2-20-05, 1:11 PM -
One might find it odd that in this country, or indeed anywhere in the world, a man could make it to his 31st birthday before drinking his first full cup of coffee. But then, odd is my ouvre.
It's an established fact of my temperament that I'm suspicious of ubiquity. If a large portion of the population does something, my first suspicion is that such a thing must surely have something wrong with it. It's a strange combination of liberal elitism and conservative knee-jerk rejectionism. "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it?" was likely coined by one of my ancestors. But as with alcohol, marriage, and Titanic, there often comes a time when I finally give in.
Last night I hoofed the extra few blocks to our local F train station, the better to transfer to the G at Smith & 9th, the highest point in the NYC subway system. New York readers, I know the question you're asking: Why on Pete's green earth would you want to get on the G train? And well you should ask.
The G train, for those unfamiliar, is the only train that runs between Brooklyn & Queens without first going through Manhattan. It also has the distinction of stopping numerous times in some of Brooklyn's worst neighborhoods, including lovely, bullethole-embossed Bedford-Stuyvesant. Consequently, the G train's ridership is a bit on the thin side.
But what was more important to me last night was where else it goes, which is the Greenpoint/Williamsburg Tragic Haircut District. A truism I've carried with me from my Dallas days is that where there are tragic haircuts, there are rehearsal studios. Thus, with rentarhythmsection.com flyers studiously manila-foldered in my bag (along with a copy of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days to keep me grounded), I set off into the hipster wasteland to tout my wares.
I started in Greenpoint, my favorite of the two northwestern Brooklyn neighborhoods. Greenpoint is often referred to as an area "on the verge", which means that the pretty young white people have only just started to move in. The bulk of the neighborhood still looks like it has for some time, a modest collection of apartments & shops, mostly Polish, with a broad age range suggesting that generations have grown up, stayed, and died here.
Unfortunately, these people don't tend to have bands, so away to the waterfront I went, to where the warehouses show the beginnings of loftification: Fashionably dim lamps & curtains in the windows, furry-booted twiggy girls on the stoops smoking as indifferently as they can manage. I understand that trust-fund honky kids bring money to a neighborhood, but I really think we should start setting some immigration limits, or the whole of the five boroughs will soon be plastered over with Cat Power posters and $6.00 latte stands.
Strolling toward the glowing Manhattan skyline across the East River, I felt good. So good, in fact, that I wanted a beer. No idea how that connection gets made, but it does. So after finding two of the studios on my list locked up and impenetrable, I was happy to see a round Guinness sign dangling down from a pole outside a modest Irish pub. It was cold out, and a good pint would help lubricate those things what needed lubricating.
One pint of Guinness later, I ambled back towards the train, grabbing a slice of cheap pizza on the way before I took the G to Greenpoint's rather more expensive next-door-neighbor, the ever-stylish Williamsburg. When I first moved here, I said that Williamsburg is what Deep Ellum desperately wants to be, and 3 years has only deepened the area's cachet, not to mention driving the rents up. $4.75 for a slice of pizza at Sal's, you gotta be kidding me, but I reckon Sal's just trying to stave off eviction.
Making my way around to several area studios and finding them to be just as shuttered as Greenpoint's, it became apparent to me that nobody rehearses on a Saturday night. Which is funny, because I know how hard it is to get a gig on a Saturday night in this town, so either the bands who rent these spaces are really good, or Saturday is designated as Heroin-n-Sushi Night. Either way, I was fucked.
Feeling a drop in the air temperature, I felt a hankering for hot chocolate. A coffee shop on Lorimer Street looked to be the ticket, but upon entering I found that coffee products occupied the entire menu, which in this day and age is almost unheard of. What, no $5.00 biscotti?
Anyway, I was cold & a bit slow-blooded from the beer, so I got a Mocha, the closest thing I could find to a hot chocolate. I figured at the very least, I could sugar it up enough to cover the dirty-water taste that coffee has always given off to me. While my cup was being prepared, I noticed a piece of fine print at the bottom of the menu: "All drinks triple shot ristretto".
Now, I know about as much about coffee as I know about football, which is to say enough to lie through a brief and undetailed conversation on the subject, but not much more. Consequently, I wasn't sure what the disclaimer (or claimer, possibly) was supposed to be telling me. But I was cold, and the drink presented to me was piping hot, making short work of my deliberation.
I loaded the decently-sized cup with enough sugar and cinnamon to choke a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and sat down with a Village Voice, the only paper allowed in the joint, it would seem. The thing was actually pretty good. The coffee whang that had always kept me from finishing a whole cup was masked sufficiently to let me drink up unimpeded, and scarcely was one Voice article finished than I was slurping the dregs from the bottom.
I rose to go, and immediately felt that something was wrong. Not sick, really, but not well. The world swirled around a bit as I walked towards the door, which I hit with a force normally reserved for malfunctioning computers and overheating cars. Hmm. I didn't appear to know my own strength. Heading back towards the train, I alternately stumbled and bounded down the sidewalk, knowing I wasn't quite myself but not sure who then I might be. I alarmed a lady passing me on the station steps with a grin that was larger and likely more manic than I had intended to give, and I recalled a moment later that I hadn't smiled at a stranger in a subway station for quite a while. Something was wrong.
On the train home, my brain began racing through the various things I had already thought about that day, but somehow they needed thinking about again, twice as hard and yet faster. I really needed to get home.
Upon setting foot in the door, I immediately went for the futon. Half of me wanted to go to sleep, and the other half wanted to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yet another half wanted a bigass bowl of ice cream, but didn't want to get up again for fear of falling over.
Instead, I made the brief journey from the futon to the studio, and looked up the following definition online:
Ristretto: This very short and sweet coffee is a normal amount of espresso coffee that has been stopped short. Water quantity will be around 20-25 ml compared to a normal shot of espresso being 30ml.
I thought for a moment. A pint of beer, following by a triple shot of concentrated espresso. I had just given myself a speedball.
It was then that the headache started. Just like that, as if the realization of my stupidity had caused the little man in my head to whack me with a hammer to pay me back for making his life difficult. Take that, you stupid human.
My suspicions of speedballery were confirmed as the aspirin took hold, leaving me with wide open eyes for the rest of the evening and well into the early morning, during which I couldn't do anything useful because my brain simply would not think straight.
Needless to say, it was a sleepless night, but I learned a valuable lesson: Coffee and beer do not a good combo make, particularly for 31-year-olds who've never consumed a great deal of either. I'm such a wiener.
2-25-05, 5:26 PM -
Now we come to a matter of some importance.
How to say this? How, how, how?
"Holy crap!" say the old folks. "Holy shit!" say the young. And "holy mother of fuck!" say I, for it is big news indeed.
To answer the FAQ's first: No, it wasn't an accident; yes, it was a bit sooner than we expected; no, I don't know whether it's a boy or girl, nor do I care.
The Wifely got the official word from the doctor today, but the little drugstore stripes have been pink since Sunday. The thing is so new, there's nothing to see on the ultrasound yet, but per the doc, "your uterus is definitely up to something."
How do I feel? Dazed a bit, but not as much as I would've been if it were unplanned. The next question is obvious: "But aren't you a poverty-riddled musician type?" Well, yes. But the thing is this: While I can theoretically spawn little matthews till my ninth decade, the female of the species is not so...I hesitate to say "lucky", because 95-year-olds really shouldn't be making babies...so it will suffice to say that the Wifely's pretty close to running out the clock on the childbearing front (though your average 33-year-old uterus normally takes longer than the month it took her to conceive, so don't give her the AARP card yet).
Anyway, we decided that it was better to have a child now when we knew it could be done than to wait until our lives are in perfect alignment with the universe and maybe turn around to find the baby window storkproofed. Time will tell if we made the right decision, but right now it feels pretty good. As of this month, I am Dad. Or Papi, depending on what neighborhood the child learns to speak in.
Those who've known me for a while are quite aware what this means: I finally get to inhabit the role I've played in various capacities for many years. I count as innumerable the number of times I've been told, "You sound like my dad." Just last week, a co-worker tipped her head at me after I'd dispensed a characteristic bit of wise old fartitude and said, "You know, you really need to be somebody's father." Backhanded though such comments may be, it would appear I've been given the chance to try it out. Poor kid.
Before anyone starts with the laundry list of "don't forget the's" and "you know, you have to's", I must say that both of us are in steady communication with our parents, who have successfully raised a number of children and can advise us on the whats and wherefores that await us. Many lifestyle changes are in store, and we're planning away into the wee hours, I assure you.
One thing that must also be made plain is that neither of us are giving up any creative ambitions. My life without music is as meaningless as Wifely's without writing, and one of the most important things I ever learned from my parents is that you should do what you enjoy. The new studio is still showing up in May, and the new album will be in production from then till whenever it gets done, but it will get done. In the meantime, Acoustic Surprises will continue, as will other projects with Naive Music. Fear not, the matthew show survives.
So there's all that. I'll keep you posted.
Now, speaking of matthew show activities, I actually have a pretty sizeable chunk of them to announce.
One is that I've just won 2nd place in the American Songwriter Magazine Lyric Contest. This was something I entered on a whim, but I'm pleased that the judges aren't anti-nerd. The issue featuring the lyrics to Bring Me Safely Down should be on newsstands now, at least the newsstands that carry American Songwriter. Try the larger bookstores or record shops if you want a copy, which you should get, because it's a hell of a magazine.
Another cool thing is that I've been featured and interviewed in an article for the new Brooklyn magazine The Deli. Writer Marie Helene did a bang-up job researching and reporting on me, which I appreciate, and I must say that the rest of the magazine is well worth your time as well, very smart and very well written. Those in NYC can pick up the hard copy, but each issue is available in its entirety online.
Speaking of things available online, I've just hurled forth another Acoustic Surprise. Since I've been cranking the Tom Waits lately, I felt the need to pay tribute by covering one of my favorite Waits tunes, the inimitable Chocolate Jesus. It's reeeeally short and easy to play, and since I was already late in getting this one out, there you go.
Switching deities for a moment, I've been informed that the release of Hurry Home Early, the Warren Zevon tribute album containing my cover of Mohammed's Radio, has been pushed back to May 31st. Fortunately, the reason for this move is not bad news, but the fact that the producers have been offered wider distribution and have been contacted by Zevon's son Jordan, who wants to add a surprise track to the disc before its release. I'll give you more details as I get them. In the meantime, check out the lineup.
I'd also like to announce another radio station in the matthew show appreciation club, that being WDOA in Worcester, Massachusetts. I encourage you to listen online, as they obviously have splendid taste. Besides, they keep pissing the FCC off, which is one of the more noble things one can do these days.
Whew. Lotta news there. But to paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, life without news is like a broken pencil: Pointless.
7-27-05, 6:57 PM -
Okay, I should probably wrap this up because there's a pork roast in the oven and a hankering in my belly. Why do I always write my letters on days when I'm eating pork? Perverse streak, perhaps. Though really, the locals can't smell it on my breath, and if they did, how would they know what it was? I could be eating yak for all they know. Mmm, yak roast...
Right, now it's just gotten stupid. Best to all, and remember, keep a hat on it unless you wanna join me on the parenthood train. That stuff works fast.