Tag Archives: The Music Underground

Paris, France

Two Tits and Six Hands

By Carrie Tee

Photos By Sarrah Danziger

If you don’t think Paris was made for love…maybe you can relate to a night like this.

When I “woke up” at seven o’clock Friday morning, I had a plan. From  the crazy hills of Montmartre, my ass needed to find itself in a seat at the Sorbonne, Latin Quarter, way across the city. Morning-sex had left me unsatisfied and even more exhausted than I already was. I stumbled down the steep cobblestone streets with the thought of Stam sleeping soundly, keeping me awake with jealousy. My partner, in addition to stealing the covers and pushing me off the bed, had a snoring problem, and I, in addition to not enjoying being cold, falling on the floor, or the sound of weed-whackers, had chronic insomnia. I’d stop short of calling us an ideal couple. It was going to be a long day. I knew it would start in a stuffy classroom, but thankfully the paltry air held no notion as to what corner of Paris the night would unravel.

View From Pompidou

 

Around the block of Stam’s flat are a few of Montmartre’s beloved charms and tourists traps: Moulin RougeSacré-Cœur, and that damned café from Amélie, Café des Deux Moulins. Luckily the sun was too low for the fanny-packers to be snapping photos. I wasn’t especially in the mood to shove past people blocking the sidewalks, fumbling with  cameras, and trying to unfold-maps and find what was right-side-up.

My class was around the corner from Shakespeare & Co, which Hemmingway, Pound, Fitzgerald and Joyce used to haunt. Every expat knows that “writers” can sleep for free between the book stacks upstairs. However, I bet the bed-bugs and swarms of tourists make this a little less than cozy. I decided to study between the classrooms and the bookstore in the wee garden that surrounds St. Julien le Pauvre Church. Amid flowers and hobos and in the shadow of Notre Dame’s spires, I tried my best to comprehend the agreement of French verb tenses in complex and hypothetical phrases. Snooze! I wanted to cover myself with Le Monde and doze off like one of the hobos.

After two hours of this pronoun and verb and si clause shit, I wanted to sleep. I really didn’t want to go back to Montmartre to see Stam, and we had no plans to hang anyway. I also really didn’t want to go back to my flat out in the suburbs.  But at least out in the suburbs, there would be no one wheezing in my ear. So I told Stam I needed to go home and sleep. He sounded annoyed and I will probably never know why or if he was or not…one of life’s great mysteries.

What can I tell you about Melun, where I live? Well, I don’t actually live in Melun. My village is such a tiny little thing that it’s not worth mentioning. Neither is Melun. But the area does have two of the most impressive chateaux around, Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte(upon which Versailles is based), both worth visiting. There are also the Fontainebleau forests, famous for hiking and prostitution. But none of this makes taking the RER way out there very interesting.

The ride home seemed eternal and my nap was a failure. Internet trolling revealed that Turbo Fruits had a gig at Point Ephémère. A former construction depot, Point FMR was taken over by an artists collective and now houses art exhibitions, studio spaces, a big concert hall and a large patio that sprawls out onto Canal St. Martin. All the hip young things line that canal on summer nights like weeds, drinking in clusters until the wee hours. The option of cheap bodega beer along the water there isn’t a bad back up plan or after hours spot.

 

 

We found the Turbo Fruits show was free; now all we needed was a  little male company.

Sophie and I spent all afternoon loly-gagging, making ourselves pretty, casting a net out for options. Some guys we had met earlier in the week were down for a bit of fun. We had picked the fellows up in the splendidly dilapidated gardens of La Miroiterie, the oldest squat in Paris. The place is known for punk, hardcore, and noise shows, as well as its free store. That night, we had decided to splurge five big ones for a show, but the door ended up being pay-what-you-can. This was definitely a good thing considering that  Total Abuse, the band we went to see, had canceled and we had already climbed all the way up that damned hill with tallboys in hand. So we tossed a euro to the doorman for both of us and snuck around, checking out zines and records, enjoying what was essentially a big garden party. Shows there are played in a sweaty cement box, and seeing as the French hardcore bands had been nothing to write home about, we mostly stayed outside. There was a guy next to us that had been speaking in English on his phone. When he hung up, Sophie said, “Hey, where you from?” Cameron was from Austin and also there to see the canceled band. We bummed out together for a second, talked about the short he had just shopped-around at Cannes, and bullshitted about how cool Berlin is. He had seemed more interested in addressing Sophie, so I started talking to Cam’s buddies, Trevor and James, who had approached the three of us during our conversation with Cam. I had noticed Trevor out in the street before… and I certainly didn’t mind seeing him up close. The two Aussies were soon going from Paris to Milan. On bike. They looked like the type that would do that, the type that would be in a crusty spot in Paris questioning what they were doing in Paris. I told them they seemed unhappy and they raised their moping, little heads to look at each other.  It was the only time they had cracked a smile all night. They seemed really stressed, really tired, and really bored. They said they’d yet to have a decent time in this city. We exchanged numbers and I had hoped something would come up before they left. We decided we would all hook back up on Friday.

Now it was Friday, and Sophie gave Cameron a call. He was going to the Pop-in, a hipster dive full of Brits and smelly live shows. I called Trevor and James, but they had some dinner thing. We planned to meet them all sometime later, somewhere along the canal. The sun was going down when we finally left our flat, and Sophie was enchanted with the magic-hour sunlight over the green fields, the skies still bright blue and everything smelling of lavender. The big city was a short ride away, but we were worlds apart. Sophie and I missed our train and bought flasks of gin and whiskey in the corner shop to whittle away the 30 minute wait. Bullshit with Stam was stressing me out. He wouldn’t commit to meeting anywhere and just kept saying, “call when you get in and we’ll see.” Then he called and said he felt like going out right away, so he was seeing what his other friends were up to.

Charming.

 
La Miroiterie

 

We hopped off the metro at Jaures and talked about how the above-ground metro and all the highway overpasses are a bit reminiscent of Brooklyn. It’s probably a reason I like this area; it’s a bit industrial, a bit grimy, and doesn’t have any set style. It’s a mass of every taste and every ethnicity, and lots of cool graffiti. I love it, but I don’t love the boldness of guys in the area. They follow an offer to buy hash with an offer to fuck them, as though their shitty stashes were the hottest things going. The more romantically inclined fellas, nuance the deal with a proposition for a massage.

We trotted down the huge staircase and out of the metal turn-style, and I did feel for a second like we were hopping out in Bushwick, about to swing around the corner to the Market Hotel. Before I could really get caught in melancholic nostalgia, a brigade of yellow-shirted police officers and police vans came charging down the avenue in front of us. A stream of roller skaters started behind them. We took out our cameras and snapped the seemingly endless flow of skaters, gliding through the perfect early-summer night. All the trains and subway transfers we kept missing that night suddenly seemed like a blessing. Nothing is better than being perfectly on time for something totally unplanned.

 
We headed out to find a place to pee, having the good luck to pick a bar selling cans of cheep beer to take away, a brilliant idea in this convenience-store desert. We stocked up and went over to Point Ephémère. The terrace was overflowing as ever, the canal was teaming, and the Aussies called to say they were on the way.

I called Stam and told him where we were. He’d ended up drinking on the canal with a friend, and we were to meet up. He described where they were. I was a bit drunk and have no sense of orientation, anyway, so this wasn’t great. “What playground, what bridge?” I asked. I had no fucking idea what he was talking about. Regardless, we had our biker friends on the way, so for the moment we waited along one of the main intersections. Sophie and I were continually harassed by people trying to sell us beer or drink our liquor, telling us how lovely we were or calling us bitches when we refused to give them a cigarette or let them take a puff…. Really, sorry herpes mouth, but that’s a no.

I saw James’ tie-dye shirt first, then the two of them slowing their bikes and scanning the crowds. I tried to get their attention and almost yelled the wrong name. In any case, Trevor what’s-his-face was looking way finer than I remembered. The cap and hoodie he had at the show were gone, showing off long messy locks and ripped arms. The tattoos and the mustache, tight black pants…it was hopeless. I might have tried harder to remember Stam, but after the ungodly sleepless night and him being weird about meeting up and being bitchy in general, well, it gave me too much room to reconsider. Did I need any room or was I already reconsidering?

I still had to figure out where the fuck Stam was. Did he just happen to come here, or come because I told him I was gonna come here? Did he even want to see me? Was he being a douche for the expressed purpose of being a douche?

At first it seemed harmless getting us all together this night, but it could have been the gin interpreting for my tired mind. The mention of “my guy” sent the biker dudes running off to get beers (a.k.a. have an emergency bro-chat). When they came back, they seemed a bit bummed and said they couldn’t stay long, that they had to get up early and all. Sophie and I had some girl-talk while they were gone, and I think everybody knew the score, which was that no one was going to score. I don’t remember a damn thing anybody said, I just remember Trevor’s accent and ridiculously sexy, puppy-eye combination rendering me senseless.

Point Ephémère

 

I called Stam again. We talked forever. Maybe a lot of it was my poor French, but I still couldn’t figure out where in the fuck they were. Then I thought I understood where they were. Sophie and I walked up steps, over a bridge, down more steps and found a dead-end that reeked of piss. I apparently had been very wrong. I asked some guys down piss-alley if they knew about this playground area that Stam had described, but no one had a clue.

One more angry talk with Stam, who knew exactly where we were. He knew I was struggling to understand what mystical little bridge they were located under that’s next to some imaginary playground, yet not once did he offer to just come find us. He opted instead to start shouting directions at me.

This made things slightly awkward. Obligingly the boys dragged their bikes as we tried to find “my guy”. Trevor knew I was pissed at my man. But nonetheless I was trying to find him. This situation is what the French call la lose. It’s a shitty situation in which everybody probably looses, but it remains kinda funny. This is more or less the description of my life.

Eventually the guys took off. As he left, Trevor said, “Will I see you again, if I come back to Paris?” along with the worst killer puppy-eyes and sweet tender hug. Neither of us wanted to say goodbye.

Now, Sophie wasn’t so keen on finding Stam: “Why the fuck couldn’t he just come get us, and why the fuck is he so mad at you when you’re trying to find him. And you went all the way to his place from the suburbs last night just to see him, and now he can’t even walk one minute to find you?” It was true. I went to class the day before, came home to rest and shower, went all the way back to Paris in a cracked out, tired state just to see my man. Then I didn’t sleep again because of him, and now I was exhausted and pissed. And for what? mediocre sex and a totally non-committal relationship? I could do better…but what is better, again?

I stared at Trevor’s number in my phone as Sophie went off and I listened, each second my stomach turning more with a strange cocktail of irritation, gin, beer and butterflies. The butterflies were winning and the liquid courage took hold. I dialed. “Hello?” his voice said: “I was expecting you.”

We miraculously got the last metro out of Jaures, miraculously caught our connection just in time, and made it to Hotel de Ville where the guys, not so miraculously, had agreed to wait for us. We were in Central Paris, where the Seine was polluted with a much different type of crowd: younger, maybe slightly less hip and over-excited when breaking bottles and creating a mess. Sophie talked about finding Cameron, who was across the river in this fancy cocktail bar. She added that I owed her one as we approached Hotel de Ville. I knew it.

We settled in once again along the water. The boys had found some wine, so we sipped as I sat knee to knee with Trevor. I felt the tension of the evening melting away at last. I kept trying to peer over to see if Sophie was okay, but she and James seemed to be having a lively conversation and I never even caught her gaze.

Hormones were preventing Trevor and me from saying anything terribly interesting, or at least I prefer to blame hormones. We were waiting for the big K-I-S-S and that was about it. Sophie later said that she saw our heads getting closer and then couldn’t see me anymore. Yes, I had disappeared into a dangerous state of blind teenage lust, aided by alcohol, spitefulness, and an accent. I often bag these fragile musician guys, but having this solid block of man to play with was incredibly sexy.  His kiss was a bit too eager, his embrace a bit too rough, but it was the distraction I neededif things were slow and gentle, I would think about what I was doing, which was having fun, and then I wouldn’t be having it anymore. Joy is so ephemeral for young foolish things.

Drinking along the Seine is one of my favorite past times. It’s free, interesting figures keep popping up, and no shitty song is ever going to come on and bring you down. The only problem is the lack of toilets. After shooting down Trevor’s idea for me to take a leak under the bridge (yeah, that’s a dude thing), we wandered back up the steps and around Ile-St-Louise in search of a toilet.

I’ve played this game before. Bars are closing, chairs are being stacked, workers are starting to illegally light up smokes inside as they clean. FUCK NO, you can’t use the bathroom. Everyone has just cleaned the bathroom. Sorry, but we’ve got bridges for that, Madame.

So we go down some side-streets to look for a quiet alley. The early hours are romantic in central Paristhe reflections on the river, the shadows and silhouettes, the whimsical street lamps, the dead streets. But it was less romantic hunting for a grimy alley in which to take a piss. There was a promising candidate, full of parked cars and crates, but no people. Trevor walked me a ways and, instead of using the privacy of the spot for the original objective, he pulled me in tight. He leaned against a van and had his arms around me, the same semi-desperate tongue pushing even stronger. His hands were down my pants and I regretted having left my purse down by the Seine, especially when he guided my hand down toward his open fly…I could work with that. No matter, he came ready, and reached in his pocket. As I heard the plastic tearing, I suddenly lost focus. Someone came down the street, and we had to cool it a second. It was one thing to have a condom in your bag, but really, in your front pocket? Wait, who is this guy again? I only got his name figured out this morning.

It was like waking up sober after falling asleep in a drunken stupor. It wasn’t my last night in Paris. I didn’t need to grab this night by the balls, pull the dawn down from the horizon. I don’t know what exactly happened, but the moment was lost. The wandering soul that passed by was like a rock skipping on a placid lake suddenly we saw the water rippling in front of us just before our boots got wet.

We went back. “Where were you guys?”“Looking for a place to piss.” Everyone was tired, everything was cool and soggy, and the metro was about to reopen. It was time to go home. The boys got on their bikes, and Sophie and I decided to walk to Gare de Lyon.

Over the river, the sun was beginning to flicker and suddenly the city had repented its dirty, lascivious ways and was back to its charming self, buttons redone, hair combed. The view of Bastille in the distance, back-lit by the lightening sky, began erasing my fatigue. We left at sunset and were headed home at sunriseeverything seemed to be in its right place. I was excited at the prospect of a hot shower and lying down in my little white room, way way out in the suburbs. The train would be quiet and we would be back safely in no time. But first, we would have to wait it out in the station, watching the times and towns shifting on the huge departure boards.

Gare de Lyon

 

Of course there are sketchy guys hanging around outside a train station at 5am. One bothered us for a cigarette. He kept telling us, “no problem, tranquil. Me, tranquil, no problem,” which is something all the fucking creepers say to the ladies, usually accentuated with “vous êtes vraiment charmante.”  Yes, so charming, in fact, that I wouldn’t be wasting an iota of that precious shit on your ass. BYE.

I really was dying of thirst and this guy said, “What you want?” We were standing by a vending machine and he pulled out a bunch of change. Thirst. All that was on my mind. He said, “I’ll get you whatever you want, but first, come take a picture with me.” To do anything in France, you must submit passport sized photos and, because of that, booths are all over the place. I have been asked by lots of tourists, mainly Japanese guys, to take a photo with them. It didn’t matter much to me at this pointI had no change and sure, a bottle of water for a picture, why not? Stranger things have happenedand what better way to top off the morning than some PG prostitution?

Sophie took off somewhere and we went in the booth.

The guy put me on his lap. Then he kept trying to get me closer to an uncomfortable area. “Just put the change in,” I said.  He fumbled with the coins, and then tried to pull my face close to his, fondled my breasts with a free hand. I somehow grabbed some of his coins and threw them in his face.

I found Sophie at the station’s café. It was just opening. The waiter said: “What, you want to use the toilet?”  I said, “No, no,” in a defeated voice. Then he turned friendly and said: “What do you need?” French people love this game…I said, “Just a glass of water.” As he went to fetch it, Mr. Fondles showed up with a bottle in his hand. At the same moment, the waiter came back with the glass. The creep made a motion to take it, the waiter seemed confused. I took the bottle of water, pointed to the waiter and said, “You give that glass back to him!” and took off. Water water, everywhere, and way too many creeps.

I had had it. Twenty-four hours ago, I was in bed with my man, a guy who more or less respected me as a human. A few hours ago, I was nearly getting busy in an alley way with a stranger. And now I had just been felt up by some cretin against my will. The day had digressed steadily…too many hands for two tiny tits. We’d seen the full spectrum from boyfriend figure, to random fling, to assault. The last instance was stupidity, but that’s what I get for not assuming every guy is a total piece of scum. The other two guys, well, that’s Paris, that’s me, that’s being twenty something.

“If you don’t think Paris was made for love, give Paris one more chance,” sang Jonathan Richman with the Modern Lovers. That’s one line that was in my head when we finally boarded the train home. The other comes from Naughty by Nature: “There ain’t no room for relationships, there’s just room to hit it”.  Somewhere between these two lines, between night and day, between the wicked city and noble countryside, on my tranquil train in a lonesome cubby, I was hiding.

And that’s how I like it. For now.

Locations in Paris

Moulin Rouge
82 Boulevard de Clichy
75018 Paris, France
01 53 09 82 82

www.moulinrouge.fr

Sacré-Cœur
35 Rue du Chevalier de La Barre
75018 Paris, France

01 53 41 89 00
www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com

Café des Deux Moulins
15 Rue Lepic
75018 Paris, France

01 42 54 90 50‎
Google Maps

Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie
75005 Paris, France

01 43 25 40 93
www.shakespeareandcompany.com

St. Julien le Pauvre Church
79 Rue Galande
75005 Paris, France

01 43 29 09 09
www.sjlpmelkites.org

Fontainebleau
Place du Général de Gaulle
77300 Fontainebleau, France

01 60 71 50 60
www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr

Vaux le Vicomte
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
77950 Maincy, France‎

01 64 14 41 90‎
www.vaux-le-vicomte.com

Point Ephémère
Quai de Valmy
75010 Paris, France

01 40 34 02 48
www.pointephemere.org

La Miroiterie
88 rue de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris, France

Google Maps

Pop In
105 Rue Amelot
75011 Paris, France

01 48 05 56 11
www.popin.fr


Bands Featured

Turbo Fruits
www.myspace.com/turbofruits

Total Abuse
www.myspace.com/totalabuse


Cabaret Embassy (Casablanca, Morocco)

The Things They Never Knew

By Bobby Rich

Photos by Sarrah Danziger

It was late for the hotel and everyone was asleep except the American couple who sat sharing shots of whiskey and anisee on their bed. The paint on their walls was chipping off and the florescent light-bulb overhead had no shade and was suspended from the ceiling only by the electric wires that powered it. The room had a small window at the far side of it that looked onto the terrace, which had no street view because rooms were built around it. To have any type of natural light in their room, one would have to open the door, and even then it was not direct. The American couple kept taking shot after shot from their small glass cups that were normally used by Moroccans for tea and coffee. Sam kept on the bottle of anisee, holding up her cup to the electric light as she poured in the water. And Richard held the bottle of whiskey in one hand and his cup in the other since he didn’t take much time between shots, unless he was ready for a cigarette. They were quiet for the most part, looking at the floor or the ugly wall ahead, and then Richard said:

“Do you want to go out tonight? It is your last night in Morocco and Casablanca is supposed to be a party town.”

“Is it supposed to be?” she said mockingly.

“Well, that’s what I hear. Plus you saw the gay couple romantically kissing and walking hand in hand at the Hassan Two Mosque today. That was a first in Morocco! The people must be less repressed here.”

“I mean, where exactly would you want to go?”

“You know as much as I do about this town. I don’t know, we’ll take out the motorcycle and see what we find.”

“The patron is going to hate us. She already told us the curfew is midnight.”

“That’s nothing ten dirham can’t fix.”

The motorcycle was silver and reflected the night sky wonderfully. Richard had bought it from a friend of his in Marrakech, and he planned to sell it before he left the country. It had fifteen hundred original miles on it which Sam and him had put on together, but after tomorrow how ever many more miles the bike would accumulate would be put on only by Richard. He pushed the bike to the middle of the plaza away from the entrance of the Hotel des Amis, kick-started it, and then said: “I love these women here! I told you that curfew was nothing a small bribe couldn’t change. To think, we’re only paying an equivalent of three-fifty each to stay here. The Western world has it all wrong, Sam. Whoever started charging eighty bucks for a hotel room a night in America was a fucking crook!”

Sam didn’t say anything.

As they drove through the winding alleys of the medina, Sam held on tight to Richard. It is possible that she did this because she was cold, but it was the look on her face which made one think she was doing this to savor her last feelings of love for this man. Her eyes were closed, her lips were slightly parted with the faint hint of a smile, and she pressed her cheek warmly against his back. Sometimes Richard could have sworn that he heard her sigh, and at other times it seemed that she was rubbing herself against him. If she was he didn’t want to know, not because he wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening but because he knew if he talked about it he would ruin the moment for her. So he continued to drive looking straight ahead, driving faster and faster as he felt her wriggling behind him. They were now outside of the medina going down the Atlantic Coast, and he tried not to pay attention to anything but the road. And when he finally heard her let out a subtle moan and loosen her grip, he slowed down the bike for the first time, turned around, and started toward Boulevard Mohammed el Hansali and Boulevard Mohammed V, which was outside the medina. He didn’t know of any clubs there, but he had seen many flashing lights when they drove past ten minutes previous and thought it would be a good place to look.

They drove down Mohammed V and decided they would go to the first club they saw. Richard seemed to not only be physically drunk but mentally drunk as well. Any time he stopped at a red light, which only was when certain death seemed inevitable, he would rev his engine until the light turned green. And when it did he would kick his bike into first and speed away even faster than the crazy Moroccan drivers. Sam told him to slow down, but he couldn’t get a hold of himself. And when he saw the first club with flashing lights he swerved into oncoming traffic, squeezed between the moving cars and the parked ones, rode up onto the sidewalk, somehow managed to stop the bike smoothly, and then jumped off it with his keys in hand before Sam could even scream from fright. Sam did not seem impressed.

The club had a cover charge of fifty dirham, which is an equivalent to five Euros, and this seemed a bit pricey to the couple. “Do you mind if I go take a look?” asked Richard. The door man let him in and Sam stood outside looking at the sign above the doorman which read: CABARET EMBASSY. She thought this club was located in a strange place. It was right next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. She was also surprised by the fact that she hadn’t noticed it before, because it was right behind the Cafe de France, which is the most noticeable cafe outside the medina. But, of course, this club was always closed during the day and looked like a little hole-in-the-wall joint even now when it was open. The couple had walked by it many times and had never taken a second glance at it.

Richard came back and said, “This place is wild. We should go in.”

“I don’t really have fifty dirham to spend. I only have thirty now, and I’ll need it for food before I go to the airport tomorrow. I’ll walk home and see you when you get back.”

“No, you can’t do that. You’ll disturb the patron! Since it’s your last night I’ll pay for it. And really, the cover isn’t bad and plus it comes with a drink.”

They walked to the doorman and Richard handed him the hundred, and then the couple walked down the stairs into the basement, split apart a black, velvet curtain and heard a blast of electric sound. “Isn’t this great!” Sam looked over the crowd. Everybody had their arms up in the air dancing in a way she hadn’t seen before. There were women everywhere wearing short little dresses and smoking hookah with the men at their tables, and they were drinking beer too. This was the first time Sam had seen this kind of female behavior in Morocco, and she figured Richard must have been correct when he said people were less repressed in Casa. “What do you want to drink?”

Sam said, “A whiskey.”

“You go get a table and I’ll be right back.”

Richard found Sam over in the corner and laid a whiskey in front of her. She took a sip and said thank you. She looked over the scene again with a crooked kind of smile. Richard had taken note of what the other men were doing and started to dance the way they were. It seemed to be natural with the kind of music he was hearing. Sam started watching him and then snapped out of the trance she was in. “Those guys over there…” She pointed to the next table, “are New Yorkers. They introduced themselves to me when I sat down.”

Richard looked at the stage. Everybody seemed incredibly drunk to him. The men were getting on stage and dancing with the fat women singers with their arms in the air and shaking their bodies like worms. Richard thought they looked possessed. He didn’t know what was going on or what he was hearing, so he leaned over on the banquet toward the next table and started conversation.

Salam alaikum.”

“Alaikum salam,” Said one man from the group of five who sat closest to Richard.

“Hey, my girlfriend over here says you are from New York.”

“Yeah, we’ve all been living in New York for twenty years. Where’re you two from?”

“We’re from New York too. Bushwick area. Where you from?”

“Astoria.”

“Nice. Yeah, me and my friends like to go there. Play some backgammon, smoke some hookah. We actually almost lived in Astoria once.”

Sam chimed in: “We didn’t almost live there. Honestly this place was uninhabitable,” Sam said to the other man. “It was a basement in someone’s laundry room. It was a railroad apartment in a dungeon. We could see this beautiful backyard but the door was sealed with cement; and only the people upstairs could use it. It wasn’t fit for human beings! You’d have to pay me to live there.”

“Well, it was nine hundred a month for a two bedroom,” Richard said to the man. “I would have lived there.”

“Two bedroom?” said Sam scornfully. “One room was a hallway, and the other was a closet you couldn’t even stand up in.”

“Anyway, I would have lived there,” Richard reiterated. “How long are you in town for?”

“We’re going to stay for a couple months, visit the family, you know?”

“Cool, live it up for a bit, eh? Is this a club you come to often?”

“Naw, it’s our friend’s birthday.” He pointed to one in his group. He blew out some smoke from a hookah and then said, “you want some?”.

“Yeah,” said Richard.

“We like to come here for a couple months every year. Come back to the homeland. How long are you two staying for?”

“We’ve been in Morocco for a month. Sam is leaving tomorrow, but I’m here for a while longer. Say, what’s the name of this music?”

“It’s called Chaabi. It means popular, but It’s country and  mountain music.”

Sam hadn’t been listening to them. She was surveying the crowd again, and then some kind of greater understanding occurred and she pulled at Richard’s sleeve.

“What is it?”

“Ask him if these women are prostitutes. I keep seeing them go from table to table.”

“You think all of these women are prostitutes?” Richard looked around the room with a new pair of eyes. Why were they all wearing these trashy looking, sequin sparkling mini-dresses? Why had they all applied such heavy make-up? And yes, why were they jumping from table to table, talking to almost every man in the bar?

Richard leaned over toward the man. “Wait, are all these women prostitutes?”

The man didn’t even look around. “Yes, every woman who is in this club is a prostitute.”

“Really?”

Sam pulled Richard’s sleeve again. “Ask him how much they are.”

“Hey, man.” Richard handed him back the hookah. “How much are one of these girls?”

“Why, you want one?” He laughed.

“She wants to know.” And Richard looked over at Sam.

“Damn, you get down like that?”

“Naw, she’s just curious.”

“Well, for me they are about three hundred. For you, probably about six hundred, all night. They have different prices for foreigners.”

“All night, eh?” said Richard curiously. “Wait.” He leaned over to Sam. “He says they cost three hundred for him; six hundred for us.” Richard leaned back over to the man. “Wait, so this is a normal practice?”

“Yeah, all over the place.”

“Would you say all women who go to bars are prostitutes?”

“I wouldn’t say one hundred percent, but probably about eighty percent are.”

“Crazy! I never knew that.” He went back over to Sam. “He says all of these women are definitely prostitutes, and about eighty percent of all women in bars are prostitutes.”

The couple polished off their whiskeys. “Wow,” said Sam. She looked all around. “This is amazing.” On stage nothing had changed. The blue Christmas lights were still flashing , drunken men were still dancing, but the women singers seemed to have forgotten they were singing and were now just drinking beers on the side. Sam pulled out her camera and started filming.

The man saw what Sam was doing and leaned toward Richard. “What is she doing?”

“We’re journalists. We write for a website that covers cultural music. We want to get some footage for an article.”

“You shouldn’t do that,” he said. “These people have families and, you know, different identities in the day.”

“Don’t worry,” said Richard. “Our audience is predominantly American. Everybody’s identity will be protected.”

The man seemed not to like this response, but he sat back in his seat and continued to smoke his hookah. Some prostitute had the demon running through her and went on a rampage, hopping from man to man, swinging her head in circles like a rocker. Sam quickly started to film her when she attacked one drunken soul who sat near them. The man from Queens looked over at the couple with little respect as Sam filmed the woman.

Sam said, “I’m having such a great time, and now I have to leave Morocco. I’m sad. I wish I could stay.”

Richard looked at the scene around him, the prostitute hopping onto another man, the crowd drunk and falling on the floor, the man next to them giving the evil eye, and then Richard said, “Trust me, I think it’s better this way.”

Locations In Casablanca

Hôtel des Amis
12 Rue Markazia
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps

Cabaret Embassy
2 Boulevard Mohammed V
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps

Cafe de France
Boulevard Mohammed V
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps



Chicago, Illinois

These Are the Things We Have Always Been Doing

By John Thurgood

So, ten minutes into the bike ride, it starts raining. But really raining. And out of nowhere. Me and Julio, we’re in front of a psychiatric ward when it starts coming down, so we ride over to their metal awning for shelter, but the wind is really thrashing. The awning doesn’t do much to keep us dry, and the over-washed, button-up t-shirt I’m wearing isn’t doing much to cut the wind either.

Standing there, not sure how long this storm is going to last, we try to figure out what to do, when the door to the psych ward opens and a squirrely eyed janitor invites us in. He’s not wearing a uniform, and the only reason I assume he’s the janitor is because he’s holding a walkie-talkie. He leans his whole body into the weight of the door to hold it open. It’s a little weird that he doesn’t just step outside, like he can’t break the threshold or something.

“What about our bikes?” Julio asks.

“Sure, bring ’em in.”

He waves us in, and we follow, struggling to get our bikes through the heavy metal door.

The lobby is bright, and everything—the linoleum, the painted cinder walls, and the cheap ceiling panels—are a sterile white that makes the whole place look stiff and uncomfortable.

“You boys sure did pick a bad time to ride your bikes. You don’t check the weather reports?” The janitor stands with his arms crossed over his chest, a little righteous.

We mumble that we don’t, and I look around at the posters lining the lobby walls. They’re all white poster board with magic maker and glitter. The writing is squiggly and riddled with spelling errors.

“What is this place?” I ask.

“It’s a psychiatric ward for autistic children.” Then he goes into a long argument defending the need for long-term care for autistic children. I had heard about it on This American Life, so I understand where the guy is coming from, and resist the temptation to bring up the TAL episode—I don’t want to sound insensitive. And from the look on the guys face, it doesn’t seem like he gets this opportunity very often. So, I listen while he talks his job up, and glance around the lobby, somewhat disappointed that this scenario hadn’t turned into an H. P. Lovecraft novel but a learning experience, instead. I usually welcome both, equally.

Julio is the first to notice the rain letting up. The janitor is a little disappointed that we have to go. I’m not sure what he had planned, but I guess standing around shooting the shit is better than cleaning up vomit or whatever duties he was avoiding by standing down here talking with us.

Outside, the streets are glistening from the streetlights reflecting off the freshly wet asphalt and shallow puddles. There is still a slight drizzle, but we start riding anyway. We were headed to a show at the Empty Bottle when the rain started, and we are going to miss the first band for sure now—we were already a little late before we got caught up in the storm.

The Strange Boys are playing, a band that I don’t care too much about, but Julio is really into. They add a southern mojo hand to SF’s garage sound that, I guess, really does it for a few people. They’re pretty popular anyway, and I always see their records at Reckless but seem to pass them up for something else every time.

The cool thing about it raining is that when we get to the Bottle, we find a spot to lock-up right in front.

There’s a nice little restaurant next door to the Bottle called Bite Café. I guess it’s ran by the guys at Empty Bottle. But while we’re locking up, the singer from the Ponys comes out, looks around, then goes back inside.

“Hey, that was the dude from the Ponys,” Julio kind of laughs.

“Why didn’t you ask him about CB2?”

Julio works at Crate & Barrel’s sister company, CB2, which is basically a cheaper version of the former. They make dorm room furniture and weird knick-knacks. But, for the past few months, Julio has been trying to get bands to come into their warehouse to play a show. It’s kind of a great idea, but he’s had little luck with it so far.

“Yeah,” Julio says, shrugging, “I haven’t sent them an email about it, but I probably should.”

When we get inside, the first band is already off stage, and the crowd is well into its shift to the bar. Julio offers to buy first drinks, and ten minutes later, he comes back with Old Milwaukee.

The Empty Bottle has been around for a little less than ten years, and before that it was another venue with a different name and owner. But at one point it must have been a store front or someone’s apartment, because the layout of the place is somewhat unconventional. The entrance opens to what I assume was once a living room, where a pool table now sits and a table for merch. Two arcade games are in the corner. That room leads to a hall of disheveled brick with a Mrs. Pacman game and a few doorways to the main room with the stage and bar. It’s an interesting set-up, and they always have some type of whiskey and beer special for five bucks. So, music aside, I would go there anyway.

The next band to get on stage is White Fence, which is basically Tim Presley wiggling around with a guitar strapped to his chest. I kind of love it, and so does most everyone in the crowd. He looks like an unkempt businessman that at one point lost his way, and now croons about it.

At one point in the show someone yells out, “What kind of pants are those?”

Presley replies, “They’re Docker’s,” and somehow makes it sound sexy, which pretty much sums-up their whole performance.

White Fence plays their set, and two Old Milwaukees later, the Strange Boys take to the stage.

Julio makes his way up to the front before it gets too crowded, and I follow. While the band is getting ready we position ourselves in front of one of the microphones. I don’t normally like to stand right up front, but Julio is really into the band, so what the hell, I do it anyway.

Ryan Sambol steps up to the mic in front of us, and thanks White Fence and the band before them, then talks a little about his day while tuning his guitar. The crowd starts to fill-in. And then the band opens with “Poem Party.”

The Strange Boys are a little younger than Julio and I, and they’re all strapping young men. When Sambol sings, he takes on a sort of heavy, bedroom glare that I’m sure is meant for the teenage girls swarming the stage and not me and Julio. So, it’s a little weird that we’re standing directly in front of him.

Awkwardness aside, they play a great set, and afterward Julio and I step outside to enjoy an after-show cigarette. On the way out, Julio buys a White Fence cassette tape. It’s of a live show they did in LA. There are only 200 copies, a collectable, but I suspect he bought it only because it was recorded onto a cassette.

He’s holding the tape, looking it over as we walk to our bikes. He says something about the tape being cool, and I agree and take out a cigarette and light it.

He asks me for a cigarette, I give him one, plus my lighter, and we stand there for a while taking in the sweet, humid smell of a summer night in Chicago.

After a few drags, Sambol dashes out of the venue, chasing down the hot tamale guy.  When he walks back, he’s carrying a plastic sack of tamales in one hand and munching on one in the other. We wave him over.

Introductions all around. He no doubt recognizes us as the dudes swarming the stage and pins us as a pair of fanatics.

Sambol takes a bit of tamale, looks at a sliver of pepper dangling from the end and with a full mouth asks, “What do you think that is?”

“Pshh,” Julio says, “that’s not the real tamale guy. Those things are tiny.” He laughs.

“Hey, it’s food, though.” Sambol raises the bag of tamales. “And right now they taste just like I want them to.”

We compliment him on the show and his mild success, and he tells us a little about the tour so far, then Julio breeches the CB2 topic. Julio had emailed someone in the band about it, but judging by the look on Sambol’s face, it was not him.

“Yeah, they said there just wasn’t enough time this time,” Julio says. “But next time you should; for sure, you should definitely stop in.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. We’re playing a show in Milwaukee tomorrow night.” Sambol takes out another tamale. “It sounds fun, though. What is it again? A radio station?”

Julio laughs. “No man, it’s a studio, an artist’s studio for CB2.”

Julio walks around a clear explanation of what CB2 actually is, and Sambol munches on his tamale, obviously confused but willing to listen, probably still thinking we’re fanatics.

Finally, I cut Julio off, and plainly state that CB2 is the sister company of Crate & Barrel. They make dorm room furniture and knick knacks.

Sambol smiles. “So wait a minute. You want us to play at the store?”

“No,” Julio says, “at the studio.”

“You’d be playing for the office, kind of,” I add.

There is an awkward pause.

“Whoa, I thought you guys were a radio station. Whoa, that’s kind of weird.”

“But it’s an interesting space,” Julio adds.

Sambol takes another bit of tamale. “And you guys will be recording this?”

“Sure. We can record it. Maybe arrange something with the corporate office. You guys could be sponsors or something. I’ve been talking to other bands about it. Thee Oh Sees and Sandwiches. I think Sandwiches might do it.”

Sambol thinks it over.

A girl runs over with an album. I see her at shows all the time. When King Khan played she jumped up on stage and made out with him, then did it again, like seven more times. It got weird. Her album has signatures all over it from the rest of the band, and she asks Sambol to sign it.

After he signs, he turns back to us, and after a second says, “Man, that’s a hard sell.”

Apparently it is, so Julio drops the subject, and we talk about Austin for a while, because The Strange Boys are living there right now. Then Sambol heads back into the Bottle, and we unlock our bikes and head over to Estelle’s for burgers and a beer.

Estelle’s is right on the corner of North and Damen, where the two streets cross Milwaukee, The Six Corners. It’s the busiest intersection in Wicker Park, and one of the busiest in the whole city.

I’ve been told by a few people that ten years ago Wicker Park was a rough part of town. There’s a scene from an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie called Red Heat that shows The Six Corners before all the condos and martini bars went in. It was pretty bleak. I interviewed Ron Seymour of Ron Seymour Photography for a project once. His studio has been on that corner since ’88, and he said when he first moved in, he couldn’t walk outside after six. You just didn’t do it. Two friends of his were mugged and killed. One was stabbed and the other was beaten to death. Now, there’s an American Appearal just down from his studio, the first one to open in the Midwest. It stays open until nine. There’s also a Levi’s store, an Urban Outfitters, and a slew of music venues and bars. It basically Chicago’s version of an outdoor mall, and normally I would never go over to that part of town, but Estelle’s is the only place to get a decent burger and a beer past one a.m., so Julio and I lock our bikes up on some scaffolding across the street and go inside and sit at the bar.

My friend Chiara texted me while we were at the show, so I text her back. She’s at Pancho’s in Logan Square. Some friends of hers are in town from Baltimore, and they’re playing a show. She texts back that the show is over, and she’ll meet us at Estelle’s.

The burgers here are probably shipped frozen, but the buns they use are pretty good and the veggies are fresh, and they usually have a good IPA in a can for three or four bucks.

Me and Julio order. Harold and Maude is playing on the TV behind the bar, so we watch that for a while. Julio has never seen it, so I try to explain why the kid is running around with an old lady, but I realize I don’t know what I’m talking about so I just say it’s a good movie and that he should check it out.

It’s a weekday so Estelle’s isn’t all that crowded. There is a group of accountants standing at the bar just down from us, and behind us in a booth is a middle-aged guy with what is most likely a hooker. The rest of the bar is modestly filled with similar folks, bottle-necking as it gets closer to the door.

Chiara shows up while we’re halfway through our burgers, and joins us at the bar. We work together at Nightwood in Pilsen, so we talk about that for a while. Julio is clearly uninterested, and watches the movie.

Chiara moved to Chicago to do a post-back in visual art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her work uses a lot of fabric and three-dimensional shapes. She’s really into embroidery. She also has a bunch of funny tattoos that she refuses to fill-in, like a bandaid and a polar bear among others. They’re all outlines, so it basically looks like she screenprinted her arm with cookie cutters.

We finish eating and decide to head over to the lakefront. Outside, the streets are crowded with lingerers, even though the two a.m. bars let out a half hour ago. Most of them are clutching phones to the sides of their heads, trying to get a hold of something better than just going home, I guess. Taxis are swarming The Six Corners, too. This is their golden hour.  And above everyone’s head, the L clatters up to the Damen stop.

We take North Avenue over to the lake, which we quickly realize is a mistake. North lacks bike lanes, and hasn’t been re-tarred since the fires, or so it seems. The traffic sucks, too, and I almost get hit by a taxis that pulls out in front of me.

We take the North Avenue tunnel under Lake Shore Drive, and ride over to the cement docks. A few kids are swimming off the dock down by the Chess Pavilion, and the water looks really inviting, especially after that bike ride down North. Chiara is clearly thinking about it. Julio is starring off at the John Hancock Building and the wave of skyscrapers looming just a few blocks south. This is a weird part of Chicago, where the lake meets the city. There are two beaches on either side of the docks and up north past the pavilion, Lincoln Park sprawls outward into a grassy preserve.

Swimming off the dock is something I would have done regularly if I had grown up in Chicago—in my underwear, naked, whatever. But now it just seems cheesy. To jump in now would only be forcing a sense of adventure, and I see the same lackluster resignation on the faces of Chiara and Julio.

I ask if they want to jump in anyway. Chiara smiles and nods, and Julio picks up his bike.

“I think I’m gonna head back and drink a few beers,” Julio says.

I try to get him to stay, but he won’t have it, so he takes off and me and Chiara strip down to our skivvies and jump into the frigid depths of Lake Michigan.

The water is dark, and I can’t tell how deep it is. Looking outward, it seems endless, like the ocean, and I start to wonder if there are any Buick-sized catfish or equally large crawdads lurking down by my feet, waiting to pull under an early morning swimmer.

The cold water feels great, and me and Chiara make-out a little as we tread around.

There’s a yellow ladder up the side of the dock, and we use it to climb out. We jump in a few more times, then get dressed. As we gather some sort of plan, a K-9 unit drives by on the bike path. Five minutes earlier, they would have given us tickets or told us to leave. Good timing, I guess.

We head down the bike path and take the tunnel over to Michigan Avenue. There is something strange about swimming in one of great North America lakes, then, right after, riding down the six lane thoroughfare of Chicago’s busiest shopping district. Like I said, it’s a weird part of Chicago.

We ride down to Chiara’s. She lives in Bridgeport, and once we get through downtown we cross over to State Street, take Archer through Chinatown and then end up in her neighborhood. It’s a nice ride, and the streets are empty.

We stash our bikes in Chiara’s basement, and head up to her roof. Some friends of hers gave her a few home brews, so we take a bottle each up with us. The beers turn out to be terrible, but we drink them anyway, and spend the rest of the night up there looking out over the pitched roofs of residential south Chicago, talking and doing whatever until the sun pops up in the east.

Locations in Chicago

Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
(773) 276-3600
emptybottle.com

Bite Cafe
1039 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
(773) 395-2483
bitecafechicago.com

Reckless Records
26 N. Broadway
Chicago, Illinois 60657
(773) 404-5080
reckless.com

Estelle’s
2013 W. North Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 782-0450
estelleschicago.com

Ronald Seymour Inc.
1625 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 235-0161
ronseymour.com

Pancho’s
2202 N. California Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 384-1865
Google Maps

Nightwood
2119 S. Halsted Street
Chicago, Illinois 60608
(312) 526-3385
nightwoodrestaurant.com



St. Nicks Pub (New York City, New York)

African Nights

By Richard Prins

Not that I wasn’t a Columbia student when I first came to St. Nick’s Pub in 2005; my Swahili professor had suggested the venue for its Africa Night every Saturday, and we made an outing of it, a couple students each from the intermediate and advanced classes. The novelty of socializing with my academic peers convinced me to forgo memorizing a speech I’d have to give in Albany the following afternoon.

I played the native New Yorker and directed our crew of aspiring white Africanists to 149th Street. I had already developed instinctive grudges against my freshman class for their collective reticence to cross 125th. These weren’t first-years; they actually spoke passable Swahili, enjambed entire sentences between our English conversation, and had visited East Africa and done more than ogle exotic animals. They had dreadlocks, and dashikis brighter than my tie-dye, which I also envied as we reached the bright red billboard ST NICK’S PUB and walked down the steps into a tiny narrow bar where instruments were being dragged on stage. Guitars, a bass, a saxophonist with a backwards Yankees hat; what exactly made this African, I wondered.


The waitress in the leopard-skin skirt made us aware of the two-dollar table charge (the complimentary barstools were all taken, and it didn’t occur to us to stand) as well as the two-drink minimum. I asked for coffee, thinking I could stay up all night to memorize my speech, but there was none, so I got a Guinness because I knew what it was. As an 18-year-old unfamiliar with bar etiquette, I didn’t tip. The guitarist’s arpeggios sounded like the Sahara; he sang in smiling tongues even we polyglots couldn’t speak. My colleague stood to dance; I knew soon I’d have to rise to this occasion. She demonstrated the popular dance style of every country she’d ever visited, finishing on our common interest, Tanzania, “Where it’s all in the hips,” and her own percolated. She was electric. Her thickest fuzzy dreadlock bitchslapped my face, and I made a mental note to figure out one day whether my hips were mobile. They were by the time I ran into her a couple years later at a tourist club in Dar es Salaam and chased her across the dance floor like a dying man might chase a pulse.

“I can’t dance like that.” I stood. “But I do a pretty decent hippie-on-acid impression.”

“Acid is for innocents!” she laughed as the keyboardist took a break to dance with her. I let myself be guided towards joy by a second beer and the hollow detonations of a talking drum wedged in an old man’s armpit, which he beat with a stick. What did it matter if I would be speechless tomorrow before a crowd of young activists? The night was coming to life, and my limbs and torso were exploring new rhythmic contortions. Musical guests cycled on and off stage. A Cuban came and blew a shining trumpet – his fedora looked so classy it’s a sin he wasn’t simultaneously smoking a cigar. The waitress recited a lush slam poem; a drunk squealed briefly on a clarinet but was politely ushered off stage. A bald man took over on vocals and sang a song that made us sit back down so we could brace ourselves for its griotic power. Years later I would recognize the song as “N’Toman,” by Salif Keita’s first Afropop supergroup, Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux, and still relish its buoyant refrain.

At 2am the musicians took a smoke break in the backyard patio; mindful of my 9am bus ride to Albany, I said I had to leave. Surprisingly enough, my colleagues wished to follow. It was snowing fluffily. I scooped an armful of it off a brownstone’s ledge and dumped it in her dreads on the way to the 1 train. That was the last time I ever snowed someone. I woke in the morning to a phone call from Albany – there was a blizzard, so I could keep on sleeping.

I only make the trip up to 149th Street a couple Saturdays a year, usually when I’m trying to show off the venue to new friends. I dance so hard they pull me on stage when they can’t find another willing male; I let saxophone solos pinprick my brain and gasp in wonderment; I empty my wallet tipping the band and downing overpriced sugary blonde ales; I wake up the next afternoon and can hardly walk to the kitchen for water because my hips are shaken raw; I fulminate with mirth and pride at everything I’ve acquired from my multiple trysts with the Motherland. An ability to sing along to lyrics whose meaning I don’t know. To greet the Senegalese patrons in Wolof, which has the best “hello” in the world: “Wow-wow!” Wolof’s also the etymological source for words like hip, dig, cool. I’ve put effort into my Africanness, dammit, and Africa Night is my reward. The spiritual nature of the experience becomes only more exquisite.

Exquisite isn’t always a good thing. Exquisite pain, for example. Exquisite disappointment. But I would prefer to experience something exquisite than not. To finger the jagged grain, as Ralph Ellison put it. Unfortunately, most people would prefer a pinch in the cheek to a slap in the face. And I hope they all get fucked in the ass by Lenny Kravitz.

Tonight I have to go there (in order to write this here article). It’s been almost a year (since I spent most of the year frequenting even wilder clubs in Tanzania) so I need a refresher. I was going to go with a fellow St. Nick’s enthusiast who I could sleep with afterwards, but she got invited out to Long Island for the weekend. The last time I went to St. Nick’s, I went alone; I had just extricated myself from a long-term relationship so I was cultivating solitude. I’m not anymore; a sweat-drenched dashiki already makes me conspicuous – I don’t also want to be conspicuously alone. I left a facebook status asking if anyone wanted to see some African music; everyone was either uninterested, or they thought I was inviting them on a no-expenses-paid trip to Dar es Salaam, because the only response I got was from a long-lost friend in Texas informing me that she hula-hoops at a drum circle every Wednesday. So I polish off some Jim Beam after brushing my teeth (bad idea) but before getting on the subway (good idea) and spend the trip listening to South African jazz and Maasai hip hop on my iPod, muttering to myself about how so goddamn many people are interested in African music, or intrigued by it, or feel generally positive and groovy towards it, but so few make any effort to know it. Other than the occasional dreadlocked drum circle or viewing of Fela! – The Musical. Not that both aren’t awesome, in their own way – but what does one really discover? One should see music as Vasco de Gama saw continents!… rape & pillage optional.

Try naming a historical character cooler than Frank Serpico. Sure, they exist, but it’s hard to top a hobo-looking, ballet-enthusiast cop who single-handedly exposed the extent of corruption in the 1970s NYPD and was nearly assassinated by his colleagues in retribution. There’s a reason for the non sequitur; he once said something that I would be remiss not to quote when writing about music. Al Pacino interviewed Serpico before portraying him in the 1973 film of his life, and one of his most pressing questions to the whistle-blower was, why did you do it? Why did you testify against police corruption when the entire NYPD had made it clear you would do so at risk of your life?

Serpico’s reply: “Well, Al, I don’t know. I guess I would have to say it would be because… if I didn’t, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?”

I like this notion that we are someone when we listen to music; that music acts as a reflective conscience by forcing us to confront our own humanity.

That’s pretentious; I could have just written, isn’t what Frank Serpico said just the most fucking beautiful thing you’ve ever heard? and left it at that.

But I want to know who you will be when you listen to a piece of music. Are you waiting for the spirit to feel you up? Is your untouchedness innocent or lonely, and when it writhes are you also an electric snake, and do you coil through your own spininess? Or shed your skin and flicker your tongue at tomorrow’s edge where each beat is a horizon? Or slither away from all the heroic acts you didn’t perform?

Important questions, these. And who am I each time I venture Uptown, sipping whiskeyed ice tea on the subway so I won’t have to buy too many of their drinks, so I won’t have to feel the letdown of sobriety as I enter the orgy of music, will only feel electricity crossing the diaspora between their instruments and my body? Who am I that Africa Night at St. Nick’s Pub is my favorite music in the city?

“No matter who you are, or where you come from, you are an African,” repeats the guitarist each time he dispatches the tip jar through the crowd – bills which will later be tossed one by one at the musicians. (One must always tip the griot directly. Why do the hunters always defeat the lions in the stories? I once heard asked. Because the lions aren’t the ones telling the stories.)

A text message arrives from a musician friend as the train is rolling over the Manhattan Bridge…  was goin’ on tonight? Probably saw my facebook post – he digs African music. He should dig St. Nick’s – who knows if I ever told him about the place. He should also dig God – he has a lot of spirit inside him, but won’t recognize it as Jesus. We tripped on 2C-E once in high school; he thought he had been poisoned and began calling everyone he knew so he could pin his death on me. Meanwhile I wandered into the bathroom to urinate and felt a supernaturally powerful orgasm rushing through my urethra; it knocked me back on the ground and piss rivulets dribbled in my pubic hair. If he hadn’t been so afraid, God could have touched his genitals too, I frequently remind him; he assures me that my peculiar religiosity is a symptom of schizophrenia, and the public usually takes his side in this ongoing argument.

He asks what the cover is, but the train’s crossed the bridge and entered the tunnel, so I have to get off at Grand to tell him it’s free (not mentioning the astronomical price of a beer) and get back on the next D.

And step into the narrowness and blinkering Christmas lights; the cackling in English, white French, black French, et al. No music yet at midnight, but every barstool and chair lining the wall is taken; the wall is festooned with a collage of photos – as if we’re in the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl who’s got the hots for Charlie Parker. No room to stand without my tote bag from Tanzania getting whacked by the waitress’s beer deliveries.

The only people who come here alone are African. You can walk into a pub posse-less in Africa and emerge with lifelong friends. I suppose it’s a theoretical possibility in America, but I don’t know anyone who makes a practice of it.

By 12:15 I’ve nervously sipped away the entirety of my Sugar Hill and only the percussionist is seated on stage. I would say TIA but that’s for honkie tourists. They put “No Woman No Cry” on the jukebox, which I find offensively obvious, though everyone else seems to enjoy it, and a group is singing along to the “Hey hey” in the chorus. A 21-stringed calabash is placed in front of the drumset, the kora-player rocking short, choppy dreads to contrast with the big lady bassist’s back-length tapestries.

Check my phone; no reply from my friend. Probably thought I was going to poison him again.

With a cascading clash of notes. The guitar & kora entangling like two lovers’ inner thighs. On their way to Harlem, they pass the nomadic pastures of the Tuareg and Peul, zig-zag through the heyday of the Mande Empire, raft down the Gambia River, make an unfortunate detour in Brazil for a bossa nova, land in the South and send everything they learn back home via a passenger pigeon nesting in James Brown’s hairdo.

A pierced-eared pansy is dancing better than me. Stiffer competition than usual in the white-boy-ass-shaking contest. Usually I’m the ringer, but that’s when I have girls with me that want to be hit on by the musicians. The chords become major when they sidestep to Nigeria for Prince Nico Mbarga’s “Sweet Mother,” and reach down to South Africa for “Pata Pata,” without the clicks.

I’m singing along to the Xhosa lyrics when he trills homosexually in my ear, “What are you doing here!”

“I just like the music,” I shrug, and somehow feel like I just gave a lame excuse, in the vein of I only read porno for the articles. His hand is on my far hip and the other one asks my hand for a dance. I let him have it, but let it go limp. I don’t know how to politely explain that I’m not very gay, so I don’t dance with dudes at Africa Night.

The chords of the keyboard pull a cord coiled taut around my heart. A sad flash of lightning that knows unbearable joy coruscates from the guitarist’s face and fingers. A djembe strikes midnight, thirty minutes late. There is not enough room to dance between the bodies but I do anyway, though some dressed-up dickhead keeps tapping my shoulder and frowning because I’ve stepped on his overshined shoes. The birth cries of blues are wailed by this small stage; I can’t tell if the top-shelf liquors are rocking to the bass or only appear to be moving due to the flickering reflection of Christmas lights. I fork over eight bucks for another Sugar Hill, and pitch my tote bag at two folded chairs in the corner, with an unapologetic shrug to the ostensible Columbia students whose shoulders I tossed it over.

Despite their svelte sweaters and impeccably-trimmed beards, I can’t help wondering where tonight might send them…. It was less than five years ago that these sonic explosions dispatched me across the ocean to study indigenous music at the University of Dar es Salaam, to traipse to Chamwino to listen to Kigogo choirs, to jet-set to jazz festivals in Cape Town, to ride with local stars to Dodoma & rap in Swahili, and to chase my favorite bands around Mwenge and Sinza.

Anything, anywhere, to figure out who I am when I listen to a piece of music.

Location In New York City

St. Nick’s Pub [closed]
773 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10031-3925

(212) 283-9728
http://www.stnicksjazzpub.net


Goodbye Blue Monday (Brooklyn, New York)

By Steve Trimboli

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Thought and Memory on our sidewalk, MAKE MUSIC NEW YORK 2010


this past monday afternoon had a three-hour open window in my day and if you know me, you know exactly what i did with that time.
hint-hint.

i’ve been engulfed in the gulf. i can’t stop watching ongoing developments just as i couldn’t stop watching those jets fly into those buildings back then.
i call it “trainwreck mystification.”

the week it happened, sixty-five-plus days ago, i told a friend that this was going to be bigger than the twin towers because it will play out to be mass murder on a decades-long scale by white guys with a smart logo and thousand-dollar suits who speak our language – sorry scared white guys, it’s a bunch of your own this time and i’m wondering how you’ll justify this horror, but i know you’ll have no problem – and if anyone thinks human loss is more precious than the things around us, think again.
murder (or manslaughter) is a crime, whether driven by political ideology, greed or contempt.
humanity’s sense of entitlement knows no bounds.
that’s at the core of religion, but that’s just an opinion.
i have plenty.
three thousand people died on september 11th and thousands more will have gotten their lives shortened by their selflessness for pitching in and caring about what happened.
there’s a lot of wheezing going on around NYC as a result of that day.
in the gulf, miraculously, only eleven people died on the Deepwater Horizon on april 20th, which was horrible because of the arrogance of that corporation – but the overwhelming promise of long-term tragedy will, over time, eclipse the trade center numbers.
if i owned a farm, i’d bet it.
which brings to mind…. april 20th…. isn’t that hitler’s birthday? you mean there’s no white-trash supremacists out there toasting or trying to secure a link between the black president’s agenda, the führer’s dreams for the schwarzcommanders as spoken of in pynchon’s “gravity’s rainbow“….. (or was that “V”)?
if you let them sit side by side on a shelf in your own mind for thirty-odd years, it becomes one big book.
everything becomes one-big-book.
maybe it’s time to revisit those titles again so i could drop pynchon’s name with focused certainty.
….or would hitler’s birthday cause tea party conservative confusion – whether to bury the president or praise him……

but i digress.
i was somewhere about crime and punishment (or the lack thereof).
i was somewhere, skirting the oily shores of corporate crime, moral hazard and the first meeting i had with that grifting lizard who looks like omar sharif and sounds like eduardo ciannelli, in months and months, who, this day, had in tow the suit of ayn rand, the author of the biggest, longest-running comedy on mars, “atlas shrugged,” the book written by the lizard who made a meal and suit out of ayn rand when she signed the hollywood deal for “the fountainhead,” got a big check and was gobbled up – literally – in 1955.
the lizard who wore ayn rand wrote “atlas shrugged,” in addition to being hilarious on their planet, was taken as gospel by many faithful on earth, spurring a movement that would be co-opted, corrupted, conned, fattened and devoured by the lizards who live life no differently from ginger rogers, who once told me this;
“a girl’s gotta eat.”
that lizard guy (the one who sounds like eduardo ciannelli and looks like omar sharif) told me last year that they’re still getting tremendous mileage (or tonnage….i think it was tonnage) out of “atlas shrugged” and the humans who buy into it.
he then made a point of telling me, “wait till that angelina jolie plays dagny taggart – it’s gonna be a feeding-frenzy in lizard-land, you betcha,”
…..but i’ve drifted way off base.

the point being, humanity means as much to that lizard guy (you know the one i’m talking about) as a can of starkist tuna means to you. speaking of tuna, you might notice a spike in tuna futures soon, what with the big Oops down there.
i wonder if there are tuna futures. i wonder if tuna HAS a future.
probably as much of a future as we have.
p.s. – i don’t think we have a future, or at least, i don’t think humanity deserves one.

if this is your first visit here, it’s all about the food chain.
if you still don’t know what i’m talking about, google “the grifting lizards from mars,” or hit these two links;
hi-dee hi-dee ho addresses more of what i’m talking about, but ken lay; martian lizard is the genesis of this balderdash.
there are mountains of hubbub between then and now.

i’m writing this to be offered in a friend’s blog about “the underground” (whatever that means these days) and by virtue of the fact that goodbye blue monday is remote enough to maintain such underground-ness for five-plus years (more or less).
for us, mainstream could signal failure.
why travel way out here for the same shit you can get at your local pub?
i’d prefer to fail doing something….”other than.”
goodbye blue monday is “other than.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

i won’t write much about this place because i am genetically disposed to automatically having it become a pitch for money, performance gear, kitchen equipment and just as recent as today, a free or really cheap car.
there, i did it.
i also can’t help grinning at the term “underground” because as i write this i am preparing to post it onto an open source information clusterfuck of word and imagery, not that “underground” isn’t valid.
i just tend to think that the whereabouts of osama bin-laden is “underground.”
and subway systems are “underground.”
besides, how “underground” are you once you’ve made it into Vogue Italia? (we made it last october)

i was interviewed by an documentarian a couple of weeks back.
at one point she asked me if i was an original-equipment new yorker;
if i was born and raised here – and when i replied “yes,” my plumage sprouted wondrous colors and rays of light sparkled and glimmered on and around me in the afternoon sun.
“there’s plenty of us,” i said.
i explained that i didn’t ride up the empire state building’s elevator until 1984 when i was thirty (laughing uproariously with a headful of acid) – but i DID have lunch on the 82nd floor of the unfinished, un-windowed twin towers when i worked at 90 west street in 1974 when i was twenty.
do you know what i’m saying?
that was being a new yorker, i guess, back then.
….and as our interview went on, she asked me about my experience with the music and art scene in NYC.
so as not to offer spoiler alerts, i’ll say that i’ve been part of the bar and club scene that stretches from the late 60’s, through disco, punk and whatever else that is or was up to now and because i believed i had/have an artistic bent, i did “art” and continue to do so, though i have no documentation other than the things i’ve done and continue to do.

i never read “on the road”, but i imagine it had to do with being young, indestructible (seemingly, until otherwise proven), eternal (ditto), rebellious (double-ditto), passionate (ditto squared) and maybe self-centered (“pi” times ditto to the third power).
my “road” book was “fear and loathing in las vegas” and more accurately for me, “screaming bloodily down the highway of oblivion,” the title (that i just made up) of my own book that no one wants but is available in fits and starts on my blog and at myspace.com/scrapbar.

……so the conversation with the documentarians went on, centering on why i did what i did in bushwick and my answer was “i just did,” and quickly added that there’s no place where anyone can “begin” anymore.
i took them to the backyard and showed them “the other stage” where we do acoustic, electronic and experimental music and films.

i told them that here at goodbye blue monday there is no 22-year-old numbnut passing judgement on anyone’s musical statement or artistic direction when they ask to perform.
that we simply say “yes.”
….that my only hope is performers show they care by inviting a few friends to support the house.
i understand the limitations of nyc venues. i’m not knocking them.
they can’t do what we do anymore and haven’t been able to in decades. that they have to shuffle bands in and out, get door-counts and charges, and even steal a percentage of people’s merch and more.
new york city can’t afford to be creative unless you’re connected with a group of swells or have dad’s black american express card tattooed to your bank account, and even then the deck is generally stacked by PR and shmoozer’s professionale.
this isn’t an indictment, it’s just the way it is.
the village voice voted us the best place for new music and performance in 2007. six months later i was in their offices, arguing.
i asked them why they didn’t ever list the shows we did here on their calendar – ever – and was told that “editorial” didn’t believe anyone who played here “mattered.”
i explained that i even ADVERTISED with them.
it didn’t matter.
there was a new issue of the voice laying open on a table in front of us and my eyes were drawn to an ad for a show sponsored by “the fillmore at irving plaza (whatever the fuck THAT means) and the village voice.”
there was a list of six musical acts slated for this show. i pointed at the ad and said, “what? i have to have names like these to get a rise out of those douchebags in editorial?”
and the person i was arguing with looked down and said, “well… yes.”
and i pointed at three of these names and stated with strong certainty that these bands all played on my stage over a year ago.
“so what we’re saying here is once it matters to you, it matters. it doesn’t matter that they may have cut their teeth in my stage, you shit!”
i stopped advertising with them.
and that’s what the music scene is in new york city.
last week, three years later, i was informed that village voice editorial has decided to list us in their calendar.
this was followed by a pitch to start advertising with them.
whatever…..
don’t eat the brown acid – it’s really little pebbles of ka-ka.

in 1985, allen ginsberg walked down into a bar i was building at 116 macdougal street and asked me “do you know where you are?” and before i could offer my wiseass reply, he excitedly told me the history of the place, it being the original “village gaslight.”
he told me about dave van ronk and careers started from bob dylan to bill cosby and loads of other stuff.
it excited him to pour his past out and lay it on the same floor i was currently using to spray six-foot flourescent light tubes with day-glo blue krylon paint.
i would later learn that “cafe wha” – across the street – ran an open stage every day with booked acts at night and everyone worked “the hat.”
was this in my mind when i began out here in bushwick?
i don’t think so.
i’m not very good on “plans” and maybe that’s not a good thing, but no one i knew was running their businesses with slide rules and graph paper when i was a kid, though i admit i wasn’t looking.
me and math never got along, anyway.
i told the documentarians that now is more punk than ever, that the gradual dissolution of the recording industry as i knew it was a good thing and that i never lived in a time of such startling creativity.
i also qualified this by saying that it’s just an opinion by “a musically-challenged writer with a short attention-span who did way too much of whatever he could get his hands on for far too long a time.”
that would be me.

i prefer to talk about near and dead-death experiences, my extraordinary friend’s rendezvous with my late, sainted-irish mother whom she never knew till they chatted briefly on the corner of Eternity boulevard and Hallelujah avenue;
….the “gulf-coast oil window” and when it will despoil the beach where me, maxx (my dog), the giant tire i befriended some years ago and those lizard people i keep mentioning meet on an almost weekly basis and where i can get a clean shot at “the eighth-electro-plasma-ocean of the ninth dimension” where i mingle with the comings and goings of everyone who ever came or went, who matter and anti-matter and who i hold, will hold or ever held in my electronic sputterings near, dear and otherwise to me.

instead of this, i can tell you about our booking policies, backline list and cheese you with goodbye blue monday’s history, but if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s on the website/blog.

see this thing just below here?

nuclear missiles used to be mounted on these things as they waiting and waited for something to happen.
i live my life waiting for something to happen.
it always does.

Location In Brooklyn

Goodbye Blue Monday
1087 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11221-3013

(718) 453-6343
www.goodbye-blue-monday.com

Bands Featured

Thought and Memory
www.myspace.com/thoughtandmemorymusic


Tel-Aviv, Israel

A Parody of Paradise

By Jared Oppenheim

It seems like yesterday that I walked through the busy streets of Tel-Aviv, with its sweet smell of sweat that lingered. Those days are the days I now long to grasp. They were my leisure days, days consumed with booze and the salt air that rippled between the cracks and pores of my skin, days where all I could do was think of nothing, as my mind dulled in the weekday sun.

I salute Tel-Aviv, with its Shalom, for good tidings sake. I salute Tel-Aviv for bottles of 10 shekel Arak, with all of its jolly popping courage and days spent dousing in the Mediterranean sun. I salute it for its hospitality and warmth, for its days of simple discourse, for its days of nothing, for its days of unwanted visitors and even less wanted friends,  for the bubble I called home, and for the fanaticism that kept the day fresh, when there was only you, me and a bottle between us. Until dawn I salute Tel-Aviv, and fantasize about its romantic misgivings, misfortunes and wines, which were so sour that my chickpea was begging for a breath.

Old Central Bus Station


There can be a lot to say about a city, a city which thrives on its landmark beauty and simplicity, while it’s self-serving urban life grows and envelopes other developing Israeli cities, creating a shield of loftiness throughout the land. This raving and departure drives the  prepubescent city of Tel-Aviv. And at this I remind you, the traveler, how short a life this city has had. One hundred one years.

It began in mid-December, dear traveler, that I arrived in the city of Tel-Aviv. I was in a state of mind that made regret hold on tight, for I wasn’t ready to be living in another land. I couldn’t have thought much more than this at the time. When I arrived at Ben-Gurion airport I was greeted with the whole-hearted glory of inquisition by an immigration officer: my religious views and reasons for coming to this country were all too sloppy, plus my lack of faith almost gave the short man a right to deport me. But at another gander of my features he must have figured me a Jew, and so surrendered me to the slow air of the crazy city. Surrounded by tacky billboards that I couldn’t make out, smiling faces, and its cheap allure, I stepped into the heart of fundamentalist beliefs.

I spent my days in Tel-Aviv kicking the same can, essentially, making my rounds through the local joints, night after night living on bottles of beer and falafel. Being a musician I found myself in the right spots, and, for the most part, at the right times. Although once in a while I found myself in a slight state of awkwardness, a characteristic I can contribute to my ever-changing mental state. Many days I would frequent a café situated on the corner of Sheinken Rehov and Rothschild Boulevard, which actually was quite a drab spot. But every day from half-twelve to seven in the evening, I saw herds of retired or unsuccessful Israeli sportsman, poets and writers, drinking tea or bottles of Goldstar. The hooch would have to send them away in convoys late in the afternoon.

At the time I had two friends who lived in an apartment conveniently located above the café. I would visit them often, say hello, drink tea, watch the antics that ensued below. For the most part, we were the same as the desperadoes of the cafe, except we were young and watching them. I believe doing this made us take on some of their key traits, and we would buy our bottles of Goldstar around the corner too.

The days will pass quickly in Tel-Aviv. There are many hipster dive settings that a young jock might seek. You can ask a dame for a dance and end up with three, until your pants are about to roll off with sweat and sweet licorice. They just can’t say no, it is a matter of inconvenience. To get a man who doesn’t wear stock-green camouflage trousers and a standard issued Ak-47 is a common sign of female success. I have to say, looks don’t necessarily guarantee a night out, but I bet you a paraplegic would have better a chance with a woman than a soldier.




A Night on the Town

I suggest going out on a Thursday or Friday night. Remember this is Jewland, and Saturday is a holy day, so most places shut down. It just isn’t the day of the week,  like in most countries. This, of course, threw me off at first. But it’s better to know this from the start, or you’ll end up chilling out Thursday and Friday, waiting for Saturday night to party.

Rothschild 12
There are a couple joints one should remember when wandering through the streets of this fair city. First of all, you have the Rothschild 12, and just like the name sports, its address is 12 Rothschild Boulevard. If you’re  looking for a vintage type scene, with a great stage, live music precariously often, and an incredibly diverse menu of food, then this is the spot you  should be stopping by. Located on one of the most known streets in the city, you shouldn’t have the slightest difficulty finding it. The only trick is that the entrance is around the back of the building. So when you walk down the grand boulevard, with all of its bright lights and young kids out for the weekend, you will hit an abandoned looking building and think,  ‘Damn! That bastard played me. Fuck that travel guide!’ But no! Stick with it! Around the side you’ll find a happening little entrance, and depending on what night of the week you go, you can catch a variety of the best acts the city has to offer.

Mish-Mish
Then afterward you might be wondering where you can catch a little dive set. Well, your next stop will be the Mish-Mish, located at 17 Lilienblum. It’s guaranteed to satisfy all your hipster needs, while offering an array of nice peach-fish and passion fruit drinks; plus cunt willing to dance with you all night, and then take you home to let you devour into the ripe skin of her tanned flesh. This is a club, dimly lit and hidden behind a mirror, that you might finish the rest of your night in. The music plays loud, and the drinks are served late. And even if the catch of the day leads you astray, the bartenders are the best in town. With a variety of different DJ’s, the music may start at funk and soul, and then move on to electro-dance hall hits, then pop up to your latest hipster fix. All this in a little spot behind a mirror.

Micatronix
If you’re looking for a more intimate, tight, hot, sloppy and packed joint (reminiscent of NYC’s Lit Lounge), then get on down to the Micatronix. It’s at Ben Yehuda and Trumpeldor. This club was hot and fresh when I was on the scene. It has records covering the ceiling, a Pacman machine, DJ’s, and live music everyday of the week. At this club you can expect to be packed in like a sardine, but with affordable drinks and guaranteed good music, it’s worth it. If you’re there on a good night, you’ll catch the DJ playing an array of 20’s swing, mixed with surf and post-punk, and then ending on a high note with dance hall classics. Definitely the club to stay at to meet some of your new friends. To get in is a bit of a trick, though. Being underground this place does not have a web site, and you have to buzz an intercom where  there looks only to be a broken down shop. Walk on over, watch out for people walking into the club, and then slowly inch your way to the intercom and buzz. BINGO! You’ve just found the Micatronix. Now dance!

If you really want to strut your stuff, walk straight to Florentin.  It was once the artistic side of the city but, like all things, it came to an end. I was lucky enough to catch a slight glimpse of a dying phase here. This neighborhood is dimly lit at night, and filled with enough bodegas, laundry shops, food marts and, of course, a whopping amount of pubs, clubs, bars and stars, to keep you occupied.  But for the most part,  the show really goes on at the unadvertised house parties. And as for these few bars that lie beneath the surface mainstream, they are still on the border of mediocre.


A Day’s Outing

You might notice, dear reader, it’s almost impossible to get lost in this city. There is the center, which encompasses most of the urban living area, and it spans from Shenkin to Florentin and from the Central Bus Station to Ben Yehuda. It covers a vicinity of about ten miles, and anything is at most a 40 minute walk away. To navigate through this area, directly relate to the Rothschild Route, which is a boulevard that runs through most of the city center. If you follow your instincts and walk in a circular motion, you’re almost guaranteed to get where you’re going. In other words the city is small.

And if you’re worried about being surrounded by religious freaks, don’t be. The only fanatical man I met in Tel-Aviv, other than the massive amounts of soldiers, which are quite scary since they carry automatic weapons, was a stout man who slightly resembled Jesus. He played the card of being Jesus reborn. The man is just a sight to see. He can do you no harm. His followers, which consist of four women, and the giant picture of himself with his prophetic commandments, can be found at the Carmel Market.

The array of markets in this city extends from one end to the other. On a good day, with a pocket full o’ dough, you can walk about and spend like a mad man, stuff your pockets with tiskets and taskets of this and that, and revel in the fond Jewish memory of the overcrowded market places. But I warn you, before you know it you’re washed-up and walking back home with, more or less, no weight in your pockets. Fresh fish, flowers, breads, various halvas, barreckas ( pastries) and more, fill the air with the sweet smell of longing, regret, and satisfaction. You can spend days walking through all of them, through the allies, between the little chip shops, and then to the beach with its white, white sand and clear blue water. This might be the finest luxury of this city.

Carmel Market


As I sum up my experience with the city of Tel-Aviv, and the country of Israel, I conclude that its yearning to be accepted as a great city of the western world is as apparent as day or night–and this destroys all the culture and heritage that the city once had. This may have been where they all went wrong; for this country that is supposedly the home of the Jewish people has now turned into a circus, manipulated and ring led by American motifs and endorsed by the British.

It’s a shame how the manipulation of a governing force can actually confuse its citizens so much that they can actually believe their neighbors, and once occupiers of their territory, are not entitled to the same privileges as they are. The complacency of the Israeli mass population towards negotiating with Gaza shows just how uncommitted they are to a resolution. I guess the greater shame is the safety and protection the Israelites feel, while their neighbors are imprisoned within their land without aid or support, forced behind walls that were erected to entrap them. Across the border, Zionist groups challenge Palestine and force them slowly out of their own birth right, even as citizens. And although I admire many aspects of Israel, and the goodness it has to offer, this is a dangerous game for them  to be playing, especially for a people that have been played so many times in the past.

“I could have spent my till flippin’ flint… But well, ya know, a God fearing child only has so much to say in a place invested , infested, tried, and yet to be tested.”

Locations In Tel-Aviv

Rothschild 12
12 Rothschild blvd
Tel-Aviv, Israel

97235106430
Google Maps

Mish Mish
Lilienblum 17
Tel-Aviv, Israel

Google Maps

Micatronix
Ben Yehuda and Trumpeldor
Tel-Aviv, Israel

Google Maps

Carmel Market
14 Carmel Street
Tel-Aviv, Israel

Google Maps


New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Sleazy in My Eye

By Robin Attwood

Photos by Horatio Baltz

From within the garden party sang merry voices and calls of joy between people young and bright, with music in their blood. The table was smeared in melted ice, and a spilt bowl of hummus and salad drooped off one edge. Beneath it, Sula the dog awaited hungrily with soppy smacking chops. Joey was singing a song from beneath the yard’s green umbrella: “Beer and whiskey and wild, wild women!”. He reeked of pot and floated nakedly over his guitar, while Badonna handed out parting gifts labeled A Hallmark Moment. This was the going away party for a few friends and myself on our way to New York and then on to Europe.

The spinning flies finally left our saucy plates, as Sarah placed scented tea candles around the outside living room. The scene was lit with white Christmas lights hanging from the branches of trees, illuminating all from the dining table to the large green umbrella over Joey. Every forehead was sweating great beads of salt in the humidity. This day it had been 104 degrees and typically the humidity lingered at 90 percet. My pal Ryan was losing his mind, his eyes spinning, nonsense rambling, mumbling in a guttural tone to himself, yet engaging others in a somewhat sensible conversation on his side of the wooden bench we sat at.

He finally got a job again, now working for Emeril’s chef company uptown, and in so doing had to break up a dog fight during his interview. And for one reason or another he decided to get wasted immediately afterwards. When I swung by his place earlier in the day to drop off my suitcase full of books and instruments, he wasn’t in his usual garb of tattered clothes, a shirt with a transgender on a cross labeled Jesus, or his three year old gray converse. No, today Ryan wore a white chef’s smock and black satin pants and a wide grinning smile that stretched to his shoulders, as if he were the Sheik of Araby. It was an hour or two after this that I met up with him at the garden party in the upper ninth ward – he was still just as creepy and grinning wildly like before… my friend Ryan.

A few weeks ago, Ryan and a fellow I met a number of years before, who was visiting New Orleans on his way up to Georgia, were asked to paint a mural on either side of a van. It was a long white box van, shiny and asking for detail. I never saw the finished pictures, so Ryan gave Chris, the owner, a call to come over to the France street house and show it to us. Ryan and I waited in the lamp lit street across from a red brick apartment complex filled with crack heads and screaming children. But tonight, most were quiet on the block of France and Urquart Street, which can make a person’s skin crawl, pinch up like a cat’s back, and make you aware of every slight noise in every direction for miles and miles of the sprawling New Orleans Ghetto. Eventually a small grey Ford came tumbling over the block’s pot holes, and I recognized Chris’ genuine smile and tall approach of innocence. There was a girl beside him smoking a cigarette, puffing on the tedious bit of tobacco left before the butt. She eyed James and I up and down as if we were to be hung…. And then, she cracked a witty grin introducing herself as Laura from New Jersey. I could tell she had an East Coast accent with a large hook nose and a Sinatra like face. Laura was classic and I needed to find out if she had anything to do with Chris.

Turned out Chris had misunderstood Ryan’s message about bringing his white van with the mural on it. Ryan was not stoked, as he put it himself. We walked back inside the garden pushing open the wooden fence of the property, entering through the back and tip toeing over my friend’s garden beds. I handed out the rest of our Schlitz from the freezer and popped the cork of my wine bottle, sharing it with some others cross legged on a plank of wood near the house. Not long after, Ryan stood up proposing we leave to the St. Roch Tavern and pillage a few pitchers, and in doing so, get as fucked up as possible, continuing our evening romping about the neighborhood dives.

The St. Roch Tavern lies in the 8th ward neighborhood, one block away from Music Street and two blocks away from Arts Street, resting comely on the corner of Mirais and St. Roch Avenue. It’s fun enough. Some nights there are special deals on drinks, like Cheap Pitcher Night, or on Saturday it is bounce night, when DJ Rusty Lazer plays New Orleans’ favorite hot jams. I prefer the local Abita Turbo Dog to all the rest on tap, which is mostly piss beer in a cup. All of the young punks, weirdos, travelers passing through town, and other creative folk come here. It’s probably one of the better known dives for travelers to come to in the country. It’s the real thing! Fights break out all the time, you’ll see scores of gambling tables in the wintertime, and outside across the street there is an art gallery open from time to time. Not the place you want to go if you’re avoiding the scene, but on the nights when you’re up to it, the St. Roch Tavern can be a great way to begin the evening. To your right in the front is a small seating area devoted to the St. Roch Café, which is more or less a restaurant serving typical bar food like burritos, hot dogs, nachos and cheese fries. Towards the back is a small square stage with a carpet on top of it. All types of music can be heard here. Anything from a shitty old time band to a local soul group, or some mix of circus and performance art with an Eastern European flare. Also in the back is a pool table, janky, but it’s got all its balls unlike the old hang out, The John.

Before there was St. Roch Tavern there was a crusty dive at the bottom of the Frenchman Street strip called The John. It used to be the spot, until the management replaced the pool table in back with a ping pong table. It was also the place to find your guy you’d been waiting on around the corner. But all has changed. However, The John is still known for its stiff drinks, smoky red lit atmosphere and toilet bowl shaped seats. The bartenders use Mason jars filled near to the brim, no kidding, with alcohol and just the top of the drink is touched by mixer. I do have to warn you about the John. My friend has developed two ulcers in the past year from drinking their whiskey sours. You can find this smoky oasis on the corner of Frenchman and Burgundy Street just outside the French Quarter.

Ryan really wanted to find some pot for the tumbling evening ensuing, and sure enough after we hit the tavern I bought some from a friend of mine at Mimi’s in the Marigny. Before all this and two pitchers of dark Abita, watching the punks, the crust lords and neon lights glow to a dark and doomy jukebox – a mix of metal and Motown – I talked my friend Carrie, who had been sitting at the bar, into driving back to her place so I could pick up some aderall. Carrie used to study at Oberland in Ohio and ended up becoming the largest scammer of aderall there. She made a wicked living off of it. She is full jewish and knows how to handle money and people well – her honesty is a useful tool. I bought a few orange pills from her and so did Laura. Ryan was out of his mind as he and I began crushing the orange pills into powder, and then railing it up our noses with a twisted dollar that had been laying on the living room table. Laura was going to save hers and stand back, as Chris smiled his beaming happiness all over the night, and Carrie waited for us with beautiful drooping eyelids and a bright full mouth among a head full of black curls. After this we left soon, dropping Carrie back off at the tavern. I gave her a big smooch yelling goodbye, and then someone brought up the idea of paying a visit to the bar Mimi’s.

Jessy Carolina, New Orleans


Mimi’s is a great neighborhood red-lit dive with a pool table and dartboard downstairs, a gourmet restaurant upstairs and a haunted floor of wood you can stomp and shake a leg on. Once we got there I bought Laura a Highlife, fairly cheap for how cheap it is and how cheap this town really is: two dollars plus tip. I remembered it was a Monday, and that my friend’s brass band was playing upstairs. Every Monday before Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns play, my buddy Peter and a girl Miya teach swing dance lessons in lieu of Meschiya’s band at ten o’clock. The Little Big Horns are a revolving group of great musicians, with great senses of humor, that spin in and out of many other traditional jazz bands in town. Playing everywhere from Frenchman Street to Bourbon Street, these musicians work hard around town every night to spread an age of American music well forgotten into the 21st century.

The four of us walked upstairs and found a table, and then sat down to polish off our cold drinks. We got there right in time to catch the last song of the second set. As the Big Horns dismantled I walked up to my friend Steve, who plays a steady washboard, and asked him where I could get some pot. His slicked back hair and bristly black moustache glistened in the dim lamp near us towards the back window. While Steve motioned us outside and down the stair well, I noticed he had a cuff of tattoos wrapped around both his ankles above a pair of cream colored Dixie stomping shoes. Outside we passed around a one hitter and talked percussion history with our buddy Christopher Sax. We’re all stoners, us musicians, and the rhythm only gets worse the more we’re unable to pay attention to time and space – or anything. But all in all, nothing beats a joint and the writhing groove of splash and brass, with Meschiya’s voice of melting butter in the crackle of her ageless microphone.

We listened to their last set, and before Steve left I asked what he was doing after the show. He said going back to smoke at his place, which turned out to be the childhood home of a great jazz composer by the name of Jelly Roll Morton. By the time the group had finished their pints, Steve and Chris Sax had already left. But I had been to the Jelly Roll house in January, with a blues musician and a minstrel and a house full of swing dancers, so I remembered very well how to get there. It was in the ghetto, of course, of the seventh ward. Down Frenchman Street, past St. Claude Avenue, almost to North Claiborne Street, Jelly Roll’s home has been preserved in its red brick painted ambiance on the corner of two streets crossing. The four of us walked in, and I saw tattered brass instruments tacked onto the walls, old posters of dance nights from Los Angeles to Istanbul, 78 RPM records glorified in frame and a number of worn through washboards hanging by the stairwell in the back of the Shotgun home. Steve and I got into it about washboard players, seeing as I am one myself, and started poking videos to play online on his glistening bright laptop. While passing around weed, weed and more weed.

By this time, night was beginning to crawl into morning and the others we’d come with wanted to go home. Chris and Laura dropped Ryan and I off in the Marigny outside his house on Spain and Chartres Street. As barges pushed silently the world’s industry along the river, seagulls flew over head and a train sang along the tracks in the distance between the Marigny and ninth ward, awakening the beginning of another day at the port along the Mississippi.

Ryan and I were talking completely incoherent to each other now, sitting in his living room contemplating the last orange pill, and then decided it was my last night in town and we had better do it all for satisfaction’s sake. Ryan’s house is a two room shotgun of wood floor and decorated walls covered with his charcoal and oil pastel paintings. A number of his photographs taken in New York and Georgia hung on the wall in strange display. The faces and actions of old friends hung like psychedelic trips captured and put up for show. It was just another evening gone wry with beer in our belly and a number of joints to the head. We were lucky Ryan’s girlfriend decided to spend the evening uptown so we had the place to ourselves. Although we railed that one last aderall, I passed out shortly after, as Ryan described something silly to me in his mumbles.

There are many beautiful sights to this city and all its neighborhoods, hung in deep vine and sooty dampness, cobblestone paths and lamp lit buildings, but there is a reality as well, one in which the passing tourists from around the world never gets to see. When you’re all fucked up from Bourbon Street, and all you know about this city is what you saw in the French Quarter and what you heard from the historic buggy rides – it is nothing like what this town is actually like. Bourbon Street, the heralded walk of booze, strippers and shitty Zydeco music, is incredibly expensive. Along Bourbon many of the clubs sell what are called Hurricanes and Grenades, which are essentially bright neon colored mugs of alcohol and toxins whose soul purpose is to make money and waste away people’s vacation stays in the Quarter. Families, I do not recommend bringing your children down Bourbon Street. It is a horrible place full of idiots and sour mornings.

I do have to say, living down here is joy, perilous joy, inspiring and lots of work. Neighborhoods are rough, the bars are full of drunk punks and interesting artists, but something haunts this city. As if in the humid air there breathes both life and death. I would say that a fine line exists sharper in this city than anywhere else. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still lingers about like a weed that can’t be pulled, and the history of this city’s poverty cries out so loud it breaks a person just to visit.

When I awoke later that day, it was ten o’clock or so. I found Ryan sitting up in the corner of his bed stroking his two cats, shaking slightly kind of frantic with a look of wild space in his dry eyes. I guess he hadn’t gotten any sleep and was waiting on his girlfriend to come home and take care of him. I nodded, understanding what a fucked up evening we had had and left through the front door, unlocked my bike along side the neighbor’s fence, and left. New Orleans is such a seedy place and a reality with no rules but to party. At this hour of the morning there is a real innocence to the Big Sleazy, as if the night before had never happened, or was now just another wounded bout of lust.

Locations in New Orleans

St. Roch Tavern
1200 Saint Roch Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70117-8305

(504) 945-0194‎
Google Maps

The John
2040 Burgundy Street
New Orleans, LA‎

(504) 942-7159
Google Maps

Mimi’s
2601 Royal Street
New Orleans

(504) 872-9868
http://www.myspace.com/mimisinthemarigny

Music Featured

DJ Rusty Lazer
http://www.rustylazer.com

Meschiya Lake
http://www.myspace.com/meschiyalake

The Little Big Horns