04 June 2006

Sleep With The Midgets

Even though it's owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Sunday Times is not usually a hotbed of sensationalism. Hence this tale of gunplay on a local commune that apparently featured "sex with dwarves and lesbian orgies" came as a bit of a surprise. Not so much that it happened; New York is big enough that almost anything that could happen probably is happening at any given time in some corner of the five boroughs. Like, for example, the marching band that, for no apparent reason, tootled down my normally quiet residential street early this Sunday morning. No, what surprises me is that this managed to make the papers in London while it seems to have gotten little or no play here in the city where it happened. Are communal hippie shootouts that common that they no longer raise much of an eyebrow around here, let alone a coment? Granted, this all took place on weird and remote Staten Island, a place which doesn't feature prominently in the consciousness of most New Yorkers. The subway doesn't even go there, so how important could it be, right?

But even as I type, I realize that I've barely been looking at the New York papers since I've been here, so maybe I just missed the whole thing. But I didn't miss the prominent mention in the New York Times Sunday Book Review of Gabrielle Bell (full disclosure: yes, she is my niece, but she can't help that; she's brilliant, talented and beautiful nonetheless). My bragging about this last night led to an argument with record mogul and regular man-about-town Jonnie Whoa Oh (but then there are few things that don't lead to an argument with Mr. W.O.). "My niece is in the Times," I said. "Saturday or Sunday?" he responded. "Why would it matter? I'm just so proud of her." "Okay," he says, "but it's just that Saturday is the least-read issue of the week. So I hope for her sake it's Sunday."

The usual rhetorical donnybrook ensued, reaching, also as usual, no conclusion, and eventually veered off into an even more vituperative discussion about Baltimore (not relevant here, but it will probably be covered later), during which Jonnie stomped off into the bar outside which this enlightening exchange of views was taking place.

He was doing himself no favors; the reason we were all huddled under an awning on the less picturesque fringes of Chinatown on this chilly, rainy night was not so much for the camaraderie or the scenery, but to avoid the agonies and terrors awaiting within the Hell Bar (not its real name, but they might as well go ahead and adopt some truth-in-packaging policies). Perhaps I lead too sheltered a life, but I was unaware that such places and such crowds existed, except maybe on television in the form of a Yo MTV Rapping at the Beach Blanket Real World Frat Party. Anyway, it was loud, it was obnoxious, it was unbelievably stupid, and for reasons that defy explication, our friend the Steinways were part of the featured entertainment.

But not so fast. First there was a singer-songwriter showcase, an unlikely enough juxtaposition that it should have resulted in the drunken yobbos grabbing acoustic guitars from the bleating folkies and doing a John Belushin a la Animal House on them. Unfortunately it didn't, but apparently (I have to rely on secondhand information here), the last of the folk singers, told by her manager, apparently, that she needed to do another song (things were already two hours behind schedule by now), threw a snit and announced that she was going to do the longest and most obscure song she knew. She was followed by a cover band, who provided the greatest hilarity of the night, albeit entirely unintentionally, I'm pretty sure, but who also droned and screeched on for something like an hour. But seriously, when is the last time you heard a gang of podgy frat boys attempting the likes of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir"? As I say, perhaps I don't get out often enough.

They were followed by New Jersey's Groucho Marxists, who, nothwithstanding any other merits, did perform the useful service of driving at least half of the beer-swilling party monsters out into the streets, so that by the time - going on 1 am - the Steinways came on, we had a modicum of breathing space in which to enjoy them. And enjoy them we did; in fact they were astounding. I hadn't seen them in a couple years, and at a momentary loss for words, I enthused, "Best band in Astoria! Best band in Queens! Best band in all of Long Island!" at which a dyspeptic Jonnie Whoa Oh sneered. "That's like saying, 'Breakfast! Best meal I had before noon today!'" One might infer he's not too enthusiastic about the scene this side of the East River. Ignore him. Regardless of how else one might put it, the Steinways = awesome, great, wonderful They've got a record out this month, too. Check it out.

That performance alone was worth the long, tedious journey home via the F and G trains, made longer and more tedious by my sleepily missing my transfer point and having to walk a mile through some part of Brooklyn where I was not best pleased to be. But there was an added benefit, an deeply philosophical discussion about building with Legos (something I have actually never done, but I suspect it was a metaphor) and whether you had to have a structural vision ahead of time or whether the structure simply revealed itself in the act of building. Apparently there is no balance without structure (or maybe I have that backwards) but what was truly hilarious was how the discussion was actually about someone's love life. Everyone but the person involved knew that, and the more vehement he grew on the subject of Legos, the more everyone else laughed. I never before believed that it was possible to injure oneself from sustained and uncontrollable laughter, but now I'm not so sure.

Anyway, remember that marching band I mentioned several paragraphs ago? Sounds like they're still out there somewhere. I must go investigate.


Patrick said...

I wonder if that was The Hungry Marching Band. I think they're from Brooklyn.

jwhoaoh said...

""Why would it matter? I'm just so proud of her."

except that this phrase wasn't uttered and most certainly wasn't uttered in between what I said. I demand a retraction and a public apology.

With love,
A man about town

Larry Livermore said...

It was a paraphrase.

Patrick said...

You both seem to make good points. Why don't we settle this with the flip of a loonie?

crumbly said...

Thanks Larry. I learned something new, having to look up the word:

vi·tu·per·a·tive Audio pronunciation of "vituperative" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (v-tpr--tv, -ty-, -p-r-, v-)

Using, containing, or marked by harshly abusive censure.

Jesse said...

I too have been heckled for appreciating the Steinways, and I doubt we're alone in that.

jett said...

the marching band was most likely from the local high school. i never know why they march either. one day, another school was marching down bedford ave, and they were doing a marching band version of michael jackson's "don't stop til you get enough." that was pretty awesome.

Larry Livermore said...

<< the marching band was most likely from the local high school.>>

Except they all looked about 80 years old.

jett said...

nrperhaps they were from the Swinging 60s Senior Center, which is also where i vote.

Jonathan said...

That hippie commune on Staten Island is great. They own vintage clothing/furniture stores all around the area near the ferry, and sometimes you'll see them outside milling about and generally looking crazy.

F to the G trains, huh? Sounds like you might live in my old neighborhood. I'm back in New York for good now (or at least until grad school) but I've see Aaron Cometbus more in the past 2 years than I have you.

Shoot me a line at jtesnakis@gmail.com, and we ought to get together for coffee or somesuch.