Locating the narrator of “Hey There Delilah”


The other day I was working in a cafe when “Hey There Delilah”, the cute little love song by the Plain White T’s, came on. I’ve probably heard that tune — with its earwormy chorus (Oh it’s what you do to me-eeee-eeee) — a bazillion times.

But this time, for some reason, I was struck by the first verse:

Hey there Delilah
What’s it like in New York City?
I’m a thousand miles away
But girl, tonight you look so pretty

There are two interesting data points here: a) Delilah is in New York City, and b) the singer is precisely 1,000 miles away. You don’t typically find that level of geographic specificity in a pop song!

So I started thinking, hmmm, with those two pieces of info you could actually generate a good — and exact — list of the singer’s possible locations. After all, there are a finite number of towns/cities that are exactly 1,000 miles away from New York City. As @can pointed out to me, the real location is a google-search away, but hey: It’s more fun to try and figure this out for myself.

If I had any skills in GIS, I could create a nice table of all those cities, but I don’t, so I can’t. The next best thing, I figured, would be to do a brute-force visual inspection. So I took Google Maps and wrote a little script to draw a circle around the lat-long for NYC, with a radius of 1,000 miles.

Le voila:

If we stick to the USA, a quick glimpse reveals that there are only eight possible states in which the singer resides: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. If you zoom in closely and drag the map around a bit, you can follow the circumference and find some possible towns where he lives. (It’s best to use the plus and minus keys on your keyboard for zooming; Codepen puts a “rerun” button right over the map’s “-” icon, so it’s hard to mouse-click.)

So here’s one likely area he lives — the outskirts of Minneapolis!

Closeup of map showing the outskirts of the twin cities

Though if you zoom in really close, you can spot some much smaller possible towns, like … New Franklin, Missouri (population 1,089):

Map showing New Franklin, Missouri

Actually, if you zoom in really closely and follow the circumference, you can actually spot individual houses that the line intersects, which is kind of nuts. I’m not screenshotting any because it feels weirdly invasive to speculate at that level of granularity, but it’s sort of mesmerizing to zoom down really far.

Of course, it’s also possible he’s not in the US at all. The circle goes way up into Canada, so maybe he’s in a shack on the shore of Lobstick Lake in Northern Quebec?

Map of Lobstick lake in Northern Quebec

Or in the Bahamas?

Map of two of the Bahamas islands

Or maybe he’s off in the middle of the Atlantic, on some inflatable libertarian seasteading bitcoin-acquired pseudocountry?

Closeup of empty area in Atlantic ocean



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