Trip Start Jun 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, August 2, 2010

            DAY FORTY-ONE:  We wake early with the intent of picking up Evan up at the airport in New York by 2pm (she's flying in to see Shmark), but we get lost on the way to Katya's as we try to pick up Tristan, and everyone’s in a negative mood, stewing in the extreme humidity. We go to Tristan, he goes to Circuit City, we reconvene, I poop and buy some bagels at a bagelry, and we’re on the road.            

            The ride into New York sucks in a million ways.  They’re still doing the accents, and they’re still annoying, we’re hours late, it’s sweltering and I’m drenched, and I really don’t feel like talking to anyone.  We’ve probably spent $40 on toll roads since Boston and the piano sounds chunky and plodding while The Beard plays it, trying to work out a new song of his, repeating over and over and over.  We decide that it’s too difficult to pick Evan up at the airport so I wake Shmark to ask him to tell her so, and he snaps at me with furrowing eyebrows, how dare I suggest this again, and so now I’m just like, hey, you know, fuck it all.  New York will be, and always is, loud and crowded and hot (unless it’s freezing) and expensive, and feels right now like it’s the last thing in the world I want.  All my friends are offering places to sleep and parties to crash and potential places to park, and I’m grateful to them but none of it seems good enough to counter the city’s smell and the cheese is melting and the rest of my Moxie is all flat and warm.  I’m not complaining, though, or venting: I’m introducing a dramatic element for the sake of story.  It wouldn’t be interesting for you as readers, were it always, "like, life is good."  So no, right now, life isn’t necessarily good, and though it isn’t bad, either, I really just want to go back to sleep or to take a bath and read a book.  Shmark is currently brushing his teeth and tidying up the bus in anticipation of Evan, which is slightly endearing in the face of his ever-cool attitude, and then there’s this bus full of inner-city summer camp kids who gaze wild-eyed into our open door on the freeway, waving and making faces and flashing rock star signs, which is endearing to another level.  Also, tonight at Prospect Park is a free concert with The Swell Season, who is great, and whose lead singer looks exactly like Cornbread.  I’m excited to see all my friends, too, and Shmark and I are learning a bunch of new songs to play tonight, so hey, shit’s on the upswing.  Oh, and we manage to pretend to be a school bus, and avoid paying $5.50 on the toll turnpike. Prospect Park!

            The town is all chain link fences and Astroturf, at least heading into Brooklyn, having greeted and welcomed back with excitement our old friend Evan at the airport.  Through all of this, as always, I’m moving in and out of attention, focused instead on usually my supplying a soundtrack over the speakers with the land whipping past me from the windows beyond, so I can’t properly define the landscape between JFK Airport and Brooklyn, but I suppose one can make assumptions.  We park Pearl alongside a cemetery in the latter borough and get some sunflower seeds, hot dogs, and drinks in the gas station across the street.  We sit, we breathe, we vent, we relax – oh man, I hated that drive in, and I think we all did – and we hit the pavement for a nice stroll into Prospect Park for a free summer series: Low Anthem and The Swell Season, where I find my old friend, Alan Weitz (Darin Fleisch), as planned, sitting on a blanket, waiting for us.  I immediately jump on him with excitement, hugging and writhing on the floor, then introduce him to the others (most of whom he’d met in Italy, but whatever, long time ago).  It’s not necessary to mention how good it was to see the fellow, but the spot he and his love, Sweeter Shelton, is behind a sign and from here it’s impossible to see the stage.  Sweeter returns with food and we share in a few good words, a lil’ bit o’ friction (kidding), then I am drawn in to the concert, complete with woodwinds and musical saws and extreme passion and oh all else.  Low Anthem are great, but we’re catching up over most of it, and by the time The Swell Season arrives, most of the bus is asleep on the blankets. 

            The Swell Season are amazing in person.  Glen Hansard is insanely passionate, his voice full of acid and love, stout and pain, and in the opening song he’s strumming so hard that he snaps all of his strings and has to sing the bridge acapella while his stagehand scrambles to give him a spare.  He’s playing the same guitar from his film, Once, which is full of holes from where he’s missed the strings, and you know he leaves quite a bit of blood on the stage every night.  Marketa Irglova, too, is lovely and shy and so talented, and we all marvel at her beauty and grace, her lilting harmonies and soft brogue.  What a wonderful concert, seriously.  I get a call from Crystal Sparvey and our dear and wonderful friend from Thailand, Edna Spatengarten, asking me when the concert ends, and I’m like, “yeah, yeah, I’ll call you when blah blah, I can’t hear you, gotta go, music,” though I’m so excited to see them (good music trumps all, you see).  In turn, it’s that they’ve been pranking me from just outside the gates all along, and, having been forbidden entrance by security, and they ambush me, poor water-sipping Hickory, tackling me onto the dirt, liquid spilling everywhere, tumbling onto my face in the dirt, screams and giggles and joy in abundance, and it’s so great to see the two, no doubt.  Still, I’m captivated by the show, and it continues, and it continues, and again it continues when we think it will end, so I shuttle between friends and music before the show ends with Low Anthem and The Swell Season collaborating with special guest JOSH RITTER (foretold while we were in Montana, as he was a name discussed often out there), in a cover of Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere, which we had covered this very day.

            There’s an ice cream truck outside, and some of us go on ahead toward the bus, and we all chat and bid goodbye to Alan and Sweeter, who have an hour to travel on the subway, before driving the bus to Sunset Park, where our host and friend, Eitan Weaver, lives.  He greets with grand hugs and we’re sitting on a case of PBR, so with his company, again parked in front of a cemetery, where we all sip and sing a small sample of numbers.  I’ve taken to the harmonica holder, and have come to even walk around town with it, playing in G when I’m refueling the bus, when I’m walking down a leafy sidewalk, while I’m eating: it’s just more rockstar with Hohner.

            We get to Eitan’s apartment to drop our things off, where he’s just so happy and willing to do whatever, go wherever, just leave your bags there, no problem, here’s some Dewer’s, stop thanking me.  It’s a reminder of how much value in this trip lies in the friends we rediscover, or simply spend time with, and everyone takes to him, he one of Navin’s old friends, more quickly than I could have hoped.  With that said, I just caught a cockroach in my futon that was trying to burrow its way into my underwear; I just grabbed him and threw him across the dark room, where it may have landed in The Beard’s sleeping mouth for all I know.  Nice.

            By the time we’re ready to go anywhere or do anything outside of Pearl, it’s already 1am, but Eitan tells us of the bowling alley next door, called Melody Lanes, and so we hurry over there before it’s too late.  I guess it is too late in a sense, considering that all the lanes are full and the kegs are tapped, but we find the bartender to be worth everything.  He’s old and short and offers no neck, but wears suspendered tuxedo pants with a ruffled shirt and a red bow tie, with a wild storm of white hair centered by two fluffy sideburns and some rather large glasses.  He speaks shortly, quickly, “da tap’s busted.  I got bottles: Bud, Bud Light.  Whadya want?  Good, good, I’m gonna give you a special deal because da tap’s busted.  How many?  Good, good,” and he looks as if Larry David had shrunk a few inches, worn a pirate tux to an awards show, then got lost in a rabbit hole for ten years.  I’m chatting with Crystal and Edna about live between career and self, rather sincere stuff, when I see the bartender trying to force, his glasses slipping off his nose, his arm seemingly flying around, disconnected from his intent, a fistful of wadded bills into a too-small wicker basket, and I can’t help but laugh in her face.  It’s a nice night, though, with nice conversation, and when the burly woman in charge gets on her bullhorn to simply say, “it’s 2am,” we know to leave before it gets ugly, and by the time we’re at Eitan’s place, we’re left to the floor on which to sleep, and we’re glad for it.  I’m sharing the rug with Cornbread, hip to thigh, and struggle with his feet in my face.  I mean, Cornbread, you are really one of the most outstanding people that I’ve ever met, and I love you and respect you greatly, but your feet are kind of gnarled from this trip.  I’m not saying mine aren’t, of course, but yours ARE.

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