Sweet Bird Of Youth

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?!”

schoemer formationThe Schoemer Formation

Sat Mar 8 Spotty Dog  Hudson NY

Thu Mar 13 The Low Beat  Albany NY

13 thoughts on “Sweet Bird Of Youth

  1. amyrigby

    You’re sweet, Marti. I was just reminding Eric of our “door bell” routine onstage, remember where we’d be dying up there waiting for Eric to ring the bell?! I hope you are doing okay, lots of love to you.

  2. dinahmow

    I’ve always thought your writing would “take you somewhere.” And here you are, forming a new band, clubbing in Manhattan in the wee hours and getting younger.An inspiration to us all!

  3. Johnny

    My wife who is of a similar vintage to you was also id’d in a store in Chicago, she was impressed that she had been asked. However it wasn’t so good when the request was made at a bar on Beale St, Memphis and she had forgotten it. No formality there, they refused her entry!

    1. amyrigby

      Johnny, somewhere on this blog there’s a photo of my daughter with Ari Up from the Slits – she was clearly an (amazing looking) older woman and a friend brought her to see my daughter’s show in NYC (at the very same bar I mentioned above) – they refused to let her in without an id! And were rude about it. At the same time I’ve heard of bartenders being arrested for serving somebody without an ID..but it gets pretty ridiculous. On the other side of the bar, it’s sweet when I card someone and the birthdate is circa 1976 – they get this glow (especially the men)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s