A GUEST SERIES
27 – Empire State of Mind – Jay Z/Alicia Keys (2009 Roc Nation Records)
Released as a single in October 2009 (Reached Number 2)
Every now and again, I do some teaching. I stand up in front of a bunch of students or professionals and deliver lectures on certain topics. I do these mainly in the UK. For instance, a few months back I was in the beautiful garden city of Leeds doing just that.
But occasionally I get lucky and I get asked to do this internationally. A few years ago, I got asked to deliver a lecture to a some students at the John Jay College in New York, I immediately said yes, because I love New York and started to plan what would have to be a minimum of five days in the Big Apple (during which I would be doing roughly three hours hard work), I looked at getting some Yankees tickets (some are available against the Twins), I checked out what gigs were on (Real Estate at Terminal 5, well ok…) I look to see if I can squeeze in a trip to the Tenement Museum or not and whether or not I can get a boat out to see the Statue of Liberty.
I even book the time off work and tell Mrs SWC that it would be lovely if her and the daughter came over as well. I convince her with memories of our last trip to New York, where we ambled through Central Park arm in arm, casually munching on pistachio ice cream and buying tremendous pizza from a small Italian bloke pushing a cart. She then books time off work and tells the nursery that our daughter will be absent for a few days.
A few weeks later an email comes through, confirming that I am going to be lecturing in two weeks time at 2pm local time. Perfect, then I look at flights. As I’m doing that another email pops up on the screen from the college.
“Please let me know whether you will be using Jabbr Suite or Skype when you deliver your lecture so that we can select the correct software”.
Hang on, what…? You want me to deliver this lecture, over the web…I look at the emails again, yup, there it is….’webinar….’
I phone Mrs SWC and break the news to her. When she has stopped swearing at me, and then laughing at me and swearing at me again, we agree to visit New York in the next year regardless (we haven’t done that yet).
So the day arrives, it feels odd. I am wearing a smart suit and I am standing in my spare room, I have moved the framed photo of Mick Jagger from the wall so that it can’t be seen on camera and I have pushed the basket of toys out of view. Of course, in the UK it’s like five hours ahead of the States. So its seven pm or so when I start, I ask the students if they can hear me, there are a few mumbled ‘yeahs’ so I crack on.
About fifteen minutes in the connection drops out. I’m pretty sure it’s their end, because I can still hear every word that is being said in the now very noisy lecture theatre. When I am eventually reconnected, I am stopped after two more minutes because apparently I sound like ‘an alien’, “well”, the professor tells me, “an English voiced alien”. There is some laughter in the audience. I’ll do the jokes mate I think to myself, although they would sound like an alien doing jokes – like ALF, I suppose (that’s a niche joke that no one under the age of 35 will understand).
Eventually the technicals are sorted out and I fly through the next hour, I start to relax, trying to ignore the fact that I am in my spare room surrounded by toys, an old part of a pram, some books, and some undrunk tea. I start to move about a bit just a few steps here and there and then it happens.
Remember I said above that I’d pushed the basket of toys to one side of view. Well unbeknownst to me, one had fallen out of the basket when I did that. A teddy. Not just any teddy, but one that when you tread on it makes a sound, which I just have. The sound this teddy made at this time was “I feel it in my hooves…” because I’d trodden on disco unicorn.
And, now that sentence had sailed away over the Atlantic to the ears of around 100 now a bit less bored students. Some of whom are laughing at me, or it, to be more specific.
I do the only thing I can, I bend down and pick up disco unicorn and pretend to make it wave at the students. Some of them humour me, most look deeply ashamed to even be there.
At the end, the professor thanks me for my time, apologises for the technical problems and I say to him, with a smile, “I tell you what, I’ll come over and do it in person next time”. I’ve not heard a single word since.
Which provides me with a nice link to post a couple of tracks that very nearly made this list
Talk To Me – Run The Jewels (2015 Run the Jewels Inc, Did Not Chart)
Through The Wire – Kanye West (2003 Roc-A-Fella Records, Number 9)