My Favorite Song: (How Could Anybody) Feel At Home by Open Mike Eagle

Luckily, German is familiar to you. You successfully navigate the login page to access the wifi. After logging in, you do your customary review of social media. One of your college friends just had a baby. She’s posting photos of her crawling nonstop, flooding your timeline with shots as if they were taken in bursts, milliseconds between poses. . Well that was fast, you think to yourself, she started dating that guy six months ago. Going in and out between windows and websites, you keep scrolling.

You see some photos of a high school friend who’s treating his parents to a vacation, or at least, it seems that way. The caption is a Kanye West lyric,  “Did you realize that you were a champion in their eyes!” You squint, studying the photo. How much does a trip to Bali cost, on a …what did he do again? Marketing? A marketing salary… I don’t even know what that means really. I wonder if they have student loans… And not just one parent, but both! So that’s three plane tickets, from the likes of the photos it looks like they’re staying in that hotel from all the instagram photos, maybe the resort pa-

You’re interrupted from your train of thought by a barista across the room waving in your direction. Your drink is ready, she calls your name and its apparent she’s tried saying it a few different ways. You rise from your table and approach her. In a slight German accent she says, “I was calling you but I guess you didn’t hear me!” Smiling, you accept you drink and go back to your table. After staring at your screen, trying to decipher the ins and outs of someone else’s life once more, you close your laptop and walk back to your hostel.

Your GPS is straining to say these street names. Some of them sound just foreign enough to be accurate, others you feel deep down are so convoluted that they just can’t be right. Staring at every building and sign you pass, you marvel at how familiar it looks, despite being a little off. It’s rare that you’ve been in a city this old. These buildings have seen so much, from wars to celebrations, and yet they remain – untouched but well-worn from change. Back in your room you pack for your next flight. The room is cold and empty and quiet and dark. You check out of your dorm and make your way towards the metro to get to the airport. You make it inside just as it starts raining.

* * * * * * * * *

“(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” is the second song from Chicago-rapper Open Mike Eagle’s sixth album, “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream.” The album, an ode to the now-gone Robert Taylor Homes housing projects, covers many aspects of the conditions that led to their demolition, the aftermath of such displacement, and most importantly, the people who live in these communities. The song can be interpreted in a variety of ways, with many critics finding it a song about gentrification. The lyrics refer to a hang-out spot called O’Doyle’s that is suddenly shuttered, and how unsettling that is to the narrator, being that it was previously always open no matter what. While I see the merit in this interpretation, my experience with this song was a bit different.

I got this album not too long after its release, and was listening to it non-stop through my early days in Spain. While moving into my apartment I tweeted that listening to it during that time felt like a perfect moment. 

This song remained in heavy rotation during my many moments of transit. I have very clear and distinct memories of sitting on the metro in Berlin listening to this song, walking around Amsterdam in the morning to this song, and flying on many an airplane to this song. I kept coming back to it for reasons I’ve been trying to understand. 

This song is cold and heavy, the melody of it weaving through the rhythms as if it were lost. The song is filled with noise, but there is significant empty space to be filled by Open Mike Eagle’s words of isolation.

Everybody’s secrets inspire all of my scenes

I write in all of my fantasies
And I die in all of my dreams
My superpowers I maintain
I take control of my scene
Y’all should see what I can’t say
I can’t say all I done seen

Open Mike Eagle, “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home”

Open Mike Eagle has once described himself as, “so right-brained [he] can’t grow an even beard,” and his introspective nature is something he often addresses in song. As someone who also can’t escape my own head most times, his admission of interpreting the lives of others as inspiration for his own is something I can relate to personally.

People who are into their brains most times also tend to trend towards the sad, and even OPM “die[s] in all of [his] dreams,” an expression of how “stressed the fuck out” he was during the time he wrote this song. Despite his inner thoughts ending him every night [also not the first time he’s played with this idea], he maintains his superpowers (a reference to the recurring character Iron Hood) and his secrets.

I done told

Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in circles on the globe
So who the hell could ever feel at home
I done told
Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem
I spun around in circles on the globe
So who the hell could ever feel at home?

Open Mike Eagle, “How Could Anybody Feel At Home”

The song is self-referential, and yet I still find myself in it. I’ve made no mystery of how off I’ve felt since coming back home. And as much as I’d like to downplay my experiences, they’ve shaped my brain, let alone my life. I don’t know if the worlds I’ve left behind are the same of if I’m the one who’s changing. I keep writing to myself and to you all in an attempt to make some sense of the world, some sense of myself. And yet, I can’t say all I’ve done seen.

* * * * * * * *

You take a sip from your mug and squint your eyes at your phone screen. I should really invest in those “blue-blocking” glasses, you think to yourself. You’ve been in the cafe for hours and now your eyes are getting tired. This is your second cup of tea and it, too, is really good. You decide to go for the Chai latte next. You stand up and go up to the counter. You’ve been rehearsing this sentence ever since you first tried it an hour or so ago, “Mag ik een kop thee?” Your face contorts to make the sounds, and you know full well they’re wrong, but you’re hoping your face gives away how much you’re trying and it’s appreciated.

“You know you can speak English with me, right?” The barista smiles at you.   “If it’s easier for you.”

“Oh thank God,” you laugh, “I would like some chai, please? In a latte?”

“Totally. I think you should try the apple pie too.” The barista’s smile turns into a playful grin as his eyes roll over to the bakery case. 

A couple sitting at the counter laugh and say, “You should! The apple pie is amazing.”

You take their Dutch advice and order a slice of apple pie and it. is. delicious! Thousands of miles away from home and there’s still nothing as American feeling as apple pie. Even here in Amsterdam things are the same.

But different.


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