There’s a certain way I like to walk around the city. Not a particular style of gait, I mean, but a beat. It’s a pounding and a pulsing that makes the 15 minute walk to the subway station a little bit shorter, puts an extra swing in my hips and makes me remember what the runway feels like (I modeled once in college). Though I’m not usually tottering around in stilettos—god bless the women who are, but I just don’t have the patience unless it’s a special occasion because I walk slow enough as it is—in the wintertime when I’m wearing boots, I feel like they’re made for walkin’. But not just walkin’. Struttin’. I put my headphones in my ears and suddenly every sidewalk is a runway, and I’ve got ‘wind in hair,’ the works.
The other night I accidentally hopped myself up on caffeine and walked from the West Village to 28th and Park, about 25 blocks. Beats burrowed into my ears and wound their way out through my feet, cold air running parallel to my cheeks and fluttering through my hair. The long walk flew by as I listened to the music that somehow propelled me forward.
It was around 10pm. NYU kids in skinny jeans and beanies made their way to and from Bobst library in packs like tourists; Tuesday night drunks lined up in front of taco trucks; couples in blue jeans held hands despite the cold wind rushing over their fingertips. I saw the lights of cabs rushing past me, but I couldn’t hear a thing as the Pixies banged out the classic ‘Bam Thwok’— ‘they got the keys to the city but we got a lot of shakin’ in our hips!’ There’s something about Kim Deal meowing into my ears that will always put a bounce in my step. That and a dirty, catchy drumbeat that must have been made with walking around the city in mind. Tonight my caramel leather cowboy boots clicked on the concrete, and every so often I glimpsed down to catch the sight of my pointy toes eating up the street. Pixies shot me another drumroll and I put another grind in my step—at this point it was all I could do to keep from busting out pirouettes in the middle of the sidewalk.
My favorite music for walking around the city has that same grungy, punky edge or hot beat, or both— it depends on who I am on that particular day. Some days I’m roller boogie goddess in metaphorical hot pants (The Noisettes’ Wild Young Hearts), other days an intense supermodel about with an icy glare (Beck’s Modern Guilt) or a young punk figuring out life in the city (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ Shake the Sheets). Sometimes you own the city, sometimes it owns you, but there’s a soundtrack for every kind of walk.
I also love Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals (especially the opening track, ‘Play Your Part, Pt. 1’—it starts with a sample of UGK’s International Players Anthem--“My bitch a choosin' lover, never fuck without a rubber/Never in the sheets, like it on top of the covers”—laid on top of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin.’’ I have literally walked around to just the first three verses over and over. The beat is so hot it’s really enough). Other killers are Heart’s ‘Barracuda,’ for when I’m feeling particularly sassy; Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ when I need a little bit of soul with my strut; and ‘Step Into My Office Baby’ by Belle and Sebastian, when I feel like a naughty secretary. We all have our moments.
And everyone’s got their headphones in on public transport, too. I have to wonder what their strutting music is, if they have any? Or are they just cruising or thinking or neither? When we have our headphones in it’s like we’re in a secret little world that only we know about, that might be populated by anything from the Spice Girls to Rod Stewart to Tyler the Creator. Everyone’s moments sound different. What do your moments sound like?