Monday, May 21, 2007

Artists on the Verge, A Van Pelt Bio in Two Sides

Inside: Stances (scroll down for 'Outside: Circumstances')
The Radioactive Orbit of Brevity and Almost Is

During a New York Times interview for an audio series on New York City raconteurs, the interviewer asked me who my peers are, and as I was rattling off the list of my typical dudes, a glaring theme began deciphering itself to me for the first time: though my friends may be as varied as anyone’s – painters, architects, teachers, designers, lawyers – they’re nearly all involved with the making of music in some small way, as am I. So, duh, this might seem so obvious I should’ve picked up on it from the get go, but thing is, I do my best at avoiding facing music head on at all costs. I try monitoring it sideways with my periphery, keeping it at an arm‘s length. Kind of a don’t ask don’t tell policy between it and me. Like the sun, though reading it through its reflection off the moon might not seem like the most direct source of info, if you look dead on in going straight for the goods it’ll be the last thing you’ll ever see (I drifted off for a couple of seconds here in the interview, getting into “my peers” and “peering into the sun“ and if peers are so called because they let you peer into them and that‘s always something combustible and fiery like the sun and the Greek pyros for fire, i.e. to peer is to burn? The New York Times never called me back and never ran the interview. I think this is where I blew it). This is to say that music is second bliss or near, but definitely not first, for all the people I move about easily with.

For some of us though, myself included, music wasn’t and isn’t always allotted to second bliss. If we fail to surveil it properly it can sneak itself right into first bliss despite our repeated appeals for it to ride a bit behind. In fact, I even think we're unconsciously inviting it to: if Leo’s are extroverts in need of constant attention and hence perfect fits for the stage, and music is as demanding and needy as the most insecure Leo, it would seem the pair needs each other and we therefore need them to be needy in order to ensure more giving. For the rest of us though, placing music at first bliss is too much. We need to desecrate her like the bitch asks us to or suffer the consequences of post-coital praying mantis fodder. Like the metaphor that is not a metaphor, music is heroin when it’s first bliss and all the other awesome drugs when it‘s kept in second. No need to elaborate further on the pyrrhically proven love affair between those two when they are not a metaphor, but when they are a metaphor it’s still not much different -- you find yourself living in windowless practice cubicles on the Gowanus Canal with a membership to New York Sports Club just so you have a place to brush your teeth and take the occasional shower (I sealed the deal killing the New York Times piece by already taking another aside that jumped back a few lines here while at the same time rushing ahead to the end of my thought: if Leos “fit” on stage and the stage is a place where one throws and induces “fits” and junkies always need a “fix” and I am arguing how gravely unstable the Truth music brings with it as first bliss is, then to “fit” into a “fit” sums up why I try to keep music at least in second place). In second place we make music that people can actually enjoy, music that (dare I say) might even make people smile. In first place you wipe ’em out, blue funk, deep fall, take me take me into the abyss stare out the window at the lone pigeon on the adjacent roof as your French press worships, beckons, and accepts the pervasively murky c’est la vie this sludgy morning. Say who? I wrote this poem in response to a Leonard Cohen song:

I’ve Got My Own Ghosts/Get Your Own Ghosts
Is this really what you wanted,
To listen to a song
That makes you feel

Hell no! I wanna dance and get laid and laugh and point at people when they trip and shout doo-wop nonsense WOOOOOLLLLLY-BULLLLY from the top of my lungs with whatever costume jewelry I just stole from the chick who ran away with my blazer as I zig-zag my bike like a pathological shark across the Willis Avenue Bridge all the way home! Visions of Suzanne and Harvest Moons I forsake you. Where’s that gonna get me? It’s gonna get me finding weight in everything. Oh we’re so weighty aren’t we, us poor poor pitiable humans! No way, not me. I yearn to be public domain like the elements already dictate I am *. The weight’s a false weight, I tell myself as often as I can. But when it baits me with “everything is” I agree and bite and then it sacks me with “then nothing is false” by which point my gills are drying out and there’s a hook through my eye and finally it guts me with “then weight too is as heavy as it claims to be” and music has hijacked me yet again which is to say that when music has writhed its way into first place, there is no second place. There is no other drug.

In a self-flagelling way I suppose one could make a strong argument that it did get me here so I shouldn‘t be so wary, but I never would have made it if I was an all out junkie keeping it in first. No, I’ve been on the William S. Boroughs diet with it, an on again off again for eternal youth that’s rendered me seasoned enough to know that regardless of what I proclaim or protest, I can never be off off off (which is to say in permanent second position) with it. In fact, I’m writing this in the wake of a Van Pelt practice for a reunion show at SXSW 12 years after we broke up. Initially excited to revisit the rockin’ songs that should have had the right amount of ignorance in them to get me where I need to be (with it in second place), I find myself instead moping down the street thinking about our song “Let’s Make A List” wherein nothing ever happens and when it gets to the chorus, even less happens. I am destroyed and wallowing in it, wanting yet not hurrying to put music back where it belongs so I can move on and maybe even dance tonight. Moping down this street with the muting "List" in my head, contrary to my whole M.O., I start writing bitter poems in response to my response to that Leonard Cohen song, like this little piece of acid:

The Scoring of Pity
Poor Shane McGowan
With so many friends
"A kinder soul there isn't!"
Is a blunter of his ends

As a second bliss though, music can actually help the other arts. This is why I think it’s that common thread amongst my closest friends. It serves as an essential agent of novelty, brevity, and rhythm that keeps our primary callings in check from running away with themselves. With novelty: there’s still no recipe for creating a good song, still no rational defense as to why we like the songs we do, and still no reason why it should please us to hand our moods over to the whimsy of music to juggle as it wishes. Allowing this element of chance to contaminate our other arts keeps us tapped in to nimble lightness. With brevity: songs are respectful of the necessary reciprocity between art and outside influence. The brevity of song allows for a taking from the outside world and a spitting of a regurgitated product back out in perpetual cycle that fireside thousand-page tomes do not. Brevity respects reciprocity as all art should. Keep moving, brevity is reciprocity. With rhythm: of course we all know there are no such things as flat lines or dead ends, but it can feel that way upon emerging from an exhaustive (egotistic!) piece of prose. Lyrics and poetry welcome rhythm in integrally to affect the essence of words in a dramatically highlighted way. This can serve to venerate, tease, sync us up, or simply draw attention to the broader language riding beneath it all. And anyhow, anything that makes you dance -- as music as a second bliss does -- solves everything across the board.

On the surface we knew this with the Van Pelt. Our songs almost don’t exist at all. Our set lists already arrived at the encore after the 6th song (and that was only on paper, we never actually played the encore, just liked toying with the idea). We hung out together often, but still maintained separate lives. We remained in NYC because, though there were a million other American cities in the 90’s that would have better suited us as a band, we believed it was the everything else of NYC that kept this band vital. We wrote our best album when there were no original members remaining yet no one ever thought that meant we should franchise the band out into a never-ending Menudo twirl; we buried the band when it felt right. We were novel, brief, and rhythmic like the recipe dictates yet we still found ourselves, our songs, and eventually even our band consumed by music. At the peak of our career we broke-up mid-album. Applying the same protective strategies music offers to our other arts to also keep music itself in check, turns out, doesn’t work at all and I suppose anyone who reads this sentence over again will be immediately clear on why it implodes. As aerodynamic as we stripped it down to, it still got heavy. In fact, the more aerodynamic we made it the heavier it got. Tough lesson to learn even though things almost always work this way. If I hadn't stop eating meat when I was fourteen would my palette have ever expanded past the typical American fare? And would the English language have wound up with the biggest vocabulary in the West if we hadn't torn out the excessive articles and conjugations that weigh our parent languages down? Conversely, extreme heaviness always approaches the spherical form until lift off into orbit.

I look back on “Nanzen Kills a Cat” as a foreshadower I missed. Midway through the song when I say “on top of the world, think about it, there’s nothing” that was my way of saying “there is no something in nothing” and conversely, by the song’s end when I say “eat my body’s finest and tell me how it tastes” that was my way of saying “communion tastes like boring bread, and shit will always be shit, and there is no nothing in something”. By trying to whittle it down to the bare essentials I got myself all tangled up with no room for any second or third blisses. Years later I lived Nanzen’s mysteries in a chronological order that played out comically. I took a pill before the sun set, said goodbye to all my friends, asked them if they had any messages for grandparents or dead dogs, and ran and ran and ran and saw it all, every bit of it, and it all felt the same. By the time the grand vision was wearing off I found myself at the old Pan Am terminal at JFK watching airplanes disappear into the sky. I knew I was losing the info when I snapped, “wait, they really are going somewhere other than here and we‘re not going with them!” Worse, as my lymphatic system tapped my intestine for every last drop of anything hydrating it could find, my gut was left with a universe of condensed little spheres and the Bang was about to happen all over again. Shit was still shit and I was back where it all began. The big big and the small small, note to self: abandon the endless preoc with harpin’ on this ish.

Part of knowing once-a-junkie-always-a-junkie is protesting it nonetheless though. I wrote this passage for my short story “Serengeti”:

The stage is never the highlight of my night. Honestly, I should
really quit music once and for all. After the stage I’m either too
upset that we didn’t play well enough, in which case my night is
ruined, or too wound up in my head with rightfully ridiculable artsy
existentialism if we were on fire, in which case my night afterwards is
also finished. The only rare self-pleasing balance my mood ever strikes
is when we were very very good, but not quite incredible. Very very
good makes it possible for me to continue with the night post-concert.
I’m neither depressed, nor am I feeling too creative to do anything
other than make more music or write, I’m just right, ready to drink
and dance and the shite. Still, I think this means I should quit. There’s
no balance in this for me. For example, when I play with rockers they
want me to teach them the parts. I tell them to make up their own
parts, feel it, intuit it, collaborate. This just leaves them thinking I don’t
have it together. However, when I play with jazzbos they tell me how
my own songs go. They tell me when the changes are, how to hit the
notes, when to open up, when to tighten. If I try to give them direction
they tell me I’m not feeling it enough, not intuiting, not collaborating.
To jazzbos, the song is already written and we just need to channel
it. Is there not a compromise? No, if my ultimate goal therefore is
to perform only a par or slightly sub-par, semi-collaborative show
but not be too bad, good, open, or tight, I should just be playing
cover songs and flirting with trashy girls whose feelings I don’t feel
responsible for afterall. Those girls are somehow more comfortable
with their human-being-as-object side while remaining Catholic
anyhow, whereas the girls at my concerts often believe they aren’t
in fact objects yet they remain in that object-friendly collegiately
atheistic counter-church. I love their idea. It’s scientifically ethereal.
Like if we were to probe the border between human beings and air
with the world’s smallest microscope to the nano-degree wherein only
atoms were perceivable we’d be able to fly straight through people.
In one side and out the other. That would make my fans correct, they
are therefore technically not objects, just cosmic mirages. But then
nothing is an object and the next thing you know we’re bound up in a
semantics war and no one is getting laid. No, for now let’s stick to our
loose definitions: until we’re able to walk through walls, we are all still
objects. I mean, somehow I feel like the tactic of arguing that if you are
not an object and therefore I too am not an object either and therefore
you are not a “girl” object and I am not a “boy” object and then
neither is your crotch and then neither is my cock so why can’t we
put all these non-objects together and continue digging in on our nongender-
specific-an-atom-carries-no-sex subjectivity wouldn’t get me
anywhere would it? Following this reasoning it would be fair to argue
that infidelity is just a matter of degree then, as the universe expands
we are fidelitously separated, but once it starts to contract it’s just a
matter of time before my cells meld with her cells and I just cheated on
Benedetta with her best friend, a sofa, the State of Nebraska, the ass of
an eagle, well with everything as the universe infidelitously calls all its
atoms back home. And these girls are worried about letting me get too
close now!? In a million years we’ll be so close you won’t even be able
to tell us apart!

I let that quote drag on after the relevant point was made only to illustrate the contagious ramifications the burning-itchy-skin discomfort of rolling with music as first bliss brings. I rant for ages on getting and not getting laid only to find myself at the same old end of Nanzen again, while the dj that night probably just snapped his fingers.

And we can't end this convo without addressing the bizarre human phenomenom of watching music that sits about as well with me as equating sex with love. I've never understood what I'm supposed to be looking at when I go to a concert. The rationale that to like a band's music is connected to the enjoyment of watching them perform it has yet to be convincingly articulated this way. Be it Francoise Hardy or Pere Ubu on the stage, I can't get out of my apparent levelheaded rut that only understands music as something we in fact listen to, not watch. This makes me both the last guy you want to watch on stage and the last guy you want to go to the concert with. My god, I envy the fervor though! It's that same fervor that rallies the kids to keep seeking out and creating new music, I just didn't come equipped with the same voracity for it. Instead, I'm a sucker for the written word from the debased to the sublime who, yes, has pissed many a real day away for vicarious play instead held captive at the whimsy of even non-writers' writing like Dan Brown. Why? Because it's my form, plain and simple. If music were more my form I would accrue a grand collection and zip through songs endlessly that would then get my brain into the code thinking of other bands to download into an endless flurry that keeps things light: again, heavy makes light. However, I'm the composite that discovers just a precious few musicians a year, latching on desparately listening to the same songs every day forever. Me and Kate Bush won't leave each other alone like the neurotic couple who lets no outside influence in creating a paranoid spiral down that kicks the bucket over as soon as the cow yields milk. Oh oh oh, here we are back at heroin again. With the word I'm a vigilant slut who could tag team Daisie Marie and any fat sow with equal vigor. With music I'm the dedicated boyfriend who impresses quick out of the gates but whose obsessive steadfastness and moral fortitude bores the girlfriend for the same reason she loved me months earlier.

I know I'm wrong, some of the most basic musical words involve vision: the difference between "bass" (from Oscan "basso", same as "base" for low note) and "treble" (from Old French "treble" for "third" part above the melody) is expressed in distance. Like sex and love (maybe) the defense of music as something to be watched wins its case on examples, not theory, and this is where I falter. {Edit: When I emerged from writing this article Sunday I needed some fresh air so Laura and Madeline accompanied me on a walk across the George Washington Bridge at sunset. On the way back home we passed by the United Palace Theater, second biggest theater in NYC after Radio City, and were lured in by the endless stream of tail entering before us (though I may have offered a different excuse as why we needed to go in). Turns out, it was for the "Spanish Service" mass wherein a chain of about 80 Latinas held hands swaying back and forth singing to the almighty Signor Poderoso at the base of the stage while smoke machines, twirling nymphettes waving marching band batons, a chorus of operatic lungs fattened by fast food, a live band, and a doyenne belted it out center stage beneath TWO movie screens showing images of Jesus Christ being both crucified at times and shooting the shit like he too is just a dude who eats chili dogs and drinks the occasional corona on a hot summer day like the rest of us at other times. No ritual slaughter seance happening simultaneously in the Matto Grasso could have been more ascendant. Without an ounce of booze in our bodies we then floated drunk down to St. Nicks Pub in Harlem where everyone is a star, where Billy Holiday got her start, where the black band on stage called me a nigger (second time this season it happened to me in Harlem; first time was when Obama won the presidency and I made the mistake of applauding McCain's dignified concession speech, but this time it was a compliment! The only other time in my life I was called a nigger was by an Indian from India so I don't count it.), where even if you were white you were entitled to free homeade banana pudding, and where the party was razed to ashes and back up again when the chantreuse wouldn't let anyone loose as she wailed "I will wait for you I will wait for you I will wait for you I will wait for you" and though her body and mine had very little to do with each other I was plotting all sorts of convoluted strategies to mount it. Only way out: 'nother round of drinks. By the time we finally managed to peel our souls stuck via sweat in the dead of winter off the plastic furniture coverings, it was too late to go home. One more stop for Hennessey and live bachata at El Presidente where the four eyes the three of us were donning by this point were not enough to take in all the opposing physics happening at once on every Dominican body: faces, stoic as the ice outside; waists and knees, 1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and; asses, lava lamps on coke! Home: a three person, one canna, youtube best-dance- party-evah conclusion to the evening. By the morning, all the snow was melted and spring was in the air.} Without that articulated reason at the base of all the definitive examples I just can't get on board though. To get with yous, I try telling myself that the pleasure one derives from watching music comes from an addition of two concurrent novelties, which therefore creates a third. As we got into earlier in this essay, music by nature is novel, so when music is then played live the course of the song too becomes unpredictable making it even more novel and this is where the third must be birthed. The problem with this theory is that it remits me back to where I wanted to quit music in the first place; if the performance is flawless then I just found myself looking at nothing on stage. So put yourself in the shoes of a performing musician! People pay and give up their Saturday nights to watch you fuck up. If you don't fuck up, fine, they'll tell themselves they liked it anyhow; but if you fuck up in the wrong way you put on a bad show, if you fuck up in an intended way you've just blashpemed your art -- there are apparently right and wrong ways to fuck up here and hence, I (am desperately trying to) opt out of this madness.

So this means I have to quit again, I guess. Not yet though, there must be a hit in this band somewhere. Have you ever heard our song "The Speeding Train"? It comes so so close to a hit. Gotta hop on that bell curve and nail it next time.

* This unfortunate malady has been leaching away at me since Powell Peralta released their skateboarding video "Public Domain" in 1988 wherein every terrain was held theirs to carve up. Problem is, skateboarding is a bloody art that leaves shreds of tattered flesh and freshly reopened scabs on every curb and park bench they grace -- so who's property is that? The skateboarder's who just lost it, the groundskeeper's who has to clean it up, or the elements'? And if something I built that was still mine when I woke up this morning becomes public domain of the public domain in but the blink of an eye one's mind starts to feel both owned by and ownership of everything. My heart, however, is in no way near accordant with head on this.

Outside: Circumstances
A Tribute to the Unreadably Overdesigned Raygun Magazine (R.I.P), the Who’s-Fleecing-Who A&R Guy (R.I.P), and the Young Idea (but not so fast! If George released another masterpiece it would have been called “All Things Come Back”)

NYU freshman wearing Dag Nasty t gives nod of approval to NYU freshman wearing Simple Machines "Cog" design hand-screened thrifted button-down. Make friends the next day when wearer of Velocity Girl t's jaw drops agape at the other's faded out "Seven Sisters" era Shudder To Think t. Just saw a delightful tourist say "Aww, no thanx sir, I don't do thayt!" Just saw a homie get a “Quality-of-Life” ticket for blasting Stevie V's "Dirty Cash" from his boom-box while walking through Washington Square Park. Hate it, both sides. Thank God Wu-Tang came along to salvage said sitch‘. Thing is, what’ll be had of the guitar and live drums in this age of turntableism? Are we both the youngest and last real band left in New York City? That is, a band that doesn't stroke its communal jazz patch to Glenn Branca's and Wharton Tiers' 100 guitars? You can understand our preoccupation with making recordings sound "live"; though the logical line to follow is live-is-live and recording-is-recording, for a spell that wasn't so clear. Assuming we make it through the Y2K crash, will the world have any use for anything other than djs anyhow? NYU just got a computer hall and I was taught how to search for things via "Alta Vista" and send notes to people via electronic mail. Heard of new veggie resto with break-away staff from Angelicas Kitchen who opened a place on 20th and 6th but can't find anyone to venture above 14th street unless there's a show at Tramps or a shoegazer band at the Limelight or a $10/hour nude modeling gig at the School of Visual Arts. Took my first student teaching placement at PS 261K way out on the Bergen F stop in Brooklyn, a Yemeni neighborhood where children wore head scarves and played kickball in Reeboks. Went to get a space cake at The Kingdom across from the Hell's Angels on 3rd Street only to find it shuttered. Weird. Pick up the Post that morning, find a map of 21 other targets Giuliani's goons trashed last night. Sharing the same page with the "no goats may saunter three paces within a spittoon" there was a cabaret law stating no more than one person at a time can dance in an establishment that does not have a dancing license. Create a task force and enforce it. There are tanks on 13th Street and copters above and the squatters are waving banners that almost say "David Dinkins and your Crown Heights Riots, we miss your political impotence that kept us free!?" Can’t get close enough to see, let’s get some free Krishna slop at the base of Thompkins instead. It's yours gratis if you promise to finish you plate, have to, food's already been offered up. Met this culty named Lucas at a hardcore matinee with Lifetime, Another Wall, and American Standard at the Anthrax in CT who’ll be dishing out the dal. Always had to ask what the powder was because brown sugar was masquerading as socially white for awhile, whiskey had yet to be offed by tequila as the official city drink, and microbrew was still a good word. There’s another burgeoning strip club zone away from Times Square down in desolate TriBeCa where girl bass-players work when not on tour. Check it, Drew Barrymore put her clothes back on at the Blue Angel last week and The Harmony won't accept waifs over 110 pounds. Let's go, Chinese New Year is happening right around the corner and firecrackers smoke up waist high red clouds and you can play a chicken at tic-tac-toe in the arcade on Mott. Let's go save Neil after, he's drawing dots for a conceptual artist on West Broadway all day and the only way he can make it through is by listening to Mingus. After a Strong go in the 80's, Australia is finally toppled by New Zealand as Down Under go to. Man, I live all the way at the end of Grand Street in the Baruch Houses. Even though I have a balcony and a garden with a swing, can’t get no one to make the trek out here. Only “Vinnie” in his real pink Cadillac and the brain freezer he claims is weed oozes down the street. So far removed, when I met Hasids in the lobby they'd "welcome to the neighborhood" me. No, the farthest anyone ever ventures is to this place called "Planeat Thailand" in a little storefront on the first stop of the L train in Brooklyn. Knew some pioneers with brutal dogs and windowless lofts on the Lorimer stop, but their parties were full of scowls and art that demanded industrial decibel power tools, not for me. Christ, under the wrong moon how many times did we find ourselves running for our lives to and from Life Cafe' on B and 10th, muchachos? I ask the clerk at the Bodega on 11th and C for coconut Tropical Fantasy soda, "No way man! Makes Latinos and black men go sterile, haven't you heard? We have weed and milk though." Barry London and Dave Baum told me they needed a bass player for their band called "Soma" so I visited their rehearsal in the basement of the Brittany dorm. A girl named Ellie who dated the guy from Junction was drumming but she kept stopping when she wasn't feeling it. Soon she was gay for a bit but still slept with Dave just becuse he had one of those "Prince Alberts" on his prick. I didn't get it. Played my bass with a quarter like the dude from Ned's Atomic Dustbin if he was in Jesus Lizard, Dave was a very late era Gregg Ginn who brushed shoulders with Randy Rhodes at a Bad Brains show at The Whiskey, Barry had a Big Black t and an Assuck patch on his man-pouch but out-reverbed Dick Dale and I swear at least one baked semiotics major loved it. Told them this Neil the drummer guy I met at a Hoover show at the drummer from Born Against’s house in Westfield, New Jersey could prob make it through a song. I think he asked someone why they needed to run out and buy whole wheat pitas for the hummus and garlic when there was bread already in the house. After practice, to Max Fish where for one year only, even though we look like we're 12, we're able to drink before Rudy begins dusting off these law books. It was a djs job to be pretentious, fuck Can, we're talking Amon Duul soundtracks to movies that were never made and Beefheart flexi's from vintage zine's only available from the clerk who stepped out of 8 Ball comics at See/Hear in the basement on 7th and Pretty Things were briefly better than Led Zeppelin. The Van Pelt never played Brooklyn. Heartattack gave our album a bad review and someone else made fun of our dueling strats. I saw Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson at a gallery in SoHo that was fusing digital and analog technology together into one “lazer needle” and spun records made of beeswax! What to do about this band Cathode Ray with Brian Maryansky and Sean Greene? We need them. I know, stop by Angelica’s take out window where they both work, grab some bread and spread, and feel ’em out before we snatch 'em up like we did with Toko from Fermina Daza, and like Blonde Redhead in turn then did to us and my older brother did with Sean and Jets to Brazil did to Brian the second they were all free agents? Jordan’s working at Limbo CafĂ©. Free espresso all night. Party on the Tascam 424 at mines till the sunrises thereafter, make tunings we won’t remember to fit into ensembles with antique typing machines and vacuums conducted by Sun Ra from his studio on Mars. Thank god we called that album, the one with the Seam song followed by the Sonic Youth meets Blue Oyster Cult song followed by the Ian guitar with the Guy vocals one followed by Boss song as sung by Three followed by another Seam song followed by the Charlatans song as played by Boy era U2 as sung by Jackie from the Dust Devils if she were a lapsed Catholic still trying to shake off a bad case of the morals, thank god we called that album "Stealing From Our Favorite Thieves" because for every influence we were aware of that we tried to keep at bay there was another subtle latent one we couldn't hear sneaking in. But thank god too there seemed to be a grace saving counter balance wherein what we went into as Soundgarden came out Firehose -- we once even had to rename "Dream Theatre Song" to "Superchunk Thang" after hearing our demo of it. Learning to play an instrument bares some fruits mastery does not. Thank god we believed we would be something, otherwise the costly pay-by-the-hour practice space rehearsals fueled by coffee to get the job done and dream would have been weed and beer strewn basements with solid gear we so envied in Baltimore, Richmond, and Dayton. Let's move to Worcester! We can make it cool! From there we can lay siege to Springfield, Holyoke, and Brattleboro! Booked a tour via phone. Buy a tent when they all fall through. Break your wrist skateboarding when you’re killing time. Wait what? Some kid in Kalamazoo likes us? We’re there.

Stop. Blizzard of ‘96. Total halt. Playing pool in the basement of a billiards hall on 12th street as the snow falls and falls. Announcement over the loud speaker: we are under quarantine until further notice. Vietnamese gang stabs homie who tried to step to. The City of Amsterdam just paid Rudy to talk to its police department? Table by table the officers questioned us. The storm stopped everything, but we had no idea then it would be the last one ever. We were the last table to be set free. Except for the echo of the officer's voice in the empty chamber, silence everywhere as the snow fell in sheets. College done. Like the fruit that fortunately does not exist between the plantain and the banana, we were no longer green enough to fry yet not yet sweet enough to just pluck and eat. No more F-1 visa for Toko. Blacks, Jews, and Koreans had agreed to disagree so no more savage streets. No jerk booths within 500 feet of a school meant nowhere safe to vent for Catholic priests. And where’d all the steady girlfriend’s go? Know mine married the regular who'd visit her everyday during his lunch break for a $20 lap dance. You got a free laptop from your web surfing job in Silicone Alley on the condition that you show your face at your company’s three week 24/7blowout “ABCNBCBSyonara” party? But how come no one in my band did? We paid our band funeral bill in $4.99 increments everytime we stopped by a gas station west of the Mississippi and bought a "bargain best of" cassette by the likes of Wings, America, The Guess Who, and The Moddy Blues. In fact, I think such thrift and desperation has us logged in as the only band ever influenced by the other Procol Harum songs. Spent the early 90s dodging industry agenda to mold us into hit makers, but by the time we were moving mad units on our own the only label that was still talking to us was the one we couldn't even get one "quarterly" financial statement from --ever -- our own label, Gern. One time he did give us each $50 checks and two vegan pizza pies he made himself to get a tour started right. Oh and once we did ask him if we could swap "quartely" for even just "annually" and if not, then even annually for "once" would solve a few things. His lawyer responded that it was us who owed him for unpaird merch. Shit! Who let it leak that we'd be doing it for free regardless! Gonna sound crazy, but I gotta leave the city guys. Can’t afford it. Moving to Williamsburg instead. Practice out at my folks place in Jersey so we can stretch the practices out and dilute those dreams. Seems like the radioactive relationship of our individual varying influences is fizzling, but if it really did fizzle would any of us have had the energy to break up? Breaking up takes action and action takes energy and better break up just in case. Fleetwood Mac was one of only two bands I ever wished I was in. The other was San Diego's Heroin. I suppose if their are reigns to reel in, there must be a beast at the other end. This new “Sultans of Sentiment” album is a bummer anyhow even though everyone apparently loves it. Wait, everyone's a bummer, of course they love it. Who are these new faces at our shows? Bedhead, Blue Aeroplanes, Talk Talk, Scott Walker types and kids who carry Celine and Bataille books with them they already read ages go. The better we get at playing these songs the more I hate myself. Thank god we recorded the album before we’d nailed them. This way I can still listen for the mistakes and near misses, otherwise I could never put that thing on. By the time we hit the Ruhrgebeit I was convinced some other force wrote "Nanzen Kills A Cat". When we returned the two note couplet signaling the closing of subway doors always felt empty without the third. I sang it silently to myself. Met a Cuban on the 42nd Street N/R platform playing the Irish fiddle. Made me skip two passing trains while I rapped with him. Had the gall to tell me "this is the beach." Wow! If an apparation with creds as solid as that guy's can be so embarrassingly wrong, there's no way I'm getting out of here easy.

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