Ross, whose father was a Colonel in the U.S. Army, was born on a base in Germany and spent his childhood on bases throughout the American south. Before high school he landed at Fort Lee in my hometown of Prince George, Virginia. We met in Boy Scouts.
In our early 20s, when we were both living in Richmond, he would periodically disappear for days at a time with no warning. On one such occasion, he eventually turned up in Brooklyn, where he lived with a girlfriend for several months. (My plan had always been to move to New York after college, but of course Ross couldn’t let me do anything cool without him having gotten there first.)
His drive to wander was insuppressible but he always returned to Richmond. The city was big enough that he could always find some trouble to get into but laid-back enough that its rhythm matched the bpm of his temperament. He found a community there.
"The city" is his Richmond anthem. It’s latter-period Ballpoint Pens, meaning that the Garageband file, with all of his individual tracks, was on his laptop. I was familiar with his original version of the song, but when I opened the project file for the first time last year, I discovered a muted track containing a vocal part I was unfamiliar with, with lyrics about deadlines and paychecks. Maybe it was an early, discarded idea, but I liked it, so I worked it back into the song as an intro.