The newspaper has a Starbucks machine on the 10th floor, plus a big red soda machine, and cereal, candy and ice cream bars, not to mention fruit and juice and varieties of almond milk in a cooler. After I get the column going, I like to pop up there for coffee, fuel for the rest of the morning.
I've dubbed the area "Pleasure Island," not just for the candy, but for the arcade games next door. It's intended to demonstrate that we are not a stodgy analog newspaper filled with old coots like me, but a glam high tech digital business buzzing with bright young people, and we are all supposed to mingle as we caffeinate and sugar up (and beer up, during the weekly social hours, or so I hear). Most grab a bowl of Raisin Bran or a banana and run. But sometimes they do linger and talk, and I certainly don't mind joining in for a bit of a chat with my coworkers.
Or trying to.
As I pumped my coffee, two guys in their early 20s and a woman about the same age were talking.
"...it was one of three bands that are important to me," the young lady was saying solemnly as I ferried my cup of black regular over to press its lid on. "I still can't believe they're going to accept my ticket and let me in."
They were talking about music. I like music.
"That's a phrase I haven't heard in a long time," I mused brightly, taking a step toward them. Three heads swiveled in my direction, their faces slightly surprised, as if a chair had spoken. "The phrase, 'bands that are important to me,' that is," I elaborated.
I smiled, slipped a protective brown sleeve around the cup and tapped the cup top in place. "Then again, I think of the the Eurthymics as a new group," I continued. Self-deprecation—always useful in conversation. Shows I'm an easygoing sort.
Still nothing from the trio. Maybe because the name "Eurythmics"—very big in the 1980s—meant nothing to them. Maybe it did evoke a spark of recognition, but in a bad way. Maybe my name-checking a 30-year-old group is the moral equivalent of Larry Weintraub—50ish, goatee, tattoo of an inkwell on his bicep, wrote a column where he dressed as a circus clown and dipped himself in pudding and such, dead for a decade— had burst in on a conversation me and my pals were having in 1988 about R.E.M. and U2 and Jane's Addiction and said, "Of course, nothing can top The Dave Clark Five."
The three young folk gamely tried to continue their conversation.
"Where are they playing?" one guy said.
"Lincoln Hall," she said. The concert was last night, so don't get your hopes up.
"I saw them in a bar in Cleveland," I added, not quite willing to let my great musical moment with the Eurythmics go, impressing no one.
Another pause. The trio sighed. Apparently this old person was still talking to them.
"So what group is it?" I asked, so that someone would be saying something.
"Julie Ruin" she said.
The name meant nothing to me. All groups do nowadays. She could have said "Peg Board" or "Meg Odon." Turns out to be a group, not a person. Like Jethro Tull. We all looked at one another.
"What kind of music?" I continued, still doing the talking thing.
"Like Ani DiFranco?" I ventured, tossing out the one name of a female singer I knew who had a slight edge and became popular after Ronald Reagan left office ... Sort of like Larry suggesting Brenda Lee when the conversation shifted to 1980s female singers.
"With a harder edge," she said.
"Sort of a female Big Black?" I continued, grabbing at an edgy group, forgetting it was another band that's 30 years old. Actually even older.
"Yeah," she said, fleeing, before I could deploy the sentence forming in my head, "And the only reason I know who Big Black were is because I went to college with Steve Albini." She didn't quite break into a trot, not in actuality, but she might as well have.
I took my coffee and shambled toward the escalator, a little more stooped than when I had shuffled in. Julie Ruin is a Brooklyn band. I would define it as the type of music that appeals to people who haven't listened to much music, but what do I know? You can decide for yourself. I'm going to have to stop this talking to young people business. It frightens them and saddens me.