It’s supposed to be a moment of calm, yoga class. A safe interlude where you unplug, unwind.
Why is the instructor talking about house concerts?
I know she’s trying to make an uplifting point but – please don’t.
Seems she was at a fabulous house concert last night, you know this area is just teeming with wonderful musicians and here she was, sitting not two feet from these incredible performers and they were clearly feeling their bliss, doing what they love to do…
And all I can think is – wait, what house concert? Why haven’t they asked us to play? Why was I sitting at home last night? Because nobody wants me. My relaxed breathing turns to a choked wheeze.
But c’mon, you played last Saturday and it went fine and then this weekend and another one this month too – and you’ve been working on other things, growing as a person and-
But probably nobody will come next time, I haven’t been proactive enough spreading the word, and the week after that, was I supposed to create a Facebook event for that one? I asked if they wanted a poster, nobody ever got back to me about that so hopefully it’s okay…I should make sure the show’s even up on the website.
Will anybody come?They would if I was as wonderful as these gifted performers who blew yoga teacher’s mind with their open honest sharing of their gift of music. Better rehearse some more, at least I can do that.
And…breathe. Oh where is Sondra, the regular teacher, the one who lifts me up by helping me into a shoulder stand rather than sending me spiraling into doubt and self-pity?
And, all together now – Ohmmmm.
Find a fixed point and hold it…Maggie.
Maggie Estep. She taught here, right here in this room. Her photo is up at the front on a little table, next to the one of the guy in the orange robe.
How can she be gone? I didn’t know her, just saw her around, walking her dog. When we first moved here, I thought this must be the coolest place if a great writer/performer/interesting person like her is a neighbor.
She died two years ago, at fifty. She’s here with us still, an everyday saint.
Looking at her photo in the yoga studio, I feel humbled. I feel honored. Because I get to be alive.
At the end of the class, the instructor brings up the house concert again. Wow, those two whoever they were really moved her. It should only make me glad. When she says to go out and share our passion like these inspiring musicians did, I promise I will too.
When she asks for one more ohhhm, I give it all I’ve got.
“Oh, late. I just wanted to hear your voice. Mmm, what are you wearing?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know…a big smile now that I’m talking to you.”
Remember telephones? The mystery, the illusion you could sustain talking to your love while they were far away?
Now we have FaceTime.
“Oh! Hello, yeah I’m just coming into the kitchen here” (catch glimpse of self in laptop screen and quickly block available light source to hide bags under eyes and eyeglasses sliding down nose. Try to look into husband’s eyes and avoid sneaking glances at my smaller image in corner of screen but surreptitiously adjust lighting in room, struggling to remember which is my better side) “There we go! How’s everything?”
It makes sense to use the technology available to us, right? It’s free, and immediate. It’s what we dreamed of growing up watching The Jetsons: “And someday, people will talk to each other on tv screens!”
I imagine someone will tell me about this marvelous program that is the equivalent of vaseline over the lens and glamour lighting that makes both parties appear twenty years younger and extremely well-rested and dressed by a stylist. (I don’t have the heart to search for it. We’re married, not dating here. But please let me know if you know anything.)
I listen and talk while trying to eat a slice of pizza just out of frame. “Where are you?” No illusions here, I can clearly see the Premier Inn headboard. Feel sad, thinking of all our times in Premier Inns.
“There’s the kitchen!” he says, and sounds sad himself. “Travel” as glamorous illusion is often better than the reality. “Home” as concept is a movie set that sits in darkness when you’re not there — the way a baby believes its mother stops existing when she’s out of the line of vision — but the actual sight of the untidy counter, amplifier in the corner, all signs of life going on without you, well they make you feel that distance.
Another problem with FaceTime is that aside from restaurant meals, encounter sessions and prison visits, there is something unnatural about sitting face to face with your spouse. We spend a lot more time side by side: in the car, on walks, eating dinner on the couch in front of (insert name of whatever series here), on stage even, or in bed reading and listening to the Archers.
There is a plus side to all this. That reunion you used to have, when you finally see each other after weeks apart but one of you has just been on a transatlantic flight, the other’s had a hellish drive through rush hour traffic and when you run to embrace, the first thing you say is “It’s so good to see you – poor thing, you look exhausted.”
After the flat screen, vicious lighting, bad timing, crap angles – the real thing looks wonderful.
Sunday dawned bright and hopeful: I would put more steering fluid in the Subaru and it would work fine, and I would have a peaceful Sunday morning in the coffee place of my choice.
Neither of these things happened.
First I packed up my stuff — it was time to leave the Airbnb for a stay at a friend’s place near Belmont — and when I brought it all out to the car, there was a large patch of steering fluid on the driveway. Add that to the list of annoyances my hosts were toting up: “and she leaked fluids everywhere!” (standard hotel guest behavior but rude when it’s not anonymous.)
Another trip to AutoZone and then maneuvered into the parking lot at Frothy Monkey – oh my God,there was a line from the counter, out the front door, down the porch steps and along the sidewalk. Same thing at Bongo Java. But it was 9:15 AM on a Sunday morning! What, do these people go to church or somethin- oh right, I was in Nashville. I remember being asked at my daughter’s school back when “Have y’all chosen a church yet?” and well-meaning parents bringing my heathen child to service…on Wednesday night!
I managed to maneuver the car out of a parking spot and drove to my friend Joy’s. She’s a great country singer who’s been laying low for some years. We walked her dogs through the neighborhood, gaping at graceful old cottages turned into three story behemoths. It’s still a beautiful part of town, Belmont. I love this time of year for looking at the bare bones of peoples’ gardens and landscaping, much easier to see how they do it before the leaves and flowers fill it all in.
So I was not going anywhere for a few days, except on foot. It was fun anyway, if a little stressful. I went to a yoga class at this incredible new community center for three dollars. Had to cancel my writing date with Bill Lloyd which sucked, he and I have written some good songs together. Joy and I sat talking for hours about the old days, I pictured us in another ten years, my car now on blocks outside, busting out songs and albums and photos for each other, a regular alt-country Grey Gardens “And then that guy, what was his name, y’know, that song plugger back in aught-three…”
Joy hooked me up with her mechanic Johnny, who assured me “You just sit tight baby and we’ll get you rockin’ and rollin’ in no time.” AAA paid for itself with a tow to his place and much quicker than he said he would, he called and said “Where you at? I’ll come pick you up.” He was blasting Led Zeppelin from my Subaru’s radio. What a sweetheart, Johnny. He told me to give the last garage hell for not tightening things properly and barely charged me.
I drove away from his shop and just around the corner was my daughter’s high school: Nashville School of the Arts. This was too good, I really wanted to take a picture to send her. My timing was a little weird – it was exactly three PM, the end of the school day. All of a sudden I was stuck in a line of cars picking up disenfranchised, creative teenagers — hair dyed in unnatural colors, black t-shirts, fingerless gloves, loose plaid shirts, Converse — as if the last ten years hadn’t happened. I was like a Mom who’d been put in the deep-freeze and comes to one weekday afternoon: “Must…make…school…run. Offspring…is…waiting, for…meeeee.” I felt kind of creepy sitting there in the line, trying to surreptitiously snap a photo, being careful not to aim my phone at any living creature for fear someone would notice I was just cruising by without there being a teenager waiting for me.
When I stopped for a coffee (whee! I seem to be one of those people who just goes around on foot or now by car getting coffee all day) I heard “Amy? Amy Rigby is that you?” It was like a TV show, “Steve Allen, what are you doing here?” My old friend and sometime guitar player Steve, who used to always joke that my life was a TV show. We had a lovely chat, and again it was that feeling of I know it’s all changing and being over-developed but I love this town (from a safe distance, as a visitor).
I said goodbye to Joy and decided to hang around in town a little longer – I’d really wanted to try writing something. I got together with Bill DeMain, who I wrote “Keep It To Yourself “with. It was great to see his new place and we sat talking for ages, and I kept thinking “it’s fine if it doesn’t happen.” But then, just like the old days, he said he had some chords and a melody on the piano and I said I had this feeling/idea and an hour later we had a song. I told him we were like Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam and part of the magic of me and Bill is he knew exactly what I meant.
Met up with friends Trip and Nancy and it was so cool how we were drinking cocktails in a bar called Duke’s and I heard this really familiar voice coming out of the speakers. “What’s that song…wait, it’s Eric/Len Bright Combo “You’re Gonna Screw My Head Off”! I think they play one of Eric’s records every night in this place. They make fabulous cocktails too and even serve deli sandwiches at all hours.
I was staying at another Airbnb now, a perfect entire home/apartment option. I had the odd experience of pulling away in the car from my little cottage and passing this kindly-looking couple out for a morning walk. “Do I know those people?” I thought. “They look so famili- oh shit, they’re the people from the Airbnb I stayed at last time I was in Nashville.” I practically ducked down as I drove past, not that I’m not allowed to stay anywhere I want but they were such nice people and I guess I could lie and say it’s a friend’s I’m staying at but – don’t you hate the new transparency sometimes? I can’t imagine ever having to explain to Mr. Howard Johnson that Mr. Hilton has more what I’m in the mood for. I’m sure they wouldn’t care, really. But sometimes the world is just too small.
More nice times visiting with friends, hearing music. I stopped in at Alex the Great where I recorded The Sugar Tree with Brad Jones. I went straight to the Fellini/Francoise Sagan sixties photo book of sexy ladies that sits on a shelf in the control room, like a kid at grandma’s house checking that the Hummel figurines are still standing guard. “They’re still here…I dream about this place.” Brad gave Hazel her first bass when we lived here, and I got to play him some tracks from her Outside World album, proud mama.
I’d stretched it an extra day because when I arrived in town I’d been greeted by a billboard advertising Burt Bacharach with the Nashville Symphony. Marc Nathan, a super-sweet music guy who’d done the convoy with my faltering Subaru, offered me a ticket – it really felt like the only chance I’d ever have to see Burt.
When I was leaving for the show and thought out of sheer habit “It’s time to hide the tour money”I realized what it is to be on vacation, not on tour because I HAD NO MONEY LEFT. On tour the wad grows and on vacation you get down to zero (or below). Economics 101. Still, I thought it had been really worthwhile, and I hadn’t even seen Burt Bacharach yet.
So I’m trying to drive down to lower Broadway in a massive traffic jam because it’s also March Madness AND probably Keith Urban playing. A couple police cars come through sirens and lights blaring and I’ve pulled over to let them through. When I try to get back in the lane of traffic (the other lane is the on ramp for the interstate), a big black Range Rover won’t let me back in. I try and try and the guy keeps inching in front of me. I roll down my window and say “Could you please let me back in?” He gives me a pitying look and sort of chortles, shaking his head. I couldn’t help it, I leaned out the window and said “You are a cunt.” Too many trips in the passenger seat on the M25 or the A11. When a light changed and the opportunity came, I shot in front of him.
I’m not proud of myself. He probably thought I said “you are a coot” but he deserved it.
Marc and I meet up, late cause of the traffic but we take our seats in Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, two rows back from the stage. When Burt walks on, he is as cool and suave and as much the man of my mother’s dreams — which was the beginning of my love for him, that album Reach Out with him in action on the cover — as he could possibly be. And the symphony sweeps in:
“What the world, needs now – is love, sweet love – it’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.”
Oh why did I call that guy a c**t?
Because he was acting like one. But who cares? He’s not thinking about me. And I’m at Burt Bacharach! I’m on the edge of my seat and on the verge of tears for however long he plays, sings, conducts. talks to the audience.
“This is just what I do, play music,” he says at one point. “Try to make people feel something.” He is eighty-eight years old.
Who said, this is a marathon, not a sprint? A moment like this is a paper cup from one of those big orange plastic water jugs along the road to as long as I can keep going. Thank you Marc! Thank you Burt!
I felt so sad to leave Nashville. Jon Graboff said he was playing with Iris DeMent opening for John Prine at the Ryman on Saturday. And something great after that I’d have to miss. And something else. But I knew I’d be back.
Driving out of town, I popped the Lovin Spoonful cassette I’d bought into the player. Whoever had gotten rid of this Greatest Hits left it cued up to the middle of the tape:
I was stuck the morning I left for Nashville. I couldn’t seem to leave the house, kept washing dishes and straightening up. Afraid to go. I think it’s the first time we’ve both been gone at the same time. When I went to England in December my movements were tied to Eric: our friends and family, his gigs. Nashville was my place, but it isn’t anymore. Why am I going to Nashville? All these things went through my head as I wiped the kitchen counter again.
Freedom! When I was in the car and somewhere in Pennsylvania, listening to WNYC or WFMU, I started getting into my road trip. It was a beautiful day, the trees as bare as they could possibly be but the light hinting at spring, it was like the whole world was glowing.
Then it was getting dark and by Virginia I was cursing my poor eyesight. I wish I’d sorted out my eyeglass situation before I left. I have these Warby Parker frames which I don’t like with a new prescription, then my old sunglasses with the old prescription. The WP customer service really want me to be happy, they said I can switch out the frames whenever I want but I haven’t had a chance. Stupid glasses, I hate you!
Best Western at Staunton VA is a spot Eric and I have stayed in before. It’s retiree central, being near the Blue Ridge scenic route, and also home to the Statler Brothers though I may be one of the few people who knows or cares about that anymore. It also sits right next door to Rowe Family Restaurant which used to be one of the mecca spots in Jane and Michael Stern’s Road Food Good Food. Eric and I ate there once, they are famous for chicken and pie. It didn’t seem that special anymore.
The only thing open after I checked in was Texas Roadhouse. I imagined it’d be kind of fun and characterful in an artifiicial way but it was depressing and bland in a real way; grim with awful lighting and a weird mix of rock hits playing loudly throughout the restaurant. It made me miss Eric, he is the master of these situations, the grimmer the better. I ordered a huge glass of wine, mac & cheese and chicken tenders, not being able to face anything else on the menu that would require the use of one of the huge Bowie knives they were distributing to every table.
In the morning I finally got a chance to use the pool which I’d only looked at longingly the last few times we stayed there. I also had the experience of the fabled freight train they always warned about on check-in roaring past the windows of my room.
The rest of the drive, eight more hours, went by in a blur as I was listening to Helen Fielding’s “Mad About The Boy”. It’s Bridget Jones twenty years on, very entertaining. I know I should be improving my mind with Great Literature, I even thought of using this trip to listen to Anna Karenina but it just seemed wrong. Bridget Jones is about right for driving past “Jerky Warehouse with over 200 Varieties” and Frozen Head State Park.
I checked into my Airbnb, it was in a down home part of town untouched by the development that is rampant in Nashville, brick ranch house with a car port, v.g. I drove out to look for something to eat but by the time I got the the Smiling Elephant, a Thai place everyone raves about, they were closing up. The woman went to the kitchen and came back with two boxes of rolls and gave them to me : “here! you enjoy.” No charge. I devoured the rolls in the car in a parking lot, that’s a weird thing about a fifteen hour drive, in the end you don’t want to leave the safety of the car, it feels like a turtle shell.
I woke up super-early, on central time now, and feeling weird in a stranger’s house, got out immediately to go get coffee, thinking I’d beat the rush hour. It was 6:45 AM and there were already lines of cars, I remember how Nashville runs on this early schedule but there are lots more cars now. I went to the Frothy Monkey, I spent a lot of time there when I lived not far away. They were playing “The Grand Tour” by George Jones and “Set Em Up Joe” by Vern Gosdin, old school country and that made me happy. A little boy screamed at his parents “I don’t want to take a nap!” and I thought “wait, isn’t it only 7:30 AM? What time do these people get up?”
Later I took a walk at Radnor Lake, another of the places I just automatically head to out of habit. I’d forgotten how beautiful this nature preserve is, mist rising off the water, pine needles underfoot ontrasting with women impeccably sportily-dressed and coiffed in full makeup on the trails. Then I couldn’t help it, I was drawn to Green Hills Mall where a guy who looked like just like Luke Wheeler in the TV show Nashville was wheeling and dealing on a cellphone. I took in the splendor of the over-the-top family portraits outside a photography studio, so many things here remind me of hanging out with Hazel, it was a little us-against-the-world when we lived here what feels like a lifetime ago.
I went back to try and play guitar a little and take a shower but I couldn’t relax in my lodging and missed the anonymity of a hotel. Does anybody else have a similar problem with Airbnb? I think I’m just too self-conscious to ever stay in a stranger’s house when the stranger is present. I imagine my every action being cause for irritation and comment, maybe because I’d be intolerant myself. At night I kept picturing this couple in their room just next door, sitting up in bed, Kindles propped on their laps.
“Think she runs enough water?” he says. “Sounds like a hand washer.”
She’s the one who suggested they host guests to earn some extra cash, so feels inclinded to defend me. She listens. “No, I don’t think so.” She thinks a minute, and decides marital loyalty requires her to join in a little light guest bashing. “She does seem to wash her hair a lot! I heard her running the hair dryer again this afternoon if you can believe it.”
“And what’s with the space heater? I mean, we have heating. It’s practically spring!” and on and on.
Note to self: in future, check Entire home/apt. option.
The Bluebird was like a dream, everybody (Bill Lloyd, David Mead and Andrea Zonn were my in the round partners) was so good. The ole Nashville magic where you’re so surrounded by talent you just want to do and be your best and it all clicks together. Except for some old friends the room was full of tourists but it wasn’t the nightmare it could’ve been, everybody was super-respectful and into it, even the nearby table of bridal party night out twenty-somethings. I knew as we were playing that already my trip had been worthwhile.
I met up with my friends David & Jolean next morning and we went to the Country Hall of Fame & Museum, just happening to bump into Bill DeMain doing his Walkin Nashville tour on the way. It’s always felt like being in a TV show here, where all these interesting characters keep popping up in cameos from my first day in Nashville many years ago when I saw Billy Joe Shaver slinging a guitar case into the back of a pick up truck on Music Row. We had fun looking at the Sam Phillips exhibit and revisiting Nashville Cats which is so popular they’re keeping it up until summer.
Then I was exploring in East Nashville. It was seventy degrees so I rolled back my sunroof and was trying to listen to the Richard Marx cassette I bought at Fond Object when – I couldn’t turn the wheel of the car! Shit. It was possible to turn with great effort but didn’t feel safe, so I did what one does in these situations: went through Krispy Kreme drive-through. I don’t even eat donuts and stuff like that much anymore but I just couldn’t think straight without sugar and fat coursing through my veins. I bought some power steering fluid at Auto Zone and began to be able to turn the wheel so just thought phew, crisis averted and even felt kind of pleased with myself.
But when I was driving to join David & Jolean and their pal Marc for dinner later, the power steering cut out again to the point where I could only make a really wide turn to park out on the edge of town and had to walk over the interstate to meet them at this really nice restaurant. Yes, every trip to Nashville I have to end up feeling like the Barbara Harris character in Robert Altman’s Nashville at least one time, limping along highway traffic, maybe a few runs in my tights. forlorn and bedraggled but ultimately hopeful.
+ I love the new (to me) Subaru. I’m really looking forward to driving it to Nashville.
– The car needs a new head gasket.
+At least it was already at the garage when I found that out, and not on the side of the road somewhere.
– I was supposed to drop Eric off at JFK, spend the night at my brother’s in Manhattan and knock a few hours off the drive down south, but the car wasn’t ready yet.
+ The car would be ready Wednesday.
– It’s an expensive repair.
+ Eric has a few weeks of shows in Belgium.
+ There’s a great Subaru mechanic in Catskill, and he says once this repair is done, the car will be in great shape.
– They’ll probably tell us they don’t want our business again because I was such a pain about trying to get the car in time to leave for the airport and ended up practically crying and shrieking on the phone with the mechanic’s wife.
+I called her back and apologized in a phony calm voice and told her everything was fine and “We’ll just rent a car today, no problem! See you tomorrow, thanks so much!”
– This election is becoming real. I’m worried. On the trip to drop Eric off at the airport I drove past Donald J. Trump State Park, Trump Links and Trump Pavilion. I don’t want to live in a tacky oligarchy.
+I have the right to vote. Every vote counts.
+I still have my French residence card, just in case.
-I don’t want to live in France, I want to live here.
+ I’m playing at the Bluebird in Nashville on Friday with my old friend Bill Lloyd, and David Mead and Andrea Zonn. I may play my songs sitting in a chair that Roger Miller once sat in. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of the songwriting community.
+ Yesterday I received a quarterly song publishing statement via email and “Direct Deposit Credited To Your Account”. Great! I could use some money for my trip to Nashville.
-Grand total of songwriting royalties payment credited to my account: three dollars.
+ I could always use another cup of coffee on the road.
“For years, for me it was that cycle: put out a new record, tour, write more songs; put out a new record, tour to promote the record.” The voice from the kitchen radio was talking about my life. Almost – I pulled up a dish sponge, a couple of pots and pans and settled in to listen. “Nowadays I just don’t write anywhere near as much.” He had my ear.
“And now, how does it work?” Good old Joe Donahue, the arts interviewer on our local public radio station. Joe has the warmest voice, asks the simple but probing questions.
“The thing is, I’m just in a really good place right now – I mean, I don’t have to work. Music’s been good to me, very good to me. I never have to work again.”
Okay, now I was hooked and dying to know – who was this super-successful guy? He sounded like somebody I almost knew.
“I get down to Nashville to write if somebody, Keith Urban or whoever, calls me up. I admit I got a little burnt out being on the road.” He continued: “…but now I just do it to be with the fans.”
I waited for it, that emotional hit that comes around this point in every Joe Donahue interview. Scrub, scrub. “I owe them…everything really. If it wasn’t for them buying the records, coming to the shows and singing along to every word…” I spun through the rolodex of my mind but he wasn’t giving me anything specific to go by. It was as if a computer was generating the answers from a bank of every music interview ever.
How did it come about, this latest solo tour you’re doing? Joe asked.
“Funny story – see, it was my manager. Now he’s from New Orleans (finally, a specific! Still, music managers from New Orleans is a subcategory in itself), so he has that down-home kind of attitude. I was feeling burnt out, hey – I’ve been on the road since the 80s (now we were getting somewhere, he was a hard-working journeyman who’d gotten lucky ) – and he said why don’t you try a solo acoustic thing? And I said “well how’s that going to work? No one will want to see that!” and he says, in that drawl of his, “What, you ain’t talented enough?” So yeah, the gauntlet had been thrown down and we just decided look, we’ll try a weekend, somewhere – Florida (Florida? There was a curve ball. Well I knew it wasn’t Jimmy Buffett or Tom Petty speaking…Florida, Florida…”Making The Band”, Lou Perlman and that sub-Backstreet group? was all I could come up with) , and if it didn’t work, fine, who’d know? And here I am, going back out again to play solo cause – I love it. It’s just me and a guitar and whatever I want to do, like if we were all just sitting around in my living room.”
I could hear Joe nod thoughtfully through the radio. “So what can we expect to see this weekend at the Colonial Theater?” (My hands were wet or I’d have grabbed my phone to look it up — anyway, I was having too much fun playing guess the beloved, confident but self-effacing 80’s and beyond hitmaker.)
I had scrubbed everything in sight. The hitmaker reeled off a list of song titles I didn’t recognize that he promised Joe were bound to generate mass singalongs. The kitchen was clean and I was none the wiser about…anything really. Maybe a vague realization that I’d spent the 80s listening to the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60s?
I waited a good four hours to search events at the Colonial Theater. I just felt closer to him wondering who he was.
I had a busy week around my birthday. Knowing we had a house concert coming up, in our own house, added a feeling of pressure to the proceedings. Not that pressure is bad – it means you’re alive and doing things which is good to remember at the start of another year.
I started the week sitting in a local sports bar at 9 AM with a group of other bartenders from Hudson, taking a required course in serving alcohol. The instructor showed us videos of out-of-work actors pretending to be wasted in bars with names like Mangos and Banana Joes. It turns out we are responsible should a person drink too much under our charge! If they commit a crime or harm someone else or themselves, we could find ourselves in court. I resolved to check more IDs and that resolve made me go ahead and schedule an eye appointment because with my worsening eyesight I can barely read the tiny birthdate with my old glasses and every state has a different layout on their license. I also learned (courtesy of the instructor, a sassy older lady from Saranac Lake who was speaking from personal experience) that should you pull over to the side of the road to sleep it off for a while, take your keys out of the ignition, or you could still be accused of operating a vehicle under the influence. Use it, for free.
Next I ran home to do one final check of the Toyota before the Cartalk Vehicle Donation program came to haul it away. I’m so glad I checked the CD player one last time, because one of my favorite ABBA albums was in there, The Visitors. Then I watched through the window as a man loaded our old baby on the back of a truck. I still feel a little wistful when I look out and it isn’t there in the drive, though I’m loving the Subaru and having a car where everything works.
I worked late at the bookstore/bar Monday, practicing my training tips and being thankful I work in such a benign place and not at Mangos of Maryland.
Early Tuesday I caught the train to the city. I was looking forward to seeing the snow as we’d had not one flake upstate – weird. I’d booked an eye exam at Warby Parker, desperate to get away from the clutches of Lenscrafters who seem to be the only option up around where we live. They were super-sweet and helpful with none of that “and you can upgrade to this reflection-free coating for another hundred dollars” up-selling that confuses me.
I met my daughter for lunch, she picked the place which was a relief, I never know where to eat in the city anymore and so end up at one of the places I’ve been to dozens of times already. It was Saam on Second Avenue and really good. The sun was out and we walked through narrow troughs between the snow, down around Washington Square park, just talking about stuff – it was great. The volume of people on the streets was way down thanks to the snow maybe, and it was that old magic feeling where the city belongs to you and you alone, not NYU.
My friend Norma found us at a coffee place and Hazel went off to work while Norma and I headed to the Strand. Yes, on my days off from the bookstore I inevitably end up in – another bookstore. The book energy is so high in the Strand, it makes me high. I walked out of there with possibly the worst book in the store, but it was the kind of inspiration I need, like if this mess can end up printed and bound and sold (albeit at a way reduced price), I can finish my book too.
We stopped for a pedicure at my favorite place on 14th Street, Beauty & Cutie, and then propped up the bar in Northern Spy where Hazel works while she poured us drinks and served us lovely small plates. It was a really quiet night in the East Village. Norma and I had hoped to go see Carol but we were having too much fun.
The day of my birthday I worked and I admit I checked Facebook a few times, it was really touching to read all the birthday wishes and I felt lucky to have so many pals out in the real and virtual world. Eric took me to eat at a nice place in Red Hook and then we went to BSP in Kingston to hear Duke McVnnie play. He has Jane Scarpantoni on cello and she’s one of the greats – not in a “look at how talented I am” way (though she is) but in a mad, go for broke sense that I wish I saw more often. Brian Dewan opened – he was my neighbor back in old Williamsburg and we hang out with him a lot but I’m always stunned to hear him sing and play, he’s so good.
The rest of the week was devoted to getting ready for our house show – hanging up fabric and moving chairs and rehearsing together. After years of playing many shows as a duo, we actually had to work at remembering how our old stuff goes, and learn each other’s new songs. I hate to focus on “getting old” but eyesight and memory are the kickers. In days past I could do something once in a song and go yeah, yeah, I’ll remember how that goes but now I need to write things down and not just a vague mark on a page but actual detailed notes. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been playing as much this past year or two, though that’s changing as I book more solo shows. Use it or lose it – though it’s helpful to remember what it is and why it’s worth holding on to…I think I’ve spent the last two years doing just that. Getting philosophical here but hell, it’s my birthday.
The house concert was a blast. We were almost ready when the guests started arriving, which is a change from other Aeroplanes. We had the help of Norma, up from the city (and Canada as she stood up and proudly declared in the middle of the concert!) and Danette who dresses as an air hostess and greets everyone. I’d bought a dress at the same vintage store in Hudson where I found the Penthouse Gallery frock that caused me such torment back in September (I still haven’t worn that one in public and may turn it into curtains); I thought I was going to have a similar meltdown and end up wearing jeans and a shirt but I was brave and wore it. We played a lot from Eric’s new album and some new songs from my album in the works. There was food (too much) and drink (just enough) and it felt like everyone had a good night.
We get to do the whole thing again in a few days. I think we’d better rehearse one more time because it will have been a week and now that I’m getting older, I don’t take anything for granted.
I’m pretty sure this photo from the Homemade Aeroplane is by Mark Lerner