Monday, April 30, 2007

Why I was an hour late to church today

In an ideal world a magic pigeon would land on my window sill and fly me straight to church on Sundays. (See diagram 1)

Instead, today I got to the subway to find there was no uptown service from my stop. I had to take the C train all the way down to 59th Street in order to catch an A train back uptown. At 59th Street I hopped on an A uptown train. Or at least I thought I did. By the time I woke up from my dozing, I was somewhere in the Bronx. The only logical explanation for this is that the train switched from being an A to a D just for fun. (This actually does happen; trains will switch on a whim if they want to.)

So from Tremont Avenue in the Bronx I had to take another D train down to 145th Street in Manhattan. Finally at 145th Street I caught another A train up to Inwood and made it to the chapel. (See diagram 2)

I seriously love the NYC subway, but days like today make me wish I had a car.

Or a pigeon.

Abbey Road, 2004-2007

Yesterday I left my coveted Abbey Road poster in a bathroom at LaGuardia Airport. It was devastating.

The Beatles and I have been through so much together over the past few years--from apartment to storage unit to apartment again and again and again. I remember the time we had to hold the poster in our hands out a car window because it wouldn't fit inside. I remember retrieving it from the side of the road when it flew away. I remember my poor nephews holding it up over their heads in a van so it wouldn't crush them. And, of course, I remember the thousands of times the foursome greeted me at the bottom of the stairs in The Colony.

Earlier this year I finally got around to stripping the cardboard backing off, peeling off all the tape, and rolling it up so I could take it to New York. So excited was I to hang the masterpiece up in my new Harlem bedroom.

But after making it all the way across the United States my poster has found a new owner. In the time it took me to get a gate pass and make it through an extra round of security it had already been lifted.

To me the event was more tragic than I'd like to admit, but I take comfort in knowing that I have shared the magic of the Beatles with another fan. Maybe this is what John meant when he wrote "Come Together."

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Tiny Little Night Club and the Great Big Condos

Friday night I saw this ad on craigslist:

Being the connoisseur of free things that I am, I knew this opportunity was not to be missed. The next morning I made the trek down to the Lower East Side. I had never been to Tonic before, but as soon as I walked in I could feel of its importance and history--something not unlike the way it felt to walk into the late CBGB. (R.I.P.) Tonic has been a home for artists such as Moby, John Medeski, Regina Spektor, Thurston Moore, and Yoko Ono.

I spent the next hour rummaging with other treasure seekers through the dark wreckage that was once called Subtonic, an underground extension of the venue. Moldy glasses of alcohol sat atop dusty amps. Chairs without legs lay in a pile beside a typewriter that looked as if it had been thrown off the Empire State Building. It was truly an experience to behold. I walked away with a new nightstand, some cool light fixtures, some LED lights, some CDs, and some old music magazines.

While unscrewing one of my finds from the wall, I began to hear the screaching of a saxophone from upstairs, followed by other noises I'm not quite sure how to describe. Then followed the sound of applause. By the time I made it upstairs with all my loot, the club was filling with an interesting assortment of fans, many of whom it was obvious had returned after having partied there the night before.

It became a sort of open mike affair. Artists would share their parting words and perform a song or two. A cellist performed a bizarre number reminicent of the saxophonist's screaching. An older woman sang a haunting farewell piece a capella. A couple played some African xylophones while chanting. It was stunning.

It was then that I learned of the larger story. Tonic is the latest in a string of important clubs that has been closing down in recent months due to skyrocketing rent costs. These venues, each having contributed to giving New York its authenticity and unique culture, can't afford to stay open amidst the many developers building luxury condos. Tonic is a textbook example; a giant glass building just went up on the same block.

I was impressed with the folks at Tonic. I got to chat with the owner and a few enthusiasts of the club. While I had to leave early to get on with my day, many of the people there were planning on staying at the club well into the afternoon as long as police would let them. They even had a box full of protest signs ready.

It's sad when investors cash in on the hard work that artists and residents put in to making neighborhoods safe and desireable. If you take a look at the website for the condos, look at the way they advertise the neighborhood. While other nearby LES venues such as Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom are pictured, Tonic is nowhere to be found. How ironic.

I hope these developers realize that the as they run these artists out of the city they too will one day go out of business. Without artists, New York will cease to be New York.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tiff Jimber

My high school friend Tiffany played a rockin' show this weekend at the Alphabet Lounge. She only got to play four songs, but they were all very scrumptrulescent. I totally surprised her, too. She had no idea that I was in New York, let alone that I'd be at her show.

After her performance I had my first celebrity sighting since I've been in New York. Common (the socially-conscious rapper gone Gap poster boy) entered the Alphabet Lounge as we were loading Tiff's car. You'll all be pleased to know that I resisted the urge to go up to him and ask, "Do you know who you are?"

Yes, folks, my days of harassing the stars are over. My friend Bryan told me that there is an unspoken law in NYC that you can't go up to a celebrity unless you know them personally. I don't like this law one bit, but after awkward moments with Sufjan Stevens and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon last summer, I've decided I must comply.