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Dear Tiny Desk: Miss You

Dear Tiny Desk,

I don't know if you remember me, but I used to work maybe 20 feet from you. Before that, I worked about 10 feet from you, but people used to come stand behind me and breathe their miscellaneous lunch smells on my neck while you were entertaining guests, so I moved.

When I saw our new building, it was so open that I assumed I would still be able to hear everything, even though I'm in an entirely different part of the floor from you. But as it turns out, the acoustical geniuses have given me the quiet place to work that I've been dreaming about ever since that one band (I'm sorry; I don't remember who it was) took five zillion yearsto warm up because the guy wouldn't stop playing '80s classics in the style of smooth jazz as he figured out how to drop himself into The Zone. (I'm assuming that's what he was doing. I know how musicians are about The Zone.)

Now, I don't get lunch smells breathed on my neck, nor do people idly drum their fingers on the back of my chair or pick up things off my desk on the mistaken assumption that I won't smack their hand like Mrs. Cunningham in the Happy Days credits. Nor do I have the opportunity to try to calculate how many people can squeeze into a single space with limited ventilation before its official odorific classification goes from "room-comma-work" to "room-comma-locker."

I find that I miss you a little.

It's not that my affection has been secret. I remember the day Stephen sneaked up behind me at work, looked over my shoulder at my computer, and realized I was watching The Avett Brothers, again — a show that had taken place about six feet from me (I crawled over into the corner for that one, because I am no fool). I saw him, closed the window, snatched off my headphones, and spun around in my chair. "This is like catching you watching [prurient adult content]," he observed.

I loved this one too, although heaven knows I've been heard on this topic before. Same deal, basically. I appreciate it. My little heart appreciates it. My swoon reflex appreciates it.

And I won't lie: when Chris Otepka (The Heligoats) came, I kept telling people that the funniest thing I'd ever seen him do was tell a story about eating a bike chain, and when he actually told the story and people finally absorbed it, with the giggle floating through a room full of generally very low-key folks, I was in heaven.

For the most part, my love was pure and true. I sat close to Jimmy Cliff and felt myself slipping into a reverie. And what could be better than Bettye Lavette, coming in and sitting on the edge of the desk and wanting us to close the blinds? Oh, my. (Best dressed Tiny Desk ever, by the way: Raphael Saadiq.)

Sometimes, I appreciated you because you brought into my life precisely whatever song I was obsessed with at the moment. When Kishi Bashi came, I was deeply into my "Bright Whites" fixation, as was Microsoft. (But that wasn't why! I promise! I liked that song way before Windows 8 did!)

Sometimes, you were ahead of the curve. Adele came before she was quite the monstrous phenomenon she became in 2011. She was the perfect example of the fact that in my experience, it was always the incredibly awesomepeople who were the best at coming in, doing their thing, and getting on their way with a minimum of fuss. She even forgot to take her gloves off! I thought of these as the Incredibly Polite Genius shows.

See also: Nick Lowe.

I loved the fact that sometimes, unexpected things happened and people really did keep going. David Wax Museum broke their standing bass almost as soon as they started using it, but they kept going and were hurt not at all.

Sometimes, it was the combination of the music and the moment — I'm not sure I could have loved Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars as much at any other time as I did on a Friday afternoon.

It's not that I can't enjoy you anymore from a distance. I always had to enjoy some of your delights on video. I wasn't there for K'Naan, for instance.

I think I missed Miguel, too.

You kept passing along beautiful stuff until we left — one of the last ones I fell for was The Lone Bellow, only weeks before the move.

I'm not going to lie: we had our days together, you and I. The day that featured both [incredibly huge band] and [ensemble that played especially challenging genre] felt a tiny bit long. Not bad! Just long. And a little bit loud. And I like Dirty Three — I even have a Dirty Three record! — but I cannot disagree with your own description of it as "one of the loudest performances ever captured in the NPR Music offices."

We haven't even talked about Chuck Brown, or Booker T. Jones playing "Green Onions," or Juanes, or — OH MY GOSH, the Soweto Gospel Choir, which came into the offices singing in the hallway.

It was an embarrassment of riches, really. Where else was I going to hear "the world's reigning pipa virtuoso"? Nowhere. Where else was I going to become a huge fan of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis?

Man, you were loud sometimes. And crowded. And sweaty. And sometimes people gave me the stink-eye for working during the music, all clackety-clackety on the keyboard because I couldn't stop every time and listen. I'm thrilled to be wrong about figuring the sound would carry all around the new building, because let's face it: not everybody would love hearing that Chris Otepka eat-a-bike-chain story in the middle of a workday as much as I did.

But one of these days, you'll see my head poking around the corner. Breathing on your neck.

Your pal,

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.