Friday, November 9, 2012

Dark and Sandy

Hurricane Sandy hit New York on October 27th and we prepared ourselves by stocking up on food, wine, flashlights, and batteries. When it was time for the actual storm, we felt some very strong wind, barely any rain, and the power in our building flickered ever so slightly at 9:30PM. The next morning, we went outside and the street was basically fine except for a few downed trees. All in all, it was not a very dramatic event for me, my family, and my fellow residents of Fort Greene Brooklyn. As the week progressed, we stayed home from work, and we heard reports of the devastation in New Jersey, Manhattan, and other parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Rockaways. As the week progressed, it became clearer and clearer that we had dodged a bullet, as we saw the devastation caused by this massive storm.
On the 29th,  I drove down to my studio in Dumbo, and was surprised to see that there was not a drop of water anywhere, even though I had been warned there would be major flooding. My basement studio was dry as a bone, even as buildings just forty feet west of it were flooded up to three feet above the first floor. Again, I got the eerie feeling that I had been spared a catastrophe of Biblical proportions by just a few feet.

So where was all this devastation? On Thursday, November 1st, I drove my Vespa to Manhattan to go to work at the Plaza Hotel On my way there, I stopped at the apartment of Bill and Laurie, Chelsea's aunt and uncle, on 10th Street and Avenue C. What I saw there completely changed my experience. Lower Manhattan was a complete ghost town. I drove through Manhattan from the south to the north in the afternoon, during daylight hours. There was not a single traffic light functioning. Police directed traffic, and the usually cutthroat traffic was subdued as vehicles negotiated busy intersections, using only whatever philosophy they thought would save them from destruction. It occurred to me that society is a series of constructs and shared, accepted truths. The fact that human beings stop their speeding cars at red lights and wait for them to turn green seemed miraculous to me, as I edged my scooter through intersections next to bewildered drivers of all persuasions.  

After work, at midnight, as I drove south from Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, I could see that the city was completely dark below 39th Street in the distance. I drove down through midtown, Gramercy, Chelsea, the east Village, Soho, Tribeca, and Chinatown, in a complete daze. I fell into a reverie in the quiet streets. This is what Manhattan was like one hundred and fifty years ago, vefore electricity, when the Dutch, British and French vied for dominance and all above Canal Street was farmland. This is what it was like two, three, five hundred years ago when the natives who lived here ran and fished and hunted and camped. It was deeply moving and beautiful. It made me sad for the over-lit, over-exposed, over-stimulated and stimulating state of my crazy city. Why do we need so many damn lights on all the time? It was so peaceful without all those insipid advertisements and honking horns and blaring music. Don't get me wrong, I feel terrible for all of those who lost property and life in the storm, and who went without heat and water for over a week. But would it kill us to turn some lights off once in a while?

 On Wednesday, I drove my car to Rockaway beach, filled with water bottles to donate to those without water. What I saw there can't really be described. This is still happening, and it seems the best thing to do is to donate to the Rede Cross. Here's the link to donate



Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'm a Socialist

I just spent two weeks in France with my wife and kids. I like life in France because it values lifestyle over money. The rich are not quite as rich, and everyone is better off. We all know that Europe is in trouble and that French-style socialism is a dying model, but I like it. Americans could stand to work a little less, pay some more taxes, and enjoy life. Really, what are we here for? The French had their revolution and they murdered the rich. The rich people in France know that you can only fuck the poor for so long before they rise up and slice off your head like a quiche. The rich of America don't really understand this yet. Their time will come.


Yesterday the NYPD reported that the shooting at 34th Street was not "terrorism-related." Whew! So far since 9-11 there have been exactly ZERO terrorism-related deaths in the US and about 343,000 gun-related deaths. Maybe we are chasing the wrong enemy?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Can Outrun Your Gun

I can outrun your gun
Outwaddle your swaddle
I can outthink your violence
I can outlast your clamor
I can outsmart your loud
I can out silence your crowd
I can outsource your devices
I can outnice your macho
I can outfox your boss
Out toddle your milk bottle
I can outfield your dreams
I can outstand your sitter
I can outdistance your horizon
I can outscream your team
out lovely your ugly
out cute your malamute
I can outbreak your plague
Outshake your leg
outcrank your motor
Outrank your sergeant
Outwrangle your newfangled
Outpiss your sis
outspank your paddle
outflank your army
outshank your leg o lamb
outscramble your egg salad
out romance your power ballad
So sleep well my brother and mrs and mr.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


On Thursday, June 14, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, made an appearance at the Plaza Hotel, where I work regularly as a freelance cameraman and video engineer.
 I was hired as a cameraman to videotape the event, until the position was cut, and then I was moved to video engineer. When that was cut, I was asked if I could be A2, or audio assistant. Finally, that position was cut a few days before the event by the White House staff, but my employer, knowing I was very eager to be a part of the event, kept me on as a utility, or general PA.
My day began at 6AM, when a White House staffer gathered the entire video. audio, and staging crews, and local union stagehands, and told us in no uncertain terms that we were not to take any photos or videos of anything, during the entire show. If any secret service saw anyone using a cell phone, they would confiscate the phone and escort you out of the building. OK. As result of this directive, the only shot I have of the entire day is this one of the outside of a road case with label tape on it.
For the next four hours, I worked with a crew of local 1 stagehands to build the stage on which the President of the United States (POTUS) would stand to make his speech, 18 hours later. The stagehands were big surly dudes, with big beer guts and Long Island accents, and it took a few hours for us all to warm up to each over. They wanted us to know that they were old timers and knew what they were doing, but they were in our house and had to follow our lead somewhat. The third facet of the whole setup was the audio crew who was there to set up the sound system for Mariah Carey, the guest performer at that evening's event. Why were we there so early in the morning? Because once the stage, sound, lights, video and audio were set up, the entire building would have to be cleared so that the secret service could sweep the building, searching for any possible breach in security. They would bring in their bomb sniffing dogs and comb through every room on the floor where the main ballroom is located, as well as the floors below and above.

After the stage was set and the sound system set up, it was time for Mariah Carey's band to sound check. For about two hours, they worked on the same song. It was a new one the Mariah had just written for the occasion, called "Bring it on Home." Her backup singers repeated the line "bring it on home" for hours, until the song, the line, and life itself had lost all meaning. Finally at about noon, we were told that the ballroom had to be cleared because Mariah was coming on stage to rehearse. It was soon apparent to all present that miss Carey has a huge diva complex, and that it pained her to be upstaged by the pomp and importance of the POTUS. She had her own bedazzled mic stand on stage, as well as a fan placed directly in front of the stage to blow back her hair, and a special table with a Kleenex box on the path to the stage, in case miss Carey gets the sniffles. There was much discussion among the staff about where and when the bottle of water for Miss Carey would be placed on stage. At some point during the day, I began to fixate on her name, and I latched onto the fact that "mariah" is another word for hearse and "carey" in French means cavity. So from now until forever I will think of this chanteuse as "Death Cavity."

Eventually Mariah's soundcheck was finished, and my friends in the audio crew and I went out for lunch and to let the secret service do their "sweep." We were all exhausted so we walked across the street to Central Park to eat and catch a little nap.  By the time we headed back to the Plaza at about 5PM, the secret service had completely taken over. There were barricades along every street for blocks in every direction, and there was an agent set up at every entrance to the hotel. We were stopped at a checkpoint and had to wait for a staff member to walk us up to the third floor ballroom. Inside, the whole Plaza had been transformed. Not only was every single square inch of space cleaned, scrubbed, painted, and cleared of the usual trash. (Yes, the Plaza is usually very trashy. It's always very dark in there so you can't see the old food, broken  glass, and dirt in all the crevasses. They are so overbooked, with one event running into the next, that there is hardly time to clean the place between events.)  They had also built partitions of pipe and drape all around the main entrances to the ballroom, so that every access point was blocked by a security guard. We were on lockdown. Part of my duties included setting up a camera so that the staffers backstage could see what was going on on stage. This camera was not to record (as per the directive in the morning). I worked with the White House staff to set up their video feed, skirting around the various pockets of stress and strife emmenating from all of the various factions (white house, Carey, Plaza.)

Once everything was set, all that remained was to wait. We were told that this would be the 4th and final stop on the POTUS' agenda today, starting with Cleveland Ohio, then a school in New York, a party at Sarah Jessica Parker's apartment, and then finally our little gathering. As we waited for the guests to arrive and the festivities to begin, an eerie calm filled the room.  Compared to most events at the Plaza, which are crammed to capacity and always set up at the last minute, this was very different. The room was not very full (only about 200 seats as opposed to the usual 400+) and we were completely set up with hours to go. Adding to the feeling of calm was the fact that there were secret service guys at every single corner, hallway, and doorway, so there was almost no unneeded fussing and walking around. Usually when I am the video engineer at Plaza events, this would be the time when a stressed out client would come and make last minute changes and generally find things to complain about. For this event, there was no room for bullshit. It was very refreshing to sit behind the control booth and know that no one would be coming to bother me.

Finally the guests came in. Unlike the usual charity event crowd at the Plaza, they were much more diverse. Lots of different races and ethnicities, not just the usual privileged white folks. They arrived at 8PM, and sat in small groups, chatting quietly until the first guest went on stage. Why did I feel so strange? I realized that I had none of the usual enmity and disgust for the attendees of a function that I usually feel. These people were here to support the good guy, Obama. These people were on my team. My friend Paul opened the "voice of God" mic and introduced Death Cavity and it was time for her concert.

Carey and her band of professional musical mercenaries gave a concert of her particular brand of acrobatic radio fluff-soul. Feeling and literacy were replaced by acrobatic singing chops. She wailed and caterwauled her way through three songs, starting with the fledgling composition "Bring it on Home." After her first song, Carey made a panicked request for water. The promised water bottle was missing. Heads would roll. Her backup singer brought the boss a bottle of water, and Carey almost cried with gratitude. I can guarantee that the reason there was no water bottle waiting for Mariah on stage was because there were fourteen separate conversations about it between her handlers and the venue's banquet staff, and her ultimate wishes were obscured. The water bottle was 'fussed to death." Though Carey's music does nothing for me, I was oddly moved. All of these people are using their talent and power to re-elect a Democrat, to make sure the money-grubbing, lying, religious weirdo millionaire does not get a chance to serve up America to corporate interests. I loved her and her band for that, even as I find her  and her music nauseating.

As Death Cavity's second song ended, it was time for me and my two henchmen to go to the stage for the big change-over. Our task was to move a 20 foot by 60 foot panel of blue drape from behind the musical instrument to in front of them, and then to readjust the lighting, and set the Presidential podium and flags in time for the main event, the speech of the POTUS. While we did this, another, larger curtain was pulled across the front of the stage to allow us to do our work in hiding. But first, we had to wait backstage while Carey finished her last song, in the very tense zone between the stage and the Green Room, where at that moment the President and First Lady (POTUS and FLOTUS) were taking photographs with all of the attendees who had paid a tidy sum for the privilege. So we stood backstage, in our suit and ties, surrounded by secret service, as Mariah Carey and her band walked off stage past us. We then raced on stage, and few the next 45 minutes, we struggled with ladders to change the stage from a concert venue to a Presidential pulpit.

Once the curtains were moved into the correct line of blue in front of the backline, the lighting technicians readjusted the LED lights, and then the White House staffers came in with a line of six American flags, These had to placed at precise intervals of two and a half feet apart. They had to be fluffed open with the help of hidden coat hangers. And then the official POTUS podium had to be placed and plugged in. At last, the stage was set for the POTUS. Throughout the night, when something wen well or a task was completed, I yelled "POTUS!" The expression came to mean, in my mind, "awesome!" or the opposite of "bogus!" From the back of the room, the stage really did look POTUS.

Now it was getting late, but the crowd waited patiently. Alicia Keys was introduced, and she gave a very sweet, heartfelt speech introducing the event.  ( Here is a photo I found on the internet of her standing in front of the Communist hammer and cycle.) Another fifteen minuted passed. I was reminded of stories of Rolling Stones concerts in the 70's, when Keith was passed out, nodding off backstage, and the band don't go on until 1 or 2AM. Here it was 10:30PM and the audience was waiting patiently, not for a junky rocker, but for a brilliant visionary world leader.

Finally,  Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark went on stage and gave a very funny and inspiring speech. He then introduced Michelle Obama. She radiated health and beauty, and spoke with a relaxed and spontaneous ease. She joked about how late it was, and that this was a fun night for them, a "date night." Then she introduced the main event, her husband, the POTUS.
Out he walked to a standing ovation. He and his wife embraced and kissed, and it was clear that they are a real, loving, romantically linked couple. Their body language spoke volumes about their partnership and their real desire for each other. It was very real and refreshing, and it made me feel happy for Barrack. He has a tough sexy lady on his side. (This is the only photo from the event that I've been able to find online.)

And so the POTUS spoke and he took questions from the audience. He was relaxed, he was funny, he was articulate and genuine, and he made sense. This is a guy who knows what's going on in the country and the world and knows what to do about it. He is clear about the differences between him and his opponent, and he is looking forward to debating him. I am also looking forward to seeing him squash the Republican. I don't want to go into politics right now, let me just say that I am an Obama guy all the way. He is a leader who believes in a balance between capitalism and regulation, and knows when to let the market decide and when the government is there to make life better for all of us. Or to represent what we call civilization. Romney is at best a rich, out of touch, religious weirdo, and at worst an evil, conniving, greedy liar.

As the President was leaving, I went down into the street and saw the massive cavalcade of cars that was the presidential procession leaving the building. There were about ten police cars, then six or seven black SUV's, then four or five black vans, then an armored truck, then half a dozen more more police cars. Crowds of people lined the barricades along 58th Street and 5th Avenue and cheered as the cars passed. I marveled at the thought that this one man moved this many people and disrupted this much everyday business many times a day, all over the world. It really did reinforce the idea that he is "the most powerful man in the world."

I went back into the ballroom, and I worked for three hours dismantling the stage, loading out sound, lightning, and staging equipment, and packing everything into a truck. By the time I was finished at 2AM, I had been at work for 20 hours and awake for 22 hours. I was squeezed out like an old sponge, totally depleted. It would take me two weeks to recover physically. But I was happy to have given a little of my sweat for the POTUS.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No Need For God

Your beauty shines from your becoming eyes
You see the world as it should be
Warm, abuzz, emerging, pure and bright
Before you there was nothing in your place
A miracle of science and nature
Two forces ruling, untouched
Copulating, to make love
And repopulate from above
Such molten generation abides no forgery
No need for crouching, ashamed and guilty on some musty pew
Dancing at the altar of a father figure forgotten and refracting infinitely
Whispering some latinate bargain
Before you there were billions, as after there will be
The truth is cruel and entropic
It lifts me and fills me with what you offer
Every new day
Your breathing burning vulnerable perfection

Monday, May 28, 2012

More Love

I am madly in love with my twins. I know there is very little literary merit in a new father raving about his newborns, so I will just do it once and get over it and maybe write about other stuff. But let me just say this now: My children are so beautiful. They are pure potential, pure innocence, pure sweetness and light. Jules the boy, Jukes julio juju jujube, and Vivienne, vivvi, vivika. My loves. I love them so much, I love them completely. They are perfect. They are wonderful, they are better than me, they are simply the best. This post will be dated, but my children will endure. Everyone should experience this kind of extremely biased love. I love them. I love love love love them for ever ever ever ever.
OK, there, thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

My babies, my loves
I ceased to exist when you showed up
That tiwtchy guitarist, that lonely mutt
He faded away in the floodlights
My babies, my dear ones,
All the drama, all the punch
The wretching the ego the ache
The twitching the burning, the fake
I put it on the shelf for you
My babies my angels
I started to see when you opened your eyes
A real twist in the story
A harder won glory
You opened your tiny hands
You cried like all the birds in flight
On all the oceans lit by moolight
My beating heart just got its start
My babies my beauties
I never knew pain
I never knew love
I never knew the fear of loss
The morning sun shakes me awake
Into a close and private pool of bliss
I lift you sofly to my lips
Your scent is of the soft and perfect future
So nice to finally meet you

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why make music?

My band The Snow played a CD release show last Saturday at 92Y in Tribeca. We spent two years, thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours of our lives making this CD and organizing this show. And then we played this concert for an hour on Saturday. Many people participated, whether as musicians, artists, designers and photographers who helped design our CD , videographers who helped with our promo video, or friends who came to the show. We love you all.

Every few years I ask myself the BIG QUESTION, which is "Why do I make music?" Making art is really hard. It is thankless, time-consuming, and very rarely makes any money. Since the dawn of the internet, the music industry no longer exists. People consider music a free commodity. Yet there is something in my psychic make-up that pushes me to continue to write songs, record albums, and play live shows. It is the most rewarding of useless pursuits. Let me try to break it down.

Playing music is the best and worst thing I know.  Being on stage is like doing heroin and crack at the same time. When I'm on stage, nothing else matters. It is a beautiful orgasmic feeling of love and completeness. So I keep doing it. It is wonderful. If you know what I mean, you know. If you don't know, come to the show. And if you are an investment banker, or you work for a hedge fund, or some other job where you make money off of other people's creativity, or if you are a DJ, then FUCK YOU.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


My children are here. Vivienne and Jules. Born January 25th at 3:55AM and 3:58AM respectively. I had no idea being a father would be so much fun. Watching these little baby mammals grow and develop is the most fascinating science experiment known to man. They are here and they exist and they are taking their place on the planet and it is as if they have always been here. All the cliches are true. We look into their little glassy shark eyes and we are filled with so much love, it is as if our hearts will burst. We think they are the most beautiful creatures that ever existed. Our objectivity is out the window. We are extremely biased. It's ridiculous how much we love them.

So far, at almost three months old, here's what they are into: 1. Feeding (that is, drinking milk out of Chelsea's nipples.) 2. Sleeping. 3. Farting, pissing and shitting. 4. Crying. 5. Kicking their legs and arms out in random directions. 6. Peacefully looking out at the world and being cute. 
That's about it. But  it is, at this point, more than we could hope for. We are enthralled by every activity listed above.
Some interesting points about having twins are starting to come into play. They seem to be aware of each other in a very nonchalant way, more so than they are aware of the other people in their world. They are so aware of each other that they completely ignore each other, like you would ignore your left pinky or your eyebrows. They take each other for granted. And they have very distinct personalities. Jules is very laid back, very cool, slow, thoughtful, very existential. Vivienne is more physical and reactive. She cries much louder, she is more engaged with the world. This may all change. these are my observations as a father of three-month-olds. I basically feel like the luckiest man alive every day that i get to hang out with these two angels. I have season tickets to the petting zoo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Face the music

This week we are making room for the babies who will soon be here. We are rearranging our apartment, clearing out space in the back room that will be the babies' room. One of the things that occupies this room and which must be relocated is my CD collection. So it is with a mixture of sadness and delicious sentimentality that I have been "archiving" my CD's, putting the booklets and CDs into large notebooks, and the digipaks and jewel cases into boxes to be stored away.
I've been making and collecting music for the past twenty years or so. This means that most of the creative output of the musicians in my world, my friends and collaborators, is represented by shiny little discs. My music and that of my peers exists exactly in the era between the time when the CD first became the standard, and the present time, in which digital media is king and the CD is on the verge of obsolescence. So I have a big collection of CD's, and they mean a lot to me. Each one is a little time capsule and a magical window into a world that existed with perfect technicolor clarity. For me, the entire CD is part of the package, including the CD itself, the front and back cover, the booklet, the spine, all of it. So it a lttle painful to separate CDs into two parts.
Many of my CDs have inscriptions or autographs. This one on the left is from Vic Chesnutt, with whom I had the good fortune to play a series of concerts in New York in 200?. We rehearsed for three days in the Brooklyn basement of fellow musician T. Griffin, and then we played three shows. He paid us a very small amount, we were all thankful to be playing with one of our heroes. About a week after the shows were over and Vic had gone home to Athens, GA, I received a package of CDs in the mail. He had sent me his entire discography, every single CD signed in his shaky hand (he was wheelchair-bound and had only partial use of his right hand). I will always treasure these mementos of a time, and an artist, who are no longer with us.

And since the advent of the CD in the early 90's came at the expense of the vinyl record, many of the artists in my collection had a very ambivalent and even adversarial relationship with the CD as a medium. As they started to become the standard, CDs were considered evil and insidious by indie rockers, sonic purists, and hipsters (as they still are.) They were considered a ploy by the music industry to justify raising prices. Most featured an overabundance of packaging, making them extremely wasteful as well as over-priced. And compared to vinyl records, which emphasized the low end and added a level of compression and warmth, CDs were bright, sparkly, and cold. This Drive Like Jehu CD, called Yank Crime, came out in 1991. The only thing written on it, besides the record label info, is "CD's REALLY FUCKING BLOW."

And even my promo CDs have some eerie resonance. These two promo David Bowie CD's (which I think were given to me by someone who worked at his label) are stamped with the projected release date. Christiane F. was a soundtrack album originally release in 1981. All Saints was a compilation that originally came out in 1993. Both had the distinction of being re-released on September 11, 2001.

Friday, January 20, 2012


In about one month I will become a father of two. My wife will give birth to two children. One boy and one girl. I will have two real live children. My kids. Mes enfants. Twins. Des jumeaux.
The thoughts swirling around my head about this subject are many and wondrous. Mostly I want to savor this feeling of ecstatic anticipation in which I abide these days. My beautiful wife, apple of my eye, gorgeous womanhead, fountain of creation, my best friend, my foil, my partner, my lover and my spouse is growing these two creatures who will soon fill my life with wonder, fear, joy, pain, work, shit, piss, vomit, crying, love, cuddles, milk, beauty, innocence, softness, loveliness, and pure joy. 
The main thing that's going on is this; I can not wait to meet the kids! I know they will be amazing, eccentric, beautiful, sensitive, annoying, strong, weak, precious, complicated people. I just can't wait to meet them.
We know what their names are and we are not telling people. We also know, deep down, what they look like, what they smell like, what their voices sound like, how they walk, how they dance. We secretly want them to be left-handed, like us. We want them to love french cooking, to love art films and Vespas and Julia Child and funk and punk and heavy metal music, to love skiing and Armagnac and reggae music and earth tones and recycling and duck breast and stupid comedies and folk music and  to be die-hard Democrats. We want them to hate littering and to be incredibly honest and to have a tolerance for pain and an unusual proclivity for helping people. We secretly know that they will love soccer and tennis and be Patriots fans and probably not be very good at math and will love to read and will love clever TV shows like Breaking Bad or whatever the equivalent will be in the year 2043. They will be die-hard recyclers, they will compost, they might even  be short order cooks in vegetarian restaurants. We have no idea about any of these things, all we know is we love them. 
And we want so much for them. We are pure expectation, unadulterated anticipation. Our children are coming. Our children. Our twins. Two of them (as is usually the case with twins). They will be born on the same day. Probably in the middle of February, in the year 2012. Little tiny human babies, very nearly blind, powerless, completely dependent on us, almost paralyzed, only able to eat, sleep, shit, cry, and be loved.
I'm a forty-one year-old has-been who has been given this incredible gift; I will have children. Why do I use the tern "has-been?" It implies that my best days are over, that my achievements are behind me. But really I will be, I am a "will-be" if you consider this achievement, this creative output. I am making people. I am putting out the most complicated double album of all time, more complex than a Magma or Beefheart album. (Or for that matter The Snow or Bad Reputation, my actual bands with which I am actually in the process of making albums which will also come out this year.)
Hopefully these people will be really good people. They will make the world a better place in some way. They will bring light and happiness and laughter and good times to some little corner of this crumbling globe we spin on. We hope.
And I love my wife so much. She is a great big wobbly growth source, a fecund, fertile valley of creative output. She is the mountain, the alpha and omega, the rich fertile crescent, the grassy knoll. I am filled with admiration and wonder. Alons-y les enfants!