Pie & Miles Davis

I was going to write about pie. We made one yesterday and I still can’t move and now it’s all I can think about. Pie. But have you ever tried writing about pie while listening to Miles Davis? It can’t be done, even about a really memorable pie. You start writing about pie while listening to Miles Davis and stuff gets weird. The pie stops being something you made on a Sunday afternoon with Bake-Off on in the background and becomes something you once devoured with your bare hands in a Manhattan diner on an accidental night out in 1952 with a grizzly four-piece from the Bronx after they made you smoke that funny cigarette and you all ended up sleeping in a bathtub in Greenwich Village. And that never happened, it’s just that Miles Davis makes you feel like it did. The tinker.

I’m not just casually dropping Miles Davis into a column so you can be all like “Oh, jazz lover are you, Sadie?” and do that little associative link that people make with jazz like you must either be somehow culturally enlightened, or cerebrally developed like loving Jazz is a little extra tail flicking off the end of your DNA helix, along with other genetic distinctions like being able to curl your tongue in half and loving Marmite. No. I’m not responsible for this morning’s music pick. I can’t take credit and so nor can I take the blame. I’m being pummelled by the frenetic stabs of something on the more freeform side of things and it’s making me feel a bit mental this Monday morning if I’m honest. Miles Davis is making me twitch. I’m getting about five words down at a time, nothing on the wonders of pie at all, and then glazing over staring at the turntable spinning, my eyeballs all wide and oxygen-puffed, the steady bob of the needle like a musical woodpecker chipping into my temporal lobe and meddling with the natural order in there. If there is any.

I’m not dissing though, man. I can do jazz. I like a bit of jazz. I love the dirty sounding speakeasy stuff from the twenties and thirties, I like the smooth swaying stuff of the forties, Glenn Miller is a peach, Chet Baker makes me go woozy, I’ve tapped my feet to a shedload of live jazzy stuff down the pub and haven’t even been drunk. And I’ll definitely remember this Miles Davis album for when I need to write a character who’s having an intellectual breakdown at a posh Uni or a very tumultuous love affair that ends in one of them cutting all their hair off with a bread knife and running down the street half-dressed before drowning in a stagnant canal. For that it’ll be great. Man.

Choosing an album to listen to must be one of the sweetest things in modern life, a beautiful melding of the conscious and subconscious, a fusion of choice and abandon, of change and nostalgia, celebrating an old familiar thing or discovering something new, making a new friend. But when you’re at the mercy of someone else’s choices – pub jukeboxes or moochy mornings at home with someone else at the helm of the record player – the needle becomes a rudder of your mood for the next hour, and the ride isn’t entirely yours. But it’s nice giving in to the bends and sways of someone else’s journey, your brain in the sidecar, the wind in your hair.

So I was going to write about pie but it didn’t happen. And now the record’s been switched and Carole King’s on and I feel like I could maybe write about pie after all – a sad pie – dark cherry – the kind you stuff in one go after breaking up with the love of your life – but I’ve run out of words and that’s probably just as well.

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Terribly New York

There’s something about travel that cannot help but make even the biggest moron think of all the science involved. How does the plane stay up? Where does all our wee go when we flush; do the birds get wet? Why is this bread so hard? And so on.

There’s also something about being a visitor to new places which lends you an observational eye more inquisitive that usual. It’s like being a foreign speck placed in the Petri dish of a new culture, waiting to see if something will grow.

I felt a similar distance in some of my New York experiences. In the streets and in the theatre I felt like I was home, but in the bars I felt stilted. Though I knew some part of me wanted to ‘be’ a part of it, in the way I always want to live a place as though it is my life, perhaps because I prefer to write about it later from a perspective of inclusion, I did not feel like I belonged there. The speck rejected the Petri dish.

One night in particular I was in a bar full of post-work thirsty natives, and my gorgeous and slightly mad host Charlotte was explaining the travails and glories of their dating system to me. For the first five minutes I was enraptured by tales of liberation. I felt like I’d walked into a pop-up book of Sex & The City (my enduring passion for which I will never understand as I don’t do style, I hate Kim Cattrall, and I think the last ‘episode’ in the form of Sex & The City 2 was an insult to women and all of life everywhere. Go figure, as some yanks would say.)

We were with Charlotte’s yoga instructor Penny, a dazzling redhead in her 40s who introduced us to ‘some guys’. Somewhere in my story-head I imagined we were being introduced to New York society by a upper east side duchess who was weighing up our odds on the love market. Then a man proceeded to touch up my bum while going through the motions of small-talk, and I didn’t feel liberated or culturally curious. I wanted to punch him. Thinking he was a friend of Charlotte and Penny’s I politely kept shifting my derrière and spoke to someone nicer. I loathe myself now for not saying anything. I don’t know why I cared that it might ’cause a fuss’. (Practice run: “Hey, buddy, that’s my ass. Yours is the one behind you looking like an overfilled baloney sandwich.” How terribly New York of me that would have been. DAMMIT.)

Thus was my preconceived kaleidoscope of glamour shattered. I was not seeing women enjoying their freedom unjudged. I was seeing women who could date the same guy for a year caught in a constant round of small talk without ever getting anywhere, I was seeing women who could date four men at the same time without getting any satisfaction from it. I saw women playing cool, playing undercover detectives in their own cryptic games, playing phone tennis where the result is almost certainly never love-anything. I saw an awful lot of singles playing and it didn’t look a single bit like fun.

I’ve always wondered if I should have stayed single for longer after leaving my marriage, if I have fully explored the freedoms of the modern woman or have truly known independence for long enough, but seeing the dating scene in New York made me realise that freedom can be a sort of prison too, if you’re not exercising it in the right way.

I felt glad to come home to the fuzzy nook of my man. Where there’s no games, just truth.

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