Get Used to it Or Die Young

So I come up with an idea maybe twice a day for something interesting I’d like to write about.  But my workday plus 18-hour commute usually annihilate them.

For example I was at this event last night recently at the New School… it was a part of this symposium thing on the intersection between psychology and art they’re doing.  Arts in Mind conversation series. I worked out this whole thing for a blog entry that was basically the fulfillment of my desire to drop the most amazing comment/question bomb on the QA portion of the night.  In my mind it would have sparked new avenues of thought that would launch the discussion to insanely fruitful levels of philosophical investigation.  This, even though at least two of the people present have been writing and thinking almost exclusively on the subject for at least 10 years (each).  Anyway I got on the train without a book… and got out the iphone to play some jetpack joyride.  So I forgot about that post (too brainy anyway) until just now.  Like most ideas.  It’s the ones that occur to me as I sit here staring at my computer, possibly browsing craigslist missed connections or okcupid or something, unwilling to give up on the day and go to bed, that end up as written posts.

Which brings me to the subject of this post: There’s another reason I put off going to bed, and I realize it’s potentially a relatively unique experience in the US.  Noise I can’t do anything about.  My neighbor listens to his television at incredibly high volume.  It’s the only way he can fall asleep.  See, he’s elderly.  I don’t know exactly how old, because here in NY they stay tough and lively way longer than they do in say Oklahoma City.  I say Oklahoma City mostly at random.  I mean in most urban centers that are actually suburban sprawl, the old people get shoveled into homes to die much faster.  I think it’s mostly because their kids have moved too far away for them to actually be part of each others’ lives, and the support structure is gone.  Everyone and everything is so spread out that it’s dangerous and incredibly HARD to be old and alone out there.  But not so here, in my neighborhood.  Tons of old people all gabbing in the courtyard, ordering bad chinese delivery, smoking outside my bedroom window, and blasting their fucking televisions all night every night until the next day.  It’s so beautiful I cry just writing about it.

There’s more.  If I don’t make it to bed before 12:30 (which is the case basically every night), my upstairs neighbors add to the misery.  They move furniture.  I have no idea why or what is in fact actually going on up there, but by 1AM every night they are walking around, moving big things, and arguing.  Arguing really loud, because they’re from Brooklyn and they love-hate each other so much and HEY! our grown son will be staying with us too now, wearing hard-heeled shoes and moving much faster than us 80-year-olds!

Every night.

And I can’t do anything about it.  For one, the TV guy told me to just bang on the wall we share if it got too loud.  But when I actually got up the nerve (rage) to do it, he just woke up and started coughing.  He generally coughs out 1 pint of blood and a few bits of lung most nights, but when it gets really bad he starts crying “make it stop” and I can hear the months of life being ejected from his body, evaporating like my hopes of a good night’s rest.  So I started taking half a dose of nyquil and wearing earplugs every night.

A friend of mine has a similar problem.  The elevator in her building beeps.  It beeps insistently, like a three tone beep-BEEP beep, every 6 seconds.  I counted.  It never stops.  What would most New Yorkers do?  Ok, aside from calling 311?  Smash the fuck out of it, of course.  Incidentally I had a neighbor do just that in Bushwick when some asshole college kid set off the door alarm trying to get to the roof.  The alarm went on for about an hour until a guy down the hall took something blunt and heavy to it.  Anyway, this elevator beep, it’s more relentless than that pin-head guy from hellraiser… burrowing into your skull and filling it with despair.  But it couldn’t be smashed.  I checked.  The actual speaker emitting the sound is inside the elevator shaft somewhere!  You can even hear the sound outside the building.  It greets you like an anxious lover.  I went on a brief internet rage looking for a way to report the landlord (who obviously was the first person she contacted and who equally obviously could give two shits) and discovered the property isn’t registered with the city and thus can’t be complained about.  Well played, landlord.

Now that it’s summer and all my neighbors have their window AC units in, I have a new noise to let wash over me with it’s lovingly unstoppable caresses.  Something about the construction of this building transmits the vibration of at least 3 of the nearest window units through my walls and into my home as a low bass hum.  And the thing about low noises is they aren’t affected by earplugs.  You feel them physically in your body, and the plugs just let them through.  And what the fuck am i supposed to do?  Tell my neighbors to turn off their AC’s?

And anytime I bring this stuff up in conversation I hear more horror stories.  Opera students rehearsing every Sunday at 8AM.  Drummers working out new rhythms until 4 in the morning upstairs.  Nightly domestic disputes that get violent enough to induce guilt in the listeners who don’t call the cops.  And it goes beyond noises.  Anyone who rides the subway every day experiences similar feelings of powerlessness: Asshole eating an insanely big bag of shell-on sunflower seeds, dipshit tapping his class ring on the pole near your head,  amped-up teens screaming and starting shit with people because it’s hilarious…. And of course the trains that just stop in the middle of nothing with no explanation for eternity, coupled of course with all of the above and more.

So in a nutshell, we get a constant pile of crap and we all have to just live with it.  There’s no way to win the noise battles, you can’t make the train go no matter how hard you huff and puff.  So it all comes down to a choice: let it bother you and suffer constantly, or get over it and live.  Which is by no means an easy choice.  In fact calling it a choice is deceptive.  Most of the anger and annoyance just happens/is triggered by the annoying shit.  You have to almost physically force yourself to pretend shit doesn’t bother you.  Like with breathing deep and thinking of people who have worse lives, etc, etc…  And you never know when something incredibly random is gonna derail that mental image of calm blue seas you’ve been meticulously crafting just to keep you from gouging out that shithead’s eye who keeps coughing on you without covering his mouth.

My last thoughts on this relate to a study I heard when I first moved to NY.  It claimed to have discovered that NYers were something like 80% more likely to die early from heart disease than the national average.  But those residents who managed to get out of the city for regular vacations to the countryside or the ocean or something else idyllic lowered those chances super drastically.  I think the conclusions of the authors were that NY is full of pollution (air, water, etc) and getting out of the city got some clean livin’ into those people and they were able to recover physically.  I don’t think they meant noise pollution, but they really should have.

Another one of these?

I saw this ad as my train neared my stop and jumped up to grab a snap.  It’s already nearly impossible for me to take a decent pic on my iphone.  On a moving train, forget it.  Someone needs to find this soup and make it, stat.  Also, does the ram goat have a flavor that’s distinct from the ewe goat?

The MoMA PS1 Questlove Kraftwerk Thing

Ok, so I went to this event at the PS1 space out in Long Island City (yeah that’s definitely in Queens, and it definitely took a while to get there).  I didn’t really bother reading the hype, because I pretty much thought I knew what it was.  See, Kraftwerk did this retrospective thing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) like last month or something and it way sold out bigtime.  I think some people even made videos of the online waiting.  Actually, here’s a hilarious one… not a screen grab of the actual torture, but much funnier: Dude turned off embedding, so that sucks.

Anyway, I was tipped off by a coworker that they (MoMA) were going to be milking the Kraftwerk magic for a few more dollars from those of us who want a piece of that action at a series of Kraftwerk-themed weekend events at their hip space out in LIC.  Ok, well, it’s Sunday and I could either bake some bread and stare at it again, or I could head out there and maybe even see some people I know.  What the hell, tickets were only 10 bucks, right? Sunday Sessions.

I went.  It was Questlove doing a DJ set loosely inspired by the music of Kraftwerk.  Pretty interesting concept.  I could yap on and on about it, but the point is this:  I soundhounded the whole set.  What’s soundhound? It’s shazam.  Only I like it better.  Anyway, I’ve put up a playlist on spotify for people who know who I am.  For those of you who don’t, I’ll paste it below.

A quick snap at the Sunday Session

I suppose I could give some of my impressions of the event….  Hmmmm…  It was an amazing place to meet single hipster chicks.  Inasmuch as the hipster chick is no longer an incredibly desirable distillation of Hollywood’s and Literature’s most fascinating muse archetypes, but rather a run-of-the-mill girl in her mid-20s to late-30s with some bold lipstick choices, a couple of oddly fitting pieces from her wardrobe, and probably a tattoo or three.  So.  Some lovely ladies wandering around, a nice comfy place to sit and get blasted by a weird mix of the history of electrosynth “rock”.  I think Questlove did a really good job, considering.  A whole set inspired by Kraftwerk (yawn, sorry!), spun for an art museum crowd in NY on a Sunday afternoon, in a big dome bubble with a large platform couch in the middle and a projection on each wall (8).  Not exactly the best kindling to light a party fire on.  But even I got up and moved after a while… The Miami Vice Theme broke something loose in me, I have to admit.  Bravo, QL, bravo.

Before you get to the list, here’s a few warnings:

  1. Programs like Soundhound can mess up when they identify a song, so I have many a track that QL actually played the instrumental to, or a 12″ remix, or whatever, or one that’s completely wrong, see track 2 and 3 (heheh).
  2. The music was so effing loud and sometimes fairly primitive (monotonous) that the more “minimal” tracks probably only registered basic kick drum beats used in trilllllions of songs, so I didn’t get a reading on them.  In other words, this list is not complete by maybe 10 tracks.
  3. Usually, QL did not play the whole track.  In fact I would guess he averaged about a minute and a half for most.  So don’t be afraid to skip when it gets old.  This stuff resembles Kraftwerk in that regard as well.  Oh shut up, you know I’m right.
  4. The PS1 staff, in a fit of giddy celebrity-loving elitism, decided when the next act (James Franco and his new book) arrived, they would no longer let ticket holders re-enter the performance space.  So. Having gone to get a beer, I was locked out for the last two tracks.  They are missing from this list, and I hope you all burn in hell, jerks.

And now, the playlist:

Stereolab – Come And Play In The Milky Night
Guilty Simpson – I Must Love You
Busta Rhymes – Turn Me Up Some
J Dilla – Big City
Jaylib – Heavy
Joyce Sims – All And All
Cat Stevens – Was Dog A Doughnut?
Newcleus – Jam On Revenge [Remix]
Herbie Hancock – Rockit
Michael Jackon – Bad
Double Dee & Steinski – Lesson One: The Payoff Mix
Break Machine – Street Dance
Art Of Noise – Beat Box (Diversion One)
Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express – 2009 Digital Remaster
Prince – D.M.S.R.
Ollie & Jerry – Breakin..There’s No Stopping Us (Breakin)
Man Parrish – Hip Hop Be Bop – Original Version
Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme – Miami Vice/Soundtrack Version
Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Connie – Funky Little Beat
Paul Hardcastle – 19
Paul Hardcastle – Rainforest
Hot Streak – Body Work
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force – Looking For The Perfect Beat – 12″ Vocal Version   Remastered
Information Society – Running [Extended Version]
Midnight Star – Freak-A-Zoid
Hashim – Al-Naafyish (The Soul) [The It’s About Time Remix]
Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam;Full Force – Can You Feel The Beat
MC Cool Rock & MC Chaszy Chess – Boot The Booty
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Rhythm Trax – House Party Style
2 LIVE CREW – Throw The ‘D’
M.I.A. – Bucky Done Gun
Deise Tigrona – Injecao
Diplo, Sandra Melody – Diplo Rhythm
Major Lazer, Vybz Kartel – Pon de Floor
Nero, Alana Watson – Promises [Skrillex & Nero Remix]
Radiohead – Idioteque
The Gladiators – Pocket Money
Kraftwerk – Tour de France [Original 1983 Kevorkian Extended 12″ Remix]

If I get bored or there’s enough interest (you can let me know through comments below) I’ll try to work out some way for you to listen to this without doing any work other than clicking.

On my walk home I saw this in the sidewalk in front of my apartment:

How much more symbolic and apropos does trash GET?

Dig my Grave with a Silver Spade

Tonight was supposed to be special, and it was.  But it reminds me of an ex from college.

We lived in the same run-down apartment building on St. Charles Street and met officially summer of 95, I think at a party thrown at one of the 4 apartments, but not hers and not mine.  She was about to be a junior and I was about to be a sophomore.  Summers in New Orleans are sticky hot gauntlets, and you learn to enjoy the steamy suffocation or go crazy.  So we played chess by an open window and watched arty movies like Down By Law,

and one roasting summer windless night we made out on a futon in front of Caligula, which we had stopped paying attention to maybe 30 minutes in.  I think we were also playing chess at the time and she very matter-of-factly asked me if I was going to make a move or not.  She very obviously didn’t mean moving a pawn over a square.

We saw a lot of each other that summer, and she was always very matter-of-fact.  For example, one heavy-humid night she turned on a bedside lamp, pulled it over, and showed me exactly why I was terrible at giving head.  Then she made me practice.  I say a little prayer of thanks for brash independent sexually liberated 90s college women every time I get there now, because of that night and subsequent remedial classes.

She had an air of superiority which was fine by me, because at that age the gulf between sophomore and junior was fairly large, and I felt lucky.  Clearly I was lucky.  That was the first girl I ever showered with, and I learned that showering with a girl isn’t actually very fun at all after the first minute of novelty and suds wears off.  If unprotected sex is off the table, that is, and it was.  My first adult relationship.

We also knew it would be ending.  She was all set to spend her junior year in Spain.  And she did.  I got special air mail paper and envelopes and wrote her maybe once per month, along with her roommate with whom I’d become friends.  I even sent a couple of tapes of my college radio show.  But that was it.  The letters never mentioned boyfriend, or girlfriend, or waiting, or love.  I carried on like a college kid in his first apartment who now knew the secret to good head and I assumed she carried on like a sexually liberated college girl on her own in sunny Spain.

When she got back I arranged to visit her in her home town and help her drive her car back to New Orleans.  I had missed her and was excited to see if we could start things fresh, maybe where we had left off a year prior.  When I got there, that first night, she sat me down on my sofa/bed in her father’s basement and told me she had seen her ex since she’d come back.  Her ex capital “E” Ex; and realized she still loved him; and that she was so so sorry but she could never feel that way for me.

Of course I was devastated.  And angry.  And what the hell could I do? I couldn’t afford a plane ticket back so I had to play nice with the family and be a chummy guy and then spend 3 days with her in her car and then FREEDOM.

The next night we went for a drive, she pulled into a motel, and we had sex.  It was a little easier to deal after that.

Anyway, my point is coming up.  We dated (ish) and then it was my turn to head to Europe for a year.  At a certain point about 5 months into it she sent me a letter in which she blasted me for messing around with girls while she was in Spain.  She was pissed.  Eventually she got over it and we were cool, but that’s the thing tonight reminded me of:  She forgot all about the “I can never love you like I love my ex” and the fact that a year apart with zero relationship promises means a guy’s gonna get some, and went straight to the blame and anger.

Something in the same family of experience happened tonight.  I took a special lady friend to dinner at a very special restaurant that is now my official in-the-mood for romance cute spot (leave me a comment if you want the name, use a fake email, I don’t care, I’ll comment back).  We’d had some fights and some hurt feelings, because while we officially were taking things light and easy and weren’t interested in locking it down, we were flirting with the idea privately, sans communication.

And last week she blew up, started crying, and demanded that we define exactly what we were doing.  A demand she rescinded immediately. I had precipitated this outburst by being unavailable to hang out a second night in a row (tuesday) after she returned from a long trip away.  Ok.  So then it was weird cold shoulder and missed connections for about 8 days, during which time she visited her family out of state.  To me this dinner was meant to be my “truce” flag and careful re-examination of the “what are we doing?” question.

Deep down I was prepared to “next step” this thing to monogamy if she wanted.  I poured on the positive vibes and the wine and the compliments from the heart etc.  In response, she told me she wasn’t ready, and moreover because I speak a different language than her primary one, I probably have zero hope of really understanding her in a meaningful way.  Which is a situation she thought maybe she didn’t want to be in, in a relationship.

Well damn.  Then on the way to the subway she pointed out that I seemed to be more interested in the train coming than seeing her safely to her platform, a signal which says “pay attention to me! prove you love me!” and which I found to be at odds with the overall takeaway of the night.  But really, if you lived way out here and got a soft dumping, you’d be just as anxious to get your train home.

Good night!