Wednesday, March 05, 2003

As promised...the skinny on my New York excursion.

I'm gonna do this in two parts, so...


I hit the road really early -- I think I actually hit the expressway around 6am -- so I could avoid ruch-hour traffic as I crossed the states. I made the trip in early January to deliver my friend Diann's car to her place in Brooklyn with nothing but a portable CD player that skipped every two seconds. It took me about three hours to make it through the latest Roots album alone. For this trip my brother generously allowed me to use his ride which has a sweet six CD system with new speakers...aaaahhh...boy did the time fly. It flew so fast that I actually made it to Brooklynin just about thirteen hours. I don't know how I managed to speed through the Pennsylvanian Poconos without being bagged by their Gestapo, but I did.

A word on Pennsylvania and driving through their hill country. I purposely drove myself as hard as possible because I wanted to make it through the better part of that state's winding route 80 through rather mountainous terrain. Nothing sucks more than squinting into the pitch-dark road ahead while dodging eighteen-wheelers on a winding mountain road. Last time I drove through an ice and snowstorm kicked up causing massive skidding and a three hour wait while they cleared away the wreckage and salted the road ahead. At least I go to listen to both Common and the Roots skip free for that whole time. I really had to pee though.

So I arrived at my friend's place in Brooklyn (Williamsburg to be exact) right around 9pm. She made me some grub and told me that some friends from the Chicago band The Sarchmartins were in town opening for some dude at a sold out show at Joe's Pub. Well I got there too late for the show but we did decide to arrange to meet the boys out after they loaded out and parked the van back at their hotel garage. To pass the time Diann and I bundled up and tried out a new bar we hadn't been to before -- Sweet Ups where we saw a dumpy John Cusack look-a-like -- and it was there that I discovered two things.

ONE: In order to be a dude in Williamsburg it is a necessity to get a short choppy haircut and attempt to grow out as much of a beard as is physically possible while lounging in your vintage T-shirt.

TWO: A Chicago point of reference? Williamsburg is what the world would look like if Rainbo Club exploded over a couple square blocks...only folks are a hell of a lot more friendly.

So after a drink and a bit of catching up we took the train into Manhattan because our poor Chicago pals had been dragged to Times Square -- it is as hellish and overly Disney-fied as you think -- and we needed to rescue them from some awful and over-priced hotel bar. Well, we thought we needed to rescue them. They kept griping about the surroundings but they had a rather posh older patron they seemed to have no problems accepting drink after free drink from. Ah well, I suppose life on the road makes you thirsty.

Anyway, right around 2am we finally got out of the awful terrible Times Square hotel and walked towards Hell's Kitchen to a bar Diann recommended named The Bellevue. She warned the band boys it was kind of scuzzy but all they cared about were the "rock and roll girls" so we figured that it would do the trick. First thing I notice when we enter the place is that the impossibly tiny and stacked bartender is guilty of my biggest fashion peeve...she was wearing a g-string that rode above her low-rise jeans! When will the ladies learn to buy the appropriate undergarments to best compliment the top layers? How hard is it to coordinate that sort of thing?

Anyway, so here we have one bartender in bad fashion but the other bartender -- apparently the girl was for appearances and the boy behind the bar was there to actually pour drinks -- made up for it since he was the kind of guy to buy your shot at the first round. Yes! The music left a bit to be desired since it seemed to be all Teutonic goth-metal for the first half-hour but after a while the Clash and Guns and Roses started creeping in. Nothing better than Guns and Roses in a dank bar at 3am.

3am! Crap! Diann had to work the next day! The band had to get to bed early! All of this hit us at the same time! So Diann and I bid the band boys adieu and took a cab back to Brooklyn where I completely collapsed into an exhausted sleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.


Friday I woke up after Diann left for work and stumbled outside to move her car. You see in Brooklyn you can only park your car on certain sides of the street on certain days so my goal was to find Diann a Wednesday spot so she would have to worry about her wheels for a couple of days. Pay attention, this is going to be important later. So I found her a sweet spot right around the corner from her pad on a nice little residential street.

Then I took a train back into Manhattan to do some CD shopping at Academy Records. Academy is one of those places where music reviewers go to sell their used discs so you can often find albums that haven't even been released. Alas, aside from a disc by Matt Talbott of Hum, I found nothing. I noticed CD shopping has lost a lot of its fun since now one can pretty much download whatever they want before deciding whether to pay for it or not. I was pretty low on funds so I decided to cut my shopping short, grab a Time Out and head back to Brooklyn for some massive vegging.

Now I don't have cable and aside from NPR I don't listen to the radio so I decided to submerge myself in cable music programming and get in touch with what the kids are listening to these days.

Oh. My. God.

If I hear one more watered down Green Day/Stiff Little Fingers knock-off I'm going to scream. If I see one more bootie-waving gold-chain flashin' video I'm going to scream. If I see one more angst ridden Pearl Jam meets Rage Against The Machine rip-off I'm going to scream.

Face it, I'm just going to scream.

If this is what the major music industry has come to then I can't wait to watch it collapse in on itself courtesy of the termite effect of digital downloading. It's a pretty fucking sad state of affairs when a Rick Astley video comes on Classic VH1 and you actually think to yourself, "Hmm, maybe he was talented. Oh crap! I've been watching way too much Good Charlotte and Sum 41! Gads!" On one hand it's interesting that pop-punk is right next to bubblegum teen music (and what the fuck is up with Tatu?) but doesn't that erode the great feeling you're supposed to encounter when you first discover the whole "punk rock" thing. I mean will these kids ever get the whole DIY ethic? Doubtful.

So by this point my barin was officially jelly and Diann had made it home from work. Since it was her birthday weekend she was calling the shots and it was pretty evident she was still pretty wiped from the previous evening and wasn't really in the mood to go out and do much. So we vegged.

Then she napped.

Then I napped. Just a short nap mind you. At least that was the idea.

Next thing you know I had slept about thirteen hours and it was Saturday morning!

---to be continued---

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