It’s True: That City Never Sleeps
22 moments from three days and nights….
Hearing ‘Last Christmas’ at the Polish Bakery in Greenpoint. Is there no safe haven from George Michael on this planet?
The 1-day old kittens at Dave and Katrina’s apartment. Mummy cat was SO proud.
The Mexican takeover of America. On 18th Street, by Union Square, there long stood a cavernous restaurant called, with cavalier arrogance, America. I was taken there for lunch back in 1988. I was most impressed. And I was taken there for lunch again last Thursday, only to find it transformed into Rosa Mexicano, an upscale chain that serves south-of-the-border food with atypical formality: the guacamole is made to spec at one’s table, and the waiter makes a show of reeling off the many Tequilas available for the perfect Marguerita. I’m a 5-year member of Marqueritas Anonymous and can’t imagine where the afternoon would go were I to risk one at lunch. I settled for the passionfruit iced tea and ordered a vegetable enchilada – to spec, seeing as they forgot to take care of vegetarians on the actual menu. Even America wasn’t that cavalier.
The 50-year old Polish guy in tracksuit who barged into vegan hole-in-the-wall Bliss on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, left the door open despite the cold, and proclaimed, ‘Polska!’ to the beautiful blonde waitress. The subsequent exchange went something like this:
“No, I’m not Polish, I’m from Norway.”
“You are beautiful all same.”
“I give you my number. We go out together.”
“Thank you, but I don’t want your number.”
“I leave you my number all same!”
“Thank you, but I don’t want your number.”
“Why not? You not like Polish men?”
And I’d always thought the hipsters were the reason to avoid Williamsburg.
My former football team-mate Matt’s 40th birthday party Friday night at Double Happiness – and his two buddies who flew over from London to surprise him. How’s that for friendship? (And disposable income?)
Getting lucky with house wine. Here’s to the cheap plastic cup of fleshy Cabernet Sauvignon at Knitting Factory, the rustic Malbec at Belly, that old reliable Rosemount Shiraz at Corner Billiards, the zesty Beaujolais Nouveau chez McCutcheon, the still-drinkable 2001 Vidal-Fleury Cotes du Rhône at Double Happiness, and the highly gulpable Zinfandel at The Royale. Not to forget the $8 glass of house red at the Dumbo General Store.
Catching up with Shawn from Halcyon in his new Dumbo-based Store. We talk of changing neighborhoods: he moved Halcyon out of Smith Street when Cobble Hill got too trendy. Now it’s Dumbo’s turn. Shawn tells me that a 700 square foot back of the building condo at 70 Washington, staring out at the Brooklyn Bridge ramp all of 15 feet away, is going for $690,000. That’s for the 3rd floor. It’s $25,000 extra to move up a floor. Those prices will explain $8 glass of house red at the Dumbo General Store.
Hopewell at the Knitting Factory. Shoe-gazing psychedelia is back in full swing and New Yorkers Hopewell have it down big time. Would you expect anything less from a band that uses Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridman, names its third album Hopewell and the Birds of Appetite, counts former Mercury Rev members among its line-up and gives individual songs titles like ‘Synthetic Symphony’ and ‘Trumpet For A Lung.’ As an added bonus, front man Jason Russo wears white Levi’s and tee a la Moonie. Hopewell have been around long enough that something should have happened for them by now, but that’s not to say it never will: Hear a live session on KEXP or check out selected album highlights at their myspace page.
Goldrush at the Knitting Factory, in small doses. Sonically, the Oxford band falls betwixt the country-rock of My Morning Jacket and the esoterica of Gomez; unfortunately, front man Robin Bennett also has in common with Starsailor’s James Walsh the distressing habit of talking rubbish between songs. This is somewhat ameliated by his exuberant if bearded brother Joe Bennett’s skills on piano, bass, violin, trumpet, percussion and vocals. During their second song, title of which I did not catch (though you can hear music for yourself at their web site), Goldrush soared with an intensity worthy of Secret Machines, but that moment passed all too briefly – which might explain why most psychedelic rock fans in New York were over at Webster Hall, where Secret Machines themselves were holding court in a benefit for Mercy Corps.
Mark Gardener at the Knitting Factory, in even smaller doses. There’s a lot of good will out there for the former Ride front man. For one thing, he was, well, the former Ride front man (or at least the half that mattered); for another, he’s a thoroughly likable person, free of the bitterness and ego that usually accompanies the ex-rock star, and such humble qualities deserve success. At the Knit, where he was backed by Goldrush, I desperately wanted to witness the return of a major talent but, the beauty of his 12-string Gibson acoustic aside, his closed-eye presentation was hard to distinguish from any number of other singer-songwriters who saturate the music scene. And though ‘Getting Out of Your Own Way,’ ‘To Get Me Through’ and ‘The Story Of The Eye,’ all from his long-in-the-making solo album These Beautiful Ghosts are above average tunes, they simply pale in comparison to the majesty of Ride’s ‘Taste,’ ‘Vapour Trail’ and ‘Dreams Burn Down,’ all of which he performed as a bitter-sweet reminder of past glories. (Read more about Ride at iJammming! here; listen to Mark Gardener’s solo album at his myspace page.)
The Loveless party’s 1st Anniversary at Belly. Sadly, everyone who should have been – including the party’s regular bartender (he’s also Hopewell’s drummer) was either at the Secret Machines show, the Mark Gardener show, or the various after-parties.
Mark Gardener’s after-party at Corner Billiards.
Resurrection at The Royale. Just as Mark Gardener can’t replicate Ride, so Resurrection will never be Step On. But at least I could just show up with a small bag of records, spin some tunes, hit the dancefloor for some fleeting moves and wonder where the night went already. Thanks to those old regulars who came down one more time.
The bartender at The Royale, who initially refused to serve me a glass of red wine. “You’re straight-edge,” she protested. “You never drink when you DJ.” For good reason.
Following my fellow DJs to someone’s house after closing and then realizing I don’t do after hours any more.
Remembering the number of my old cab company and finding my way “home,” records and CDs successfully at my feet.
Running into a really good friend on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and stopping to talk for half an hour.
Running into another good friend on the subway. These are not coincidences, right?
Running round McCarren Park’s freshly laid 400-metre track in Greenpoint… at a stupid fast pace because I was stupid enough to come out in a short-sleeve shirt. (The faster you run, the quicker you sweat, thereby, the warmer you get. At least that’s my theory.)
New York’s starting to feel like London to me. A home from home – but without a home. Whose floor can I sleep on tonight? If I leave my bag here can I still come get it tomorrow? If I take the car in for service (an expensive way of avoiding a garage for the night) will I still be around for when it’s ready to pick up.
The conversation at the upscale coffee shop/patisserie on 1st Avenue and 18th Street on Saturday morning between the Korean proprietress and her female 30-something grumpy New Yorker customer.
“That’s $2, please.”
“You have two dollar?”
“I just gave you five.”
“On the counter.”
“That your five dollar? The other customer, she pick it up!”
“She took it?”
“I saw her take money, I think it her money. It your money?”
“I always put my money on the counter. I don’t expect someone to steal it.”
“Ok… I give you change now, I talk to her next time she come in.”
“Please do. I don’t want to confront her.”
“You know her?”
“Yeah. She lives on my block… crazy hippie.”
Making it out alive and driving straight up to the town of Hudson on Saturday afternoon, parking there the exact same minute as my wife and kids, and just in time for the Winter Walk. Suddenly, New York City was a million miles away.