Gotham Diary:
Love My Way
31 July 2012

It was time to fill the ice chest — always a bore. As I’ve said before, the state of the ice chest is a reliable gauge of my spirits; if it’s empty, and the ice-cube tray on the top of the stack is partially empty or half-frozen, then you know I’m running on fumes. There is always plenty of ice in the freezer; the question is whether it’s in the chest, with more ice on the way. It’s the difference between subsistence and good housekeeping.

I was up to good housekeeping, but I wanted a reward, and the reward that I wanted was a song that had been floating in my heada for weeks. “Love My Way,” by the Psychedelic Furs. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

I used to have a 45 of the song, and perhaps I still do, somewhere, but that would be useless, as I haven’t got anything to play it on. It was time to visit the Apple Store and buy the song from iTunes. It had been a while since my last visit, however, and security had been upgraded. I was asked to provide answers to three ranges of questions. In each range, I could choose one of five or six questions, and then answer it. Trouble was, I would have to remember the answers. These weren’t the sort of questions that you don’t have to think about. For example, the question that I chose from the first range asked what was the first thing that I learned how to cook. Another question: what’s my dream job?

For someone my age, these questions are exactly equivalent to passwords that must be memorized. Realizing this, I went straight to the other computer and printed up a Dymo label (two labels, actually, one for the Filofax and one for the address book) with the three answers on it.

I understand why the questions are so fuzzy. I also understand that they’re designed for much younger customers, people who still have a clear idea of the first thing that they ever learned how to cook or what their dream job might be. They might be wrong, but they’d be sure, and their answers would act like little stamps on the virtual passport of their identity. “Once upon a time, you were here.” Ten years on, they might shrug and laugh at the idea that they ever wanted to run an eco-resort in Belize, but they wouldn’t have to try to remember how to answer the iTunes question.

And then there’s the problematic nature of clever answers. Dream job? I have it; I’m just waiting to be paid. Very funny, but how much of that will I remember, when pressed by Apple in some undoubtedly urgent moment to prove that I’m me? How precisely do the answers have to be reproduced? No, I decided not to fiddle with the dream job question. I chose a slightly more objective question instead. (Never you mind.)

The Dymo label printer chose that minute to run out of labels. Don’t worry; I’ll stop there — I can see you sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming “La! La! La!” Downloading “Love My Way” and getting it onto a Nano was no trouble at all, and soon I was bopping around the kitchen, dumping ice into the chest and filling up the trays, and then looking for other things to do, so that I could justify staying in the kitchen while I listenend to the song again.

“Love My Way” is — what, dreadful? It was a hit in its day; the music video (not one of the more sophisticated ones) got a lot of play on MTV in 1984, which is how I discovered it. We had just bought our first television, Kathleen and I, and hooked it up to cable. I did nothing but watch music videos for six months. I actually stayed up on New Year’s Eve because the MTV Special was hosted by The Producers — I was crazy about “What’s He Got (That I Ain’t Got)?” Then, poof, videos were gone, done. Maybe it was me.

“Love My Way” sets off Richard Butler’s bored, flattish intonation with a basic but catchy xylophone riff. I have no idea what the song is about because I’ve never seen the lyrics, and Butler’s accent is unintelligible to me. Is this even English? Why the equal emphasis on the second syllable of “follow”? The chorus whines instead of singing; the synthesizer emits vaporous chords from Dark Shadows. I can’t believe I like this song — and then the bass kicks in beneath the xylophone and I feel that we are taking off. Suddenly it is 1968 and I am part of the the most glittering bohemian gathering in Soho. I cannot imagine living without this song. I am, in fact, not living without this song. I see lots of productive kitchen reorganization in the near future.

There are things about good housekeeping that Mrs Beeton doesn’t tell you.