01 July 2006

Brooklyn and Queens: The Great Divide

This World Cup business is taking its toll. It's almost as bad as having a job, even now that the pace has slowed down to where there are days off and only two games per day, soon to be reduced to one, instead of three or four, the way it was last week. But it still plays havoc with trying to have any other kind of life, especially with one kicking off at 11 am and the other at 3 pm; although there's a two hour break between matches, how much are you realistically going to get done in that space? And if I were as ambitious as I'd like to be, I could be up at 7, back from the gym by 9, and still have a couple hours to do errands or clean house before the first match started.

In reality, as it was today, I lollygagged about until it was too late to go to the gym, entirely wasted the two hours after the riveting if not top-quality match between Germany and Argentina, which left me unable to watch the 3 o'clock match between Italy and the Ukraine at all, because I had to write the Punk Planet column that I was supposed to finish in betweeen matches. Yes, I know I could have written the Punk Planet column on any one of the previous 30 or 40 days, but it kind of goes against my grain to write anything in advance of the deadline (which was today) on the theory that if I were to die or the magazine go out of business or any similar number of unlikely but possible eventualites, I would have done all that work for nothing.

Not a particularly rational rationale, but apparently it's the way I roll. So there I am on a beautiful sunny day, sequestered in my basement and frantically typing and editing the last few words and sending them off just before they shut up shop in Chicago for the day (being in the Eastern time zone gives me an extra hour leeway, but after living in England all this time, I'm used to an extra six hours. Never mind, it's done, and at last I'm off to Manhattan as the last of the sunshine disappears behind some buildings and encroaching clouds. By the time I get off the train the thunder is rumbling, and moments later a fierce north wind comes sweeping down Ninth Avenue following by an almost frigid autumnal downpour.

It's been a wet week, more humid and swampy than full-fledged rainy, though we've gotten soaked several times. Nothing like upstate, though, where there are towns under ten feet of water. At the beginning of the week they predicted that it was going to rain like hell for seven days or so, but in fact most of the rain fell on Maryland, Pennsylvania, Jersey and mainland New York. At the end of the week they predicted that the rain was finally finished, that we were going to enjoy several days of warm, sunny weather. So, fool that I am, for the first time this week, I didn't take my umbrella. Never mind; at this point I don't care anymore. Years of life in London have conditioned me to walk defiantly through the rain, consoled by a smug awareness that once again the Weather Bureau has proven itself to be Even Dumber Than I Am.

I'm supposed to be back in Brooklyn by 8 or 8:30 to attend a gig at Tommy's Tavern in Greenpoint. It's the last show of a band called Bent Outta Shape, who I've never seen before, but who, I'm assured, are pretty much the linchpin of the Brooklyn punk scene. Which makes it kind of a drag that they're breaking up, but at least I'll see what I'll be missing in the months and years to come. There are a bunch of other bands, too, and I'm meant to meet Aaron Cometbus and Jonathan Tesnakis there, both of whom have promised to give me copies of new zines, though I'm forced to disclose that only Jonathan comes through on his promise. Also there are Hallie from the Unlovables with her boyfriend Matt, Michael Silverberg, of the Potatomen and Awesome Dude and the Consquences, some fellow named Justin, who apparently was a intern at Lookout Records in what we semi-jocularly called the declining years, and half a dozen other marginal acquaintances.

Notable by their absence: almost everyone from the New York Pop Punk Clique, who'd journeyed instead to the wilds of New Brunswick, New Jersey for a different show. I'd been invited along too, but I thought I should stay local and support my own neighborhood. Besides, I'd taken a similar trip to New Brunswick almost exactly 20 years ago, which coincidentally was the last time I spent more than a few days in Brooklyn. That time we were going to see the Ramones, who were playing a free show at Rutgers, and I found both the show - the Ramones were entering their declining years - and the journey uninspiring.

Not that that has a whole lot to do with anything. My main point was that while the largely Queens-based NYPPC often makes noises about uniting with the Brooklyn scene, Newtown Creek has thus far proved to be an unbridgeable barrier. Well, yes, there is a literal bridge between the boroughs; I'm talking metaphorically here, okay? So the clique were all off with the Ergs and the Steinways and the Groucho Marxists, leaving only me (and Hallie, but she's Brooklyn-based anyway) as their cultural emissary.

Well, I'm here to report that the Brooklyn punks weren't nearly as alien as might have been feared. A little too much facial hair, perhaps, and maybe an ever-so-slight patina of PBR-style hipsterism, but for the most part they were a friendly, happy-go-lucky bunch, just as prone to dancing and punching the air and singing along with the band as our own marginally more upmarket clique. If the Baltimore fest reminded me of Gilman circa 1987, this was Gilman 1997. Think American Steel back when they were still trying to copy Crimpshrine and Op Ivy. There was a lot more faffing about than necessary in between songs, very possibly due to the aforementioned PBR, but once they (I'm specifically referring to Bent Outta Shape now) got going, there was some impressive energy in the room. Just as at the fest, the crowd knew the words well enough to outsing the band on some of the numbers, and there was a bittersweet quality to the proceedings, as you'd expect. Jonathan had been talking to me very earnestly and at length about his zine, but the minute the band started tuning up, he dashed away, shouting over his shoulder, "I've gotta say goodbye to a part of New York."

I didn't get to stay to the end, partly because I wasn't feeling well (some rather alarming chest pains, actually, though I think/hope they have more to do with pizza and donuts than impending heart trouble), and partly because there's the gym, laundry, the England-Portugal match, and Oliver's last Punk Rock Barbecue to contend with tomorrow. If this is all to go off as planned, I'll need to be up by about 7:30 in the morning. It's 3:18 am now. Wish me luck. Or tell me I'm crazy. You'll be right either way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you are a moron