days living out of my backpack: 6
states visited: 4
miles traveled: 1,278
cigarettes smoked: 1,278
shows attended: 4
wedding receptions attended: 1
job interviews attended: 1
river otters sighted: 3
conversations had with random psychos: 2
blocks walked in one day: 56
times I got lost: 0
Every time I go to New York City, I wonder what all the fuss is about. It’s a cool city, I always have a good time, but really. I think the only truly remarkable thing about it is its size.
Just for the record, I don’t think size matters. But holy beejezus my feet hurt.
Immediately following the termination of my employement on Monday and Life As I Know It, I hopped a train to bright lights big city to forget myself and dig into some long-awaited concerts.
We stayed in Greenwich Village, in this groovy little spot Hotel 17. This place is supercool and wicked cheap. It’s one of the old school establishments with narrow hallways and shared bathrooms on each floor. They even had music in the elevator, with a door you have to close yourself. And it was some 70’s station, which fit perfectly. The room had a little fire escape where I sat and smoked a cigarette in the morning light, gazing at the skyline. I felt like I was in a Kerouac novel.
Tuesday night was a total trip. I ventured to NYC mainly for the
KEXP Radio Seattle broadcast from the Museum of Television and Radio, but I found the Damnwells were playing not only during that broadcast but the night before in Brooklyn. The show was scheduled for North Sixth, which is apparently your average rock venue — but I wouldn’t know because the show was moved. There has understandably been a bunch of hubbub in clubs recently due to the pyrotechnics disaster, so the venues are cracking down on fire codes and the like. Something happened at North Sixth, and with only a few days to the show, they apparently had nowhere to stick the bands they booked. It only made sense to move The Damnwells and southern rock darling Bobby Bare, Jr. to a Polish disco. For real.
The people who worked at the club, the patrons, the whole neighborhood — everyone — looked like my friend Ula from high school. Ula from Poland, stick-straight blonde hair, tall and gorgeous. Everyone within a five mile radius had enormous blue eyes and radiant smiles. It was surreal. The bartenders were the Polish version of Coyote Ugly, white leather baseball hats and fuzzy sweaters. The club was dimly lit, red lights; the walls were painted faux-castle and there was a smoke machine.
Speaking of smoke… News flash! You can’t smoke in New York anymore!
And The Damnwells fucking rocked. I love that band. I’ll post some of the pics when I develop them since I remembered my camera this time. After the show I talked to Ted, the bass player, who got me all worked up about not having a job in the “Right on girl, fuck the man” fashion, because underneath all of the mayhem and bliss of travel and rock shows, I feel the surly current of unease, the aftershock of oh-shit-what-have-I-done? I felt justified for a moment and was able to sink into Bobby Bare, Jr. with big smiles for the world.
My favorite part about Bobby Bare, Jr. is that the band subscribes to no scene. While they were setting up, I was trying to figure out which of the three remaining bands they were because I didn’t know what they looked like. Judging by the hipstercool boys setting up their instruments, it was not time for a southern dirty barefoot rock band. The drummer was total rockabilly — black jeans, wingtips, serious face, and even while sound checking he was incredible. Fast and sharp. Bobby came out and wrapped a string of plastic flowers around his mic stand while the drummer was wrapping white lights around the drum kit he borrowed from the Barnyard Playboys. They opened with the apropos “Monk at the Disco.”
Halfway through the set, Bobby told the story of how just a few days prior, they were playing in Kentucky when the drummer, who “shuns all labels like a good artist,” was busted for walking down the train tracks with a gee-tar in one hand and a 40 in the other. And Bobby told him, “I’m sorry, but that’s the most alt-country thing that can happened to a man.”
Wednesday I crowded into the tiny radio booth to shake hands reverently with the D.J. who has coached me through innumerable days behind the desk of my former job, when things were looking bleak and pointless. A round of applause, please, for the one and only John in the Morning. The man is a legend. I swear. I fully worship him. I told him this and he laughed and let me take pictures of him half-wearing his headphones and digging enthusiastically through his personal CD collection dragged cross-country from Seattle. Alex from the Damnwells performed in the little listening room, and it was amazing. There were no amps or anything because it was a live broadcast, so all we got was his voice and his acoustic guitar. I knew he had a beautiful voice, but I really appreciated it even more listening to him without the crunchy guitar and wall of sound that the band has when they’re playing together. The media person from the radio station approached me after his performance and asked me about my photography and said the station could compensate me for photos if I wanted to send some along. That would be pretty exciting to have some of the live shots of the performance on the KEXP Web site. I’ll keep you posted. If you want to hear Alex’s performance, you can stream the broadcast from that day online. God bless technology.
After getting my “I Worship John Richards” t-shirt, I vacated the premises and took to the streets of Manhattan alone since I wasn’t meeting up with Ruby until later in the afternoon in Hoboken. I walked a million blocks, breathing in the city — eye candy, all of it. My camera threw a temper tantrum, so I was left with my disposable black and white that I was using for my April picture-a-day project. I violated the whole one a day rule and used up the rest of the remaining shots on inappropriate storefronts and poorly translated signage. My favorite, I think, was “unnecessary loud noise prohibited.” In New York City. Riiiight.
Despite my previously stated disenchantment, there is something urgent and romantic about New York, and I felt it while I was walking. I was also buzzing from the music, my head all on fire and in love with life, full of possibility. Seized by an immediate and reckless passion, I found myself outside the apartment building of The One Who Got Away. My prince, my dreambrother, my cookie cutter heart, my angel, my siamese twin severed at the wrist. In a moment of useless romantica and cloying sentimentality, I entertained fantasies of standing there under his window on the Upper East side, holding a boombox over my head John Cusack style, blaring Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. One” over the squeal of city traffic. But then I was torn about what I would do when he came to the window — if I would fall to my knees and wail my undying devotion or wish him eternal life in hell for breaking my heart.
In the end, confusion won out and I instead went to the Central Park Zoo to watch the little Tamarin monkeys with plucky white mohawks hurl raisins at one another. Even the primates don’t know how to behave toward the opposite sex.
While daydreaming with the lucky harbor seals, I received a phone call in response to a resumé I submitted for a serendipitous dream job. A three-hour interview was arranged for Friday morning at 8:00.
There were two problems with this set up. One, I was still in Manhattan. Two, the Jump, Little Children show was Thursday night. But I love mixing pleasure and pain so I stumbled into the interview Friday morning on three hours of sleep, after an evening of making love to my favorite band and a slumber party at Kinko’s printing out my portfolio. (My printer lived a life of tempted fate beneath the potted plant that was watered weekly.)
The job interview deserves its own entry and it will get one soon enough.
The Jump, Little Children show blew my mind, as usual. The band was in a chill mood, which was strange. I had never seen them so relaxed before. There’s normally a frenetic insane energy about them. They played four new songs, which made me excited for a new album because Jay Clifford just gets more beautiful with each passing chord.
An hour after my interview I was back on the road to New York for the second leg of the JLC tour.
Halfway between Boston and NYC, my friend Shea, who was to be my travel companion for the weekend, informed me he was trapped in Leominster after witnessing a plane crash and he wasn’t going to make the show. I was exhausted anyway, so I pulled off the highway and spent the weekend in Connecticut trying to figure out what to do with myself after all the excitement and frantic travel. I spent a great deal of time playing my antiquated piano and chainsmoking. Shea arrived on Saturday. I had a nervous breakdown about being unemployed and single, starving to death alone on the streets of Somerville. He listened to me rant for 12 hours, and then I went to sleep and dreamed about river otters, street vendor hot dogs, New Jersey diner coffee cups, and a resumé that just wouldn’t print.
And back to Boston.
I’m tired. I missed you all terribly. I’m going to sleep now.