So It Goes

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Another Five Things

1. So I’m in New York for the next few weeks, networking and reconnecting and using other words that make me sound like the douchiest possible LinkedIn profile, staring pensively out a different set of windows at a different row of buildings than I normally see. I hope that I look pensive to anyone watching from the sidewalk, but I know that my default facial expression is Mild Confusion, like I’m always listening to someone giving me an insanely complex set of driving directions.

2. ANYWAY. I’m here until early April, renting an apartment from an author I’ve liked for a long time. Her novels neatly line the shelves, her name san-serifed beneath titles translated into several languages that I can’t speak (which is every language other than English and Prog Rock). A picture of her latest is pasted to the front door of a local bookstore and there are extra paperback copies boxed in the closet, organized and ISBN-ed proof that she’s, you know, DONE something.

That’s the downside to keeping my career1 entirely on The Internet. I don’t have anything tangible to show for it, not without an active wifi connection. I can’t casually pull a paperback out of my bag and drop it onto the table at parties (not that novelists typically do this, although I’d sort of believe that Malcolm Gladwell might) so the best I could do is to corner someone by the guacamole, shoving my Twitter feed in their face and shouting ‘NO, LOOK AT THIS! DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT TIME I WAS RETWEETED BY PETER FRAMPTON?” I’m superfun, obviously.

1Honestly though? Caling it a career right now—or even referring to myself a writer—feels slightly dishonest, like trying to convince someone that your poorly stitched Canal Street knockoff is the real thing. I hope this feeling goes away. 

3a. ANYWAY x 2. I’m staying in Williamsburg and—Frampton Comes Alive!2—stereotypes save time. On my second day, I had no idea whether I was on the right subway platform until I realized that if I just follow the people with the dumbest possible accessories, I’ll end up in Brooklyn. So if you have a pinwheel hat, a portable 8-track player or a small owl in a cage, I’m gonna be right behind you as you board that J train.

2 Can we please make this a popular expression of surprise? Like, “Frampton Comes Alive, I’m not pregnant!”

3b. “Do you want to board the J Train?” is totally my new pickup line.

4. “Can you hear your neighbors all the time?” was the first thing one of my friends asked me, like the walls in my apartment were going to be thinner than store brand lunchmeat. (The walls in my apartment are thinner than store brand lunchmeat.) My only set of neighbors speak in hushed voices, their French (?) accents barely audible over the clicking of their heels on the concrete floors. Whether it’s because they sound like the last disc in a Rosetta Stone lesson or because apparently THEY don’t dress like Kevin Arnold’s less successful sibling, I’ve decided that they’re sleek and elegant, all silk jumpsuits and distractingly sharp cheekbones. They’re in and out of their silverware drawer a lot, probably pulling out highly specialized utensils like a prawn sculptor or radish macerator or a fork that didn’t come in a plastic packet with their last takeout order.

Also, I’m now terrified of opening my own silverware drawer. I don’t want to disturb them. 

5. On Monday, I went to the Beatles exhibition at the New York Library for the Performing Arts. It was a carefully curated collection but I went in through the exit door and walked through the entire thing backwards: it was like they bought razors, ditched the Maharishi and became increasingly wholesome as things went on. There was an assortment of recognizable guitars and carefully typed tour riders (a popular request was detergent) but the highlight was a thirty minute videotaped interview with their longtime recording engineer, Geoff Emerick. I sat in front of the screen, head tilted sideways like a spaniel in a Snausages commercial, listening to him talk about tape loops and technique (“John said he wanted it to sound like the Dalai Lama shouting from a mountaintop a hundred miles away,” he said—and I sort of paraphrased—about “Tomorrow Never Knows.”) It was the best half an hour I’d spent in forever.

Emerick said that EMI turned him down the first time he applied for a job there, but later ended up scoring that gig because there was an opening and nobody else could (or wanted to) fill it. I’m trying to pull some kind of Life Lesson from that, but mainly it just makes me wish I’d been a recording engineer in the mid-to-late sixties.

So. Anybody want to buy an owl? 

Last night, I went to a reading by and conversation between Richard Hell (Television, Neon Boys, The Voidoids) and rock critic Robert Christgau, which meant that I pretty much spent ninety solid minutes shrieking on the inside. The evening was relatively standard as far as readings go: Hell read a few pages about the perfect chaos that was CBGB in the early 1970s and Christgau aimed some surprisingly challenging questions across the untouched water glasses sweating between them. (“Your father died when you were seven,” he said, after a preemptive apology. “Why didn’t you say more about that in the book?”) 
The one thing that Hell wanted to make clear was that he was honest—sometimes brutally, jaw-clenchingly so—for all 297 paperback pages and that he didn’t change facts, shift time or do any James Frey-ing with the truth as he remembered it. Or, when he couldn’t remember, as the journos conveniently reported it at the time. 
The best moments of the evening, other than the entire evening? 
Richard Hell: When it came out you said that [Voidoids] record was…Robert Christgau: I said I saved it for those special occasions when I wanted to feel like a nervous wreck.Hell: I resented it at the time, but now I think you’re right.
Christgau: [Voidoids guitarist] Robert Quine was the most technically perfect—Hell: But emotionally he was—Christgau: I know, but technically, he played like goddamn Charlie Parker!
Audience Member: Did you give your mother a hard time?Hell: Other mothers had it worse. 
During the audience Q&A session, the French bookseller sitting beside me asked Hell about his relationship to—and love for—books. He nodded and said that yes, he’d always loved books as, you know, books but also as objects before casually mentioning that Proust had changed his life. I was not prepared to hear Richard Hell say that and I totally wasn’t prepared to swoon—hard—when he did. 
Afterwards, when it was my turn for him to sign my just-purchased copy of the book, I told him that Proust had affected me too, which was TOTALLY TRUE, SORT OF, IN A WAY. The difference is that he meant In Search of Lost Time, I meant Monty Python’s Summarize Proust sketch. Tomato, tomahto, Totally-lied-to-Richard Hell-to. 
While he was Sharpieing my title page, he said that he’d written the first draft while he was reading Proust and there were all kinds of comparisons and allegories and long passages that didn’t make the final edit. “It was…it was bad,” he said. 
"Did you at least save a copy of that version, for kicks," I asked, because I talk like a 1970s radio DJ. 
He shook his head. “But thanks for reminding me of that,” he said.
I listened to the Voidoids all the way home last night. That record never makes me feel more nervous than I already am. 

Last night, I went to a reading by and conversation between Richard Hell (Television, Neon Boys, The Voidoids) and rock critic Robert Christgau, which meant that I pretty much spent ninety solid minutes shrieking on the inside. The evening was relatively standard as far as readings go: Hell read a few pages about the perfect chaos that was CBGB in the early 1970s and Christgau aimed some surprisingly challenging questions across the untouched water glasses sweating between them. (“Your father died when you were seven,” he said, after a preemptive apology. “Why didn’t you say more about that in the book?”) 

The one thing that Hell wanted to make clear was that he was honest—sometimes brutally, jaw-clenchingly so—for all 297 paperback pages and that he didn’t change facts, shift time or do any James Frey-ing with the truth as he remembered it. Or, when he couldn’t remember, as the journos conveniently reported it at the time. 

The best moments of the evening, other than the entire evening? 

Richard Hell: When it came out you said that [Voidoids] record was…
Robert Christgau: I said I saved it for those special occasions when I wanted to feel like a nervous wreck.
Hell: I resented it at the time, but now I think you’re right.

Christgau: [Voidoids guitarist] Robert Quine was the most technically perfect—
Hell: But emotionally he was—
Christgau: I know, but technically, he played like goddamn Charlie Parker!

Audience Member: Did you give your mother a hard time?
Hell: Other mothers had it worse. 

During the audience Q&A session, the French bookseller sitting beside me asked Hell about his relationship to—and love for—books. He nodded and said that yes, he’d always loved books as, you know, books but also as objects before casually mentioning that Proust had changed his life. I was not prepared to hear Richard Hell say that and I totally wasn’t prepared to swoon—hard—when he did. 

Afterwards, when it was my turn for him to sign my just-purchased copy of the book, I told him that Proust had affected me too, which was TOTALLY TRUE, SORT OF, IN A WAY. The difference is that he meant In Search of Lost Time, I meant Monty Python’s Summarize Proust sketch. Tomato, tomahto, Totally-lied-to-Richard Hell-to. 

While he was Sharpieing my title page, he said that he’d written the first draft while he was reading Proust and there were all kinds of comparisons and allegories and long passages that didn’t make the final edit. “It was…it was bad,” he said. 

"Did you at least save a copy of that version, for kicks," I asked, because I talk like a 1970s radio DJ. 

He shook his head. “But thanks for reminding me of that,” he said.

I listened to the Voidoids all the way home last night. That record never makes me feel more nervous than I already am. 

The Facebook page for The Wrecking Crew posted this Johnny Rivers video as their Flashback Friday, which totally pulled several memories out of my own mental servers, but not because I remembered seeing Mr. Rivers and his double breasted suit on whatever stage that was. One of my ex-boyfriends and I somehow ended up1 having a Johnny Rivers song as our song,2 so for our first anniversary, he gave me a guitar signed by Mr. Rivers.3

Since then, I can’t hear a Johnny Rivers song without thinking about That Guy and That Guitar. A billion calendar pages have passed since his life and my life formed any kind of Venn diagram, so that doesn’t bother me…but if I see Johnny’s name typed neatly on a jukebox title card, I’m damned sure gonna spend my quarter on something else.

1This is what happens when your preferred dating pool is two decades older than you are.

2No, it wasn’t this one.

3He actually signed it twice. Apparently Johnny isn’t great at following directions.