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It used to be that weird things would happen when I visit New York City, but as I get older, that’s not the case. On the other hand, I do make some adjustments that are out of character for me. I become much more confident, adventurous, awake, and far less self-conscious.
Being in a city where everyone’s as hot, cramped, and sweaty as you are will do that to you.
The ride to New York gave me a headache that didn’t go away until two hours after I’d arrived in Manhattan. The bus was scheduled to depart at 10:30am. I knew I was in for a long three hours from the onset, when the two women sitting directly across from me started loudly complaining about the fact that the bus was a mere five minutes late in leaving. From 10:31am onwards, they announced the time every minute on the minute until the bus departed. Thirty minutes later, they consumed the smelliest sandwiches known to man in spite of the sign that explicitly stated there was no eating allowed on the bus. This sign was also ignored by another man who, just when the smell started to dissipate, unleashed his own smelly sandwich. From the smell and what little I could see, I’m guessing it was an onion and baby food wrap that he made from ingredients found in a dumpster. After stuffing his face and fouling up our bus with an atrocious scent, he gave loud and detailed investing advice to an elderly woman sitting next to him. Because when you need sound financial strategies, forget Charles Schwab: take it from the guy riding the Megabus on a Thursday morning.
The bus ride was three hours of obnoxious voices, smelly sandwiches, and a child that cried and screamed for the duration while the mother sat next to her tuning her out (because holding or consoling a child is just too much intimacy for some people). It was still early on Thursday afternoon and everyone I knew was still at work. I passed the time at a cafe that was also a small software company that also lent out space and time to people to produce multimedia. It was a strange space, cold and not all that alluring, but I had my bags with me and no shortage of time to kill. For the hour I was there, a flat screen television on the far wall was frozen on an image of Will Smith looking down with his eyes closed and a smirk on his face. I imagine he was thinking about how wonderful his life was, even if the scene the still was taken from called for acting of some kind. After an hour of Smith’s imagined self-aware smugness, I got a phone call from Bobby.
I knew Bobby from college, where he was both a confidante and a partner in crime. I met him through our college’s pathetic excuse for a student newspaper, The Promethean, which was staffed with very good people that were terrible writers. The articles were fluff, authored by individuals who weren’t shameless per se in their friendly associations with their subjects, because that would imply some awareness that expressing it in a newspaper article itself was a mis-step. You couldn’t fault them too much for it. They were students at a small liberal arts college nestled in a high-end residential area of Loudonville, NY, where most of the student body was studying business, specifically Marketing Management. of studies was on business. To expect the staff to exhibit constructive or thought-provoking material was a fool’s errand.
I had written a couple articles for the previous editor when Bobby took over. We immediately connected and took a liking to each other. I think it was for the same reasons that I connect so well with babies, which is that we have eyes that are too big for our heads, both figuratively and literally. Like me, he’s perpetually wide-eyed and intense in an endearing manner. Were were also both, at that time in our lives, self-obsessed hedonists in search of anarchy under the guise of reform. On page two of our second edition, he ran a barely literate, profane e-mail sent by a female student in response to a recent editorial written by our sarcastic Portugese friend Andy. To say it caused an uproar would be an understatement. There was posturing, finger-pointing, and outrage expressed from students and administrators alike. The girl who wrote the e-mail, to her credit, bathed in the attention with smiles and a sense of humor about the whole thing.
We were called before the Student Senate to answer for our misdeeds. We brought with us signs and supporters, claiming to have published it to force conversation on certain issues. In reality, we had reached the conclusion that if we were going to publish awful material, we may as well publish something that will amuse us and incite something – anything – in the people reading it. In that meeting I was introduced by Bobby as a new member of editorial with a new title. I was now the Newspaper Deputy, responsible for whipping the staff into shape and making sure they stayed in line.
A few nights before, when we came up with the concept, we laughed for what must have been five minutes. We meant it as a joke, but it was too funny to restrict to that meeting. So it continued for the rest of the year.
Eight years later I was on the phone with him and making arrangements to meet him at an Uptown Starbucks. He looks exactly the same now as he did then. We caught each other up on our various projects and endeavors. Bobby had been freelancing on the side as a writer when he was approached for help on a book. Writing under a pseudonym, he and a friend of his made enough money from it for him to quit his day job. He’s currently working on a memoir that I’d describe as sort of like Tucker Max if that guy had empathy or anything resembling talent.
It was great seeing and talking to him again. Bobby is one of those people that make me yearn to be down here, because no matter how much time passes between our meetings, we immediately pick up a conversation seemingly where we had left off with the same beat and cadence as before. It was like a trumpet player jumping into an impromptu jazz set and hitting the right notes without a thought of where they were in the song or where it was heading.
As I left, we made arrangements to possibly meet up the next day for breakfast. It didn’t happen because we both (most likely) slept in, but it’s no matter. Whether it’s next month or next year, we’ll have that breakfast and nothing will have changed except for the circumstances surrounding us.
After unpacking and showering at my best friends’* apartment, I took the 6 and the L to The Acheron in Williamsburgh. The Acheron is a small metal club on Waterbury Street, one of a myriad of places with what my friends Rick and Jessica refer to as manufactured neglect. The style is in keeping with the inhabitants of the neighborhood: children of rich, white parents who feign poverty for the sake of fashion and pretense. To call this deception would be giving much more credit than it deserves. Anyone who grew up in real poverty or has ever been in a truly dire, dirty place will immediately recognize the fraud. The streets and building “dirty” through carefully placed industrial sculptures, color schemes, and the careful splattering of paint. Next door to the club there was an event styled after an art opening. About a hundred hipsters in their early twenties smiled and congratulated each other on all being in the same place at the same time. In the venue itself, inside jokes adorned with antlers masqueraded as art. It made me wish I didn’t have to stick around for my brother’s show, only because I felt an obligation to modern art, culture, and society to douse the gallery in gasoline and burn it to the ground.
After milling about for a half-hour, my brother’s band played and they were wonderful. Truly wonderful. My brother was in other bands in the 90s, yet something was missing. It’s probably that they just weren’t quite as ambitious in their sound. But he really and truly has something here. Unfortunately, So Hideous, My Love… is in a tough spot in terms of bookings. There are other bands that work along their lines and sensibilities, but they’re scattered throughout the globe, so they are stuck playing what I can only describe as sweepingly ambitious progressive ambient hardcore music with other metal and hardcore bands that don’t quite fit the same mold. Case in point: one of the band members for a later act showed up wearing a top hat, an open leather vest with no shirt underneath that revealed an atrophied torso, and corpse paint.
After the show I got to talk to my brother Jack and Brandon, the dual creative force behind the group. We discussed the scene (or lack thereof) and what had been accomplished with their latest EP. I complimented them on their improved live performance and presence with their new lead singer, who was also Brandon’s brother. Brandon described their latest effort as almost arrogant, but I corrected him and just said that it was progressive. He talked about how he wanted to push it further in terms of the orchestration, which appears now in their music with greater frequency than anytime before.
“You already have your d*** out,” I assured him. “So you might as well go ahead and shake it.”
I was glad to talk to Brandon. I wanted to convey to him how much I appreciated not only what they were doing but that I was also, legitimately a fan. I was too self-conscious to do so at the time, however, and so I’ll just do it here in the hopes that he reads it.
I left my brother and sister-in-law with a hug and a promise to see them again as soon as I could. I went back to Manhattan and was in bed before 11:30pm. Marla had a day at work and Brian was suffering from a head cold. Me, I fell asleep without any regrets. I’m not exactly ancient by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’m not even middle aged. But I’m still too old to sacrifice my days for my nights.
*This not a typographical error. Brian had become my best friend when he started seeing Marla, and we all immediately took a great liking to each other. I consider them a packaged deal.
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
- Listen to me LIVE as guest co-host of Alternative to Sleeping tonight at 10pm!
- Realtors: “WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” George Hearst III: “NONONOO SSSSHHH IT’S OKAY, it’s okay…here. Here’s a pacifier.” Kristi: “#oops.”
- Open Mic web series premiere tonight @ Lark Tavern
- Trust Me, You’re Going to Want to See This