Wednesday, October 31
Class was good; everyone was there, for one thing, and we had a lot to talk about, the ending, the beginning, America, physics, Moby-Dick. Schmidt seemed annoyed by my Faulkner allusion, the only one in my arsenal. Christie commented on the mask materials, and I asked her to be my date, I don't think she took me seriously. I commented on Damon McMahon's homemade Steely Dan shirt (the band's name written in marker on the inside of an inside out tee), and he asked me to join his band, go to New York once a week to rehearse and play the Mercury Lounge. Solex and Superchunk today.
ladies and gentlemen
select your weapon at the gate upon entering
Gerrit Hall was sitting cross-legged on one of the low stone tables in Kohlberg Coffee Bar, calling out about selling melons. Sure enough, there was a row of five or six canteloupes in front of him, each with a long-handled kitchen knife stuck into it. Mixed in among these was an onion, also with a knife in it. A melon at one end of the row had a pineapple and a green pepper stacked on top of it. The pepper bore a pink post-it note that said "the fruits of globalization." Gerrit was attempting to sell the melons for two dollars apiece; when asked what for, he merely replied that melons are the fruits of globalization. "Do you realize that globalization affects nearly every aspect of our world economy?" A few people managed to talk him down, to $1.50, or to one penny (actually, someone talked him down to sixty cents, and then Gerrit talked him down farther), and he turned his head to allow Morgan and Alex to steal one, after he had taken two pennies from them. By the time I left for French, with a slice of Morgan's melon in my hand, he was down to the stack of melon, pineapple, and pepper, and was in the midst of explaining to a customer that he was "fresh out of pineapple."
In between the sessions I went to Sharples for the second time today, again just walking straight past the swipers. It's phenomenal. The bar was the worst possible (cheesesteak), but Centerstage had some decent offerings, including my absolute favorite individual Sharples item, cornbread pudding. The purpose of this break from my normal eating habits was to meet with Erik and Ben and Dave to discuss music for the formal. The conversation was as entertaining as might be imagined, and Dave demonstrated his ability to blow a sysco cup from one cup into another. An issue is what to play for slow dancing that isn't cheesy contempo r+b and pop. Answer: Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, etc. Marvin Gaye, Al Green, etc. Stereolab, Air, Wyclef, the Beatles, The Magnetic Fields, etc. etc. Mike Cantor? Strauss? I walked out with Ben, who changed his mind outside McCabe, but I decided to go in anyway. I read in the third floor area with the log table. Marc came over at one point and sat down to read across from me. Anyway, it was productive and enjoyable. To celebrate nearly finishing the book, I decided to go to Tango on time.
In fact, I was the first one there, besides David. First Adena showed up (that's her name?) one of two soft brunettes with whom I share smiles when I pay them dobale, but whom I don't know at all. Then Jessica, who I have wanted to call Julia since we were first introduced, she should be a Julia, Jessica is too ordinary a name for someone as blond and ordinary as she; a silly filly really, bushy-tailed and self-conscious. Then old-buddy Liza and the rest of the regulars, including Joanne, Eileen, Laura, all more experienced but still acquiescent and unsure. The ratio was as always usually at least twice as favorable as surf city, and I played follower for a good part of the time. The lesson was really helpful and I felt like I was improving. At the end, we all stuck around to dance for a good while (I didn't get home until nearly midnight.) It's funny how different people's comfort levels are. Jessica seemed to be constantly pulling away, and complaining that we were in the wrong position whenever we pivoted close. It was true to some extent; we ended up next to one another rather than squared off much of the time for some reason. With other partners I had more and less success with the balancing thing (one person stiffens and surrenders to the control of the other, who tries to maintain her balance by moving in a circle around her), and got better at leading pivots and the cross. I felt so good that I even did some history reading when I got home. Lots of stuff to do. Remember to get a free plant, buy tickets, etc.
switching it over to AM
looking for a truer sound
still recall the call letters
steel guitar, settle down
Tuesday, October 30
I woke up easily at 8:30, time to do some French and get frustrated with travelocity trying to purchase plane tickets for Thanksgiving. I wonder about people changing clothes every day - what would it be like if those changes occured more gradually? I've been wearing my fuzzy red scarf and Ben's gray hoodie with the college seal, necessary in this cold. Today with muted college colors; pine cords, chestnut turtleneck, Barb's black cap, Brennan's red-brown Rockports. I talked a lot in syntax - that stuff is so friendlily systematic in conversation, even if its sometimes frighteningly exacting in writing. Kari has this uncanny, almost sexy way of letting her face widen out into a infectious, knowing grin as she finishes a sentence and turns to the class. The class was more sedate than usual, although there was a truck standoff out the picture window. The world out there doesn't exist.
I went to a percussion workshop with Kakraba Lobi, a Ghanian xylophone master who has achieved legendary status with Matt and myself, if nobody else. Kakraba was as badass as you would want, speaking only little in his fractured English, just casually demonstrating a pattern with a somewhat disdainful look on his face. The workshop was made less enjoyable by a handful of onlookers, the sort who are there "to lend a hand" but end up lending an air of condescension; a benevolent-faced girl in a gray sweater, various dance faculty by virtue of, and mostly an awful woman in a print tank who essentially wrested control of the workshop from Kakrabi for substantial portions of the time to painfully and unneccessarily break down a pattern into its components, isolating it from any musical or rhythmic continuity. Ben pointed out that I don't really know how the workshop was intended to proceed, but as I saw it she was somewhat rudely rejecting the approach of learning by observation, and cheapened the experience by infusing it with an incongruous western educational specificity. Not a huge deal, but I found it rather offensive.
Then to Sharples, the first time in weeks, for some Asian chicken salad LOs on the lawn with Ben and Ester as she complained about not having a major and not liking the school - this crisis spurred on by her new conviction that Bruce Dorsey hates her. It's hard to reason her out of being upset, because then she'll just accuse me of being argumentative. ("is it passive-aggressive to tell people things via the blog?" she asked this morning. i dunno, what's wrong with that?) Ester, you'll be okay. Let's see how much Pynchman I can get done in the next 16 hours. 150pp? Ready, set, go!
tout est bleu
Anyway. I'm more concerned about French (although I've been doing more of the work; I did the last set of Labo exercises) and Syntax (hopefully this paper will be more pleasing to the graders.) But really I'm not concerned. I'm doing all right. Something about this semester makes me feel more alive, more part of the real world. It has to do with this kind of stuff: falling behind in classes, having an affair, etc. It feels good. Elena said something about a lack of wholesomeness, but I disagree. I feel really wholesome. It was a wholesome affair.
The events of the day? Oh, blah. I did French work before French. Being in the class actually made me feel better about having done less of the work. I came home to find a collusion of do-goody girls around our kitchen table, calculators in hands. and Respect, vol. 1. Then I made a messy cheese and tomato sandwhich, which I took to class with a banana and the copy of Modern Love that I had been carrying around in my pocket. That class is really a shame; it just doesn't work as a three hour long tooth-pulling session. If it met two or three times a week, people would do more of the reading and the discussions would be so much better. As it was, it's still a great poem, especially sonnets XVII and XXXVI. After all that, I came home, called my parents, got mad at the internet, and made myself another big quesadilla. Ester was quite distraught, I think mostly spurred on by Bruce's response to her paper. African was tiresome but got more exciting towards the end. I didn't come back here until late, instead going to McCabe to catch up on French, then the SAC meeting, then Paces. Morgan asked me to play Monday nights, but how could I spend that time on stage and not in the kitchen? Elena and I conducted a wonderfully fragmented conversation, under a continuous barrage of interruptions from waiters and loafers, in the manner of a sitcom or perhaps a piece of absurd theatre. About the stuff you talk about; relationships, rationalization, movement rules. I worked on my Ling paper from then (11:45), finished it, hit print, just as McCabe was about to shut down. The print command didn't go through in time; the computer shut off with the lights. Thank goodness for Claudia Sell, who took me back inside and asked the mean man to turn the lights back on for a second. She and Perry and I stood in front of the printer as a string of at least six documents came slowly out (mostly e-reserve readings), but my paper never got its turn. Luckily I was able to e-mail most of it to myself, and use Joel's printer (mine still isn't working, despite a new ink cartridge. Now it's not responding at all.) I wrote some of this stuff and went to bed.
when you finally finish pretending
to read that chapter
Monday, October 29
Anyway, this was the group that seemed to applaud most vociferously during our performance last night, which makes me a bit apprehensive because I couldn't get past this layer of unconditional support (which as nice as it is was based more on friendship than on the music) and get a sense of what sorts of more objective responses we were evoking. Perhaps that will be forthcoming. Rebecca said something about the performance having its good and bad points, but she has yet to elaborate. Other than that though, I have heard markedly little criticism. The compliments that stuck with we most were from Corey (one of the sweetest people I know; he said something about our music, even though it was rough, being "the kind of thing that just grabs you") and Chang (the baddest motherfucker on campus, when he is on campus, with a Matador recording contract, who told me "you have everything it takes to be a great musician." Even ambition, which I suggested was lacking. He suggested concentration, which is probably true, but I'm not sure exactly how he meant it - perhaps focusing my attention to a smaller number of instruments, or perhaps just the group focus required, for instance, to end songs in a less sloppy manner. Jessie said "that doesn't sound like a compliment." But it was.)
Before each group went on, I led them through a talk-down of the set, in the Adam Rogers tradition. (I'm not sure if it had not occurred to them to do this, but I stepped in to make it happen.) I think this kind of regrouping before a performance is incredibly important, although less so in a case like this when excitement rather than anxiety prevails. Before going through the arrangements, the Keller Method each revealed our costumes. Corey was Bootsy, as Jason identified on first try, and he looked fabulous. Leaya was a sleek cat, Jeff a ski-bum, me Waldo once more, without the camera this time. Jason had his face covered with a handkerchief, and introduced himself as Kadava Darachina, which Jeff found a bit unsettling. I feel bad about Jason; he seems like a neat guy, and I always find myself trying to get him to do something differently, just being assertive since nobody else in the band has a mind to. That's true of the group in general; I find myself taking a marked leadership role just for the sake of efficiency in rehearsals. I think they understand why, but it still makes me feel a bit guilty. Unlike usual, I experienced the concert quite cogently and patiently, rather than having it all whiz by quickly. However, I still want to record it just as a series of experiences:
Lovefool I spent trying to keep the split option on on the PSR, before I realized that the voice preset affects that feature as well; I missed a lot of the things I try to do, but at least I got the Frankie Valli lick in . . . as I stripped down to the sleeveless striped shirt, donned a beret, strapped on the accordion (the straps needed a last minute re-tying), I heard somebody in the front row saying "oh that's so cute" "is he really going to play it?" . . . I didn't even barely screw up the chords, thanks to my brilliant idea to stick tape on the E and F buttons . . . as I sat on the throne I looked down at Corey's shoes and felt immensely comforted by them . . . by the middle of Sour Times I was able to hit the double bass in the middle of the second measure of the pattern with much greater frequency . . . the d+b at the end went pretty well, and it turned into a solo at the end of the song . . . Close to Me rocked, very groovy and fun to play . . . the regrouping for Inflight was much more tense; it was out the back door, and Joel seemed anxious about getting on before people grew more impatient, or maybe he was just anxious about playing . . . it felt like such an arrival as we started into IFA, and it all went so well, especially the orbiting vocals building to a pitch when the bottom dropped out . . . until the end, which was fairly muddled . . . I gave my planned intro to take-off, talking about when i wrote each part of the lyrics ("I haven't written the 3rd verse yet") - I sang "Get Me Away from Here" instead . . . I came into my grinning demure wide-eyed little boy persona . . . I could barely hear my singing - was I in tune? could anyone hear the lyrics? . . . Matt and I couldn't decide how to end it . . . safe again back behind the drums, with Alan at my side, Lullaby went well, although it could have grooved more . . . the waltz sections were fast, and I didn't emphasize the three much - more of a 6/8 afro thing . . . everyone seemed to love "radical honesty," which was no surprise. again, my flute was probably out of tune. copies of the lyrics were circulating. i forgot the swing chorus, but then i played it anyway. and then it was over.
Most everyone I've talked to had positive comments (Erik: "pretty good set, ross. what was the name of that last song? radical on a stick?). It made me feel pretty okay. I had a good time. LTD (Erik and Dan Consiglio's tribute to Pigface) rocked the house in the way that only an SK1, a drum machine, a little box with lots of twiddly knobs, a Miss Piggy one-note override keyboard, and a gold plastic pig can. I still don't think I would have much patience for that kind of music (screamy industrial) on record, but it is sure cool live. I foolishly stayed for the Warriors, who did typically so-so renditions of Dave Matthews, U2, Nirvana, two Radiohead tunes (how 90s can you get?), and a long but occasionally interesting instrumental jam, mostly between Corey and Ranmal. More people showed up (Bryn, Amy, Kate) although more had left. I put my tambourine around my head and walked home.
I realized that I had left the milk in Rubin's car, so we walked to C lot to retrieve it. Of course, I took in the one bag of groceries that I saw, which did not include the milk. As far as I know, it's still in his trunk. Or else someone took it for the concert. Either way, I discovered something interesting this morning: cereal (at least oatmeal squares) in cold water is really good.
let the wind take your troubles away
Like a doof I walked all the way to Olde Club this morning with my keyboard and stickbag, thinking that Jeff was twenty minutes late to pick me up. Of course, it was a Daylight Savings mistake, and I was back there again forty minutes later. We (TKM) played until two-thirty or so, making progress on all four of the tunes. Then I came home to read some of "Modern Love." Rebecca fed me tea and cookies, and we went downstairs to 2N for Rachel's surprise 20th. While waiting we
(Jessie, Elena, Rebecca, the residents, etc. – nb "Jessie" is in bold so that she can find the referenes to her more efficiently) discussed band names and airplane covers, after the guest of honor arrived we discussed Libertarianism. Inflight went to Olde Club for some last-minute rehearsing, during which Joel broke his second cello of the weekend, and Matt and I failed at harmonizing. From there to Genuardi's with Allen in tow and fifty dollars of SAC food funds, plus a shopping list of crushed tomatoes and dried yellow split peas (couldn't find them, sorry.) Most of the food ended up being eaten, except for an entire chocolate cheesecake which I ended up giving to Ranmal at the end of the night.
By this time it was after seven, so we made a brief barnstop grocerydrop costumeswap and got back to the venue in time to catch the Warriors' soundchecking "Teen Spirit." A few people showed up on time (8), but by the time David L. K. Murphy's extensive set of originals and Jeff Buckley covers was done, there was a sizable crowd, much of it probably drummed up by my various bandmates.
i can't do it all justice right now, i'm going to sleep. the right shift key on this board doesn't work.
what can i say? it was wrong that you disappeared
Sunday, October 28
We didn't use Olde Club, but our "official" practice space, the basement of Lodge two, which finally came into its own, and proved itself quite appropriate. After cereal, I wandered over there to set up my drums (which had been sitting there in cases for about a month), and by two o'clock we were all assembled, with one improvised mic stand and a full complement of four amps. Chang was there playing House of Dead Dreamcast video games, to lend an air of authenticity, and the mangled spirit of Nori still found its way into the proceedings. We polished "IFA" for a while, scrapping the old verse for a more involved chord sequence (four rather than two) and got closer to the desired techno-funk groove in the dance section. "Rock Song" (which is being called "Rock Song") didn't give us too much trouble, and then we experimented with "Lullaby" for a while before taking a break.
Joel and I came back to the barn for lunch (an apple or so), I wrote some lyric fragments, and called Gabe to talk about formal stuff. Fortuitiously Jocelyn was here, so I gave him to her and he managed to talk her into free desserts. She seemed to make quite an impression. That stuff is all progressing, if slowly. Back to work, this time with Allen joining in on purpley-blue. He found a better way into the rock song, which is probably our tightest number (Radiohead tease notwithstanding), and to "Lullaby." We worked that one for a while, arguing about format. I feel that the opening A section should be considerably longer, allowing each element to fully reveal itself before the next one comes in, and so that it has a more relaxed feel. The groove is so pungent, but then the unexpected shift to 3/4 swing is just sublime. They were afraid the tune would get boring, but Jessie, Elena and Milena debunked that notion. Although the lodgemates had been apprehensive about practicing, they all popped in and bobbed their heads and goatsigned and so on: Nate, Bobby, David avec sa pétite amie. It was a good old rock and roll party. At the end we pulled out "Take-off," and I got to air some of my sillies, although the mic was so low you couldn't really hear them. Joel's bridge broke before we could get very far, but I guess we're going to try to do it tonight anyway.
I went to the opera. Plural. The first was a setting of Christopher Durang play about Naomi ("So few people are true Christians these days. I know I'm not. I'm a psychotic!") in the living room, and was quite entertaining, if the sets gave me subversive thoughts. The second, a product of Swat faculty (including Victorian Poetry prof Nathalie Anderson, who has sent me at least a dozen emails this weekend) had more exciting music, and was more musical in general, had a ridiculous premise that was essentially a half-hour set-up for one mediocre punchline. Maybe if I remembered my Mitologie Classique better I'd appreciate it more. It was worth staying for, though, and may have even been a better piece, despite its flaws.
I happily found Alana and Liza to sit next to me, and the latter followed me home, under the pretext of getting money for Roots tickets. While I assembled a quesadilla très sabrosa avec les sausage andouille (cutting my finger in the process, and improvising a bandage with kleenex and packing tape, elle made peanut butter cookies (using Skippy; she agreed to take the Crazy Richard's off our hands) which, although they came out crumbly and burned (actually, they're a little better with the sun) were fun to impress with forks. We migrated to my room for some old-style sing-a-long action, taking off from Belle and Seb (and our theme song); "Angeles," "Oh Maria," "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow," "Everyday," "Busby Berkely Dreams," "Embraceable You," "Big Yellow Taxi" (complete with triangle sample), "Free Man in Paris," "Beautiful." That stuff's so great. "Nobody writes 'em like they used to."
We pranced around a bit, and then dangled on the sofa with our books (Shakespeare and Pynchon supplanting Dickinson and Frost) and Kruder + Dorfmeister (brilliant), then "Blue Lines." I finished section three and last week's reading, leaving a scant 150 pages for Wednesday. Kabam! Rebecca came in from SQU party, and proceeded to forsake my bed for Ester's (I gather from her website that she went into the city; if not for that I'd be kind of annoyed by that old devil lack of communication.) At about three I woke up and stood in the hallway waiting for R to be out of the bathroom, pouty and asleep. Then I went back to sleep, and eventually Liza left with the money. She and I are pretty much like playmates, I guess. And it's good. Maybe there's still some of that sexual tension, but it's also partly the return to innocence thing. Eighteen till I die.
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do
Saturday, October 27
My favorite costume was Dan Blim's impersonation of Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People", complete with bayonet, tricolor, and exposed breast (Rebecca pointed out that he was wearing sneakers and that he wore the same thing last year). I was impressed partly because it's always been my ambition to find someone to go with me as the Arnolfini's. Also noteworthy was Daniel Sproul's self constructed modernist ensemble of lights and frames and gels, with a mesh box over his head. Apparently he told Rebecca it was "an abstract representation of the 1970's. Almost everyone recognized me immediately, although a few had to be told, and of course they all had to say something like "I found him!" A few people couldn't stop raving about my costume. It was fun. It was way too hot for the scarf, so I took that off, and the camera was a bit difficult to dance with; I just slung it to the side.
I pretty much played a free agent all night, dancing with Rae, Renee Witlen, Claudia, Bryn, Kirsten, Lela, Blair, Jocelyn, and others. Lots of devils, lots of drunkards. Pert Joanne insisted that I should come to salsa this week. Mary Harrison was stationed in front of the DJs and was gamely grinding with anyone who happened by. "So you're like a punked-out Catholic school-girl?" I asked. "I'm Britney Spears asshole!" "Oh, right, the pigtails." She smiled and threatened to lose her balance. A few people make themselves impossible to approach - Jeanne for instance - but I was mostly successful at finding people to dance with. I went out to rest for a while and met Ben's new friend Nicole, who was complaining about lack of techno; we then ended up dancing in a circle with Sarah Walsh, to "U Cant Touch This." Then Darude's "Sandstorm" came on, and people started getting excited. The lights came on about halfway through, signalling us to leave, but the effect was that all of a sudden everyone could see everyone else in however much of his costume had survived the evening, and he went crazy. Good party. For some reason I thought the DJing was pretty good, although it was just standard top 40 stuff.
I didn't write song lyrics, which I really want to do before rehearsal tomorrow. I've been thinking about all the songs about starting or being in a band, since that's what this one is about.
the Mamas and the Papas "Creeque Alley"
The Byrds "So You Wanna be a R'n'R Star"
They Might Be Giants "Rhythm Section Want Ad"
Belle and Sebastian "Get Me Away from Here"
Aimee Mann "I've Had It"
there were more but I can't think of them right now.
What is love?
baby don't hurt me
don't hurt me
Friday, October 26
Cleaned my room, made a mix tape, read a little bit of "Modern Love," but mostly lazed about the afternoon. Then a bit after 4:00 (still in red and white stripes) I went late to meet Liza for her mysterious choreography project. It took us a while to find a place - nowhere inside was available, so we ended up in the Nason Garden. It was extremely blustery and cold, so we could only stay barefoot for so long. The dance is frenzied and fun, with that childlike energy, and perhaps involves an orange. At one point she started throwing green beans at me while I was dancing. She set up a handycam to video the choreography, and we ended up just getting sucked into that, using it to shoot footage of the benches and grass and bushes blowing in the wind. It was ridiculous but precious.
Father of Rebecca is here now, working on pizza. They made a big Genuardi's trip; sushi and two boxes of oatmeal squares and even tangly green beans, though no corned beef or rolling pin though.
think of it this way: you can either be successful or be
us, with our catchy tunes and
us, with our winning smiles or
worse, now we're photogenic you know
we don't stand a chance
write record reviews for WSRN
write Brink article for Suzanne
read History stuff
write Syntax essay
catch up on French work
rehearse with TKM
rehearse with I
find sidemen (sax, congas, bass)
make posters for concert
figure out a costume
complete Waldo ensemble (hat!)
get Roots tickets
get apples and make pie
get more cereal and impose my ethos
get pita and make falafel (aw dawn!)
get long tangly green beans for Liza
meet her for choreography work (4:30)
spend quality time with Alana, Alison, Amy, Lillie, others
be nice to Rebecca (her Blepheritis is flaring us)
be nice to Ester
resume crusade against profanity
make a mix tape for my girlfriend
make a mix tape for myself (?)
work on Masque publicity
organize mask-making session
become possessed of screens and lights
write lyrics for "Take-Off"
write lyrics and chorus for "Two Weeks"
pay Joel $40
pay Jess $2
pay Tony $333
ensure that the flow of review CDs doesn't dry up
dance at parties
count my blessings and my thumbs
(or is it)
count my blessings on my thumbs
(i never figured out which, or which version I like better)
Inflight (it seems the Gangster Lean has been vetoed at least for now) rehearsed from 3:00 to 4:45 and then again from 7:15 to 9:30, both times upstairs in Olde Club using the sound machine equipment. I think the first session was more productive: we came up with a very good arrangement for Matt's rock song (I still haven't heard all the lyrics, but apparently they're about his fear of STDs), and made headway on subduing the chaos of "Onward Christian Soldiers/Inflight Announcement." After Joel went to dance, Matt and I riffed a little bit on "Take-off" (working title), which I'm trying to write verses for (lyrics and melody); the music was pretty collaborative, I wrote the chorus. I'm working on another song too, which may sound a bit like the Crystals. I came home for dinner but there was nobody here, so I ended up just meeting Joel at tarble for a BLT wrap. When we got back to OC, a bassist was sitting there waiting for us, he's a curly named Allen, who seems pretty competent, although I think we wigged him out a bit. To be honest, the songs seem to work pretty well without bass parts, and I think we might ask him only to play on one or two tunes. He was having trouble finding a way in on OCS/IFA, but mostly because Joel was being frustratingly evasive, insisting on turning conventional verse/chorus/verse into indeterminate space. We have a good structure/arrangement for that, I think, we just need to work on it a lot; especially the funk section. Fortunately we have all day Saturday. Then we worked on "Lullaby" for a while (the one with Latin lyrics), and although I was confused at first, it turned into a really neat latin-ish groove (hey, I never thought of the musical pun there); I suggested we find a conguero for that tune. The kicker is the bridge, which is a strummy jazz waltz, and then mogrifies into afro-6/8. Matt played very lyrical trumpet, and even Allen was getting into it. I'm excited for the show; but more for the band.
A lot of discussion of null complementizers and inflectional heads in Syntax today put me in the mind of a bit of alphabetical algebra I did a long time ago, wherein I showed that "CAMP ENCORE/CODA" simplifies to CØ (C half-diminished.)
and i know storms inside your head will sometimes amplify your plight but no matter what the weather you and the clouds will still be beautiful
Thursday, October 25
Made a poster for the concert and put it on the barn door. It turns out we can use soundmachine all day, so Matt should be showing up sometime soon.
god, if you're up there, listen to my prayer.
in future men should have a different design.
give him a switch so he can turn off his libido, now,
give him a tranquilizer built into his mind.
Wednesday, October 24
My day, though, has been a delight. Pretty much. After some decent murder talk, I curled up in one of the frizzy olive chairs in parlors to read thirty-several pages of Pynchon, about pigs and pinball, a fun section. Les heures, then back here for lunch and stuff. On the way back to campus I stopped in Pearson and got a Lingusitics Department tee (long-sleeved!), which the office assistant was more than happy to give me once she had snapped my polaroid (I've had some problems with this in the past.) Pynchville was pretty good, although quite a few folks were missing. We listened to Lotion, Pynchon's favorite rock band, and I called for a small group discussion on the pig section. Christie, Kim, Marilee, Schmidt, D-Kacz rallied to the cause, although I didn't have anything in particular in mind. The latter has just started "Sotweed".
Immediately upon finishing class, I went to Marcantonio Barone's office for the semester, where he was wrapping up a lesson with a beginning student. "He's just like you, except he talks more" he said, after the student asserted that one could just as easily play an entire piece with hands crossed at the wrists. Indeed, I often struggled with a tendency to recalcitrance during our lessons last year. The conversation flowed like rubies on this occasion though. Mr. Tony treated me to the nicest meal I've had in a while, my fourth at Peking/Tokyo. I decided to go Japanese this time around, (the rule is you can have either but you can't mix), and he followed suit; we shared edamame, spinach salad, wasabi shumai, and seven types of sushi (inari, unagi, yellowtail, Spanish mackerel, avacado roll, spicy tuna roll, and some battered shrimp roll that I can't think of right now - just wanted to see if I could remember them.) On the way there I went through my favorite Philly restaurants, and on the way back we discussed the awful things driving makes us do, but the discussion during dinner was great. He's so unbelievably articulate, besides being warm and encouraging, not to mention insanely accomplished and modest about it at the same time. And he wore a napkin as a bib over his black suit and tie. I gave him a run-down on barn life and he talked about the new experience of teaching a music history class, which led to the differences between music history and science history. We got onto the topic of food: how personal tastes develop (genetics vs. cultural environment, etc.) and the implications of considering food preparation "culinary art" on the level of music or painting. This led to many fascinating food anecdotes, as well as theoretical art discussion. A treat.
On the unusual interactions with adults front, Claire Sawyers called the other day to follow up on our conversation re the fragrance garden. Actually, she called not knowing what number she was dialing, rendering Joel rather confused in the process. According to her, there was "some indication" that there had been another party in the space the week after mine. Even though nobody in the administration knew anything about that, she decided that it would be unfair to ask me and my sponsors to contribute to the extra maintenance costs. Okay, whatever.
Tony returned me to Lang a few minutes before African. Annoyingly, we didn't dance today but rather tried to make ourselves comfortable on the cold hard mexican tile as we watched "dance black america," a video of a show circa 1985 including a piece from Garth Fagan back when the Bucket was still the Bucket. It made me think of high school, since I have been in exactly the same circumstances many times in the dance studios at sota; in fact I have watched the exact same video there.
The next item on the agenda was a remarkably productive three-hour rehearsal with Jeff's band, now apparently called "The Keller Method." I won't divulge what went on at the rehearsal, since everyone reading this who is able to ought to come see the concert. Suffice to say that I am really excited for the concert now. I just have to get my other band in shape to perform. And find a costume. Oh, I've been asking people fairly randomly to tell me what to be for Halloween. Some interesting answers: a matchstick (John Fort), God (Jonah), Waldo (Alison.) Amazingly, Elizabeth Holman just e-mailed me apropos of nothing to say that she thinks I should be Waldo. Perhaps it's fated. Does anyone have a red and white striped shirt I can borrow? Or a cane?
When I returned I past a gathering of our neighbors holding a sing-a-long on the porch. Jonah, Samarah, Lizzie, Jamie, Ben, his guitar, and a copy of Rise Up Singing! I came down to join them for some "Battle of New Orleans," "Both Sides Now," "Sweet Baby James," etc. Hooray for informal music. It was really sweet. I mentioned this site, after Ester passed us and my attempts to give her a subtle warning about Rebecca's ire met with blank stares. Now that I've sorted out what to do about rehearsing tomorrow, sort of, all that's left is a bit of French nonsense before bed.
go ahead with all your sweet-talking
go ahead for all the good it can do
have yourself a dime's worth of talking
'cause then i'm gonna hang right up on you
Jessica = Jessica Sheldon
Jessie = Jessica Coleman
Jess = Jessica Richman
Jesse = Jesse Beller
take to the sky before you learn to fly
People ask me whether I'm growing facial hair on purpose or just not shaving. Answer: I'm just not shaving on purpose. Like you do.
Jessie, I feel like she was introduced to me as Jessie, but anyway I'll call her that unless she takes strong offense. I think it suits her. It's much cooler than Jessica anyway.
Before tango I stopped at Paces to meet Rebecca's friend Joe. She said we would get along and then disappeared. If I am to get along with him, it will have to be after our first few meetings, when we just get all the music stuff ironed out. Although he sort of looks like Jonathan Richman, he's an emo-indie died-in-the-wool. My Radiohead T-shirt didn't help. No, it was okay, I just always feel put-upon to defend eclecticism when I meet a genre-junkie. Favorite band: Modest Mouse, ergo Pavement, Pixies, Built to Spill. Blah.
so seldom a door, seldom a key,
seldom a gift like the gift that you gave me
but seldom comes happiness without revenge
the devil in the details since i saw the smile on your face as i was crying in a greyhound station on christmas day on 1988
Tuesday, October 23
Today's addition to my CD collection came via Ms. Ennen, who has taking to calling me Mr. Hoffman an awful lot, via Air Canada, via FNAC: Björk's Gling-Glo, which I'm excited about. I didn't realize Rogers and Hammerstein wrote anything in Icelandic.
I walked around the ville in French this morning, as we went back and forth between la poste and le restaurant chinoise and les salons de coiffure, making sure to always use les passages. Then we had a review of X-bar and so in in syntax, ended up abolishing the sentence in favor of something called IP, which looks really ugly at the top of a tree. Elena came over for lunch, talking mostly with Ester; actually I was talking too, but I was somehow distracted so I was really listening to what I was saying. Something about chalk and movies and this website. Two seconds after walking into my room, she said "I've never been so jealous of a space and a corduroy comforter and a CD collection and a fireplace and a futon mattress in my life." Nori sent an ominous e-mail about coming back next semester.
CDNow of all places has a pretty respectable list of the great songwriters of the century or something. Half, from which I just impulsively ordered two Randy Newman albums and a Lounge Lizards album, has a lot of Chemical Brothers singles for not much money; check it out Ben. Nobody on the web seems to have a copy of the huge early 90's dance hit "(It's Time for the) Percolator," which we found out is by Cajmere, alias Green Velvet, who I actually saw, at Titan; someone's selling a maxi-single at eBay, but we've been outbid to $15.50, and that's too much for us.
Here's some questions for general discussion: What should I be for Halloween? Should we have a christmas tree at the barn? Why do actors named John always play characters named John? Where does Marcantonio Barone get his cool from?
you'll be happy as a monkey in a monkey tree.
climb aboard, little wog, sail away with me
Over the past ten years, Tindersticks have cemented a rabidly supportive fan base and a reputation as princes of somber, atmospheric melancholy. Their sound, perhaps best encapsulated on their self-titled second release (Universal, 1995), has always veered towards the orchestral, featuring lavish string arrangements and the impossibly smooth, passionate bass-baritone of singer Stuart Staples. Frankly, though, despite an abundance of passion, their albums often seem somewhat stilted; too clinical, too overbearing, with too operatic pomp to really work as rock records.
With "Can Our Love...", the group's first outing on Beggars Banquet, things have become decidedly looser. In fact, it seems strange that this didn't happen before: if lush strings and rich vocals suggest links to classical music, they are equally at home in the world of R&B. It seems that the 'sticks have decided to make that connection explicit, and the results are undeniable. The album retains the essential elements of their music but ensconces them in a setting that feels far more natural, reminiscent of the stirring 'seventies soul of Curtis Mayfield, Harold Melvin, and perhaps another Staples. The slyly grooving "People Keep Coming Around," with its sinuous bassline and quietly infectious chorus, stands out in particular, but the whole album, though short, is solid and evocative. 7/10
I came home about an hour ago, carrying evidence of the previous five hours' activities: my clothes from African (class started out oddly, taking way too long on the hungway that people should have down by now, but then we got into triplets, which were cool, and more cerebral footwork that I can do pretty easily but a lot of people have trouble with, actually I could do it well enough to throw in some pelvis stuff too, which was fun); my present from Alison and Danielle (a severed hand; I stopped by the lodge to say hello after class, ended up talking to Al for a while. I feel like I don't have any time for my friends.); the history reading I printed out at the library and read part of in the Trotter atrium (pretty good stuff actually, about 1830s prostitutes and such); SAC proposals (people asked for so much money this week. There's big parties going on all the time - Halloween, Coming-Out, Alex Black's Euro-Trash thing, Consiglio's concert, not to mention and the formal, which we discussed for a long time, I just wrote up an info e-mail about that); and in my mouth the taste of a bizzare "world reknowned" cheesecake from Paces. I stopped by to see Elena in the kitchen, fishing a cappucino-maker part out of the garbage, she said "guess what I've been reading?"
This. Welcome, Elena, and Jessie who told her about it (how did you know?) Comment people! Thanks for reading, but you should let me know you're here. It's only courteous. Anyway, E said she felt camaraderie for my polyamory, which was nice to hear. Another person that I never seem to have enough time for.
dear i fear we're
facing a problem
me no longer
i know i don't
care if you really care as
long as you don't
Monday, October 22
Good little chats today with Danielle, Jenny, Joel, Christie, Andrew Stout, Pat, Nina. It dawned on me that I have two papers due Wednesday, fortunately they should be easy (and only two pages each.) Lots of concerts coming up, who should I see? Spoon, the Strokes, Spiritualized, Stereolab, the Roots, Quasi, the New Deal, Jay Farrar, Iggy Pop? Plone came in the post today, with its crisp packaging, Warp via Matador style. More Pynchon, less class.
"o baby i feel so down, it turns me off when i feel left out"
I went downstairs to check the mail and found a big Fed-Ex from Birthday Records, a tiny label from zipcode 19191-91919. They sent me a promo of the new single "Birthday Rós," which was actually the sweetest birthday present ever, with Sargent cover art and vocals by Alana and Joel on a little B&Sish ditty recorded using protools:
when you were one year old it was your goal to be
a naked kid with his first CD
you led dip of the month in the bath with your ducky
gee i'm glad i know you now
'cause you rock the party that rocks the party
you can cry if you want to as long as you're still happy
me and her got a thing
me and her got a good thing
me and her got a good thing going now
Sunday, October 21
After thirty years as a musical marginal, one of the countless offbeat characters criscrossing the country and playing to any available audience, Jonathan Richman has become part of the cultural landscape. There he was on PBS "History of Rock'n'Roll" series, being hailed as the Godfather of Punk. There he was on the front page of the New York Times arts section last weekend, as part of a story on jazz clubs staying open in the face of tragedy. There he was, crooning and anticking with longtime drummer/sidekick Tommy Larkins, in "There's Something About Mary," the sort of high-profile gig that has dogged him ever since, for better or worse. Heck, he even made it into Spike a few years ago, where his sing-a-long paean to late-night New England driving was reckoned the 53rd Best Thing of the Millennium.
Through it all, despite progressing from the tough-guy posturing of the indispensable debut "Modern Lovers" to the carefree exuberance of albums like 1993's "Having a Party," Jonathan has lost none of his charm. Part of it is a simplicity that makes even young squirts like me nostalgic for the 1950s, and makes the rich, chunky guitar of tunes like "Me and Her Got A Good Thing Goin' Baby" the musical equivalent of comfort food. Part of it is a childlike innocence that paradoxically makes the hard-earned sage advice of "Couples Must Fight" and "I Took A Chance on Her" that much more credible. Mostly it's just a sense of fun that's inescapable in live performance and shines through as strongly as ever on his unwieldily titled twentieth release.
Backed by nothing more than bouyant acoustic strumming, Larkins' spirited drumming, and the occasional piano or violin, Richman holds forth on love, friendship, and his favorite cities (the brilliant "Give Paris One More Chance,") occasionally in Spanish (the bouncy "Yo Tengo una Novia.") And when he sings, you've just got to smile. 9/10
Last night Liza came over bearing a box of lentil pilaf, which we augmented with vegetables and Annies for a hearty, tasty gruel that we couldn't eat more than half of. I was a little bit apprehensive about being with her before we had our dis cus sion but it was fine, she frolicked but didn't try to touch me, it was pretty natural. She had been more or less expecting it, and was somewhat dissapointed but pretty much okay. I told her a lot about the Beta Band and my grandparents. She talked about assorted artists and ideas, or mumbled rather, she talks so quiet sometimes it drives me crazy. I played "Frontier Psychiatrist" for her and she remembered having seen the video on MTV a while ago. I don't understand that since the album hasn't even come out in the States yet, but whatever. I found it online and we watched it; it's a really cool video for a great song, check it out. That inspired me to show her some of the Bjork videos from Volumen. I couldn't get the computer hooked up to the TV (a piece is missing), and it was making weird squeaks for a while. Then she left to do her polysci work and I read about orgies in Pynchon.
There's not much I can say about the Strokes that hasn't been said. Their press kit came with a thick packet of xeroxed review clippings, all of which said, essentially: "the Strokes have been getting a lot of hype." So much hype that it's hard to approach them, unless of course you were there before it all started. Which, actually, I was. I saw the hot-shit New York five-piece open for Guided by Voices last winter at a venue Robert Pollard likes to call the Living Theatre of Arts, when their median age was a shy 21. Vocalist Julian Casablancas (who has, it's been pointed out, the ultimate rock star name) staggered drunkenly about the stage, complained about his day job, broke a microphone, while the rest of the group smirked disinterestedly or bobbed along to the beat. There's no denying they've got the look: black suits, leather jackets, scruffy mod haircuts, straight out of late-sixties London, or maybe late seventies New York. (Unfortunately, the sexy black-and-white cover on the British version of their debut album is replaced in the states by an image alarmingly similar to the cover of one of my Physics 006 textbooks.)
And the music? Driving, direct, dirty, impassioned, inevitable. Terse guitar riffs, tin-can drumming, bounding bass melodies, clipped vocals, addictive choruses, snotty lyrics ("You say you wanna stay by my side? Darling, your hair's not right"), rock and roll. It's nothing we've never heard before (remember the Who? the Stooges? How about that group Lou Reed used to be in?), but who cares, maybe we need to hear it again. And there are at least a couple of the eleven songs on the Strokes' debut that aren't the catchiest thing to come around the block in ages, but then your air guitar would probably start to feel pretty heavy after thirty-six solid minutes.
The Strokes are the kind of band rock critics love to write about, and they know just how to play it up. Take their album title, for instance - an all-too-easy tag-line itching to be referenced in the last line of a review. Is This It? I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. 8/10
Saturday, October 20
one woman's making my home
while the other woman's making me do wrong
i didn't intend to let this thing get so strong
now i've got to decide where i belong...(cue orchestra)
I'll try to wrap this up today, but if not I'll try to stay on schedule anyway for real-time posts.
"Nineteen is not the age of reason"
"Nineteen years have rolled around my head, and what have I done for god?"
-Sarah Maria Cornell
"The Cuervo gold, the fine Columbian make tonight a wonderful thing"
I woke up up. A scouting mission to the first floor in my bathrobe revealed packages from Rope-a-Dope (Sex Mob and Bullfrog) and Om (Ming + FS) and an end-open envelope from Alyssa. She wrote of mountains. I walked Liza to campus to check my mail, a beautiful crisp day with the crunch of leaves beginning to gain a bit of volume. We passed a sign that said, simply, PSCHNA. Pschna! I came back to revel a bit before going back out, with RebEst, in search of a yard sale. We found a different one, but it was already finished. "You could still buy some stuff" confided the kid manning the empty table, "but you probably wouldn't be interested in it." Undaunted by this sales pitch, we walked on, through the maze of plastic fencing, ambling slowly into the green. They went through Parrish, and I went alongside it, passing a circle of Sorelle, Cadelba, Susan, and a freshwoman like that, eating carrots and hummus and peanut butter. Apparently, this was a thing that Ester had organized and then forgotten about. I reminded her, and we three joined them for some grub. An escaped convict snuck up to us and asked if we could direct him to the bat cave so that he might reunite with his long lost son, who had been crippled by his girlfriend Julia and now used a walker. Pat Thrasher appeared as well, but he wasn't much help. The bat cave?
I wanted to go swimming, but they were reluctant, so I called Liza from the Parrish phone, and she skipped down to through the Armpit Theatre and along the rocky crickbed to a big log with a gap, where dogs and kids scampered with their parents. We sang the Crystals (of course she's a child of oldies radio, just like I do) and agreed it would be better to be apart over break. After much meandering, we arrived at the olde swimming hole by the trestle. An old gentleman with his dog didn't bother us, but the sun had disappeared behind a crowd, and the low cold murky was less appealing without the October warmth. So we just waded a bit, enjoying underwear. A voice called my name as we passed the field house; it was Chris, who I've barely seen this year, off to play some tennis.
Of course she came back to the barn, and we listened to Figure 8. Plans were up in the air all day, but it was decided that Ester and I would ride up to Westchester with the Galynkers in two hours. So we had some rice and Jaipur veggies and I packed up my case with CDs and my backpack with dirty laundry and books. The big vehicle held six of us fairly comfortably, although sister Natalia was in danger of being obliterated by luggage. Driver and father Igor recognized several of the tunes on Tori Amos's new covers record, and engaged us in a talk about the war. Ben and I debated "appealing," his contention being that it's not a useful word because it's disrespectful to Belle & Sebastian and Skin, presumptive for Oranges and Sunshine. Okay, I said, but it's still language. I barely noticed the length of the ride. We pulled into a big white home flying the Old Glory, decorated with dark things and objets russes, where I bore the brunt of grandma's you-have-to-eat. They have decisive staples: newtons, pretzels, honey-bunches-of-oats. I got to sleep on a fold-out in the study. It was good to be there.
I woke up alone. I didn't know where I was at first, just that it felt good to wake up in a big bed with a luscious blanket, and luxuriate. It was good to wake up next to someone the previous two days, especially on my birthday, but it was good to wake up alone too. Strains of Bach and Chopin from the living room, pounded out by Ben on a lovely little Kawai, drew me up and out, and I soon took his place at the keyboard, unable to make it past the opening themes of Haydn and Debussy, and stumbling through some Wohltemper and Zweistimmige with the aid of a Fischer swamped among the scores. It was good to play though, and Igor seemed to like it. He and I chatted over breakfast after Benster left for lunch with his grandfolks; talking about food, the outdoors, his youth. He is a great talker; in the middle of holding forth businesslike on some aspect of his career or the news he swivels and address his daughter, explains to her why goalkeeper is the most difficult position on the soccer field, his manner equidignified and self-possessed, with that Russian tinge of wry. Our morning is interrupted at one-hour intervals by phoned-in reports on the status of a marathon in Atlantic City. In this house they refer to their cars without articles, as if makes were names: "Did you drive Accura last night?" "No, it must have been Audi." Nothing to do but lie in bed and pynch and listen to tindersticks and fall asleep again. But it was good.
B+E came by later and picked me up, and we wandered through downtown Chappaqua, Ben giving us his reality tour of closing times and changes-of-management. He instructed us not to mock the school. We scanned the banned books lists outside the library (Dante, Dahl, Dickens) and then entered, returning half an hour later with "Touch of Evil" and some "Flying Circus" on DVD, REM's "Reveal" on CD. I wrote a little bit of reminced on the computer there, but I can't keep up the sham, so I'm just writing this all in retrospect. From there to his mothers, where we made use of the telephone (Matt calling off our plans to Adirondack it that night, as is his infuriating wont, screwing up my break plans for at least the third time, and leaving me with nothing to say or do but seethe inwardly and accept the Cantor's dinner invitation) and the kitchen (honey-mustard nibblers, vanilla pudding, sugar cookies, carrotstix, bagels - comfort food) and the DVD player (Spiny Norman, The Comfy Chair, Thingy, Silly Walks, etc. so much of that TV show comes through in Gravity's Rainbow its analepses and postmodernity and humor) and the couch. After a bit we did drive down to 7 Paddington, which was but delightful. Delia and Mike once wore, but this time at least I enjoyed their company very much. I think it helps having other people there: they were enchanted by Ben and Ester, and vice versa, so I could just smile winningly on the sidelines and feel that I was helping to enrich the lives of my loved ones. We ate at David's Jade Palace, as you may have read elsewhere, where the General Tsao's is the best I've ever tasted, so tender and lavish. I ordered half Peking Duck, which I don't think I've ever done before; it came shredded in Hoisin pancakes, but everyone shared. I had half of Ben's melon soup, several veggie dumplings, noodles, etc. All of it quite tasty, and I think even Ester was happy with the food. The conversation was great too. I like learning things about my relatives' lives by listening to my friends ask them questions; Ben was interested in their professional lives and game-playing, which I knew about, but not necessarily in such great detail. He's such a charmer, for all his weirdo vibe. Nice. I stayed in Danny's bedroom, after some phone calls and frustrated attempts to use AOL. I listened to Plaid. That's good stuff.
I ate a bialy in the morning, and in the evening I picked up a book about bialys to read in the Barnes and Noble bathroom, although it took me a while to find the bathroom; Matt misdirected me. I wouldn't have characterised the break up to this point as stress-free; making lots of phone calls to mobilize activities is stressful. After reading the first twenty or so pages of the New York Times Magazine's issue on the status of American couplehood, I walked three blocks to 15 Whig. The house is terrifically open and lavish, wonderful wood floors and Al Green on the phonograph, although the computer is slow and small, but I got one sentence out at least. Mother Rubin sat kitten-like in the kitchen or the bedroom; she shares much of her appearance, demeanor, speaking manner, and attitude towards Matt with Sarah Hilding, as Matt heartily concurred later. I don't think he likes her very much, which I guess I understand, although I found her very warm and congenial. Jess strode in (I had met her before, in Boston this summer) and we headed North.
It felt very right, very American, to driving the Parkways of Westchester as the Hudson River valley foliage was at magnificent peak, listening to Ryan Adams, my Bruce Springsteen of now. As with all Rubin expeditions, there was a heightened pitch of conspiratorial excitement, even though we were just going to visit my grandparents. I found George in his office, and he gladly consented to give the winery tour. Again, I found myself learning new things because of my companions' questions: they wanted to know about the chemistry, the history, the ethics. George somewhat surprisingly refused to let us take any wine - he couldn't sell it because he hadn't gotten authorization labels from the government for the new batches, but we're underage anyway, and he didn't offer us any. Once we were up at the house, though, Matt persuaded him to serve us some Doc's Own - the blend that allegedly began as a soda pop - which Michelle brought out with some tasty little cracker-cheese nibblets. I enjoyed the wine more than I have in a while; it's not a great beverage, but it's fun to drink, and although Matt later remarked about it being weak, I felt a little heady after two glasses (but then I hadn't had anything substantial to eat.) The living room was resplendant in the streaming afternoon sun, although several oversize pooches had taken over the table. Conversation flowed freely from family history and career advice similar to the previous night to politics (Matt's summer in Washington) to Broadway (they raved about "Mamma Mia!") to music (Matt to Michelle: "Don't even front about not liking Michael Jackson.") Matt said "awesome" a lot, and Michelle quoted him on it. It's no surprise to me that people get along with my family so well, or that anyone gets along with Matt so well, but it's very satisfying to make introductions like that.
"Your grandfather is awesome!" Matt of course said as we headed back, stopping on the way at Outhouse Orchards for some scrumptious fudge, mini-pies, Mutsu apples for pie, and a bag of candy corn that was to last me for the next three days or so. They had just stopped making fresh donuts, but we made do with some banana nut bread that served as an appetizer before Matt and I patronised the Hartsdale Pizzeria for the evening meal. He called it some of the best pizza in the world, but I was decidedly unimpressed with my slice of white or my slice of pepperoni. I popped in the Raust2K mix that I had just recovered from Myron that morning. Waiting in the kitchen for Jessica to return, I started to explain the Liza scenario to Matt, and the conversation continued as we drove down to the city. Jess was especially interested in my thoughts about "type", and though at first she seemed to think it was a plausible, workable situation as long as everyone was cool, she and Matt later agreed that it was rather more tenuous. "You can do all the right things and still be an asshole," was how Matt put it (interesting, since he doesn't do all the right things, but Jess and Ester are divided on his assholeness.) I still hadn't reached a decision at this point, except that I need to talk to Alyssa before this goes any further. I'll go into it more later.
Driving through Manhattan was decidedly creepy, at times quite unsettling, but we found solace in Barnes and Noble as we killed time before the show. Interesting items: a companion to "Lot 49," "Chronicle of a Death Foretold." Jess wanted "Cholera," which they didn't have (she bought Agaetis instead), but when we stepped onto the sidewalk we found ourselves faced with a trove of a used-book cart. "Cholera" was there, along with a stack of Dostoevski, Bukowski's "Women," and DeLillo's "Americana" (right next to "Amerika," which Matt bought). I was tempted by all of these, but ended up with just the DeLillo, for $3.50 after an absurd group bargaining session. That left me with only three dollars left in cash, enough for three-fifths of the ticket price at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre (I owe Jess two, to be paid back in goods or services as she sees fit.) NMH played as we walked in and skimmed a photocopy of a kid's comic book (the lower-case alphabet borrows "On the Road" from the upper-case alphabet), which was promising, but we sat through some pretty lackluster sketch by "Squirrel" (I think I laughed once.) It got better after that; the second group (Little Man - five guys in their twenties) handed out ice cream sandwiches and apples, jammed to Weezer, and improvised a half-hour skit about back-to-school shopping. The best parts were the bookending segments, where they hilariously mimed riding bikes and conversed as "themselves."
We sat in the living room of Ben's dad's house with Ester and Ben (exhausted after a day of relaxation) and talked about the sexual culture at Wesleyan, especially the predominance of queer culture. It sounds like Jess's experience there has been nearly the opposite of mine at Swat - lots of meaningless casual sex and little interest in SLTRs (is that the acronym?) - which she finds understandably frustrating. Ester remarked after they left that I was acting smitten. I object to that assessment; after all, I'm allowed to be friendly. Actually, I found being with Jessica and Matt all day a bit trying, not because I didn't enjoy their company, but it was difficult to really relax with them; I felt a bit on edge much of the time, even defensive. It was fun though.
Had to put on Merrick when I woke up. We didn't leave for the Adirondacks until after eleven, well over an hour later than planned, but I was content to whine about it to Ester for a minute or two and then shut up and enjoy it. It's hard to imagine a more glorious day or venue for a six hour drive; the leaves stunning at every turn, American flags everywhere, a complete collection of lower-echelon Marriott establishments, a stop at Mobil for gas and a map and later one at Mama's Express for a tasty turkey club and curly fries, Ryan Adams then Madonna then "B" and "A" barn mixes and Ani and the Beasties, groceries at Tupper Tops (veggies and drinks, back for crisco). I read sixty pages of GR, wrapping up the reading for the previous week and passing the halfway point in the book, while conversing with the other two who were unable to read in the car. By the time we passed Blue Mountain Lake, the leaves had begun to disappear, but the sun shone on. We made good time, conforming to the estimated 2.5 to Albany, 3.5 from there, arriving before six. Not in the mood for much else, we read (Sot-Weed again finally), ate (pesto, reheated borscht), drank (Kahlua and milk), baked (a pie, silly!), slept. I was home, and I think the others were nearly as happy to be there as I was, which was comforting.
I got up at ten (I'm finding myself incapable of sleeping in much later than that, which is probably a good thing) to rain and a chill. I started a fire quickly (one match) but it didn't provide much heat no matter how much I fiddled with the flue or the catalytic converter. I kept it up for about two hours, and then sporadically through the rest of the day by sticking another log in and stirring up the embers a bit. It sort of felt pointless, especially since Ben and Ester didn't come down to appreciate it for two hours. We didn't even really consider going outside until about four, after we had dawdled and made it halfway through a game of National Parks Monopoly (I was in bad shape until I finally struck a deal with Ester for the oranges, then she began to lose money and interest, even though she had Yosemite and Yellowstone, the greens, and the "small shits"; Ben had tons of property but didn't do much trading, so he only had tents on the yellows for most of the game, eventually we agreed to more or less a draw, although he probably would have won.) It had stopped raining, so we decided to go for a walk, but by the time we were bundled up it had begun to snow. We went out anyway, cutting through the woods on the way to the general store, despite only one hat, one umbrella and two hoods between the three of us. Sue and Hanna both have new hairdos, but they didn't have tortillas (i figure I should note this, since Ben and Ester did) so we made do with a coupla limes and a Diet Coke. Dinner as such didn't really end up happening anyway, just late night mac and cheese, blue corn chips, grapes, newtons, candy corn, and the pie, which got rave reviews although it wasn't very pretty. The liquor cabinet was surprisingly well stocked (besides the expected five varieties of Scotch), so we availed ourselves and, with the aide of the Joy of Cooking (!?) headed down the road with Margaritas (not bad), Screwdrivers (hard to screw up), Bloody Marys (a failed experiment), and White Russians (courtesy of Ben, decent but too strong for any of us to finish). I still wasn't drunk: I think I'm just destined not to be friends with alcohol. Somebody (not me) suggested strip games, so we got out a deck and cycled through Bloody Knuckles, Rummy, Hearts, Ratscrew, Bullshit, and Indian Poker, giving up when Ben and I were shirtless and Ester was just in her underwear. Basically, she decided to stop playing at that point. Girls. I searched for a working flashlight so as to start up the sweat lodge, but no good. Eventually we just read as Ben requested. I read all but the epilogue of "Sotweed," and even broached "Aurora Leigh."
Sunny this time, but still cold, we decided to leave in the early afternoon, once we had laundered, dished, swept, straightened, thrown out some soup, signed the guest book, carried wood, etc. like good little boys and girls. We also had time to walk around the island and to go for a brief paddle down the river, with Ben in the stern, and the headwind on the return threatening to freeze my fingers off. The visit was short, but it didn't feel overly so, especially since the weather made it hard to do much outside. I am determined to get a larger group up there over winter break.
The ride home started off uncertainly, but once Ben got some air in the tires he cheered up and we listened to "Crooked Rain", his eclectic "Parisian" mix, Jill Sobule, Ellington, the New Deal, Joni. I read the end of "Sotweed" and much of "Celia, a Slave." The only major stop was at "The Meat Store of the North," where Ben had the staff in a flurry looking for a souvenir and Ester and I got sammiches. When it got too dark to read we played the rhyming words game, then "Famous People" (Scooby-doo, Gilda), then "the cliff game" aka "breakfast lunch dinner" aka "housebox" aka character assassination. It was determined that Ester would rather marry Ani DiFranco than anyone in the world. Ben snapped at me a few times for teasing Ester or being a culture snob, which maybe I deserve, I don't know, but it sort of seems like he's just being protective and unreasonable, or even self-righteous and in any case I wish he would chill out a bit. It's not a major issue, but it makes me feel uncertain about myself or his opinion of me. Not that I doubt our friendship or anything. I'll say something to him about it, although of course he'll already have read this. Whatever.
He mentioned in his journal that he and Ester have been calling each other "Darling" and "Honey" a lot, which is very true now that I think about it, but I didn't even really notice it that much. As he says, it isn't annoying at all. I liked being with them for so much time. They're such a wonderful couple; it didn't make me unhappy or anything, just a little nostalgic maybe. On Wednesday night, all in our underwear, we discussed "our biggest problems." They correctly addressed theirs - difficulty with stress and unwillingness to dance - and we talked about my situation some more. They argued that I should stop what Jess called "the kicking" with Liza for various practical and moral reasons, some more valid than others; we talked about the nature of guilt and whose behalf I should consider first on making decisions. But nobody asked me (as I think nobody has yet) what I want to do. Perhaps it seemed apparent, since I was playing devils-advocate, but I had been growing more and more skeptical about continuing kicking it. As I told Ester about a month ago, I don't really want to be in a relationship this semester, with the exception of the one I'm in. The reason that I was thinking of continuing it, I realized, was more for Liza's sake than my own: it's what she wants, or at least claims to, despite the cost.
We pulled into Seven Bridges once more at around nine, and as Ben watched the Yanks with his Padre, I made arrangements with DeDe for some jazz-at-noonage the next day, complained to Ester about Celia (the topic is interesting, but the writing is preposterously speculative and dry, and Melton - is that a he or a she? - insists on including every possible historical detail even if it has nothing to do with the narrative), and met the marathoner. Later we went out again, sneaking through Ben's mom's dark house to a small room with two computers and a beat junkies CD. A stream of e-mails brought good news - Avalanches on the way; Kokrabi Lobi, of all people, coming to Swarthmore; two e-mails from Alyssa, more on which later. Ester and Ben updated, but I was too tired and overcome by cat-dander. I slept in a real bed back at Igor's, one I didn't want to wake up from.
I woke up seven hours later, by way of alarm clock, but I clung to the comforter until about fifteen minutes before Delia arrived, throwing my stuff into the pack, ingesting Bunny Munches. We stopped by the house long enough to pick up Mike, then to the station, where we were shuffled back and forth along the side of the tracks, ascertained the location of the Knitting Factory, got on the train. We walked through a tunnel and came up near where the vice president had spoken the night before; I had almost forgotten we had a vice president. But that's all stuff.
Cafe St. Bart's, on Park Avenue across from the Waldorf, is a gorgeous old ballroom now somehow connected with a church, and it's where Jazz at Noon has been happening for the last month or so. I'm ashamed to admit I had never been before. It was a fabulous experience. Benjamin does a good job of describing the show and the room, so I don't feel like I have to. The waitstaff were not clad in white tunicky pajamas as advertised (too cold), but they were cheerful enough, and happy to bring four crab cakes for the older portion of the contingent. I went with a blue-cheese-burger (I ordered bacon but it didn't show, as also didn't the onion roll it was supposed to come on), which was good but didn't make me want to give up vegetarianism; Ester's grilled cheese wasn't particularly inspiring either. The best part of the food was probably the medley of breads in a flower pot centerpiece. But who cares about food: the music was great - all standards, most of which I knew, although Myron didn't get to sing enough and wasn't miked enough. I especially enjoyed the drummer, a Mt. Sinai cardiac surgeon in a pink shirt who offered to let me sit in on a kit that "was old when we started" (nigh thirty-seven long years.) The bandleader's sax playing was the only weak link, an opinion corroborated by our most garrolous companion, Pat Thalheimer (she remembers me as the Ruben Bladés guy), who sat across from me. On her right was her more resigned husband, and on her left was my great-aunt Harriet, a marvelous lady with marvelous specs who had just flown in from Berkeley the previous night. She engaged Ben in a discussion of the Berkeley art scene and the significance of the American flag, while the Thalheimer's exchanged contact info with Ester towards a job for the summer at an Art Hall on 5th between 2nd and 3rd, and I watched the band.
We left early, as it turned out unneccessarily, because Amtrak stuff took next to no time, but we paid our proud Sikh cabbie and examined the blessings of Lubbockians, and patronised the automatic ticket machines. When our train was called, I got separated in the shuffle and so wasn't able to say goodbye to Ben, but Ester and I reunited on the train, and after I plowed through as much Celia as I was willing to deal with, had what she called a "trademark discussion." She really is my sister now. Sometimes I almost call her Martha, which she said is an uglier name than Ester. Anyway, we talked about Ben, the sort of stuff I said before, and we talked about Alyssa. I had let her read the e-mails from Al the previous night; the first of which was quick and said "don't freak out," the second, called "more information," contained digs that made me feel pretty scummy ("I made a principled decision - I didn't want to cheat on my boyfriend"), painful reports of tears in rice, earnest statements of understanding for my philosophy on the subject, cautious expressions of tentative openness ("if you dig her, go for it, but it's dangerous to us"), and a thinly veiled marriage proposal. Ester was as struck by it as I was, and dictated a response asking to be the flower girl and to her friend. (The response to that was that she shouldn't denigrate herself to flowergirl status and that she is "way totally" Alyssa's friend.) All of this was gone over carefully in the train discussion, at the end of which Ester pulled me into her lap and said "you know, you have a hard time accepting blame." Yeah. Well.
Fifteen minutes later I was on the R3 sitting behind Elaina Barrosso, just returned from her first trip to NYC via NJT, and less than an hour later I was trying to force my key into the lock on the 3S door. After exulting in my new CDs (six free, plus MJ Cole from BMG), I had some leftover lentils from a container marked "Michelle" and headed back to the station, NYT magazine in tow. Jogged/paced down to South Street, passing all the young dudes, to a crowd outside the TLA, forty-year-olds talking about Billy Idol and Ron Wood, groups of college kids bantering about the Strokes, hearing echoes of myself in their pudgy resident indie-guru, passionately asserting things I've been known to say myself "just his name is so great, I mean, does any name sound more rock and roll than Julian Casablancas?" I got a ticket for the Beta Band, but my travellers cheques weren't good enough for Roots tix. I snagged the Astralwerks samplers and stickers and pushed through the crowd, perhaps half female, multi-racial, multi-generational. Rather than a warm-up band, the Betas were taking turns spinning records; hip-hop mostly, everything from KRS-1 to Pharcyde to Notorious to funky disco and bouncy lounge to the Clash to a steel-pan version of the Meters' "Cissy Strut," all forming a backdrop to several video shorts that, I gather, were directed by the band, the most memorable being shots of London bobbies skateboarding, guzzling beer, writing graffiti, etc. The Betas took the stage a little after ten and began to play along with the last record, gradually veering away from it until frontman Steve Mason picked up a guitar and started the insistent strumming of "It's Not Too Beautiful," perhaps their best song. While the other three looked like astronauts in their blue coverall pajamas adorned with countless patches, Mason, with his thick black square-framed specs, rainbow guitar strap and elegant dark oriental silk robe, reminded me of a sort of amalgam of Harry Potter and the wizards from Magical Mystery Tour. They have an odd sensibility - the stage is strewn with garlands of flowers as well as countless instruments (many of which went unplayed until a final percussion jam), and their playful background videos (rapid-fire shots of LP covers and a dreamy sequence of a Hindu-ish goddess playing with a floating watermelon, but mostly the band members goofing off in silly costumes in locations around Scotland and around the world) and self-conscious eclecticism bespeak an undeniable silliness, and yet they seem to expect their audience to take them seriously. Mason said little (except "Thank You" in a series of goofy voices), but sort of glowered bewilderingly at the crowd, jutting his head from side to side, posturing like a rapper holding the mic cord at crotchlevel. He took off the kimono before long to reveal white T-shirt and sweats and neck-chains, and repeated the same odd farewell in his deep grunting brogue at the end of the set and the encore: "Been a fuckin' pleasure. Cheer!" As for the music, it was a fairly faithful rendering of the recorded works, with markedly few all-out jams. Unfortunately, they only culled one number from their brilliant, inventive self-titled disc, whose all-over-the-map arrangements would have made for keen entertainment, and instead focused on their latest album. The songs that are good on the record are good live, but too often the tepid tempos and limited melodies of many of the tunes were just as lackluster live. I was amazed at how many noises the four members could create; of course, seeing at least two of them spending a good deal of time hunched over black consoles makes me suspicious. They pulled out "Dry the Rain" as a mid-set crowd-pleaser, and closed with II of the Hottest Shots from the new one, "Squares" and the funky "Broke," which garnered a double-drum-set breakdown. The encore offered little different from the rest of set, neither returning to the first record's material nor pulling out all the stops with the hard-core hip-hop of "Won" from the new disc as I was hoping. All in all, it was a fun show, but - having seen now three bands that I've heard called the best band in the world (Beta, Godspeed, R-Head), I can safely say that the Beta Band is not that.
On the way out I ran into Corey Mark with Rachel Kane, Andrea from African, and ?Kristen, who let me ride back with them. They even stopped at Wawa, where I guessed at what groceries might come in handy (bananas, carrots, milk, bread, Edy's Dreamery.) I had time to do a bit of reading before the phone finally rang its long-awaited ring. Missa Lyssa, calling from Japan, said not to worry about the cult, reiterated some of the things in her e-mail, agreed that she (and probably I as well) had been concieving our relationship in somewhat different terms than how we had been explicitly discussing it. When she said this summer that she didn't want me to feel restricted by her as an absent presence, she meant not that I shouldn't let the thought of her dominate my actions, but more that if I for whatever reason wanted to become involved with someone else, I should be free to do so, but at the expense of our relationship. Foolishly perhaps, I took that at face value, while she felt that a more "traditional" arrangement was implicit. She said on the phone that she wished she was more comfortable with a more open attitude, in line with some of the things I had been thinking, but it was clear that she was struggling with it. If it makes her uncomfortable, as it seems to, I have no desire to continue, even if I thought we might be able to emerge unscathed. She thanked me for being so nice to her. My only reply was that I wouldn't not be nice to her. She used up a few phone cards, and as I was saying my sorry, the phone cut out. I went back to reading, but a few minutes later she called back again, so we could end it on a more decisive note- me: "we're going to get married." her:"later" me: "only if we want to."