Comparatives And Superlatives
Day two in New York City
* * * *
I’m sitting in a coffee shop in New York listening to Frank Omura on my iPod. Just beyond the infectious 4/4 rhythms of kicks and snares, I overhear fragments of a nearby conversation. A couple sitting in front of me are discussing visual narrative styles and creative influences. It occurs to me that such a conversation – complete with coffee shop and matching soundtrack -- could just as well be happening in Ann Arbor right now. The contextual differences are slight. Once you strip away the square mileage of Manhattan, add a couple dozen parks and reduce the population by a few million, you end up with a town not unlike Ann Arbor in attitude and influence.
Someone recently told me that the University of Michigan logo, the block M, is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Apparently, holding its own amidst giants like Apple and Microsoft, and beating out the likes of such consumer juggernauts as Nike. Hard to believe. Such high recognition creates momentum that’s measured geographically. Google cited the gravitational pull of U of M among the reasons for establishing a base of operations within Ann Arbor’s boundaries. Imagine if the University of Michigan had remained in Detroit.
My cell phone vibrates, interrupts that thought and alerts me to an incoming text message. It’s my business partner asking me to research a new investment opportunity. My goal was to purchase a wireless card for my laptop, return directly to Brooklyn, and work from my room. En route, I was swept up by the midday energy of Broadway, and instead opted to find a coffee shop where I can work and people watch. As I sit here, I recall a personal dream turned reality when I finally freed myself of traditional office trappings. And I suddenly miss the option of working in the Arb, which I often do back home. This urban oasis nurtures my best productivity among its broad valleys and secluded nooks. By comparison, Central Park has nothing on the Arb. It’s comparatively flat, less “natural,” and its surrounding skyline does not allow you to completely escape.
Track three dives in with an energetic swell of synth and bass. My head nods a little. A lady standing at the counter notices my patterned movements. I look up, realizing how I must appear. She looks away casually, avoiding accidental eye contact. New Yorkers have a way of watching you without being seen watching you. This is very different from the more affable Midwest sensibility. I guess living amidst so many people … you seek privacy where you can get it. Perhaps it’s why two-thirds of my neighbors are transplants from New York City. One of them -- the patriarch of a nuclear family from midtown Manhattan -- said Michigan is the perfect place to raise children. They are moving to Muskegon this summer.
Track five comes in hard and fast with it’s irresistible popping synth line. I just received an advanced demo of Omura’s unnamed tracks a short while ago and they are easily my favorite this year. Frank Omura is a resident of Ann Arbor. He is part of a large and ever-expanding group of musical artists with international potential who have settled in Ann Arbor for a variety of reasons. Also noteworthy are the many talented artists who claim association with its territory -- even though they may not be native or currently call it their home. For example, Ghostly International’s Tadd Mullinix (who originally hails from Florida) and Matthew Dear (a transplant from Texas who currently resides in New York). These two have achieved near cult-status in the independent electronic music scene, successfully staging crossovers into the mainstream realm right from Ann Arbor’s cozy confines.
Like New York, many of Ann Arbor’s residents are from all over the world. Unlike New York, the broad and varied blend of diverse backgrounds and cultures tastes a bit smoother to the communal palette. It’s as if Ann Arbor’s sense of community is developed without regard to such differences -- rather than because of them. I can personally think of numerous of artists, creatives and intellectuals, from places as disparate as Arizona and Poland, who call Ann Arbor home for just such reasons.
I suppose one could argue that these similarities exist in most places featuring either a thriving economic center or an active university base. And, true, all towns and cities are basically the sum of their residents. That being the case, places like Ann Arbor become much more than the sum of their parts, because the people who choose to reside there are drawn to its core. They come seeking an enriching lifestyle and often find it. And then an even trade takes place, as Ann Arbor’s community is enriched in exchange. That includes people like me. And I take my piece of Ann Arbor everywhere I roam.
* * * *
Oh, and by the way, Frank Omura is coming out later this year on Moodgadget, a record label founded in Ann Arbor.