Here I sit in New Haven, Connecticut, sweating my balls off and waiting for this cat to attack my feet. I know he'll do it. I've seen that look before, peering over the end of the sofa bed, eyes wide with the night crazies. Any minute now he'll either maul my foot or suddenly run gallumphing into the kitchen. But the foot'll get it one way or the other.
Me & this cat (not mine) are staying in this third-floor frame-house apartment courtesy of my friends Burke & Michele, who will apparently let just about anyone into their home. They're the kind of people that prove there's such a thing as a good vegetarian. Sorry, just being crass (surprised?). Seriously, they watched me eat many foods that once had faces and didn't once consign me to Hades.
The Wifely One's in Wyoming, & I decided to change my scenery for a day or so by hopping on Metro North's New Haven rail line. My old friend & classmate Burke was kind enough to show me the sights, the most sightly being Yale University. Impressions:
1. Wow, this place looks expensive.
2. I'm sure the entrance to the massively domed Woolsey Hall is empty to call attention to its walls, which are inscribed with the names of Yale's war veterans, but it just looks like they forgot to put the stuff in.
3. Damn. This place looks expensive.
4. The library has translucent marble walls. How fucking cool!
5. But I'll bet that was expensive.
I like to be all unimpressed with big colleges & their big money to make bigass fucking stone buildings, but I can find nary a bad word to say about Yale's architects. Beats my old Alma Mater, anyway. But then, I never was a fan of blue tiled coyotes.
After the tour, we go to a cool little record shop that has old-ass arcade games. I figure what the hell, & fire up a game of Centipede. Suddenly I'm kicking big craploads of ass, blasting the little bastards away like I was the Waco Kid. They twist & turn, I match their move. Little fucking spider thinks he can distract me, BAM! You too, dragon-looking thingywhopper. BAM! Gooooal!! Round 2! BAM! Little bastards. And I'm collecting a crowd. Well, it's Burke and this little kid, but it's a crowd. BAM! And that! And this one's for your mother! WHAM! Round 3! BAM!
Wait a minute. I was never any good at Centipede.
BOOM! The little spider gives me the what-for. Damn! I shouldn't have thought anything. I should've cleared my mind, like...BOOM! Aggh, little fucking spider, kicking my ass, I'll...BOOM! Rats. Gotta stop thinking...dammit, Game Over. Little bastards. And I've lost my crowd. Good grief.
I'd like to say that I slew my inner demons of classic psychological torture & scored a goal for the human spirit. But instead I switched to Dig Dug, which I remembered as being easier. It wasn't, it just had cuter death theme music (wa, wa, wonk, waaa...). I did get to put my initials into the Centipede machine, though. I don't think anyone's played it in a lonnng time. Not anyone with re-beginners' luck, anyway.
After that escapade, scarfed a cow at The Educated Burgher, a regular burger joint with books high up on the walls, all out of reach. Symbolic? You be the judge.
We wandered over half of New Haven's burgeoning Razor Wire District looking for a restaurant, most of which were closed for the non-collegiate season. The town reminds me a lot of good ol' Denton, TX, but with a few more seedy elements thrown in. Ended up finding a decent little Mexican place about a block from where we'd started, but I guess a long circular walk never hurt anyone. Badly, anyway.
The trip up was interesting, too. Little Tibetan guy in one of those Steven Seagal-looking outfits sits next to me on the train. You know how you sometimes think someone's looking at you, but you don't want to look & find out because then you'll be looking at them? And then they'll look over at you to see if you're looking at them, so even if they weren't looking at you originally, they are now? Man.
So now I'm concentrating very hard on not looking at Mr. Tibetan Man, & focusing on the passing scenery. Which also looks expensive. Not the Bronx section of the trip, but just past it. Places like Pelham, Norwalk, Stamford, & Southport. Prettiest little New England frame houses you ever saw, nestled in tree groves & along inlets with boat slips & gazebos shining in the morning sun. Yeah, you know that shit's expensive. Especially since they're an hour outside New York City.
Though something happens when the train hits Bridgeport, two stops before New Haven. It's just like the U.S./Canada border in Michigan, where you're enjoying a lovely day in beautiful little Windsor, Ontario, & you go through one little tunnel. Suddenly you're in fucking Detroit, with rusted cranes rising through the brown fog out of endless slag heaps & row upon row of broken-paned factories. Bridgeport isn't quite the wasteland Detroit is (sorry, Detroit fans), but the niceness of the preceding cities makes it look like a little piece of Cleveland (sorry, Cleveland fans) broke off & drifted around the coast, washing up in Connecticut, & nobody knows how to push it back out to sea. I can't ever live in most of the towns I'm passing, though, because The Largest Nationwide Digital Phone Network (sorry, Sprint fans) didn't bother to build many towers out here.
As I write this back at Burke & Michelle's place, my new cat friend has decided to fake me out by rustling around under the sofa-bed, playing with clumps of dust, presumably. He's not fooling me.
Well, that was unexpected. I fell asleep writing that last sentence. Woke up a couple of times during the night to the scrabbling under the bed, & it took a moment or two to figure out that it wasn't a rat before dropping back to sleep. And somehow my feet survived the night. He was thinking it, though, he just chickened out.
Several hours later, I'm now on the R Train to Brooklyn. I think I needed a day out of town, because pulling into Grand Central Station was rather magical. New York, New Yorrrrrk!! Wifely's plane will be touching down soon, so I have to get home & delete all the Asian porn I downloaded while she was gone. I'm heading back to Manhattan tonight for Glen Phillips' show at Joe's Pub. The last band I saw there around New Year's was TERRIBLE, much like the one I witnessed Friday night in Greenwich Village. I was there to see Pinataland, the ultimate tuba-n-accordion experience. But first this cavalcade of mediocrity had to squeench itself stageward.
First there was I-Use-Weird-Tunings-So-I-Must-Be-Joni-Mitchell Girl. Hoy. Then Ben-Folds'-Slow-Witted-Brother-Jeb-Folds Guy. Hoy! The next offering requires a bit of explanation for you folks outside NYC.
New York has a peculiar musical infestation that I've not seen in other cities. I think it's the result of people not making it on Broadway & deciding on forming a band instead. And since Broadway is EEEVIL, the resultant bands are as you might expect: Cute little songs with cute little arrangements & cute little lyrics that make Raffi look like Paul Simon. And fucking cute little stories about how these fucking cute little songs were written in their fucking cute little bathtubs one night after their fucking cute little boyfriend had said some fucking cute little thing about Van der Graaf Generators and his fucking cute little hair and they play a fucking cute little ditty called Electrostatic Love for 7...fucking...cute...little...minutes.
And they somehow think the addition of Manhattan Transfer-esque vocal harmonies & bizarre percussion implements is going to add something edible to this noxious stew. It does: hatred. Hatred of people whose dream it is to sing Surrey With the Fringe on Top with Sandy Duncan or whoever the fuck, then retire to the clubs to inflict their own very special compositions on the poor, unsuspecting music fans. Christ on a fucking cute little stick.
Anyway, Pinataland mostly washed the toilety gruel out of my ears. But I'm hoping Glen will cleanse any remnants tonight. I'm a Toad the Wet Sprocket fan from way back, & I really like his new record, Abulum. Though I've never really been cool enough for Joe's Pub. But honestly, I'm not cool enough for clubs in general. I'm more the stick that stirs the melting pot. Whisk, whisk.
9:00 PM -
Well, I thought that would be the end of this week's letter, but I had some reflections on tonight's show. It's always odd being in the same room with someone who's shaped so much of your artistic voice. Back when I was 17, Toad the Wet Sprocket proved to me that smart nice guys could make good records, & I can definitely hear a lot of Glen's touches in my own vocals.
While he was on stage, I didn't get quite the chills Roger Waters' (of Pink Floyd, for those who don't know) presence gave me at his concert a few years ago, but Glen's persona is nowhere near as humongous as Waters'. As a matter of fact, after the show I walked right past Glen on the way to the bathroom & nearly didn't notice him.
He was talking to a friend in the hallway, & just looking about as nonchalant as a musical hero can look. That's why he's Glen and Roger is "Mr. Waters". Me & Glen glanced at each other, smiled & nodded as I passed again on the way out, & I didn't stop to lob praises at him. Such things are uncomfortable for both parties.
See, I have this thing: I want to meet my influences, but I want to meet them on equal footing, where we're both professional musicians, not star-&-fan. I hope it'll happen at some point. Sigh. Workin' on it.
Anyway, I'm still kinda starstruck regardless, so I'll end this letter before it induces nausea. Uhhhh, fuck poop pee ass shit. There, all better?
P.S: There were cows in Times Square on Monday morning. For a moment I thought Jean-Luc had been fucking around with the space-time continuum again & Fort Worth had merged into Manhattan. I still don't know why they were there, but you'd better believe I watched my step.