27 August 2006

The Wedding Party

We here in North Brooklyn have been virtually marooned this weekend, cut off from the island of Manhattan by yet another shutdown of the L(oser) line. Yes, it's still possible to get to the city; if you're desperate enough you can always walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, which only takes about an hour, i.e., about as long as you might wait for an L train late at night even when the accursed thing is "running."

But I exaggerate, as usual, and in reality I appreciate the New York subway and both the L and G lines that serve my neighborhood, and if you think I'm only saying that because I want to stay on good terms with the subway gods, you wouldn't be far from wrong. Actually, I've come to believe that the subways are animate beings of a high order, with senses so finely attuned that they can hear any disparaging remarks I make, pick up on any less than positive thoughts, and punish me accordingly. It's kind of like the time many years ago when I was sitting in a restaurant near the beach in Santa Monica, dining on a filet of shark, when I stopped in mid-mouthful and thought, "In another hour or two I'll be swimming in the same ocean that this shark came out of. And no doubt he's got brothers and uncles and cousins and friends and loyal members of the shark species who just might happen to get wind of what or who I was having for dinner."

I stopped then and there, and have never taken a bite of shark meat ever since, on the very sound (I think) principle that I should not eat anything that is capable of eating me. And so far, so good. Does the same principle apply to subways, which don't so much eat people, but devour the hours and days ane weeks and months of their lives? I don't know, but it's not the kind of thing I want to risk, so let's hear it for the subways, okay? I hear they're just great!

All that to point out that I've had to take a lot of strange detours these past few days, mostly by way of Queens, but I've still managed to get into town to see Rancid a couple more times and got a chance to have lunch with Tim A. as well, which was the first time we'd been able to sit down and talk in a couple years. I mentioned how exciting it was to see the reaction to the Operation Ivy songs - here's a band that put only one album and that's been broken up for 17 years, and yet people who weren't even born when that record came out were singing along with every word. Tonight they did "Knowledge" and followed it up with an electric version of "Sound System" that was just incredible. I took along a couple of 50 year olds who hadn't been to a punk show in 10 or 15 years and they were like, "Whoa, this stuff is still going on?" But they were both seriously impressed with the quality of the music and the intensity of the crowd.

Saturday I took the night off from Rancid and instead went to Desmond's Tavern on Park Avenue for one of Chadd Derkins' periodic punk rock shows. "Are you here for the bands?" the doorman asked. "Yeah," I said. "Which one did you come to see?" "Um, I don't know. All of them, I guess." Which wasn't true; I couldn't even remember who any of the bands were. I just like to support Chadd's shows.

But something seemed strange. I practically had to fight my way in the door, the place was so crowded. I was pleased for Chadd's (and the bands') sake, but it didn't make sense. Desmond's shows are usually attended by the inner circle of New York's Pop Punk Clique and a few friends, hangers-on, and random drunks. 50 people would be a very good turnout. Yet there had to be 200 people in the place. Was one of the bands (for the record: the NoLoves, the Groucho Marxists, Project 27 and Bazooka Falcon, only two of whom I was even vaguely familar with) much more famous than I suspected?

Another weird thing: the crowd seemed exceedingly well dressed for a punk rock show. No band shirts, and lots of jackets and ties. They also seemed a little old (of course, look who's talking) for this kind of music. The mystery was solved when I finally made it to the back of room, where Chadd, Carla, and about five musicians sat, looking bemused and/or disconsolate.

"They double-booked the place," explained Chadd. "There's a wedding party that's supposed to be over at 9:30, but they don't seem in any hurry to leave." I suggested that having the bands start playing would clear out the wedding guests in a hurry, but Chadd is a kinder and more sensitive person than I am, and confined himself to pacing the floor and running his fingers through his hair with increasing ferocity. "You can tell how stressed Chadd is by how far his hair is sticking up," confided Carla.

The bands finally started playing around 10, by which time most of the wedding guests were drunk enough that they barely seemed to notice. But gradually they migrated to the front room; unfortunately, so did many of the punks. This wasn't a comment on the music, but on the fact that the overhead air conditioners were sending arctic blasts down on those of us who sat or stood huddling and shivering near the stage. I put on my jacket - the first time I'd worn one since early June - and was still freezing. The reason I even had a jacket with me? Well, I'd brought it along because it was only about 65 degrees outside.

"Chadd," I said, "go tell the bartender he can save a lot of money by turning the air conditioning off, and also on the lawsuits by frostbitten customers." Chadd did, and came back to report, "He says he can't because it'll get too hot in the front room." I made disparaging remarks about the bartender being either drunk, insane, or not having set foot outdoors in three days, and threw in a few more rude suppositions about Irishmen being congenitally thick (it's all right, I said, I'm part Irish too). But eventually I gave in and retreated to the front room myself, where I found Chris A and P Smith in a corner making even ruder Irish jokes (again, it's all right; a quick calculation revealed that the three of us added up to 5/4 of a pureblooded Irishman).

Referring to Chris A's Mel Gibson-like protestation that he never would have said, "White people can't dance" had he been sober, P Smith claimed that Chris was now arguing that the Potato Famine had never happened, that it was just a lie perpetrated by the liberal Irish media I admittedly found this hilarious, but surrounded as we were by Irish bartenders and Irish bar patrons, couldn't see it going in a positive direction, so I said so long and headed out into the night.

Out on the street, the temperature was still about 65, maybe a bit less, and it felt positively tropical. I walked up to Grand Central, marveling all the way at what an astounding piece of classical architecture the station is (and how close it came to being torn down a few years ago by the reigning philistines who did succeeed in demolishing Pennsylvania Station), and caught the 7 to the G to make my circuitous way home on the still-lovely New York City subway system (at least they'd turned their air conditioning down).

My last weekend in New York, by the way, at least for a while, and it rained pretty much all the way through. Tonight the humidity is literally 100%. I don't care. I like it here, and will miss it terribly.

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