In the land of old things, I was turning into an old thing myself. In France, I thought if I’d been ready for retirement – to raise vegetables, grow roses, tend animals and sit under a tree with a book – it would have been perfect. But it wasn’t time for that yet.
Here in the new land, it follows that I’m getting younger. Only last week, at a New York City bar, I was asked for ID to prove I was over twenty-one.
It was only a formality of course. They card everyone at that place, with a special machine that scans the IDs, while the bartender scowls. Then she hustles back to making tropical drinks, one of which looks like a toilet bowl of flaming lava. I watched her working like I watch bands on stage, with a knowing eye: oh, so that’s where she puts her bar rag…their beer is extra foamy…those glasses sure are piling up…how long have those loud businessmen been in here drinking shots…no wonder she scowls…
My brother was celebrating his birthday, and his band plays at this place, Otto’s Shrunken Head, every last Thursday of the month. A gang of us were there and it was like being twenty-four again, hanging out with my daughter and her boyfriend, diving into the photo booth to take pictures. We ended up in Veselka Ukrainian Restaurant at two in the frozen morning, eating pierogi and borscht and stuffed cabbage. Then riding the L train back through Brooklyn, the night train full not of hipsters but workers looking exhausted, the walls of the train still covered with those ads for changing your life, Go Back To School, only now the courses were in Social Media, Event Planning and Home Care instead of X-ray technician. Funny, the ride into Manhattan always has cultural uplift like Poetry In Motion, the cars back out to the boroughs the practical stuff, it’s one of those mysteries I’ve never understood, cause don’t the same trains just run back and forth?
I was living on the edge by taking a day to go to the city, in the middle of trying to turn in a book proposal for the 33 1/3 series and the submission deadline was looming. There were pages of material due, I kept thinking I wasn’t going to make it but in the end I pulled together my ideas for a book on Carole King’s Tapestry (each book in the series is devoted entirely to one album) and sent it off minutes before the deadline. When they published the entire list online (410 submissions) there were two for Tapestry.
“I bet yours wasn’t the one in all caps,” a friend said on Facebook.
I remembered my triumphant moment, when as requested I typed the artist and album title in the subject line of the email with proposal attached as Word doc.
If my literary career never takes off, there’s still a chance with this new band we’ve got: The Schoemer Formation. Karen Schoemer’s poetry and Eric and I playing bass, guitar and keyboards behind her. We played our first “gig” at the Homemade Aeroplane back in January. Now we’re rehearsing and planning our outfits for a show at the Spotty Dog in Hudson tomorrow. I’ve never been in a band where I just sat and played instruments before. It’s scary and fun.
And it’s only the beginning. Next week we have another show. Like I said, I must be getting younger because when Karen told us she’d booked the show, I actually got excited. I found myself saying, in a voice filled with wonder:
“We’ve got a gig, in a club – in Albany?!”
Sat Mar 8 Spotty Dog Hudson NY
Thu Mar 13 The Low Beat Albany NY