The Compulsive Researcher (and a visit to the Brill Building)

10351913_10101835586931255_7747786824716750112_nAs far as I’m concerned if you don’t come home from vacation tired and sore you must be doing something wrong. If I don’t hobble off the plane and limp for a week then I have failed. The game is to get as much stuff crammed into those few days as possible, because it’s all one big scavenger hunt (like that time I spent 3 days driving all over the Mississippi Delta looking for blues landmarks.). I don’t go on vacation to relax and I’m more likely to spend half a day on the sidewalk in front of a music venue to ensure a good spot then I am to spend it sitting on a beach. It’s no surprise then that I have just as much fun compulsively researching a trip as I do actually taking it, because how else am I going to cram ALL THE THINGS into a few days without ALL THE RESEARCH?

I spend months, or sometimes years, researching the history and tracking down historic sites. Even if there is no marker on the actual site, it’s the fun of knowing that I found where it really happened. For example, on a previous trip to New York I went to the Brill Building (1619 Broadway), with an obsessively curated playlist that I wish I still had. It’s a beautiful historic building and sacred ground for music and songwriting nerds for being the birthplace of hundreds of song by legendary songwriters like Lieber and Stoller, Bacharach and David, Sedaka and Greenfield, and lots more. The thing is that history has blurred some details and changed the physical Brill Building into the Brill Building era, so writers who weren’t necessarily based there get wrapped up in it and the real locations get forgotten. That’s why I also made a point of also going to 1650 Broadway, which is a less impressive building, but was also home to writers like Goffin and King (my personal favorites), a little detail I picked up from Always Magic in the Air (Sadly the only book on the Brill Building that I’ve found, and a disappointing one).

So is it any surprise that I’m putting my usual compulsive planning to shame getting ready for my trip to New York and Boston in November? All of those weekend visits to my favorite coffee shop have been dedicated to poring over anything I can find about any sites in New York or Boston even slightly historic (or just novel).

This is the first trip I’ve done completely alone since a trip to New York more than 5 years ago for the Sex, Hope, and Rock and Roll conference at NYU. (Despite appearances I really do go places besides New York, I just really love it there and manage to find my way there every other year or so.) Going alone means that I don’t have to consider what my BFF and usual travel companion wants to do, so if I want to plan several elaborate walking tours for myself of music, feminist, queer landmarks, and Jim Henson landmarks, then I can.

And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Almost compulsively.

Where to go. Best routes. Train vs bus. Traveling music. Best prices.

You’d never know I have nearly two months till I leave…

Can I leave now?

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