The first time I heard X Ambassadors, I knew immediately that I had heard that sound before. I couldn’t place it at first so I played all their songs that I could find over and over again.
I am the type of woman who has a song for every important event of my life, every place I have ever been to. For my teenage years, the song was Train’s Drops of Jupiter. The first time I was in NYC, it was Fun’s Tonight. When however I took the bus to Ithaca, I had no song. The whole 2 days I spent there, I had no song. Despite how deeply those two days impacted me and how I saw the country I would come to call home, I had no song.
Until I heard X Ambassadors.
Now I understand why I had no song for Ithaca. The song hadn’t been sung yet.
When most people hear New York, they see bright lights. They think Times Square and hope to run into celebrities. They taste bagels and Chinatown. They hear violin strings drowned out by the train approaching. They hear Alicia and Jay crooning on and on about the Empire State of Mind. But that is only the city. Manhattan, the Bronx, Harlem, Brooklyn… That is all most people know.
But the rest of the state of New York is nothing like NYC. There is the Finger Lakes region, there is city after city named after some pillar of Greek mythology, cold unbearable winters that make you want to consider if maybe your fate in Canada or Russia might be better, delicious wine, waterfalls, farmland after farmland, roadside cemetery after roadside cemetery…
I was enjoying my first time in New York City when my friend suggested we visit his girlfriend who was also my friend studying at Cornell. I got on the bus all excited. What was one or two hours compared to the joy of seeing a new place, especially Cornell for the first time? I took my seat by the window eager to watch the scenery and we set off.
Hour after hour after hour passed until my butt was numb. You would think we were headed to a different state! The scenery on the way there was jolting for someone who had just had her first taste of NYC. How was this even possible? Rural America and Wall Street, barely an hour away from each other?
We finally arrived Ithaca late afternoon. I got off the bus and looked around me. Nothing could have prepared me for it. Nope, not even the past few months in Virginia.
‘Ithaca is gorges’ is how people refer to this place. The ‘gorges’ is a play on the word ‘gorgeous’. Ithaca is gorges. There are over 100 waterfalls in Ithaca. One small town? Imagine that? I had never, and still haven’t seen anything like it in America. A place where neighbors knew each other’s names and stopped for a moment or two to catch up every other day. A place where strangers nodded hello and didn’t remove their eyes for fear of setting eyes on your pain. A place where the laughter of small children chimed so easily and freely. Sidewalks littered with flowers and happiness. It felt so unreal. This was the America I had read about in so many books. The small town America I had longed to see since I first arrived but had almost lost hope on. When I think of words to describe this town – perfect, American, proud, brilliant, renegade, gorge-ous.
It is a college town and when school is in session, it is easy to make a mistake by thinking Cornell is the heartbeat of this place. However if you are patient and listen hard enough, you can tell that the rhythm the town moves to is a melody that was here before the school ever was, a melody that will be here if anything ever took the school away.
The school in itself felt like a part of the original plan. New buildings didn’t seem incongruous with the old ones. Everything fitted in just right. I attended school in what is one of the most beautiful and first campuses in America and I am very, very proud of that fact but when I saw Cornell, I took several seats and didn’t even boast about my beautiful Wren.
It would take forever to describe everything about Ithaca despite the fact that it is smaller than other places I have visited and been able to succinctly capture their essence. But then I found X Ambassadors, a band that is from Ithaca and continues to make most of their music here.
“Nobody understands you
You ain’t nothing they can handle
Every man you put your hands on
You make him feel so damn handsome
I feel, ooh, so pretty whenever you’re around
Ooh, so pretty
Feel ten feet off the ground
So gorgeous, you make me feel gorgeous”
So a song for Ithaca then? A rhythm for the falling of so many waters? The tune that echoes and chimes in its gorges? X Ambassadors – Gorgeous (sorry the main version may be restricted in your country). Listen to it, listen and wait, wait for him to hit that otherworldly high note and then, only then will you know gorgeous like it deserves to be known.