Either This Wallpaper Goes or I Do

BY THE TIME you read this, I will be gone.

I've always wanted to make some kind of melodramatic statement like that--you know, like that creepy posthumous Yul Brynner video about how smoking killed him. Or maybe come up with some snazzy last words, like "Either this wallpaper goes or I do" or, like Ice Cube strapped in the killing chair, "Fuck all y'all."

Not that I'm dead or anything--don't worry (or celebrate) just yet. I only got a new job. While you're skimming this, you see, I'm in Manhattan scavenging for an affordable apartment and settling in to my new position as an editor at a brand-new national music mag that debuts in May. This was a totally unexpected assignment, and it was also too exciting an opportunity to pass up--it might be hard to envision, but editing some 200 CD reviews a month is actually a dream job for a dork like me. Then again, my position at City Pages was a dream job as well.

I haven't been here long enough--either at City Pages or in Minneapolis--to piss off as many people as I should have. Too many arguments are just starting, and damn but I wanted to be a part of them. (My apologies to anyone who e-mailed or called over the past few weeks and thinks I've blown them off; it has been hectic. I don't have all my new contact information yet, but feel free to hit me at ketiharris@aol.com for the time being.)

I've only been music editor here at City Pages for six months, and this is a job I've wanted for years. Way back in the Nineties and in my twenties, I straggled across the continent making feints at steady employment, trying to convince myself I really must want to do something more than become a mere rock critic, didn't I? And copies of City Pages would find their way into my hands. In this paper's music coverage, I found a place where young writers were given a place to stretch the bounds of their eager gullibility, and older writers justified their cynicism with humor and knowledge, and everybody said, "I think" when they thought something instead of hiding behind the weaselly "one would suppose" or some other "objective" dodge of responsibility.

And in terms of the topics that got tackled, it was a paper that didn't ignore the creative people who lived down the street, but that also didn't settle into the tunnel-vision parochialism of so many local papers. This was a place where writers chose to grapple with the forces of mass media in a way big-money national publications aren't free to do. Even if that meant telling hipsters that the latest commodified teen craze was just better art than the unimaginative sludge of their chosen alt-band du jour. I hope that's a tradition I've done something to further.

In the process of leaving, I've resigned myself to a sad fact: that when I come back to visit, I will like Minneapolis less than when I left. Downtown Minneapolis continues to turn into a weekend funplex, and creative musicians are being driven to the fringes. That has certainly been the trend for the three years I lived here: From the closing of the Foxfire to the police crackdown on raves, the creation and enjoyment of music has often been at odds with the forces of gentrification. I hope that City Pages won't be one of those disappointing changes for the worse.

There are people out there who hate this kind of writing, who call it self-indulgent or pretentious. It would be presumptuous of me to say that every one of those critics obviously has no imagination or sense of humor or vital spark. Besides, the answer to that sort of putdown isn't to cower defensively or attack the attackers ad hominem, but to have the courage and smarts to live up to your pretensions and to develop a self that's worthy of indulging.

Anyway, there's enough dull writing out there for dull readers already, enough tedious places for musicians to blather on about how the tour's going and to shill for product, enough places for hacks to churn out puff pieces drained of their lifeblood and embalmed with AP-style tedium for you to consume. (Besides, if you've hated my writing, how come you're still reading this far?)

I hope that whoever grabs the reins of the music section continues to make City Pages an exception. And I'm sad that I won't be around to help. Bye bye bye.

 
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