Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Best Augmentation of a Honda Civic

Sighted this past Saturday, parked in Williamsburg on S. 2nd between Berry and Wythe:

Sick Ramblings

Some sonnabitches are making a whole pile of cash off of common illnesses...

I woke up Sunday morning with a spectacular cough and a fever. Clearly, the whiskey consumed between 12 and 4am hadn't killed that lil' flu bug off at first sign of symptoms, as I had hoped it may. When I finally rolled out of bed, the first stop was the drug store, to stock up on all those anti-illness remedies one requires in such a situation: Tylenol for the fever and chest congestion, NyQuil for sleeping, Emergen-C and zinc lozenges for sore throats and immunity boosting. Wow. We're already at $30...

Although I stopped there, it would've been very easy to continue. How about a decongestant for when it moves into the nose? Some pseudoephedrine so I don't spend the entire day on the couch? A bag of lozenges for when the timing is wrong for zinc? Too late, I just heard about Sambucol and the wonders of elderberry extract. Luckily, I already had the bottle of 500mg Vitamin C supplements at home. And garlic, but garlic is cheap. Come to think of it, so is fresh ginger and lemon. Hmm. I'm beginning to see a trend here.

This time, the remedy cocktail is a blend of natural and pharmaceutical elements, with the cost being shared quite unequally between the two. For the sake of science — and ONLY for the sake of science — it would be interesting to get sick again a couple times, just so I could experiment remedies, using only naturals one time around, and only pharmaceuticals the next. Rate the experience on aspects such as duration, severity, relative comfort, etc. Which would be better?

I have to wonder about the effectiveness of some of these pills and bottles. Like NyQuil. Although it's initial knockout is pleasant, it does nothing for quality of sleep. Two nights ago, I took a full dose of the stuff around 10. Out by 10:30. But I heard voices outside around 12:30 and woke up. From then until about 4 or so, I don't really remember sleeping. So I have to deal with the NyQuil hangover without the benefit of sleep? Don't think so. NyQuil no more.

And then there are certain things that one must question just based on how they are presented, especially with the flu-and-cold cures du jour. Like Airborne. Their tag-line, I believe, is something like, "Created by a schoolteacher." This is supposed to be a selling point!? We can't even trust all teachers to teach, much less concoct some mystery goo you put in a water bottle then drink for invincibility. I'd rather see the creation credited to an alchemist: drink for invincibility, or mix with iron to get gold. That's how to sell the stuff.

For now, I'm happy to stick with ginger tea, oranges, and garlic cloves. Movies, too. I hear they have very potent anti-viral properties.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vinyl Madness

For years, I avoided the one act that I knew had the potential to blow the lid off a box full of nothing but trouble: buying a record. That came to pass on January 2nd with the fateful purchase of not one but 20 LPs, all rescued from the basement of a lovely local junk shop called, appropriately, The Thing. Three weeks later, I'm sitting on 40 LPs and probably close to 350 45-RPM singles. Yes, folks, the madness has begun.

Beware, all ye who enter here
Where it all began. We arrive at the basement of The Thing. Standing there at the precipice of the stairway, one has the feeling that something either very bad or very good is about to happen — in the words of the world's best karaoke princess, "...buttcheeks clenched in anticipation." One gives pause to the stairway's many adornments, especially the portentous "Do not fall in love," then descends.

Records, records everywhere...Sure, on one level, it's just a stinky, dusty, moldy basement cluttered with too many records. But let's be real here: it's one of Greenpoint's wonders, natural or otherwise. It's not just cluttered with vinyl, but stuffed to the point of being choked, aisle by aisle, floor to ceiling. Full crates are stacked eye-high in front of equally full shelves, leaving passageways suitable for retreating pygmies. Pallid forms perched on overturned crates startle as you turn the corner, white eyes hovering over a white dust mask, caught in the act of reloading their portable turntable. And the best part, it's 100% unorganized. The provision of points of access to the collection at all is enough of an effort on behalf of the management. Dig in and see what you find. At $2 per LP and $.50 per 45, how can you go wrong?

So it is here where I have spent a substantial portion of my time in the last few weeks. I feel no shame. With no Meaty obligations until mid-February, it's a perfect activity for an otherwise languid January. In recent months, I've become infatuated with the idea of having a collection of soul/R&B 45s sizable enough to spin sets at local bars and parties and such. At the end of this push, I'll have myself a pretty substantial beginning.

45 Banner
But why vinyl, why now? In sum, it's a completely different, fresh way of experiencing music, one that I haven't participated since those pre-CD days of living with the parents. I can break it down into several points, the first of which being low-risk exploration. At the prices given above, why not grab something if it looks interesting? Better odds than the iTunes store! By this manner, I have picked up and enjoyed albums such as the following: Carole King, Tapestry; The Harmonizing Four, Happy Home (great trad gospel); Rick James, Street Songs; and Leo Kottke, My Feet Are Smiling. I won't even get into the 45 discoveries, as they are too numerous even to summarize. Of course, there are the bum picks, but hey, so what? I'm out a couple buck, and now I know better.

The unorganized nature of The Thing and thrift stores in general goes hand-in-hand with low-risk exploration, setting the stage for a spirit of discovery. For those who have specific wants, it would be maddening, but for one who has only the humble goal of building a record collection, it's wonderful. You never know what you're going to pull out of the basement when you first descend. Finding the gems requires dedication, much more than walking to the right section at a record store and pulling a desired album. Sure, an hour in the basement may only yield five or six albums, but the elation felt upon finding a perfect condition copy of a favorite album or hearing something wonderful for the first time validates the digging.

How could one discuss vinyl without addressing sound? There are so many foamy-mouthed fanatics out there who would run about hither and yon, destroying anything digital with baseball bats and flamethrowers, were it not for chains and medication. I am not one of these. I find it difficult to argue that a scratch-free, non-degrading, larger-spectrum-response, digital recording is inherently inferior to an analog record. Shot-Gun!That being said, good-condition vinyl does have a unique sound, which for certain styles, is undeniably preferable (ie. rock, classic R&B, soul, jazz, country). It has a certain depth and warmth that digital can't seem to touch, at least at the current sample and bit rates of CDs. Bass has a booming, bouncy fullness to it; drums sound huge and crisp; one hears an overdriven guitar amp complaining; all the funk and spit and beautiful imperfections of a tenor sax tone come punching through. Even old, scratchy, distorted Wilson Pickett and Jr. Walker singles somehow sound perfect, as if there were no other appropriate way of experiencing them.

Issues of scale are also hugely significant for me, especially pertaining to 45s, but I shall reserve this for future discussion.

And so it continues, hopefully as a "hobby" and not an "obsession." God help me, too, if I should turn into a real "collector" and forget that I am, first, a "musician." To that point, I am thankful that I have "friends" who would "heartily kick my ass" should I stray too far down this path. Thus, if any of you find me, startled, wearing a dust mask with dirty fingers clutching a portable record player, please intervene.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


YES!!! There is no "'Bout DAMN TIME!" big enough to punctuate my feeling about this first legitimate, blizzard-like snow of the season. It's been a long time comin'...

If in search of a soundtrack, try track 3 of The Meters' Rejuvenation, "Just Kissed My Baby." Where it's AT.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oh Yeah - Winter

It is with my very own eyes — both, even — that I am currently witnessing, for the first time this season, actual, non-imagined, physically present snowflakes. I was beginning to think that winter might just give up and give way to the earliest spring ever, but she's a tenacious momma. And now, I say to ye, snowflakes of the world, go forth into the heavens and multiply like bunnies on Viagra, and come back one son-of-a-bitch of a blizzard. It's about time.

Now that there's been snow, in even the most statistically insignificant of portions, the block is gone, I can write again! That's my story and I'm sticking to it. To the two or three of you who actually check in here after almost two months of sorry neglect, I apologize. Happens. But I have one solid month before any further obligations with Señor Carne and nothing but time on my hands until then. We'll see what we can cook up 'round these parts...