Someone in the crowd.

Someone in the crowd.

Heading back from a blood panel appointment earlier this afternoon, I was idling on 8th Street in Koreatown while returning to the office when a track from the La La Land soundtrack began to play over my car stereo. Hearing the music, I instantly felt this need to smile, but that quickly gave way to tears when the lyrics took over.

Yes, I cry over certain songs in my car.

At times, it’s the beauty of the music that makes me respond with a case of advanced watery eyeballs. Words can do the same thing if used in a certain way. Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are a given. Same for Sara Bareilles, whose power as a songwriter is unmatched today, in my humble opinion.

With music composed by Justin Hurwitz and lyrics written by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, “Someone in the Crowd” proved a highlight in Damien Chazelle’s Oscar-winning musical film La La Land (2016). I remember the huge wave of emotion I felt when this musical number hit the screen, the second big moment featured in the first act of the film.

A reluctant – yet entrancing – Emma Stone is convinced by her roommates to join them at a party in the Hollywood hills, which is where her love story with the equally charming Ryan Gosling has its formal start. That eager joy of “the possible” permeates the song, even during its melancholy bridge, opening and closing with the flourish of a “bright, Broadway beat.” I’ve long adored this movie and soundtrack, but it’s been a minute since I’ve given the songs a chance to live and breathe. Today was a good day to welcome them back.

It hasn’t been the best week, to be honest. A lot of static in my head is robbing me of my creativity and peace. Money should not be the trigger, but it is. It’s hard NOT to feel like a failure when those old demons come back to play with your brain, especially when you’re finally experiencing better physical health. But I know things will improve at some point; I just have to weather these turbulent seas a bit longer.

Still, that nagging desire to be “someone ready to be found” is also a powerful trigger point. I don’t mind being part of a crowd like I did as a kid, terrified of being ignored or looked over. I know I’m “seen” in the sense of being appreciated and loved by people. I’m ready to be involved with someone who is a worthy partner and eager to share in the adventure. That would be a lovely bit of evolution to experience in this era of swiping left and app-fueled apprehension to even be honest with people you’d consider asking out for coffee.


I sound like a teenager’s hidden diary post! Hahaha. Oh well, Janis Ian still resonates with folks. Feeling lonely never goes out of style. Until then, I’m going to keep on singing and crying in my CR-V with gusto because, dammit, it just feels good to feel it all.

You got the invitation
You got the right address
You need some medication?
The answer’s always yes

A little chance encounter
Could be the one you’ve waited for
Just squeeze a bit more

Tonight we’re on a mission
Tonight’s the casting call
If this is the real audition
Oh, God, help us all
You make the right impression
Then ev’rybody knows your name
We’re in the fast lane

Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know
The one to finally lift you off the ground
Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go
If you’re the someone ready to be found
you’re the someone ready to be found

Do what you need to do
‘Til they discover you
And make you more than who
You’re seeing now
So with the stars aligned
I think I’ll stay behind

You’ve got to go and find
That someone in the crowd
That someone in the crowd

Is someone in the crowd the only thing you really see?
Watching while the world keeps spinning ’round?
Somewhere there’s a place where I find who I’m gonna be
A somewhere that’s just waiting to be found
Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know
The someone who could lift you off the ground

Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go
Someone in the crowd could make you
Someone in the crowd could take you
Flying off the ground
If you’re the someone ready to be found

“Someone in the Crowd” from La La Land

And now, for some really bad break-up writing!

And now, for some really bad break-up writing!

Oooh. Here’s a deep cut!

When I broke up with my last ex-BF about 12 years ago, it took me a long ass time to get over him. I don’t think I really am; it’s just a feeling I’ve learned to put into a different compartment. But, the concussive effects of that first wave of emotion were very new to me. I never understood why people would lose their shit after a breakup, but I learned quickly. My friend John sent me a mix CD labeled “Music for a Bottle of Merlot and a Razor Blade,” featuring such sad singleton hits as “Alone,” “All By Myself,” “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” etc. We laughed, but I found myself spiraling out of control shortly after.

I kept this little Moleskin notebook during those first months, which I hid a few years later. It reappeared during my Pandemic-induced decluttering of my home when we shut our office doors until further notice. That was about two years ago. (We’ve reopened them since, by the way.) Finding it was like the surprise you feel when you run into an old school friend’s mother during a Target run where you’re not looking your best, gussied up in chanclas and a chorizo-stained hoodie. Reading and revisiting the version of yourself that penned each entry was like being hit by a car driven by a deranged doctor’s wife from Texas seeking revenge. How do we all turn into Janis Ian or Phoebe Snow when boys break out hearts? I was surprised I even was capable of such maudlin displays in the first place, but how could I not? After years of favoring telenovelas and Douglas Sirk films, turning into Natalie Wood in “Splendor in the Grass” shouldn’t be a stretch, right?

So, I am willing to share one choice bit of writing, appropriately titled “Alone.” Put on your favorite heartbreak ballad, wrap yourself up in that warm comforter known as nostalgia, and see if this hits a few emotional notes you recognize!

There’s a strange void in my heart as I look out the window from an empty house. I feel the start of a dream, always the day you first came into my life. I came to you first, though, searching for a gentle man.

You were that dream come true, and I was your saving grace. How did we get to this place?

The first years were unlike any happiness I’d known, yet in the last months, we’ve become strangers, barely able to see face to face. How did we get to this place?

This isn’t about fault. You loved me, then loved another. I can’t believe I’d be so easily replaced. How did we get to this place?

We can count the memories, but that’s just wasted sentiment. We can count our blessings, but that’s just wasted destiny. What I would give to make this day turn a different way. They say time heals everything, but I still can’t stand the thought of losing you.

I didn’t want to tell you how I felt or what I thought I should do. But that won’t stop me from crying an emotion or two.

You walked out the door for the last time. I hope he treats you fine. It isn’t the loss that hurts so much. It’s the silence of this space. How did I get to this place they call “being alone.”

Reading it back now, I think it is safe to say Taylor Swift has nothing to worry about here. (Cue laughter.) But I’m not ashamed about displaying my red scarf in this context. (Swifties will know what I mean by that reference.). If anything, I’m proud of what that experience taught me. I stopped romanticizing the past, choosing to live in the present while respecting the lessons learned from being in a relationship. Whenever that miracle happens again, I’ll be ready.