staring at their phones, to even notice what is staring them right in their face.

I like to go on these long walks at night, partially because I want to think, but also, too, so that I might get myself worked up into some kind of mood, the kind of mood one needs to be in to channel a certain type of creativity. I don’t know if I necessarily need to do this, although I like to do it, and have certainly liked to do it for a long time, for even as far back as five years ago, when I was living in Staten Island, and was, for a brief period of time, without a car, which is a death sentence on a borough as spread out as Staten Island, I would go walking, sometimes for miles at a time, around midnight.

I do recall one night, I believe it was 2008, when I was on a very serious fitness kick, when I walked six miles, beginning around 11 PM, and finishing around 1 AM, which brought me back to my childhood home, though I did not ring the bell or anything, because my father was inside sleeping, and I did not want to wake him, and it was not really about going inside so much as it was merely the act of going for a walk and getting somewhere that seemed familiar. It was not a difficult walk by any stretch, though it was long and it was late, and the streets were very empty, aside from the cars that is.

What I remember about that night, and many nights like it, of course, is how the wind blew in a certain direction, often coming from the east, which I think, in hindsight, probably says something about the direction I was walking, and the type of wind that Staten Island tends to receive, yet I could not, at the time, make any type of summation about something as insignificant as this. It is only now, in reflecting, that I remember it.

I can remember the quiet, too, which was the kind of haunting quiet one tends to wish for when they are, should they be so lucky, to move on up in the world, perhaps to a big city, with lots of people and places and things to do, but is more often than not just the same place from whence they came, only with more people looking at their computer or their phones. It is a strange, particular cruel irony, but one that is maybe, when looked at a certain way, kind of reassuring, that the harder one works, and the further one goes, the less fun or colorful or even interesting their life tends to become.

I should also say that in that quiet, and in that dark, I would also pay particular attention to the leaves, especially in the fall, when they would, in all their colors, litter the ground, crunch under one’s feet, rustle in that eastern wind and play a sort of sweet little melody. I believe I may have, at that time, had a phone from which I could play some music then, but I would often not listen to it on those nights, instead opting to hear the natural music that the earth made, and maybe, one night or two nights or more nights than I can remember, I might have been so moved by this sweet little symphony that tears would come to my eyes, for I had, through all my years of listening to music and making music, never heard a music as beautiful as this.

And I would walk then, weeping in the moonlight, hoping to high hell that nobody would see, but also reassured too, that had they done so, I’d be okay with it, because I felt that to be moved by something so pure and so natural was maybe the highest form of living there was, and that it was not anything to be embarrassed about. In fact, I may have even felt, at that time, that should someone not understand why I was so moved by this, that they were the ones who should be embarrassed, for they could not understand one of the most basic things — the basic feeling of being alive.

I am somewhat older now and have matured enough to understand that not everyone should see the world my way, and in fact, it is actually a much more noble thing to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and try to see the world their way, which is the reason why perhaps I speak about things like this less and less, although it is never far from my mind, especially when someone is telling me about something, often a trifling luxury, and I find myself impossibly bored by how extravagantly dull the whole endeavor sometimes seems.

And so there I was, walking up 6th Avenue, trying in vain to listen to this Frank Ocean album, when I noticed, new phone and all, that I’d have to input my user name and password to log into Apple Music for the first time. Try as I might, I could not recall what my password was, because Apple tends to feel that one should have an impossibly complicated password, and I knew that it was some variation of a password I typically use for most password-protected things, but could not determine just how varied I’d made it. Trying once, twice, three times, I could not log in, nor did I feel, in that moment, that I wanted to go through the whole process of resetting my password, which would leave me trying to guess which one of my fifteen email addresses I’d actually used to set up my Apple Music account.

And so I took my headphones off, and I listened to the sounds of the city instead. It was, as they say in music industry parlance, a real exclusive.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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