It's been a cranky week for Writerless... annoying editing setbacks, difficulties transferring analogue files... the older I get, the harder it is to move on from technology to technology. Things get technically easier, but across the board, quality suffers. Nothing like home-made pie, reel-to-reel recordings, dark-room printed photographs... I found one someone made of my son as an adolescent-- it was like a cross between a Calvin Klein ad and a Rebel Without a Cause handbill. Shot on the old roof of my building which is now divvied up among the rich for their air conditioning outboard equipment, it was timeless-- powerful... it had a vibe. Things today don't seem to have a vibe. Go pick up your new KAWS Uniqlo T-shirt... be a walking cartoon ad... I see the same tattoos on people, over and over.
Last weekend was my 45th college reunion. Did I go? Have I ever? I am a lifetime committed absentee. But Thursday and Friday night I played (again) at the (44th?) Max's Kansas City Reunion Extravaganza. It was in a different venue this time which didn't quite feel right... besides, the bar portion of the club where you enter is a late-night hang-out for the young nouveau LES high-renters who have only just discovered the eighties. Hardly anyone over 30; as opposed to the Max's performers and audience on the 'venue' side who were pretty much 50 and up. On the way in I pass 2 young couples engaged in a little drunken hysterical repartee and this tall blonde spontaneously throws her drink in the air-- maybe unintentionally... christens me everywhere, except fortunately my old motorcycle boots shield me from the broken glass as it shattered on the hard floor. So she looks at me-- points... Are you gonna buy me a drink? I let her have it, verbally. Are you going to buy me a new shirt and jeans, I ask her? Getting into full-armed Princeton bitch mode... I stared her down accusatively...until she backed off... but it changed my 'vibe' (that word again) and that was on her.
After a week of gigs--- subways, walking-- not a single purchased drink or bag of chips--- I earned $50. Yes. That is the deal. Either you play in tribute bands, club dates, do Broadway... or have a job. I remember way back as a young bassist someone in a punk band told me I played like I had a job. I did-- have a job, that is. If you wanna really play, he said-- quit your day job. So I did. He was right... there's a difference... but looking around the room at the Max's reunion, nearly everyone played like they had a job--- or a husband.. or a trust fund, or an inheritance... except the few of us who stood around without drinks (for playing for no money, you get 50% off at the bar which is still out-of-reach) waiting to play like our lives depend on it (they do). Of course the few bands who were successful from the old days were not there (Blondie, Television, etc.) Or passed on (Lou Reed, etc.)... or decided to have a job, become a doctor or lawyer.
Anyway, Saturday I worked all day at my friend's gallery to help make my monthly apartment payment. I had no sleep, no lunch... some free coffee... but at 6 PM on the way home I had $2 and besides a hot dog, there isn't much you can do with it. Union Square market is so pricey... no samples out at that hour, stands are packed up for the day and despite the advice from the HRA that you use your foodstamps at greenmarkets, they want your credit not benefit card. Then I see the Martin's Pretzel truck.. loading up... remember they have those $1 plastic baggies of broken pieces... get a little energy buzz... until the vendor guy says to me-- nah.. no more... all packed up... except in a barrel waiting for loading are a bunch of bags that look about to become trash... How much, I ask? $5 he says. $5... for a small sandwich bag of crumbs. I look sheepish... How much you got, he asks? I show him the contents of my poor wallet... $2... okay, he says, as though he is splitting his steak dinner with me and while I eagerly tear into the bag because I am on the verge of passing out, he points his finger in my face and says... like you would scold a misbehaving child... Remember that, next week. I wanted to spit the pretzel at him... they are stale and hard enough to break a tooth-- another unaffordable... but he had my $2 and I'm not that stupid. I had no choice except put him in that mental box with the drink-spiller of the previous night.
On to the 4 train which is backed up and local and messed up and everyone is cranky. There is a pre-Puerto Rican day crowd and demonstrators from another parade and the car is packed. I am sitting next to a fat asshole in a tank top with cheap tattoos and shorts and he has his phone angled so he seems to be photographing the strange-looking crotch of the guy crammed in over us. He gives me a sideways look and shuts his phone down. We are stuck at 28th St... and a girl across the car seems to be freaking out... she is cursing under her breath and scrunching her face and slapping her knees... but she is a knockout... maybe 27... black hair, pale eyes... white skin and this look of punk exoticism from another planet. So the fat asshole is maybe trying to flirt with her... and he asks.. What's your problem? She answers-- and she is tough... I'm pregnant and I'm sick and I need to get home. Me..I offer her a pretzel... but she is getting into it with the asshole who calls her a cunt and other things...and she stands up and starts ragging on him... until some crazy old woman (my age?) takes the stage waving her handmade flyers and shouting at us all because we are cruel meat eaters.
Anyway, the fat asshole is now standing up in his shorts which are disturbingly short and enough to make us all sick.... and I gently grab the pregnant girl and walk her down to the end of the car. It's not worth it, I say. You have to protect your baby... which I can't really see, because honestly she doesn't look pregnant to me... but who cares? Anyway, after a few minutes of the fat guy ranting about women some hefty black girl built like a linebacker walks over to him and screams in his face and makes a fist and all hell is about to break loose but the guy realizes he's like a Trump supporter in a small crowd of democrats and Gay Rights Activists and Black Lives Matter supporters and he sits down... then a young black kid with dreads goes over and rags on him, too, calls him a motherfucker and cocksucker and other things... and the car is cheering him on... but the pregnant girl and I are by the rear car door and the train is finally moving and now her eyes get red and she is worn down and starts weeping on me. I remember how a train accident caused me to lose a baby once... and think... here.. this could be the one, the girl that has my baby's donated organs-- and she is really hanging onto me now-- letting it go--- and here we are, like a religious pastiche of Mother and Weeping unidentified Daughter... and finally it is my stop and she says she'll be okay.
The black guy says he'll make sure she gets off safe in East Harlem... and now I am on my way home where I can strategize the $1.82 left on my benefit card until Tuesday and I'm nearly safe. I'm weeping myself, wet with the pregnant girl's tears which could be DNA-simpatico to my own, the taste of the stale salt pretzel on my tongue like a bad communion wafer, and the stench of that spilled drink still in my nose because I have on the same old jeans.
The phone rings as I come in and it's an ex-boyfriend driving back from Nashville, lying his ass off as usual about how he misses me and about a phantom divorce except he doesn't know I know he's not so secretly married and he makes an excuse he has to fix something in the car when it's another call from his wife, because these stalking spouses have radar for when their men call ex-girlfriends... but then I turn the ringer off... and I remember it was he that took that great shot of my son on the roof... kind of a good souvenir of a bad relationship... and I also realize someone found my missing guitar strap and the evening sunset is just so warm and the city is almost quiet up in my hood... just the car radios and the Puerto Rican flag wavers yelling as they pass... and I can still play bass like I don't have a job, which I don't, except for playing bass... and for now I can close my front door and rule the world. Que vaya con Dios, I pray to my pregnant daughter-- another orphaned dream in the urban mix.