You could walk the town I grew up in from end to end in roughly 45 minutes. I rarely had to go that far--most of my friends lived within 20. The building that housed both the middle and high school was closer to 17 minutes away; I walked there and back, rain or shine, for almost every day of my adolescence.
Most teenagers anxiously await the day they start driving, the freedom of the road opening up new possibilities to go places without parental scrutiny. I got my learner's permit at 16, which happened to coincide with my friends and I getting into drinking and smoking weed. This naturally strained my relationship with my parents, which meant I avoided spending the requisite hours together with them in the car needed for me to get a license*. Plus not having one was a built-in excuse for having to walk home from friends' houses in the dead of night (which, in my hometown, was pretty safe except for the insane time I got robbed at gunpoint--but that's a story for another day). Can't make flimsy excuses for ditching the car if I don't have a license.
*It probably didn't help that my Driver's Ed instructor sucked. Most of my friends drove with Gordo, a friendly bum in a cowboy hat who had students drive to Dunkin where he would buy them all donuts or coffee. I got stuck with Mr. Perry, a cranky old bastard who had catchphrases like the world's worst action figure and would abuse the instructor brake until we had no sense of how well we drove. (If we know each other in real life, ask me after a few beers to do my impression; it won't make any sense to you but I promise it's frighteningly accurate).
All this is to say that I love walking. During freshman year of college, when I would miss my high school friends, I'd mope around downtown Evanston with the emo records we all loved in my headphones. In 2020 I lived down the block from Nowadays (aka the most radioactive block in New York City, aka the block John Wilson noted was used as a stand-in for Syria on network TV) and would walk 105 minutes each way in the summer to meet my friends in Prospect Park and avoid the subway. That fall I had a gnarly health scare (unrelated to the radiation) and would wander through Bushwick trying to stave off my panic attacks. I've always found walking intrinsically cathartic--no matter the circumstance, if I can put one foot in front of the other I'll be fine. Nothing could being going too wrong if my body can maintain a constant forward momentum.
Late last year my life fell apart. I moved out of the apartment I had shared with my ex-girlfriend and into a crumbling basement room with three random roommates; one of whom, I would quickly find out, is among the worst people I've ever had the misfortune of meeting. I've basically been living like a Wonder Years song, but one of the older ones where Soupy is trying to convince himself he's not miserable instead of the newer, more enlightened ones where he's, like, reckoning with fatherhood**. So with a boatload of newfound free time, and a home that didn't feel like home, I climbed back through my familiar escape hatch and walked.
**For what it's worth, I imagine I'll go back to these newer Wonder Years albums if/when I have children and find them really resonant. For as much as I loved The Upsides as a teenager, nothing could have prepared me for revisiting it as a listless late 20-something who is Going Through It™️.
In these past few months I've found myself drawn to blown-out guitars and droning silences, the kinds of sounds that alternately encourage and drown out contemplation. While the globe continues to warm up, New York City still experiences a depressing winter. I began compiling a list of songs battle-tested in these environs, ones that both reflected the dour weather and insulated me against it. It's tough to say whether my bad luck will break before the spring; either way, please enjoy the enclosed smattering of drones, zones, and automobiles.
The below tracklist was meticulously sequenced, as if I were a shaman for your dreary head trip, but you can bliss out perfectly well on shuffle. In accordance with the ways of the old masters, I've included a zip file of mp3s. Feel free to remake this on your streaming service of choice; per the motto on the masthead, many of the songs will not be there. We'll get through the remainder of this winter together; spring will be here before we know it.
Download: Heavy Drifting