Saturday 1 December 2007

Somebody has a brilliant idea in Murray Hill (Bensonhurst)

Something I happened upon over on craigslist...

Donate to me (Murray Hill)

I want a million dollars. I think this is what I really need to actually start a life here in Manhattan. Please let me know if you are willing to give.
I don't want to haggle or trade - there are just so many people here with more money than they could ever need, I was hoping one might read this and share their good fortune.

Nobilitas Whippitas

Friday 30 November 2007

Bad memories

Memories can be great even when they weren't pleasant at the time that they happened. Have you noticed that? Bad memories can be wonderful. Just because they happened. Because they had life flowing through them. Often, it's my guess, it takes years to really appreciate that.

Whippet love, 7

Brute whippet beauty

Thursday 29 November 2007

The Whippets, today

I don't know about you, but I can feel Pink Floyd's Time running through this picture...

Winter in Manhattan; bucolia in Brooklyn

I was in Manhattan yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks. God, it's different over there. They give you less time to cross the streets. The streets are wider. And the traffic goes both ways! This is the kind of thing that can cause havoc in the life of a Park Sloper. Arse was kicked, fun was had, long-since met friend was reacquainted, and corn muffin was bought in Wholefoods at 11pm.

It's winter in Manhattan, folks. I've been gambolling around in the pastoral beauty of autumn in Brooklyn (I don't know when I've enjoyed an autumn this much) but one visit to the Lower East Side was enough to confirm that even the seasons move faster in Manhattan. No leaves on the trees, no leaves on the ground. I think it might even be colder there.

Getting mixed up with the boogie

I remember a moment from the short time I lived in New Orleans. It was early August in the French Quarter, a day or so after the hurricane winds brought all the hot torrents of rain to drench us. Those rains sent me into the Marriott Hotel on Canal street to get dry before getting soaked through again. I squelched across the lobby to the ladies, sat under a hand drier for half an hour, then met the rain again, walking almost the full length of Canal street to the St. Charles streetcar which carried me home to Prytania street, more soaking than I have ever been before or since, in clothes or out of them. An evening beer has rarely tasted so good.

By then, I had decided that I was pretty much living in New Orleans. I just couldn't imagine leaving. It was a common and pernicious kind of experience that happened to people when they spent more than a wild weekend in Nola. She sort of seeped into you. It was the magic and the sensuality and the earthy natural energy of the place, mixed with the boogie and the pollution and the swamp magnetism, that made it a very easy place to get stuck in, especially when the humidity was high. It was also incredibly easy to find your way through, once you actually slipped under the skin of Nola.

And right after the heavy rains, it was quiet in the quarter. Summertime was low season, anyway. Even at that, I never really spent much time in the French Quarter, I usually hung out over in the Marigny, or uptown altogether. But this evening I was strolling past Jackson square, along St. Ann street, and there was a man standing on the sidewalk, in under an awning to shelter from the rain, a dark figure on a dark and by then lightly rainy street, and he was singing a tune to the hot mist and the rain and the empty street as I walked through it. And I saw him and listened to his song, and he didn't have a go-cup sitting by his feet, or a cap upturned to catch passing falling change, and he was just standing there, eyes closed, enraptured, singing to the street, the sound of his heart calling out to the air in Nola to meet him there, the sound of the life of Nola meeting him there, the life of Nola inside him, where she dwelled, rightly. And I watched this man, and I felt it, I got it. This was really the only appropriate response to the question of New Orleans. To sing to her, to woo her, to love her in the way she likes, with softness on a hard day, with boogiesounds, with rhythm. And so she comes rushing in.

Cities live inside us, in ways we don't always recognise. Places do that, whether city or wild nature. And cities have character, have spirit, that magnetise us in different ways, bring out different aspects of us, depending on the particular vibe of the particular city. They bring out different activities, too.

I spent January of this year in Barcelona and Berlin. Barcelona was warm and sunny, and I swam in the sea and strolled around in my high heeled boots, wandering through the labyrinths, hanging out in the Pla├žas, kind of entranced, for the most part, and spending my days with a new friend I made on my first evening there. It's always fantastic when you meet a fun chica friend, and in Barcelona, that would be Tina.

And then I went to Berlin, and there was a hurricane on the second day, and it was dark and cold and I wandered the very wide streets and felt the blood of northern europe circulating in me again, and I found it hard to get talking to people and I felt kind of lonely so I bought a notebook and three crayons and made my fun inside that notebook wherever I wandered, in my Barcelona high heeled boots.

I snaked around Europe this year, ended up in New York city on what seemed like a whim that landed me home. That's what this place feels to me. Home. Home is, of course, a moveable feast, when you live the way I have these past few years. But home also feels like staying. Here.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

First days in Nashville

The first place I landed in the United States, the first time I came here, in 2001, was Nashville, Tennessee. It was, and probably still is, one of the strangest places I have ever been, though that trip took in a lot of strangeness in Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and New York city too.

Nashville was actually a good introduction to what's going on in America. Because what's going on in New York isn't it. What's really happening in America is actually what ISN'T happening here.

So in Nashville you could see the general trends of American civic planning (such as the concept can loosely be applied): stripmalls, sucked out downtown, suburban sprawl, car dependency, highways leading to picket fenced enclaves, hives of wooden houses, spaciously laid out, that looked like multiple zippers from the airplane. The house I stayed in for four days was one of the spokes off of one of those zippers.

I had come to Nashville in an act of pursuing the truth of things. The truth bit got sorted out pretty fast. In the airport, in fact.

I had fallen in love with a man I had met in Dublin while he was on tour, playing in Vicar Street, the large music venue where I worked in the evenings as an usher. I showed him a bit around Dublin, we laughed our arses off through the streets, and continued to stay in touch for another nine months after that. He had been based in Chicago, was a very successful sideman drummer, and then he got a woman pregnant kind of randomly, and she lived in Nashville, so he moved there. Left his life and the fundaments of his career in Chicago, and walked into some kind of a void where his son lived. He had no relationship with the mother of his son, except that she lived in a little town called Lebanon, outside of Nashville, and so they travelled over and back from Lebanon to Nashville, sharing the care of their son.

He lived on McGavock Pike, must have been thirty miles from downtown, with nothing but a Dollar General store, a Subway sandwich shop and a gas station nearby. And that was a LOT! He had the bottom floor of a house that he shared with the owners, who nominally lived upstairs, but who were regularly on tour, so they only touched base at home for a couple of months a year.

This was the house where he was falling in love with his child, and pouring his energy and vision into this small developing human. He was finding the music scene in Nashville a struggle: it's heavily studio based, and cliquey, and definitely un-idiosyncratic. His vibe was more live-led, making records to tour behind, and even after he moved to Nashville he found that his main source of income was going on the road. He was already finding it a struggle to be away from his child, even for short periods of time. So it was all new, and he was still trying to work it all out, when I arrived at Nashville airport, one afternoon in June, 2001.

A bit over nine months after the birth of his son, after daily emails and the occasional phone call, I had come to find out. As soon as I saw him in the airport, however, I found out. My heart sank. Why it sank, we can debate or wonder about, or guess at, but it will only be guessing. I don't really know the answer to most why questions, though sometimes I have strong hunches. This one was just a question of different realities unable to meet. I suppose I wasn't ready for the life of a Nashville housewife, and that was the position available in that particular household, however much fun this particular dude could be, to hang out with.

I didn't want to hang out with him, though. At all. The practical facts: we literally couldn't communicate, about the simplest things; he lived in the middle of stripmall-land out in the sticks of suburban Nashville; I couldn't drive; his days were spent in childcare. Four days of that and on the fourth day I moved into the Drake Inn Motel, on the Murfreesboro road, that had a big neon sign out the front saying, Where The Stars Stay.

Monday 26 November 2007

Just banging tunes and DJ sets and dirty dance floors

I'm whippet sitting again this week. I get to see the whippets in their winter garb. Must post some pictures of these supermodels. So I'm sitting in sauna-intense heat here in Park Slope, because these gals don't like to be cold. And heat does funny things to me. I like to round off my showering experiences with a cold shower, for instance. I LOVE a cold shower after a hot one. Been doing this every day for a very long time. Like to swim in cold water too. It's interesting how the application of cold outside makes warm inside. Cold makes hot. Rough makes smooth. Untempered heat makes me woozy and sleepy. Immersion in a contrasting cold, makes life spring and dance and encourages lots of Arctic Monkeys on iPod moments on 7th ave.

So I've had an afternoon of sex and WC Fields movies and I'm having thoughts like, I wonder if I'll ever make something of my life. This sort of thought is not so long-lived, usually. But it's a fair question.

I was thinking about this sort of thing as I strolled through the park in my pyjamus yesterday afternoon. There are a lot of interesting and talented people in this town who are pushing middle age and just getting by, barely. They have skills that aren't in demand, that aren't particularly saleable, and even if they do have saleable skills, they probably don't have either inclination or suss to put it together in a money-magnetising way. Shagloads of talented people here are getting by on ten dollar an hour jobs, or jobs they hate but which have benefits, chief among these benefits being that they don't have to be there very often. People have to pay the rent. And what they do, what they consider themselves to 'be', doesn't pay it. And probably never will. So they play a gig a month and play in their friends' bands, and there's a scene, and it's interesting, but this is new york and no one is getting paid.

It's something I want to explore. Because in every other country I've lived in (hmmm... not so many, but I get around...) there exists a space in between the avant garde/outer periphery of music and art culture and the dead mainstream. In different countries, that space is of different sizes, but it exists. So in Denmark, for instance, there are a lot of musicians making a living, making music. Some of them are even making a living at making music of their own. Jazz musicians get paid decent money there. And there are gigs to be had, and they pay well. The system is unionised, and there is a union minimum that band members have to be paid. Of course there's a lot of un-unionised work that gets done, but by and large this stuff pays well too, AND it is out of the tax loop. The basic standard of living is very comfortable in Denmark, and being a musician is not something that anyone there seems to be expected to trade any of that comfort for, in order to pursue.

In Ireland, there isn't quite the Danish socialist welfare and benefits blanket at the base of society, waiting to catch anyone as they fall. If you fall in Ireland, you crash, it's true. But if you fall in America, you crash and you can burn too. But you can soar in Ireland, and you can soar here, above the clouds..

Music is not unionised in Ireland, though my dad was heavily involved in the musicians' union there when it had a heyday, and it wasn't pen-pushing work that those guys had to do in those days. Dad told me stories of having to show up at pubs that had refused to pay the band the night before, and argue rightness until the pub-owner coughed up. My dad was never any kind of a heavy handed intimidating type, but he was intense and earnest when it was called for. Anyway, now that there's money in the country, things are different. But the average pay for club-date type gigs there, is still about half of what it is in Denmark.

But people go out in Ireland. And they like to hear music. And they follow local bands. So actually, you can be in a band in Ireland, and have local popularity, and get by for as long as you're popular. Sure, things probably run out of steam in the mid-zone at some point, but my point is that I don't see very much of that mid-zone here in New York (granted I've not been seeing much outside of Dean street and 5th avenue here in New York this past couple of weeks, but I do have very good intentions of getting out more. Problem is that in is just so damned interesting).

Things are very splintered and niche-ised here. Everyone's a specialist. Everyone's catering to a very specific need. In many ways, it's like a city of phD's. How you fare financially depends very much on the demand and value placed on that particular niche. So if you're a burns litigation lawyer or an eyelid surgeon, you'll probably be earning quite a bit of cash, because everyone who needs their eyelid tending to or who wants to cash in on the pain and suffering caused by an over-hot McDonalds coffee, will hear about you and your intensity in the area, and away you go.

But if you're a rocknroll musician and you're really quite good, but you don't quite live the life and say what 20 million teenagers want to hear, well, chances are you'll be spending your middle age getting settled into your stable of cat and dogsitting clients, or putting up little signs in Key Foods, selling GUITAR LESSONS from a Juilliard trained professional of 20 years experience, to the local 4 year olds of Park Slope, whose parents are reaching for excellence, and demand Juilliard for their $40 an hour tutoring fee.

But New York city draws people like those squidgy sticky mats that everybody uses to catch their cockroaches and mice in their overheated New York city apartments. We all just NEED to be here. Of course, it's just because we're all here that we all need to be here. We need the proximity to each other. We're excited, stimulated, inflamed by that. And the rest of it. The mix. The low high and medium all jiving together in the space of a block. The crazy shit on the side of passing trucks. The endless relentlessness of it all. The energy tsunami, the suck of the best you have to give.

And you know, when you come and live in a place, and you've been there for ten years, and everybody you know, like, love and work with lives in that place, it just becomes your home and moving anywhere else is just absurd. So you take that shitty accounting job for two and a half days a week and grit your teeth and count the seconds.

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