Saturday 1 September 2007

But why, though?

Little boy and his grandmother, on the train.
Where we going?
We're going to see mommy and auntie Jinny.
But why, though?
We're going to get out here at the next stop.
But WHY, though?
Because mommy is at Auntie Jinny's, and we're going to see them now.
Huh? HUH?


A man in sunglasses is sitting upstairs in the foyer of the 7th avenue Q station, waiting to feel the wind blow, to hear the chug of the approaching train before he dives down into the heat, the humidity, the hot dirt sauna of the subway platform. Outside, the street is actually quite cool tonight. He's humming a tune. I try to catch it. He hums softly. It's so quiet in this station, even this sound has space. Cryin, by Roy Orbison. I catch it and now it's in me and my hum dives down into the platform and the hot dirt and the sweaty people waiting waiting waiting for the train.

I've been playing kiss-chase with the sounds of the city for a while now. It's a game of sonic tag, all over the city. She is so gentle sometimes. The voice of the lady announcing delays on the line can be unusually gentle and mild though her message is anti-New York. Time delays are anti-New York. Time is the most precious commodity here. Time and Money chase each other off the top spot in the precious New York commodities league like Celtic and Rangers.

I caught a beautiful tune yesterday on the air at Prospect Heights, just down my block, where I found myself sitting for an unexpected 20 minutes on a stoop, listening to a solitary drummer playing Arabic and Indian rhythms in his dark ac-free ground floor room. I sat and listened and when I passed later, he was still there, and that time, I caught a tune on the air, and sang it, grooved it, all the way to 2nd st.

The sounds and energy can be so hard in New York city, so you appreciate the gentle stuff when it comes.

I fell over in the street when my scooter hit a jutting footpath slab. Scooter did a 360 and caught my flipflop clad ankle full on. Scooter hit the deck and I had to sit down with the pain. Only thing available to rub on it was some beeswax lip balm. Sat there and soothed it until it was okay enough to get up again. Maybe five minutes. People passed, wordlessly. One guy looked back, giggly, like it was entertainment. A young couple passed, and the man said 'weird'. I sat there, with my scooter at my feet, soothing my ankle until it didn't hurt so much.

I got back on my scooter and rode into Chinatown, stinking of fish carcasses, spit and blood and filth and people paying $3000 for a studio.

Friday 31 August 2007

happy whippet

What do you do if you're a writer and you want to work professionally in this town?

You take this internship, probably. Get in at coal bunker level, then spring.

But the best bit of all is that the site is horribly badly copywritten. And this is an online marketing company's website. I feel like craigslisting them and offering to edit their site for them. It might be fun.

Listen to these words: Organic Page One Listings, Organic Search Engine Optimization Experience, True Brand Advocacy, Online audience development, Viral Marketing Concept Development.

or this paragraph:
-----, which excels in online audience advocacy development, has teamed with ---, a full-service environmental consultancy online social responsibility programs to companies involved in the supply chain of developing any structures that may have environmental impact. These include such firms as global banks, construction companies, real estate developers and sellers and more.

These people help corporations navigate their way through the mazes of environmental protection regulations in order to keep pumping toxic materials into the ocean, and get away with it.

It's the devil, I tell you. It's the devil.
Awfully designed, bizarrely enough. Horribly horribly basic site for the kind of services offered, but the language is beautiful. Beautiful in the magnificence of its dirt, like the east river. This is one guy, I know it, with a load of talented interns. The web design house doesn't even have a site up yet. This guy must be on crack.

But surfing this site is hilarious. One of his clients found itself, as a result of this man's consulting expertise, hot on the pages of This is where it gets really interesting. So I surf, amazingly enough, from remarkable woman magazine to Rosie O'Donnell's blog. Well this is new on me. My first thought was that this woman is apparently living in a post-breakdown epiphany right now. But I've just seen this .. she's raw. I like her.

Clearly she shares the obsession with Photo Booth that has been going on here since I discovered it on day one of opening this computer.

I am loving loving loving having this computer, by the way. It's gorgeous. I am currently living a life of a professional (ie. hack for hire) writer and it's interesting. I am also at this point in up to my arse in love with New York city. It's far deeper than I had ANY IDEA the last time I lived here. It's a very different life, and in many ways exactly the same. But mark my words, very different.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Something beautiful happened last night

I met Sol, a 93 year old native lower east sider.

Sol's a tiny little man and I saw him walk along the street as I sat in the window of some hip lower east side bar. He walked incredibly slowly, leaning on a stick, and I began to write, sitting in the window. I looked up and he had moved a few feet. I looked up again, another few feet. Then I got on a roll of something and didn't look up for a while. I didn't see him. Ran out into the street, crossed the road, to the corner. Looked in all directions. No sign of the old man. Turned to go back to the bar. There was the old man. Propped up against a tiny windowsill, sitting on the bones of his arse.

He looks up.
I say, hello, sir.
He says, do you like humour?
I say, yes I do, sir.
He says, I got a joke for you. Listen to this.
And I sit down.

We chatted for a while. He told me some of the best ba-boom jokes heard since the glory days of radio. Here's one of them.

I met a woman in the launderette.
She says "you married?"
I says "no"
She says "you a bachelor?"
I says "yeah"
She says, "how comes a you don't ever get married?"
I says, "Because I believe marriage is a big step. And I don't wanna break my ankle."

Ninety three, and he sat there balanced on a five inch windowsill on Ludlow st.

He asked me what my hobbies were, and then he told me, "I got hobbies. I like to paint". I ask him, "what do you paint, Sol?" He says, "miniatures. I got these business cards.." and he's rooting in his pocket for his wallet. Out come these business card sized paintings, or rather, drawings, and he shows me one. There's a house, and some trees, and two little birds sitting watching the house on a fence. It's a simple scene, a bucolic vision executed with simple lines, and entirely unlike anywhere he would ever have been likely to have lived or maybe even been.

I ask him, "have you ever been out of New York, Sol?"
He says, "yes, I went on a cruise once. Ten days. The Virgin Islands. I had my own room, the meals were nice, there was music. You pay more the higher you go up the ship, you know. I had a nice room".

He asks if I like the little drawing. I say I do. "And see, I made a gilt frame and put it around it, too. I made that." he says, indicating the brassy border around the business card edges. "I like to keep busy. I'm interested in ceramics. There's a flea market on Avenue A I go to sometimes and if it's cheap enough, I buy somethin there and fix it up". He started to name the major ceramics houses in Ireland and Britain. He looks back at the drawing of the birds, says, "and that's the house the birds are going to get married in". I don't understand. He says, "see that's the punchline". It's all punchlines and any opportunity to see the funny side, for Sol.

He's been living alone almost all of his life and the only family he's got left are a niece in Brooklyn who bothers him about what he's eating, and a nephew in Yonkers. He talks to them on the phone, meets them rarely. The last time he met his niece, he was giving her a birthday gift. She wouldn't let him make a phone call. "I gave her a nice gift, thirty five dollars it's a lot of money.. it was just a local call.. she is mean!"

He went to the local old folks' community centre and got driven away because he didn't want to sit listening to people complain about their aches and pains.

So he meets people from time to time in the way that I met him, walking along the street, saying hello, and having a chat. He says he has always had a funny way with women: he prefers it when the woman makes the first move, so to speak, and approaches him, then he can open up and tell some jokes and share some life experiences. "Always been that way, I don't know why".

He was in McDonalds the other day, and somebody came up to him and gave him two bills, a ten and a five, just to be nice. He doesn't rely on people giving him money though, he's okay. He worked in the post office for a long time and they had good benefits there. That was the best job he had.

Back in the thirties he used to be a button salesman. He drove wholesale buttons to garment factories in the LES. Back then, the LES was a Jewish neighbourhood, a garment district. It was full of warehouses and sewing factories, with Jewish women working their fingers to the bone. Sol is a New York city native, a lower east side Jewish man who has lived through most of the last century and is still telling jokes in this one. And they want to push him out of his nice three room apartment. And he ain't goin' nowheres.

A taxi pulled up outside this pub I had left, before I found myself spending the evening chatting with Sol. The people I had gone to the bar to meet were standing by the cab. "I'd like to go over to these people and say hello, Sol. I've really enjoyed chatting with you", I say to him. And he says to me, "When you're looking for a husband, make sure he's not a drinker or a gambler or running around with women. Pick a good man, make sure of it. Do you hear me? I say this to you as a father to a daughter. You understand?"

I say yes, Sol, I do.
And turn to cross the street.

New York Monk

I visited the house of a New York monk the other day. Tambourine player, rhythmic devil. Probably introverted, but gets around a lot. And lives in a tiny little hole in the wall in alphabet city just big enough for his drums and a bed. He's studying, working, constantly. Like so many people here. Difference is he's living in a highly gentrified, highly 'hot' Manhattan neighbourhood for a fifth of the market price. He's taken over the lease of some dancer who has lived there since the seventies. The game is up in December, when the lease runs out. Then he leaves town, probably for Africa.

Anyway, the point about this guy is that this is some kind of a message about New York city that's been chewing at me for a while. Every time I walk along Delancey or Allen St. I've got to think about Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed and the days when there were 45 performance artists of serious mettle writing rock operas in downtown Manhattan. I heard Laurie Anderson talking about this once, in a big room out in IMMA, in Dublin.

So she'd walk down Canal st. from her loft in the the Bowery or SOHO or wherever it was back in the seventies, and she'd meet all her friends along the way.. and the conversation would go like this:

"Hey, howya doin?"
"Great. How's the opera goin'?"
"Great. How bout yours?"

There was a time when these monks OWNED downtown Manhattan. At least, they were everywhere. They lived in the lower east side and chinatown and it didn't cost them ten thousand dollars a month. And they worked. And they worked. Because that's what's going on here. People are working in New York City. Still. But the monks don't live around Tompkins Square Park anymore.

Not after December, anyway.

Me n Thea

Part of an email to a friend

Well, you're one of my favourite people right now, so as horrible as that actually sounds to my ears it's true. Horrible because of the whole concept of favourite people, but the point of it is that I've come to value human contact and human honesty considerably, and I find it with you. You know, when I find a quality like that, simple human honesty, it's not hugely important what the person is actually like, in some ways. That honesty is always a welcome home. Warm your hands by the fire. I'll be posting this, by the way.

yeah, I'm definitely inside some kind of a working process right now i would say. rapture.


Wednesday 29 August 2007

The Competitions Olympics Leg One

A very attractive prize and certificate of authenticity will be awarded in a public ceremony involving flowers, a medal, a plinth to stand on and a cup to hold aloft to the first one to guess the following song correctly.

Further plinths and garlands will be available for those who give the second and third best guesses.

All guesses are welcome, please post in the comments section.

Now listen carefully folks :

(intro) Doo be doo be doo be doo be doo be doo dee do
doo be doo be doo be doo be doo de doo de doo dedo

(main theme) Da da da da da daaaaaaaa
da da da da da daaaa dida da.
(boom schika ka boom schika ka)
Da da da da da daaaaaaaa
da da da da da daaaa dida da.

Shoo d'n doo da daaa da!
Shoo de dompety doo doo da doo d'n di'n da...
da dee da dee
da dee da da
shoopy doopy dada hehe wat'n wah wah

Shoo d'n doo da daaa da!
Shoo de dompety doo doo da doo d'n di'n da...
da dee da dee
da dee da da
shoopy doopy dada hehe wat'n wah wah

You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain

too much love drives a woman insane
i lost my will
oh what a thrill
goodness gracious great balls of fire

So I haven't been blogging much since I kicked it off... but I've been busy! All sorts of New York and computer-based concerns are whizzin' round my brain, sugar.

Speaking of sugar pies and fruit flies and all things nice and sowprisin' baby doll, it looks like I'm heading for New Orleans Louisiana within the next couple of weeks. I've got to say I'm really feeling quite apprehensive about this trip.

I mean, when I met Nola for the first time, it took four days but I fell in love. I slipped inside Nola's sheets and danced. She moved me. We grooved to each other's beat. I loved inside her, played inside her, cried inside her, was amazed inside her, I learned streetsmarts inside her, I met a black man called Elvis who played guitar inside her, I rode her streetcars dripping wet from the aftermath of some hurricane winds inside her, I listened inside her, I met Miss Rose inside her.

I do not expect to find this Nola when I return.