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Some strange music draws me in

July 12, 2012

I can’t keep up this week. I’m resorting to bullet points.

* When I arrived at my desk on Monday, straight from the airport, I discovered I am no longer in the isolation tank. Two of the nearby desks have now been filled with new, young, fashionable toymakers. New Toymaker 1, who sits next to me has decorated her desk with a large pink stand-up make-up mirror and a cell phone charger that looks like a high-heeled shoe. The shelf over her desk holds a globe, which is what I see when I look up from my computer.

* New Toymaker 2 stood up when I came in and introduced herself then said that she’d seen me on TV last week. This has happened a number of times this week and I’m still not sure what is the optimal response.

* Things are moving at work this week. I like that.

* I met Maggie for drinks after work on Tuesday. We tried to go to the Campbell Apartment, but it was a little too full of men in suits, so we ended up drinking margaritas at a tapas bar, where we swapped books and stories.

* Last night I met my friend C at Madison Square Park after work. She works near me and in a similar industry, but somehow we have not seen each other since I came to New York (since I began coming to New York?). When I moved my junior year in high school, C lived across the street from me, which was coincidental to the way we became friends. She was part of a group of friends I met through L, someone I’d known forever (our parents were friends before we were born). Thanks to the Book of Faces, this group still talks regularly, even though we’ve long since scattered to the four winds. C rarely makes an appearance (My Kids Mom, however, haunts this blog). C and I played in orchestra together (she on oboe, me on violin). But we really bonded over our driver’s ed course. All of our friends had their licenses already. But C was a year younger than the rest of us and I had moved from a state where you had to be 16 before you could get a learner’s permit. So we took it senior year with a teacher who was quite possibly dumber than a box of rocks. The two honors students in the class (that would be C and I) had to figure out the class grades for her because she didn’t understand percents. C ended up going to college near me, the only one of my friends from that high school to go out east. We drove together in her parents’ old Volvo, once running out of gas at the cusp of the top of a hill in front of an old inn somewhere in Massachusetts. We went inside the inn and wandered around until we eventually found someone in the kitchen who told us there was a gas station at the bottom of the hill. We pushed the car over the top and coasted down, petering out to a stop directly in front of the pump. Problem solved. C and I sat on a Red Sox blanket (which she covered up with another blanket so as not to offend the locals) and watched Nellie McKay give an absolutely kick-ass concert. She performed almost without ceasing from the beginning until they kicked her off the stage, stopping only to change her dress in a bush while her back-up band played Mingus’ Fables of Faubus. Even when they told her she had to go, she got permission to do an encore and then turned it into a four song medley. It was great. Afterwards, C and I walked back to my place through Chelsea, stopping for dumplings. I’m looking forward to hearing Regina Carter there in a couple of weeks.

* New York knows how to do free concerts. I tried to go to hear Buddy Guy and Neko Case at the World Financial Center tonight. I was going to walk there down the Hudson River Greenway. But I ended up working until nearly 8:00, because of another interesting event.

* This morning, my friend L, who lives in California, mentioned that she was going to be in Madison Square Park today. I told her I worked nearby and we arranged to meet. L, a fellow violinist, played summer stock with me in Cape Cod 22 years ago, my second summer in pit band. On our days off, we’d take the ferry out to Martha’s Vineyard together. I stayed in touch with her occasionally after that summer because one of her friends from college was my good friend (also L) from grad school. I hadn’t seen her since then, but she was easy to spot on the park’s playground. After we hugged and exchanged preliminaries, she introduced her to the rest of her family. They are all here — parents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, kids — for an annual family reunion. “But wait,” she says. “You’ll never going to guess who’s here. Close your eyes. I want to introduce you to my brother-in-law. I opened my eyes and it’s my friend A, who I haven’t see in 23 years. I met A in the same place, playing summer stock. That was my first summer there. A started off in the orchestra with me on clarinet, but ended up joining the vocal company after a couple of people left partway through the season. I last saw him in Boston that fall when we had a mini orchestra reunion in the city where many of us lived. The funny thing is that L and A didn’t know each other then. They didn’t overlap in the company. They didn’t meet until much later when L’s stepsister married A. Crazy. It was really fun to see them both. Lots of reminiscing was had and L’s mother was, I think, taking pictures of the three of us in a tight know, occasionally being interrupted by some child or another wanting some attention. I really hope it’s not another 22-3 years before I see them again.

* I spent a lot of today listening to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange (streaming free at the link, for the moment). There’s been a lot of talk about both the artist and the album in musical circles — both for its musicality and for Ocean’s sexual identity as manifested in the album’s songs — and I wanted to see what all the hype is about. I found there’s substance behind this one. I really like the album, although it’s nothing I would have been likely to gravitate to on my own. It’s as much a soundscape as an album. “Bad Religion” is probably the best track, although the album is fluid — things flow in and out of each other. It’s almost operatic in scope. His style is interesting. It holds a mellow house vibe, elements of musique concrete, R&B influenced vocals and lyrics worth stopping and listening to. I particularly like “Bad Religion,” which for some reason reminds me of Rufus Wainwright’s Agnus Dei, I think for the sense of the tragic and its just overwrought enough emotionality. Give it a listen.

Here’s what Pitchfork had to say about it.

I also really like the song “Pyramids.”

But really, it’s worth listening from beginning to end, because the ebb and flow is lovely.

* I walked up the hill at lunch today to buy a fruit salad at the grocer’s by the museum. On the way back, while trying to get in the door of my office building, I dodged a woman walking toward me in a pair of jeans and boots and a scarf tied close around her neck. And that was it. No shirt, no bra. Just hanging it all out there in Midtown at lunchtime. Surprise! She didn’t look old and she didn’t look crazy. She just looked…naked. The funny thing is that I read a blog post somewhere in the last week or so where the person was writing about visiting New York and seeing a woman walking down the street with no shirt. She talked to a cop and was informed that shirtlessness is not illegal. I wonder if it was the same woman. And now I can’t find the post.

* I went back to my office after meeting L and A and worked for a couple of hours more while watching a giant dog (Great Dane?) pacing on the balcony of one of the apartments across the street. There are times when I wish there was a bridge. After a while he gave up looking for an exit and went back inside. I hope someone took him for a walk.

* I walked home. It was a lovely summer night with a cool summer breeze. I follwed two guys built like linebackers holding hands through Chelsea while I eavedropped on their discussion about the manifestations of their respective masculinities (I am not even joking). Gay fashion was turned up to 11 tonight. I wished I’d had the guts to pull out my camera and start snapping pictures. There is a lot to see, including the ruby red sun setting beneath the highline as I crossed 14th street, perfectly framed. Back at the apartment, I learn that it’s Manhattanhenge.

Even without Neko, it’s been an adventurous week. Even now, the radio is playing one of the best songs, Patti Smith singing “Dancing Barefoot.”

And now it’s time to pack so I can go home and see the boys. But not before I put a gold star on my calendar. This week? It’s a keeper.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2012 9:00 pm

    I’m still saying Wow. Thanks for putting this all down. I’ve been hearing great things about the Frank Ocean album. I’m looking forward to giving it a listen. Safe travels back home.

  2. lemming permalink
    July 12, 2012 9:32 pm

    A very full time – and I love the marital coincidence.

  3. July 12, 2012 9:46 pm

    I will be very interested to hear what you think. He draws on a lot of music that, while I don’t have any outright objections to it, is not usually my thing. But somehow this cocktail just WORKS. I probably listened to the album 5 or 6 times today and kept picking up new things each time (although in fairness, I was also working and missing a lot as I went through it). Still trying to decide if I’m going to buy it for the plane ride tomorrow.

  4. July 13, 2012 7:40 pm


    Breathless just reading this —

  5. iwom permalink
    July 14, 2012 2:23 pm

    Himself and I had to read that A/L/CLOC paragraph a few times to make sure we got it straight. We blame it on tonight’s Shiraz.

    A was the costume shop’s hero that year!



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