It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Category Archives: Concerts
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
Sunny and cool today on Long Island as we crawl painfully to the promise of Spring as February draws to a close. I am waiting with a few others on the long Island Railroad platform for a train into New York City. I am going to see another eclectic indie band tonight at the Highline Ballroom called Rasputina. They are a cello based band. That’s right… See Eee Ell Ell Oh! Melora Craeger has created a trio of classically trained musicians, a drummer and two cellists who play original music and rock covers. They are steeped in history as they are dressed in bawdy period costume from the 1800’s, and much of the songwriting is rooted in history which Melora relishes in presenting in unique ways. The new cd is out but I haven’t heard it yet, I will be buying it at the show I’m sure. This is the seventh cd for the band which has been around for twenty years and has seen a few lineup changes and solo projects from various members.
But throughout it all the music has remained the same. Classical – but not stuffy and pompous, folksy – but not annoyingly so, at times hard-edged but never heavy. One could say they are a happy marriage of The Dresden Dolls and a chamber music quartet. So as the express rain heads into NY I write with chilled fingers and listen to students talking about school life and current events. They talk in that modern post valley-girl twang that seems so attractive to young people these days. Several people are sleeping in this mostly quiet car and I find myself envious of them, but tired as I am after a busy day – I never sleep on the train. I just don’t trust the world well enough for that, it’s my suspicious Taurean nature.
Speaking of such things as the world, it seems to me that we are hurtling toward destruction at an alarming rate these days. I try to stay apolitical in my writing but it’s hard not to side with any people interested in free speech and personal liberty, as long as they are not blowing up buildings to get their point across. I am scared for the future of the planet, in my darkest thoughts I imagine how much some people want to use nuclear weapons against us and other U.S. allies, and what it could do to the face of the globe. What surprises me is how easily the same people could find their own lands adversely affected from such actions and yet are going on with the planning and other activities like it won’t go down that way. They seem to me like children playing with matches who haven’t been burned yet. We can only hope that cooler heads will prevail, but right now it feels like too many Darth Vaders are cutting the hand off too few Luke Skywalkers. The next few weeks will be very interesting.
I am considering the merits of a long walkabout as opposed to the subway. I need the fresh air and exercise but I also want to make some time after getting a later train. The Highline Ballroom is on W 16th St at 9th Ave which is eighteen blocks away and two avenues over as the crow flies or in this case pigeon flies and I don’t want to rush through dinner to get to the show on time. I guess I’ll just play it by ear when I get off. I am also thinking about tonight’s meal, I had a late breakfast so this will be an early supper, and I’m undecided about the choice. It will either be French or Vietnamese, and damn if I can’t find both within a few blocks of here! I just need to get a pen to write more, the two I have are both low on ink. My ears pop as we begin to descend and people begin to pack up and prepare to disembark. No nerves this time after a long absence, I’m ready for New York like a man is ready for a woman…it takes a lot out of you but oh so worth it.
I come up in Penn Station and am immediately greeted by color and movement, people on the move. Walking briskly the commuters go about their business, you see little scenes – a dad and his little boy sit on the floor sharing snacks-couples walk close oblivious to the world around them – a homeless man searches in the garbage can. Cold blasts of wind rise up from the tracks below each stairwell as you pass carrying the faint smell of machinery replaced quickly by cooking food. Grilled meats, pizza, strong coffee, bread. A quartet of musicians plays pop songs on classical instruments at one end of the station while a rhythm and blues band plays at the other end. I grab a pen at a kiosk and go up to 8th Avenue and quickly find a pub called the Irish Times for a quick beer and a loo.
The pub is a nice but typical place with wood tables and bar, well-lit for lunch and playing sports on the tv’s and mix radio, I settle for a Spaten instead of a Harp, huh some Irish pub – at least the bartender was Irish. So I rush to the loo and wash up and go back to my spot where I’m listening to a German man talk with his American handler about business and wax philosophic about the economy, I imagine he’s here for a meeting as he is asking the American about what to do nearby at night. I don’t have time to put my two nosey cents in and besides the guys getting paid to be a fixer for the man anyway so I finish my brew and go outside. Walking down 9th Ave I note again how relatively quiet it is compared to others like 7th or 8th, and that’s not for lack of businesses here, there is a whole bunch of pizza places, vegan eateries of all kinds and sizes – from nice restaurants to a guy in a kitchen the size of a closet boasting the fastest vegan food in town, you get your food in 30 seconds or less or it’s free! Just kidding. I quickly make the walk downtown, it’s nice here and the weather is fine. Soon I’m standing outside Co Ba only to find it’s closed, the waiter comes as I enter and tells me to come back at 5:30 for dinner but I need a loo again and I ask if I can and reluctantly he lets me in after I promise to be back for dinner.
So with 45 minutes to kill I walk down to the Highline and go in to the box office to get my ticket but they are not giving them out till 6:00 pm! I mean come on, can I get a break here or what? The only consolation is the Chelsea Market is a block away so I walk down to check it out. The studios above the market is where Emeril Lagasse’s show Emeril Live was filmed for many years and the market was featured a bunch of times. I walk in and am greeted with a welcome sight, there is a Anthropologie store here! Let me explain, Anthropologie is a womans clothing store, at least 60% of it is clothing for women and girls which means that there is plenty of eye candy for a man here to see. But the rest is an interesting eclectic mix of housewares and decorative items that you will not find anywhere else, as well as books and a fantastic selection of music playing . Which I would buy on CD if I could, I have heard songs that I wanted while in the store but no one knew the band. The buyers go all over the world and bring back pieces of furniture too that are used for display but are also for sale! There are dressers and marble-topped kitchen cabinets with drawers and they are beat up and look as if they were purchased at an estate sale in Provence, Tuscany or Barcelona! Did I mention the beautiful girls? This store is twice the size of the one near my house which is becoming all clothing gradually so I am absorbed as they have two floors. I walk out into the market and see a wonderful array of bread on racks at Amy’s Breads, a huge bakery with glass walls so you can see the operation, opposite that is a butcher shop I won’t even walk into, the smell alone would have me blacking out from the pleasure. The selection of charcuterie is jaw-dropping! I have never seen so many types of bacon and the terrines, pate’s and rillettes make me want to get a baguette and a bottle of wine and make a picnic lunch on the floor. I don’t even bother to go in the wine and cheese shop…I would have to be carried out on a stretcher. Besides I’m hungry and it is time to eat dinner, I will be back and make a proper expedition here again, armed with a cooler bag or perhaps a mule team to take it all back home!
I come back to Co Ba and the young waiter waves me in as I stand outside looking in and sits me properly, after I go to the loo again. I advise him to enjoy being able to drink gallons of beer and hold it while he’s young because it won’t last, he laughs and I study the menu. This is an extensive menu for a small place and they are doing God’s work (as Anthony Bourdain would say)! They have twelve small plates, six Banh Mi sandwiches, six noodle dishes, beef three ways, a fish of the day, and four clay pot meals. I ask the waiter how much food you get with the small plates and explain that I want to eat as much as I can without being a pig because we don’t have Vietnamese food by me anymore. So he advises on portions and I go with Chim cut roti: five spice quail roasted with small rice cakes as an appetizer, a small Pho Bo, the ubiquitous noodle soup that I first learned about in a book called “Rougue Warrior” by the former leader of seal team six, and for my main the much-loved French inspired Banh Mi, a toasted baguette with an assortment of luncheon meat, house made pickles, honey plum – glazed pork, cilantro, jalapeno, and mayo and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.
I gaze out at the street and wait while I write about the day so far, my waiter brings my wine which is good and soon another brings my quail. I wanted to try this because of my experience with it at a Spanish tapas place last year, to compare flavors and textures. This is far superior, this is tender and spiced just right. Next my piping hot Pho comes and is just what I expected, good ox tail broth with shaved eye round, noodles, bean shoots and mint leaves, with Hoisin Sauce and Sirrachi to taste and a twist of lime. I relish every drop. But the jaw – dropping taste of the Banh Mi is what I came here for and I wasn’t disappointed. The crunchy baguette (which is cut in three pieces and served on end) filled with the different textures and flavors of meat and veg is a revelation another dimension of good, now I know why Tony went nuts over it in Saigon on No Reservations a few years ago. This is needs no other accompaniment, I could have eaten just this and been perfectly happy. If you eat this…you’ll never want a ham and swiss on white with mayo again!
My waiter was a gem of a guy, I made conversation with him about the food and how people who wouldn’t try this (like the guys I work with) are missing out on flavors you can’t find in any other cuisine. I ask about his accent and find he is of German/Swiss origin and we talk about his father in Germany, growing Heirloom tomatoes, and he tells me of the ease to travel in Europe where three hours in any direction can take you to a whole different country! He listens with interest about my writing and later will ask me for the web address to read some. A solitary traveller like myself really appreciates the momentary friendship of one such as he, and even though he and his co-workers probably joked about the strange guy later, it’s okay I was much the same myself. It’s important to treat your waiters and waitresses as friends rather than servants, the first glass of wine I got was a typical house pour, the second was much larger. The point is treat well and tip well and you will enjoy the experience of dinning much more, and will be remembered when you go back. I pay my bill and shake hands and grab a paper menu to take with me and go off towards the Highline.
I am surprised to see a line still, but when I try to go to the front and get my ticket at will call I am stopped and told to wait at the end of the line. So I wait and freeze a little in the windy street for about 45 minutes. Finally we get in, and can enjoy the zany music and antics of Voltaire, a top hat wearing, guitar playing Goth troubadour with a flair for comedy. He is the opening act and explains at one point that it was Rasputina that first inspired him to buy a guitar and learn how to play. He was actually using his old student guitar that night!
He is very entertaining and as there are tables right up to the stage for those who want to sit all night, he does play with the audience including a beautiful black transsexual? ( I don’t know if she was or Voltaire was just joking) that provides comic material for us. Just as a sidenote, the he or she (as the case may be) was asked to leave because of her drunkenness. So her tall, bald, white Vin Diesel looking boyfriend had to help her out of the ballroom followed by a phalanx of security.
While I wait for Rasputina to go on I buy the new CD and also a live CD that I don’t have, then I make my way to a good spot to stand and scan the crowd. There is an eclectic mix of types here, a few that dress a little period like the band, men in top hats and 3/4 huntsman’s coats, girls in bodices and floor length dresses, a few “Johnny Depp” types in overcoats with the appropriate facial hair and glasses with hat, and some who look like they got dressed in a costume shop in the dark! The mix is fascinating to me and I am more than a little envious of the cool look that some guys can pull off that I couldn’t even when I was young.
Finally the band comes out and the lineup is yet again different from on previous albums. The fans roar with enthusiasm as they take the stage and two cellists and a drummer begin the play some of the most unusual music you could ever hear. I know they use effects to add to the music just like guitarists do, but you wouldn’t believe the blinding speed that they can move their hand up and down those strings while the bow must hit every string while the pressure is on the string at the same instant. These cello’s sound like heavy metal guitars at times and other times like synthesizers, they play soft and classically on some songs and others like Jimi at Woodstock! Melora runs a tight ship as she calls it and the “Recital” is fantastic, they even played “Barracuda” by Heart! Then after a three song encore they go off and I wait around hoping to get an autograph from Melora but she doesn’t show up at the tables. I do however shake Voltaire’s hand as he walks about selling CD’s and making new friends. I move downstairs through the crowds and outside the clubbers are lineing up to go down to the basement club for the night life. Their evening is just starting as mine is ending, which is good for me because if I make good time I can be home in time to watch Saturday Night Live and get to bed half-way early, and let me tell you that’s a great plus for me these days. Isn’t it funny how time can shift your priorities to sleeping all night instead of being out all night!
I walk back along 9th Avenue at a brisk pace and at one point hear the sound of a loud gunshot somewhere nearby, in the city such noises echo through the canyon like walls of the skyscrapers. No one seemed to take any notice so I didn’t either, if it was actually a gun I’ll never know but otherwise the trip back to Penn was uneventful, I grab a beer and dash for the train that is leaving in three minutes. Not much time but I make it OK and even find a seat, I could have waited for the next train but that was an hour wait. So I sit and write and sip my beer entirely thrilled with my trip and all I experienced. Everything went off without a hitch, another great meal and more great music. I’m lovin life right now, the way it should be. I am excited to see what the summer concert and play season brings as I drift off on cello harmonies.
I am back at the end of the line, standing outside Brother Jimmy’s Bar-B-Que, a fantastic joint for ribs, pulled pork, deep-fried pickles and drinking. I’ve been to the other location before, which is uptown a ways. This is a college joint with kids drinking copious amounts of liquor. There is a fantastic assortment of people in costume here, bloody undead nurses, vampires, dead beauty queens, and others who defy classification, still more who dress for a DD concert in special ways no matter if it’s Halloween or not! While the normal people go in and out of the apartment building above and people come and go to eat we wait in line and it’s a slow business. Two couples come out of the bar and stand in the street. They are trying to decide what to do next and one girl bends down to apparently fix her boyfriends zipper which is stuck. But the angle that she is maintaining with a jacket draped over her left hand, while she manipulates the zipper with her right hand, keeping her nose inches from his “business” well…it looks like she’s doing something else. Their friend notices the crowd who are all watching with amused looks on their faces and mentions this to the girl who looks up and erupts into embarrassed laughter as we all do and I start clapping to add to the moment! Only in New York!
It’s starting to get cold now and I’m wishing for a loo again, I’m just like a girl now when it comes to that. Finally we go in and I remember the place from the Killing Joke show in 2008. I go upstairs to see two girls dancing with lit up hoolah hoops and doing tricks, there was also some strip tease involved because one girls top and bra are laying on the floor leaving her sporting black tape on her nipples! The hoops twirl continuously as they move, topless girl is actually able to go down on the floor on her back while keeping the hoop moving with one leg!
I meet a fellow writer from Connecticut and we talk for a few minutes before The Legendary Pink Dots take the stage. A three-piece band of older guys who lay down a mix of electronic guitar based rock. Kind of like Kraftwerk meets Killing Joke if you ask me but not as metal, my co-writer suggests they paint with music because the music changes many times during each song. They have been around for years and we find out later from Amanda herself that The Legendary Pink Dots actually brought the Dresden Dolls out as an opening band ten years ago on the Dolls first tour ever. I scan the crowd around me and wonder what all these people do for a living and how many of them dress punk all the time. There is open cameras and filming tonight, and they are counting on fans to help with submissions, editing, everything. The show will be available free at a later date for downloading.
When the Dolls take the stage the crowd goes wild, they look great and beam at the audience before they sit down to play. They start with “Sex Changes” a triple entendre song about sex change operations, unwanted pregnancy, and losing ones virginity, this is typical Amanda Palmer writing. She is very intelligent and doesn’t bandy small words about. They love the crowd and the crowd love’s them back. Many girls shout “I LOVE YOU AMANDA!” and guys shout “I LOVE YOU BRIAN!” and Amanda reply’s “WE F**KIN LOVE YOU GUYS!” The bond between Brian and Amanda is very apparent as they fool around on stage, try to trip each other up musically at the start of songs and kid with the audience. They play many of my favorites like “The Kill” and “Backstabber” but the best is “Ultima Esparanza” (on a sidenote I am writing a play based on this song which I will contact Amanda about when it is done to see what she thinks) a song based on a true story.
The great thing about the Dolls music is the accessibility of the band to their fans. Amanda has pulled at least one 17-year-old musician of the street and brought him home to her studio and helped him cut his first EP all with money donated by fans of the Dolls. The show was fantastic and they played a four song encore that included “Half Jack” and “War Pigs” and no one was disapponited at all.
I am very tired when the show ends and I hit the street, I would love to find a late night snack joint and take a cab to my Greenwich Village apartment-but that’s the dream. The reality is that I must walk back the way I came and go home to the island and get home very late. I am really glad I had an hours sleep before leaving the house earlier. The trek back to Penn Station is quick and along the way I pass a group of drunks dressed as prison inmates black and white stripe suits being herded by Super Mario Bros. They sing and chant and yodel various things as they go heading downtown for points unknown. I find myself soon down in Penn Station proper and this is where all the freaks and psycho’s have gathered. I mean you got everything here, men in dresses, women with mustache’s, living magazine covers, midget fire hydrants, and some that defy description! They are all a little drunk and many are behaving badly, but the most popular group is the Star Wars guys. They are older guys one dressed as a stormtrooper, four Luke Skywalkers’ (2 Empire and 2 Snowspeeder costume), a Princess Leia in white gown with the buns hair style, and a short Chewbacca. These guys are having their fifteen minutes of fame, everyone wants a picture with these guys, especially the girls. Guys are yelling out “Chewbacca Rules!” then initiate the familiar howling guttural language of the Wookie.
When the track is finally announced for Hicksville and points east, there is a rush to get on the train and one girl remarks that she never saw so many people so happy to get on a train. I notice that all the freaks get on this train, they’re all from the island, this should not have surprised me at all.
We change at Jamaica and the Star Wars boys and a large contingent of lunatics wait for the train with me, a double-decker comes and we pile in and I can hear the crowd from Penn singing Lady Gaga songs and shouting, laughing, and generally acting like kids. I’m a little envious of them, part of me wants to be down there but I would just be a middle-aged guy standing out like a sore thumb, with no costume on me and no booze in me. If I ever go to a concert on Halloween night again, It’ll be in costume for sure, it’s just more fun and you make friends real easy.
I arrive home very late, take two pain-killers and hope my back stops throbbing so I can get some sleep. I lay in bed with the ringing of the amplifiers in my ears and the music in my head. When I wake up the music is still in my head. I am very lucky sometimes, I got to see the show I never thought I’d see and I wake up pain-free, I actually feel pretty good! One show down, two to go.
It’s a breezy but sunny day as I ride the train to Penn Station in New York City for a very special concert, The Dresden Dolls are playing Irving Plaza. It is the bands 10th anniversary but also the reunion of the band after a three-year hiatus. Today is Halloween and there are more than a few 20 somethings on the train heading for parties in clubs and bars, maybe even a few are going to see the Dresden Dolls. For those of you that don’t know, I’ll tell you.
The Dresden Dolls are Amanda Palmer; lead singer, keyboardist and songwriter and iconoclast and Brian Viglione; drummer, guitarist, bassist, pantomime/actor and everything Amanda is not. The pair make unique duo that serves up some of the best indie rock music you’ll ever hear while still maintaining the underground feel of a club band known only to a few. Amanda calls their music Brechtian punk-caberet, but that is only to dodge the label of Goth, punk is a term that could be a little mis-leading, since their music is nothing like The Sex Pistols or any other punk band. The lyrics are where the Dolls take a great turning away from the typical punk bands anger and violence. Amanda’s songs; some going back to her high school days, are about life, love and loss. Whether talking about how sex changes you or about a 17-year-old paraplegic girl in love with a 22-year-old german man she’s never met (based on a true story) , Amanda gives us slices of life, some are like cold pizza, hard and chewy, others are straight from the oven, hot and fresh, scolding hot but always good. This is definitely music that takes some thought to digest properly, while still being very listenable straight-up rock n roll.
The Dolls attract an eclectic crowd of punks, Goths, hipsters, performance artist/circus types and others who like the whole concept of “dark-caberet”. This is a style the Dolls along with other groups; most notably “Black Tape for a Blue Girl” have developed since the early nineties, Brian has also played with them. During the last three years Amanda & Brian have been on a break, after seven years of touring together constantly the pair who had shared much passion on stage and off had decided they needed some space. So without actually going through the formality of a rock divorce the un-married pair who fought just like a married couple went to pursue other solo ambitions, but the band never officially split up. When I first became a fan in 2008 I never thought this day would happen, I was driving and listening to an interview with Amanda about her use of the internet and sites such as Twitter to promote her music, sometimes scheduling impromptu performances and announcing them on Twitter at the last-minute!
I have all the cd’s and videos, heck I even have the companion song books the band put out for the first three albums, complete with pictures, history, photos, and the sheet music for piano, guitar and vocals. Most of the Dresden Dolls music is just piano and drums, but for a short time they had a guitarist and bassist and a few songs reflect this. I try to play along with my fledgling guitar skills and fantasize about playing live or being in a cover band. But at 48 that ship sailed long ago and I’m not on it.
This past week has not been too good, my brother lost his job and my mom is in much pain with her hip which is probably bursitis, but we don’t know yet. My folks got stuck with the car and had to have it towed to the gas station and got a new starter put in-ouch dollarwise, and I had to put a new power steering pump in my car and lost a days pay in the process,. The early word is no Xmas bonus this year, not because my company’s doing poorly, but rather because the millionaires I work for are building an eight bedroom house in the mountains, so the money got spent on their happiness. So I really need a good time out, I know I have to stop dwelling on the negatives, but at this rate the negatives are outweighing the positives three to one. But enough about me.
Penn Station is like a giant costume party, you know when the guests have just arrived and are still trying to get their bearings and find their friends, right before diving in to the mini-bar (there’s a reference for the fans), dozens of young and older people are heading to parties and bars are out dressed as everything you can imagine. There are guys dressed like Star Wars, Scooby Doo, Jack O’Lanterns, Cupid. A few girls are Zombie prom queens, Supergirl, Arabian belly dancers with Zoot-suit wearing cool cats, prison inmates, and on and on. I come up from below to a cool city at dusk and start walking to Park Ave and then turn right to head downtown. I’m a little cold but still stop to eyeball a few menu’s along the way. I pass a place called Artisanal on E. 32nd between Park and Madison that features cheeses and wines but also boasts an eclectic French menu with Duck Bourgingnon for $29.50! That’s not bad really for New York but I don’t have the money or the appetite. Earlier at home I made some very nice crepes with mushroom, Goat cheese, and leftover chicken. They came out OK but the sauce was missing heavy cream and butter,which I left out for health reasons but they were at least tasty and filling.
So I continue on my journey, offering to take a picture of a couple dressed as a sexy pirate and a murderous looking giant pumpkin headed monk who had been trying to take a shot themselves. I take a few pics and continue on checking out L’Express, another French place on E 20th & Park, a simple menu but old cafe style signage and a feel of old Parisian bistros. Then I see just ahead is Irving Place and turning left I find Irving Plaza easily and see that the line stretches down the block and around the corner! By now I need a loo and it’s a little too cold to stand outside so a check of the local watering holes is in order, so I walk back the way I came to check out a few places I passed.
There is an altercation going on between a cabbie in a white knit hat sitting inside his cab, and a European sounding man who speaks english but sounds French or rather Italian. The man is dressed in black leather and looks like a Jim Morrison type, he is yelling at the cabbie for some reason and starts to punctuate his words with repeated kicks to the door of the cab. Down the block I find a cool looking bar, but I am almost instantly driven out by the din of noise over the football game and the rabid fans watching it on TV, I move on to find a good spot but seeing none I walk back. I guess it’s about 15 minutes later and this time I’m on the same side of the street as the loud spectacle from before. I pass the scene with new cast members including the police! They appeared out of nowhere apparently. The “Euro Man” is now in handcuffs, his very attractive girlfriend is remonstrating with the police, pointing out to them that the door of the cab looks perfectly fine (which I can vouche for) and her man should be released. Meanwhile, Euro Man seems perfectly calm at these developments and stands now chatting as if he could break free and fly away like Superman whenever he wishes. I continue on not wishing to see what the final outcome will be, besides I can already guess.
But there is a lesson for you. Glen’s Rule Number Three: If your ever in New York City, don’t under any circumstances kick a cabbie’s door repeatedly! That is unless you like handcuff’s! So by roundabout ways I find myself sitting in a typical Irish pub in New York. It’s got the typical wood floors and tables with shades of green walls, a loud mix of music and five TV’s showing sports.The bartender at one end is dressed like Zorro, and the girl at the other end wears only a football jersey, some people have no creativity. The crowd is loud, middle-aged and features mostly non-costumed people save for one girl at the bar. I sip a cold Stella Artois or two, savoring the rare treat of imported beer and write at a corner table, while I wait for the doors to open at Irving Plaza. I can remember when this type of place was a second home to me, and I spent lots of money and many hours carousing with friends and looking for love. But now the bar scene is different, the smokers leave to go outside and come back in to their drinks a few minutes later. When I was still hanging out you could still smoke in a bar! I still miss it sometimes, I guess it’s oral sensation or hand to mouth need. I’m starting to think it’s time to leave but it’s warm and cozy in here, but actually I need more money so I leave a tip and gather myself for the long wait on-line. I pass by the seated patrons who are here for the night and step into the chill night air and make my way back to the show.
I enter a long thin dinning area and am immediately approached by the hostess asking how many? “Just me” I say brightly as I begin to take off my layers of coats and hang them as she is already walking toward the back of the restaurant apparently unaware of my lack of presence, but I hurry along and sit myself down in a larger room about half full of people. This is a quaint place with lemon toned walls, exposed brick and warm wood grain trim, decorated with tapestries and paintings from the old country. I wait for my menu and I see right away that I’m the only non-Turkish person in the place except for two other white guys in front of me who are just finishing up their meal. Finally I am approached to take my drink order and after it is brought I finally get a glass of water and the waiter comes to take my order. I start with a dish of breaded fried lamb liver and order my “Lamacun”, a thin crust pizza covered in ground lamb and spices and oven baked, with a glass of Turkish red wine called Kamut.
I sip my wine and listen to a table a few feet away who are discussing the disaster in Haiti and the United States response to it in very un-appreciative terms. The loudest of them all is a man who calls our efforts a “masturbation relief” over and over again like he’s discovered a new catch phrase that gets him royalties every time he says it. The women at the table don’t seem bothered by it at all and they seem to be very anti-US and UN but as the conversation goes on they seem to be workers for the foreign office in some capacity who are ethnic Turks that are in the know about world events, but still I feel like I’m in an enemy camp posing as a diplomat who is actually a double agent. My appetizer arrives a small but simple starter served with red onion, tomatoes, lemon wedges and no salty sauces. It is good to a point but not earth shattering as a dish, perhaps I’m getting a little jaded by my travels in the culinary world. But realistically I have only scratched the surface, and can only imagine the food in the places I can’t afford that I see on TV. Even before I finish my starter I receive my main course, I can’t believe the size of the portions! Three huge thin crust pizza’s the size of oval dinner plates served with tomato’s, basil, red onion and lemon wedge’s, I assemble mine the exact way I saw it on “No Reservations” piling all the ingredients on top and rolling it like a tortilla. It is crunchy and good but again not fantastic. The flavor of the meat is totally lost in the bread and veggies, I finish off two of the three Lamacun and with two pieces of the table bread I ask for it to be wrapped up so I can take it home for Mom, at least she can have a taste of my travels too.
I wait a long while for the dessert tray to come so when it does I pick the most unusual thing and wait and wait and wait for it to come, it is a tart made with cheese covered in a crunchy semolina pasta and soaked with honey and baked till crisp, this too I only eat half of and take home with me. This place is filling up now to almost full capacity and I wait to get my check a long time, I pay it up and leave, vowing never to go back. I felt too much like I was treated poorly because I’m not Turkish but I will try some other Turkish place again sometime. Now I’m out on Third Ave again and I quickly jump in a cab to get Webster Hall, after all the doors open at six so I don’t want to miss anything. Luckily I get a good cabbie who gets me there quick as a flash and find out the doors don’t open till 7:30, must have been mis-information on the web. So I take a short walk down the block but decide to call my Mom and shoot the breeze instead of going to Saint Alps Tearoom which is nearby, I’m just too full for a hot rich Asian tea even though it’s tempting. I talk to my Mom who is deeply engrossed in her favorite website “Sweet Caroline”, a Neil Diamond fan site where my Mom has actually risen to be the greeter of new members by the owner to take some of the work off her shoulders. It’s a little annoying to talk to someone who is not really listening but that seems to be the story of my life so I get off the phone and back on-line. The characters I see while waiting makes me marvel at the diversity of the types who are in attendance, beautiful French girls walk by wearing boots and berets, very beguiling. There are young upscale dudes in perfect clothes, loud gays talk about social norms and slander the friend who acted sooo wrong last time they went out for the evening, very stereotypical behavior I’m sorry to say but I’ve heard this same story many times on trains and in concert lines, funny thing. There are lots of Asian girls here too, quietly focused on their cell phones, their young earnest faces a picture of beautiful concentration.
Finally we are let in after being frisked for contraband, which in my case is left over food wrapped up and stuck inside my overcoat, I must smell a little funky to some as I walk upstairs to the grand ballroom where I find out the band isn’t going on till 9:00 which means I have two hours to kill!
I am not happy, I can only have one drink after the glass of wine so there ‘s nothing to do but write till the show starts, I know I could talk to people but an overweight middle-aged guy is not exactly cool enough to make friends here. I am easily the oldest one here, maybe at least I look like a music critic. So I order a rum and coke and station my self near the bar at a platform where I can write and observe. The bartender is doing curls with full magnum’s of booze to keep warm in the chilly room which is quickly filling up with people. One of her co-workers asks her why she is doing curls and says to keep warm but offers up a bicep to show the added benefits of her routine. I’m a little tired and wishing for a seat but this is a standing room, no comfort just 300 percent profit on the drinks and see the show and leave. I look around envious of all the young people here, they are living in a world far more screwed up than mine but they have so many advantages I didn’t have. The technology has given them access to the world, to people and information that would have taken me weeks to do the reports students can finish in a few hours in front of a laptop. They also have much more freedom than we had, at least from what I’ve seen in a major city suburb like Long Island.
The stage is decorated with tall white tree branches tied in bunches with the pale blue lights giving it a wintery glow. Then suddenly the lights go down and I make my way closer to the stage settling in a spot right next to the tables where the band merchandise is being sold at stage right about two-thirds from the stage. The first band is called Claire & The Reasons, a unique indie act whose members play more than one instrument, changing roles for different songs and a few of them play two instruments at once. The bands cd’s are available on their website and they are donating proceeds from the show to “Doctors without Borders” to help with the relief in Haiti. I stand and talk to the girl selling the shirts and Cd’s for Nouvelle Vague who is French but speaks perfect English, she is pretty and thin as a spike of lavender. To look upon her is to see the archetype French peasant girl you would see in a movie or postcard, wearing a sweater that looks like it hand-made with love by an artisan. I talk to her about my all too short trip to Paris and my love of French food and wine and my learning to speak French with Fluenz French, I could talk to her all night but she is working and I don’t want to be a bother so I shut up and wait for the band to go on stage. The diversity of the crowd has grown since before and I begin to see many more older people than me too, two guys in sport coats walk by and one remarks that Toronto is his favorite place to see Nouvelle Vague, I guess because it’s part French and the band is from France. I realize that I’ve never seen so many people speaking French since Paris and begin to wonder if there is a French enclave in New York City, I mean after all these people are not all tourists. I’m starting to warm up a little now and suddenly the band takes the stage, the crowd roars as they launch into the new CD which I just bought.
The band is a four piece, guitar, drums, keyboard and upright bass and they are tight players, while the girls are stunning and sensual-dancing like go-go dancers to the beat as they sing with abandon. It’s punk, its new wave, it’s cafe noir and I like it…a lot. I’m glad I came , I almost backed out I wa so tired from moving heavy boxes around at work and sorting the contents of the crawl space at home but now all thought of being tired is gone as the band plays a long show. The girls cut up on stage and introduce the songs in French and English especially “To drunk to f**k”: a punk song from the 80’s I think which they tease the crowd about being tonight. But at one point later in the show one of the girls kicks her leg up to accentuate a lyric, in a chanteuse like move and loses her shoe which flies up into the audience, and does it again with the other foot and the shoe goes up but it doesn’t come down! The singer doesn’t realize that it’s stuck up there and the pretty tour manager smiles and laughs at the antics of her band, I can see by the look on her face that she wishes she was up there on stage too, like me she doesn’t have it in her I guess whatever it is. The show ends with three encores consisting of five songs.
They walk off to thunderous applause and when the lights go up I wait for the herd to pass by, passing the time as I do by signing up on the mailing lists for both bands and by chatting a little more with the tour manager and ask if they will be back next year, she says they probably will be. I better brush up on my French so I say I will br ready next year for her test of me and wish her Bonnuit and she giggles her approval and wishes me Bonnuit back and I walk downstairs and out into the cold. I head to Third Ave and turn right, I need to walk a little to burn some calories, but also you can’t see the city from a cab you have to experience it on foot. I walk past Cosmic Charlie’s, a hip coffee shop with a 60’s vibe, I envy the people sitting inside at 11:00 pm relaxing with a coffee, home is close-by, no need to get back to the suburbs. I pass people standing outside in ones or two’s, mostly smokers talking together outside of bars and Bodega, late night liquor stores still open for the real drunks and a few shops are still open late, trying desperately to make that extra dollar. I stop to look at a nice German restaurant with red and white checkered curtains, the menu open in its window. But people are sitting a few feet away so I move away from its warm inviting glow, and walk on towards Penn Station. Despite my misgivings about the trip, I can feel it now…the city is mine again and I am hers, and will always be. I should have remembered that…I breathe the cool night air and walk tall on the streets I love.
Today is unseasonably warm as I walk out of Dunkin Donuts with a decaf coffee in hand and take the escalator up to the platform of the Long Island Railroad Station, I walk past a bunch of young people mostly girls waiting topside too, talking in groups of two or more I figure there must be a concert or something to draw so many. I settle myself down the other end of the platform where a wall surrounds the far stairwell and I can put my coffee down and write a little, it’s just at the right height. I’m going in to New York today a little late in the afternoon to see a French band called Nouvelle Vague, they sing in English but do only covers of old 80’s new wave and punk songs-nothing original, these are sung by a changing cast of young female singers in a Bossa Nova style, chosen especially for their unfamiliarity with the songs, confused yet…don’t be. This is really very good music and hey you can actually hear the lyrics.
I have been apprehensive all day, I have always been pretty self revealing in my stories so now is not the time to hold back. I have had a fluttering heart for months, at first I thought it was just excitement over getting my 401k money and paying off bills or just the excitement of Christmas and the happiness of being able to get some nice things at great prices to give for gifts. But after the new year it got worse and worse and when I went to the doctor last Monday she told me my blood pressure was very high and immediately prescribed pills and a lower salt diet with caffeine cut out completely! I look up and scan the horizon while I sip my coffee, I miss the caffeine. I have been on the med since Tues and I don’t feel like myself, the pills are making me drowsy and when it’s quiet at work I am actually falling asleep standing! I just feel less sharp than I usually am, I suppose I will get used to it. I’m feeling sorry for myself that I’m not a kid anymore and I can’t just “do what I will ” in a reckless abandon of eating and drinking, and trying to get the most out of every day, driving myself onward like mad. I will have to take life easier, and be more aware of what I eat, drinking is cut down to two drinks a day (at least I can still have wine with dinner) and now I have to read labels and make most of my food fresh, no more convenience from canned soups or stews, and no more TV dinners…not even the healthy ones are acceptable except for a few, I will have to make everything from scratch.
This has made me feel like the joy of my trips to the city has been taken from me, the Belle Epoch of my indulgence in the culinary underworld of New York City has been curtailed before it even got started! The sobering thought is that I can only imagine how high my numbers were on the days I ate whatever I wanted, drank three coffee’s and followed that up with three rum cocktails or worse how high it might have gone on the days I walked in the city all day and did all the above on top! I am lucky I’m not dead, so I have to thank God I’m alive and deal as best I can, if I drop a good deal of weight I’ll probably be taken off the pills and can return to normal-but with greater caution, so I can only wait and watch.
Since I haven’t been to Manhattan since August I am nervous about going in again, part of me feels disconnected from New York, the days of feeling like I was one with the city last April when I played tour guide are gone, and I fear my dream of being a tour guide is nothing more than a pipe dream. The economy is not going to allow me to support myself doing that full-time and my parents are reaching a point where I’d rather not leave them alone all day so far from home. Where I work now I can be home in twenty minutes if I have to for an emergency. So now the most I could hope for is to do it on the weekends when the weather is warm, after I get my guide license, and I’m not nearly ready to take that test yet.
I am also completely behind in my chores, I am still not done packing the Xmas tubs into the crawl space, because I insisted in re-organizing them all before putting away and going through some old boxes of my Dad’s stuff to see if we couldn’t make better use of the space by consolidating things a bit without him knowing, he will never know the difference because he doesn’t use these things he just possesses them. I also have to clean out and re-organize the kitchen cabinets and move toward a kitchen that suits me better, since I do most of the cooking now I need not to have to go down on my knees looking for things that should be within easy reach, likewise tools and small appliances that are only used once or twice a year could be put away and a list made of their whereabouts. I want to start-up my ten gallon fish tank, after losing my Betta I’m going to a bigger tank than his five gallon. I feel bad that I got caught up in the holiday madness and forgot to do partial water changes and gravel vacuuming, the water looked clear but he got sick and despite my best efforts to medicate him he passed on, keeping fish is way more chemistry and science than it was for my parents when they kept fish back in the early 60’s and had seven tanks going at once! They were breeding fish and selling them back to the fish store for fun, that’s advanced fish keeping and I can’t imagine doing that. The train pulls in and I get on searching for the bathroom car and going in before getting my seat. The car seems to be a good one not too loud or quiet as a church, it’s funny how noise actually helps me with writing, as long as it’s not directed at me personally. If someone was with me I couldn’t write at all if they insisted on talking to me, I should try to change that reality for myself, I mean if I start seeing a girl they will be hurt if I don’t talk while we ride the train.
This is a slow train but I have plenty of time to get to Penn Station and have dinner before the show downtown, I figure I’ll try a Turkish Restaurant I saw on MenuPages.com that seems to be good. I saw Anthony Bourdain in Turkey last week and want to try their food. I soon find myself getting off and walking up the stairs and into Penn Station itself, lots of people are milling about and moving in every direction. Tourists and tradesman, families and friends, young couples in love and the dispossessed walk alone. Some look into the distance straining to see signs, newcomers trying to find their way. I come out on 34th & 7th Ave and turn right and begin walking toward my dinner destination for today. Ali Baba’s Turkish Cusine is on 34th and 2nd Ave, quite a hike for me so I pace myself trying not to get my BP up too high by fast marching the way I normally like to walk. The streets are full of people going places and we bunch up on the corners and wait for the lights to change, getting a little cooler now that evening is approaching so I pull my overcoat tighter and walk down 34th stopping only to admire a bronze sculpture of a street artist painting set up on a plaza in front of some shops. I’m walking uphill a little so I begin to get a little too warm but keep myself bundled up. I pass the avenues one by one and finally I see Third Ave approaching and then I can see the sign in the distance for Ali Baba’s, I cross third and walk down taking note of everything I see and find my destination. Then with a glance left and right as I turn I find myself entering another world.
A nice warm sunny night after a hot muggy day. I haven’t been to Manhattan since June 6th when I saw the P J Harvey show. My plan was to leave work early and have dinner in the city. But the best laid plans of men often get dunked in the loo and tonight was no exception. First I should tell you about my busy week and the surreal events that transpired since last Friday as it has a picture to paint of my life and typical problems I face.
I got off work Friday last with great joy, I was off for two days and had plans to work in the garden and cook some meat on the grill on Saturday night, and that is just what I did. I spent Saturday cleaning out weeds and brush along “Le Petit Chemin” or the little path I’m building around my pool in an area that used to be very wild back when my garden vision was to live in an overgrown forest like a hobbit. My tastes changed with age and my cousins Chrissy’s serenity garden that was part of her anti-cancer therapy, inspired me to do more with my yard. Sadly, Chrissy lost her battle with cancer but her family continues to maintain her garden, it lives on so she does too in spirit.
I made a lot of progress, pruning, tieing up branches, cutting down a bunch of old half-dead shrubs and vines, and weeding too. I ran some errands and found myself happily sipping a rum and energy drink (a tasty way to take the edge off without losing energy) while eating anchovy stuffed olives while cooking steak and chicken. I was quite pleased with the work I’d done and admired the new rambling rose I got while I cooked. It was scrawny and half dead with disease when I bought it at the supermarket, but now it was happy and getting big with my care.
Mom came outside to watch me cook but soon went in, complaining of mosquitoes and to oversee the cooking of the roasted veggies in balsamic vinegar and olive oil we were having as a side dish, despite all that I was doing to destroy the population of mosquitoes with my zapper and spraying the garden with lemon water to repel them, Mom always gets stung.
That would lead to a chain of events that would result in a very hectic three days for me, but I didn’t know that yet. I should also explain that my Dad had taken himself to the doctor to find out he had a UTI and his heart rhythm was messed up despite his medication that he takes to keep it in sync. So with Dad on doctors orders to stay in and rest I had the grill and garden to myself.
We ate our meal and after goofing off for a few hours I watched “Saturday Night Live” with my Mom who was putting anti-itch cream on some skeeter bites and complaining about being hot and tired. I went to bed about midnight and the next morning I got up late. I was really cross with myself that I wasn’t up with the birds doing more work, but I was however really knackered from the previous days work anyway.
I couldn’t sit outside to have breakfast like I usually do in the summer months because it had rained overnight and everything was soaked, so I had cereal with banana with my Mom in the kitchen while Dad sat in the living room sick and unhappy and watching home improvement shows on TV.
By about nine o’clock my Mom said she felt like she had the Flu, she was weak, feverish and shivering on the inside, but… not cold. I was getting annoyed because I thought Mom was just being a hypochondriac, she does have a tendency (all her life) to imagine that she has every dread disease on the planet but I have to admit I was cranky, but when she showed me her leg I knew this was no joke.
I told her to get ready to got to the hospital, my Dad got all dressed to take her but I insisted he stay home, he was already sickish and would make it worse. So off Me and Mom went to the ER just down the road, thank goodness it’s so close…Mom feels really bad. The fear was this Swine Flu thing that is in the news every other day, and I didn’t know what to expect, I mean my imagination is already starting to run away a little.
We arrive at North Shore University Hospital at Plainview, an all too familiar place in recent years, between Mom, Dad, and my brother we had darkened it’s doors all too much for my liking but at least I knew my way around the place. I got Mom out at the ER and parked the car, then joined her in triage. The process was long and maddening, filling out papers, answering questions and waiting, waiting, waiting. Eventually, we moved to a second waiting room , then to an ER area where Mom was finally examined. There was an entire cadre of people who looked at my Mom, poking and prodding, collecting blood for tests, which was done again because the first time the sample was compromised because the lab was “backed-up” and spoiled the blood. My Mom couldn’t eat or drink anything until they knew what they were dealing with so it was water with ice for a while. So I ran outside and called Dad to let him know what was going on, even though I didn’t know a thing yet. Being hungry out of nervousness I walked to the cafeteria on the main lobby and scanned the offerings, no hot food unless you wanted a burger or a press sandwich, not really very good. Then I decided to go down to the employee cafeteria and find the food to be lacking there as well, so I settle on a coffee and a bran muffin, I’m not hungry…just keeping body and soul together because I need fuel. I can’t tell you how many times I had to oversee what’s happening to make sure everything is going OK.
They are pumping antibiotics into my Mom like there’s no tomorrow and she still hasn’t been seen by a doctor! We are worried about the Flu but still only have a vague idea whats wrong with Mom. Finally he doctor comes in and tells her she has cellulitis, caused by scratching the skeeter bites the previous day. Apparently the germs are right there on our skin, scratching just grabs then to the open wound and PRESTO your sick as a dog.
I mean you gotta see my Mom’s leg, it’s dark red and swollen and they admit her without hesitation, she will have to be on intravenous medication and fluids for at least two days.
We have been here now almost eight hours by the time she is in bed in her room, her roommate is a senile woman who is always cold, You gotta feel it, it’s like a blast furnace in here, my Mom is hot and so am I.
But I get her set up as comfortable as possible, order her dinner and wait for it, she has had nothing since breakfast, finally with a tear in my eye I leave her, I know she is scared and so am I, her condition is actually very serious.
The time is now 8:00 PM and I go home to fill my Dad and brother in and make dinner for Dad and myself, he often forgets to feed himself, so after cleaning up and watching a little of the Travel Channel, I take a call from Mom who already has a phone set up before I fall into bed unable to sleep knowing that if I don’t call into work, my Dad will defy doctors orders and run around like a nut trying to do too much. I guess it’s his nervous reaction to problems, cleaning like mad, fussing over small details, running to stores to pick up things we need or to bring to Mom, even though he was told to stay down and rest. So I lay in bed and worry and fall into a disturbed sleep.
When the alarm goes off in the morning, I feel as if I haven’t slept at all, I am spent and I call into my work, get dressed and go down and get a coffee going before washing up, Dad is already up fussing, nervous and making me more so, too many questions too early. We make up a possibles bag of things she wanted and a few things we thought she might need to bring with me when I go to see her today after nine o’clock. We put her slippers, magazines, makeup, etc into a bag and I leave to go to the several local places looking for a small portable fan to bring to her, it’s hot…I mean scorching so as I go across the parking lot to go into a CVS and find her a small battery operated fan. I find one with a water reservoir attached so she can spray her face and fan it whenever she needs to cool off, this is just what I need so I pay for it and go speeding off fighting the mid-morning traffic to see her. The parking lot is full and so are the streets surrounding the main parking lot, so I have no choice but to park Mom’s car on a side street well away from the hospital and walk in the heat. I am sweating buckets by the time I get to her room, and start fussing over her getting her cold water filling the fan with water and batteries so Mom can cool off and start asking questions about her condition and walking to the nurses station to talk to the staff and ask even more questions. This is what you have to do, you have to make sure the proper meds are being given, you have to insist that needs are met in a timely fashion. My grandmother was almost killed in the hospital when a nurse almost gave her a bag of blood for no reason! You gotta cover all the bases all the time, my Mom is a lousy patient for me but doesn’t want to “bother” the nurses.
This is the way it goes for the next two days , a blur of running to the hospital, foodstore, cooking, cleaning, making sure Dad is OK and doing what needs to be done as it occurs. In between all this I take a break and get a few shrubs and perennials and put them in the ground while I’m home and have the chance between visiting hours. I bring Dad to see Mom and after work my brother joins us, he brings a hand-held quiz game for Mom to play in bed. We try to make the best of it but she hates hospitals and wants to be home. So by Tuesday I’m totally “cream crackered” which is the English way to say exhausted, I want only to bring my Mom home. I’ve used the last two vacation days I had for the year and don’t want my Dad to have to bring her home tomorrow, he gets himself so nervous over things he will be a wreck and turn a simple trip into a military operation. The worst part is that at his age and with just a touch of Alzheimer’s, he can be very forgetful and also get very confused and my Mom is a very impatient person, this is a cocktail that can result in explosive arguments in the car just going to the store, and I don’t need a phone call at work saying Dad wrecked the car or worse, a call from the cops saying they both have been in an accident. My Dad already wrecked his own car in 2007 and almost killed my brother, all because he insisted on going out in the dark rainy night to pick up my brother instead of letting me do it, he sneaked out in defiance while I was getting out of my work clothes, even though he knows he has trouble seeing at night.
So on Tuesday with Dad suggesting over and over that he can do it, I sneak out and take her car and go to the hospital to get her and hopefully bring her home, she really can’t leave till the doctor sees her and no seems to know where he is, so we wait and wait. well, as you might have guessed this takes all day. I mean I ate breakfast with Mom and then lunch came and went and we still waited. Finally, the doctor shows up with a few scripts and gives her the green light to continue convalescing at home, although he really wants her to stay he agrees to let her out. The list of do’s and don’ts is extensive, elevate the leg, soak the leg, stay out of the sun for three days, wear long pants and insect repellant at all times after that, come back in a week to the office for a looksee of the leg and take all the medication till it’s finished.
We wait some more for the paperwork to be filled out and I pack up Mom’s stuff and take it out to the car, bringing the car to the parking lot from it’s far away location (again) to make it easier when we leave. Then after waiting for an orderly and a wheelchair we get to go down into the heat wave and I bring the car around and off we go homeward bound, of course the first thing Mom suggests as we pass the Old Country Creamery is a scoop of ice cream!
When we arrive home Dad has got the house on pins, he has the living room set up like her hospital,even though he was told to take it easy he does what he wants. But she will have to sleep downstairs because her leg hurts too much to walk upstairs. We settle Mom in and I go to the pharmacy and wait for her meds to be made up and then come home to make dinner, finding them bickering as soon as I walk in the door.
I guess it’s back to abnormal, which is normal for them, I don’t understand but I guess some couples love each other but don’t really like each other. Does that make any sense? …I’d rather be single than wind up like that, but maybe that’s better than being alone. I thank God that Mom is okay as I lay in bed so tired I can’t sleep, I think about work tomorrow and the concert on Thursday night and work again half a day on Saturday too. I’m gonna feel like someone whooped my ass by Sunday, oh wait a minute…I already do!