"I grow delirious roses." -Funky Blood
NYC and What Transpired Part One - August 18th through Sept 2nd, 2017
In the early afternoon on Friday August 18th I pulled the trigger and hopped in my Subaru Impreza. My plan to spend the last weeks of summer in NYC hosted by my childhood friend Colin Herlihy finally was in motion. I almost didn’t go. My nerves nearly choked me off.
Twenty seventeen has been a strange year, extreme highs and lows giving way to a long list of questions for the future. My current guitar teaching job was a cesspool of exploitation (which I’ll get to later), my band’s album was long overdue, so I felt like I was abandoning everything by taking some time for myself. I put off the trip to NYC for days, continually texting Colin, “Hey, haven't figured out what's going on…” or some such.
It was a perfect day when I left. No clouds, only pure light. A few orange leaves crusting the ground in Jamaica Plain signified the seasons blending in and out of each other. The butterflies in my stomach were transfixing. I was telling myself I was nervous to go to the big city as there's much to navigate but I’ve been there many times and know the grid decently well.
The butterflies left as I entered Connecticut and Stephen King’s "IT" on audiobook reached the final chapter. I would finish the terrifying and incredible tale before I arrived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The eight dollar toll over the George Washington was the first time I stopped in hours and my brain clicked over. Adrenaline came from nowhere in a hot dose. I got to my Amazon Music app and began to blast “Billy Jack” by Curtis Mayfield. A down tempo tune with its sparse and ominous bass riff injected me with the need for speed. I whipped my small car through traffic like I was flying a jet in a rocky canyon. It was on. I had arrived.
Colin lives above a twenty four hour corner grocery with a fruit n' veggie stand that wraps the street corners, “Rachel’s” if my memory serves me well. Hipster central on Nassau Ave (in a good way), ground zero for vegan pizza that will turn your eyebrows jagged, Xian Foods that serve the best lamb dumplings, Polish bakeries & delicatessens galore (plain donuts to change your life forever), kebab joints, raw fish bar, mini-marts, Army Navy Store, Polish DVD store with B action flicks you’ll never see - and this is contained within a couple blocks.
People complain about the smell in NYC but where I was all I could smell was the food. I followed my nose one night when I got a whiff of curry. It took me a couple minutes to find out where it was coming from because it was a back alley entrance, no where to sit, only a kitchen and delivery bikes outside. I ordered and waited outside for ten minutes. The smile on the man’s face seeing someone obviously new to the area come to his place of business was awesome. And I kept seeing those smiles on people’s faces young and old, all walks. Polish families mixed in with young college kids trying to survive in the big apple, trustafarian hipsters, blue collar hispanic workers delivering goods to the grocery stores in the middle of the night, the drunks asking everyone for cigarettes, every Uber and cab driver from a different point on the globe - Pakistan, India, Senegal, Tanzania - endless. It was everything, everywhere, all the time. I ate it up. The only people who refrained from smiling were the models. Greenpoint was rife with beautiful women stripped from fashion magazine covers who walked with a general “Not you, sorry,” strut. Who can blame them though?
Each morning I woke up on Colin’s futon and made espresso from my cheap percolator on the gas stove and watched people shuck oysters across the street as I wrote a stream of consciousness, worked on lyrics for unfinished songs or played guitar to start my day. The renewed life energy pulsing through me was divine and seemingly out of nowhere. I could breathe again. Perspective on my troubles back in Boston grew with each passing moment without any ability to understand or control why it was happening. Hard to explain.
Colin and I’s relationship always picks up right where we left off. He’s in the movie business and all we do is argue about film, laugh about the old days, decide where we need to eat and drink, how we spend too much money on vinyl, etc. It’s nice to have friends that are ready to take action and go do something in the world.
In that first weekend we got to Queens, ate at the legendary Spumoni’s (who’s owner was murdered last year rumored to be over a pizza sauce/marketing feud), got sunburned at Rockaway Beach on a perfect August day as 747's flew overhead from JFK, ate a hot dog at Nathan’s on Coney Island, and drank too much beer (to curb said sunburn). In the next couple days we would walk miles from Brooklyn into Mahattan on Colin's daily bike route and traverse the village, see the replaced mural of Joe Strummer (an abomination), find the building on the cover of Physical Graffiti while stoned on high-test piña coladas (don’t judge, it was a dog day afternoon in the concrete jungle). There was Momofuku noodle bar with the best dish I’ve ever had - pork belly and pork shoulder in what was essentially a bacon broth, soft boiled egg, the whole nine. Somehow there was time for cannoli and espresso. Did I mention we ate?
On Monday August 21st, fresh with boiling sunburnt skin I toted my acoustic to the Parkside Lounge and played an open mic - Mike Geffner Presents “The Inspired Word.” www.inspiredwordnyc.com
I didn’t know what to expect. Poets and musicians in a long dark room gathered. The warmth ballooned from when I arrived till the end of the night. Mike is a funny cat. Stick straight tall frame and always with a camera in hand, he speaks in a dry matter-of-fact sense you may interpret as cold. Then you realize he’s been running this for near a decade, lived his life as a professional photographer, and spends most of his days working for the arts community. When I made that realization my own work ethnic felt limp.
The beautiful Ashiya (@ashiyamusic) stepped to the stage and played her featured songs with an innocence and a voice that carried like a sweet wind. She had an enormous heart and it filled the room carried by her original compositions. I spoke with her and her husband after and their stories of living on the road, homeless in Las Vegas were scary and incredible. It moved me and I pictured my safe nest in southern New Hampshire where I grew up. The line “You know nothing Jon Snow” came to mind, I admit.
Somehow I came away from the open mic with Mike Geffner booking me for a featured set the following week. Looks like I had no choice but to stay.
To be continued.
Wednesday - September 17, 2017