Why I got into Eurovision, and some other notes

I’m walking through thick air in the early morning. New York City hasn’t seen a humid day since Eric Adams won the mayoral race and promised he would take his paycheck in crypto. when I was young I grew up in a place where the wind was clean as cocaine before they started shoving fentanyl into it. My wife and I will go back to a place like that someday. But for right now we must inhale the sewage laced particles that bubble up from the old rusty pipes of this city and get carried up into the wind by the pigeons and the flying rats and the ghosts of all the bicyclists hit by delivery trucks at busy intersections.

I use talk-to-type often now, even for business. There’s a certain fluidity when I let the voice do the writing; when I type out one word at a time, the process feels mechanical, forced, beleaguered. Of course I can’t copy this experience over to handwriting. But someday that’ll become a possibility. Imagine having a chip implanted into your head that causes your hand to move in perfect sync with your voice so that you can write what you say. Of course if you mumble or mispronounce or make a mistake this might cause an issue. Also we would need a lot of writing utensils with erasers. Also there’s the whole thing about implanting chips into brains that people might not like. Scratch the whole idea. Burn it.

I just read some terrible news that a bodega I used to frequent back in my first days of New York is no more. The Best & Quick Gourmet, conveniently located right outside the entrance to the 7th Avenue stop on the B/Q line, was your average idea of a small New York City store that sells sandwiches but also toothbrushes but also adult underwear but also a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper and some craft beer that you’ve never even heard of before. But that place saved me in times of crisis. It was there for me when I was heading to the train late for work and I forgot to make coffee. It was there when I was coming home from work and I hated my job and just wanted a bag of God damned Takis and a Mountain Dew. (I was 24. Bad age.) Big RIP to the Best & Quick: Like this city, you stick around too long, your lox starts to taste sour. (I just read some recent and less-than-palatable reviews of the place. Yikes.)

So the Eurovision Song Contest happened way over in Italy today, and I watched the program with a handful of folks over in Second Life’s London City. The Icelandic RUV had the final streaming until the voting started and the stream cut out and I had to scramble. Luckily a kind soul on Second Life told me that Opera has a built-in VPN, so that allowed me to watch the official YouTube broadcast. In any case: The United Kingdom won the jury vote, but in the end, Ukraine surpassed them when the televote numbers came in. Ukraine’s win was expected due to the strength of their song with the European public and the global support for the country, but the United Kingdom’s second-place finish knocked me off my American socks. Good Lord! That song from Sam Ryder just about made you forget the many times the Kingdom’s come in last, including last year when they went nul points point blank. Of course, the London City folks in Second Life were a little disappointed that their home country got knocked out at the last moment. But in the end, everyone was happy with the result as well as a little surprised that Serbia got into the Top Five.

America’s still a little behind on the Eurovision craze even though they just launched their own American Song Contest this past year. Of course we did; we always see things happening around Europe and then steal it and make it worse. (Examples: The Doctor Who movie, French films reimagined as NYU freshman-year final projects, John Lennon.) So I didn’t have great access to Eurovision as a kid, but I was still able to fall in love with it in a couple of indirect ways. My friend from grade school had come over with his family from Ukraine long before we met, and though he didn’t directly speak of Eurovision, he introduced me to the wonderous Verka Serduchka. (Reminder: “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” remains one of Eurovision’s greatest songs.) So during the fledgling days of YouTube – 2008, 2009 – I did some research into Verka and there were hundreds of videos all about Eurovision 2007, 2006, 2005, and so your boy went down the rabbit hole. This was how I learned that both ABBA and Celine Dion really broke big because of the contest and not some stroke of luck in their careers. (I guess winning Eurovision is a stroke of luck.)

Like any chaos demon, I love live television because there’s always the chance that something can go wrong. Unfortunately, this love doesn’t apply to live news events; that’s r of a replaced by more of a morbid interest. Eurovision is four hours of live music with moving stage pieces, dancers, and elaborate technical design, hosts filling time with goofy bits that don’t always land and sometimes performing so that we remember who they are, and witty trivia and sometimes offensive commentary from broadcasters all around Europe, all in front of a global audience in the hundreds of millions via television and the Internet. That’s just the final, by the way; there are two shorter semifinals that take place before it. This is one of the biggest televised stages in the world, and during the broadcasts you get to see everything: Every emotion, every flat note, every scream of joy or tear of sadness when the votes swing one way or another. American Idol could never. The Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and could never. Not even New Year’s Rockin’ Eve can hold a candle to the in-the-moment unhinged television event of the year which is the Eurovision Song Contest.

And so, if you kind of love when things go wrong just a little bit, you love Eurovision. It’s like being in Europe: You never know what’s going to happen, even if you do.

(Disclaimer: I have never been to Europe. The closest I’ve come to Europe on the map is Israel. During my stay in Tel Aviv some friends and I celebrated the fact that we 20-year-olds could drink without impunity at a Cowboy Ugly bar on Rothschild Boulevard. I don’t quite remember most of that evening, although I woke up the next day and found that I had illegibly professed my love to a girl in my notebook. Many years later but not long ago, my wife saw this notebook once and laughed and laughed and laughed. See? You never know what’s going to happen.)

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