Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just Another Day

A friend of mine told me recently that both getting less than six or more than ten hours of sleep on a regular basis can have an adverse effect on one's health. As this particular friend has completed medical school is currently doing his second year of residency, I trust him implicitly on such matters. This came to mind as I marveled at the bleariness of my eyeballs today as a result of having overslept, comparing it to the bleariness of my eyeballs yesterday as a result of beer and lack of sleep. Funny how that works.

As I walked up Manhattan Avenue to the Ashbox a little earlier, remnants of the Midwestern storm coating everything with a layer of icy not-quite-snow and reducing the flow of traffic to an uphill trickle, I reconsidered an old idea of mine: the two-way car horn. A simple construction, it would feature a normal car horn situated in a normal manner somewhere under the hood, and a second normal car horn situated inside the car in such a manner that the driver's head would absorb the majority of its sonic energy. Somehow I believe the city streets might be a fraction quieter if all cars were to be fitted with this feature. Of course, there'd be the occasional sick bastard who got off on it; automobiles of these folks would instead receive the in-seat electroshock device or beer-fart generator.

I've had a series of sightings around the neighborhood that illustrate what levels of weirdness are accepted as normal here in Brooklyn, several of which were successfully documented. (Ha! But not quite normal enough for you not to take a picture of them! you say. Ok, touché.) These are the moments where I think it was a fine idea to put a crappy camera on a cell phone, but regret forgetting to set the resolution a little higher. Small they may be, the images are clear enough.

First, one instance of walking behind something curious, I don't remember where:

And why not Santa Claus? Tis the season. Ho-ho-hmmmm...

Another instance of walking behind something even more curious, Bedford Ave. right in front of Mug's Ale House:

When is it ever really chicken season? I have to be careful, too, not to give all the credit to Williamsburg and New York at large for being silly places with silly sightings: one must reflect upon some of the characters floating around Hamburg during the summer...

Several Greenpoint crosswalk signs have been infected with the same disorder, this one at the corner of Nassau and Manhattan:

GREEN or RED?!? This one in particular makes me smile. It reminds me in particular of a t-shirt designed by one of my German associates, which design I shall post once rights have been cleared.

Today is the example you'd find if you looked up "shitty weather" in the dictionary. Warnings of winter severity floating around since yesterday, I was really hoping for a full-on Northern-Michigan-styled winter blast with swirly snow and cheek-chapping wind, but the icy attempt at snow of about 11:00 this morning has morphed almost entirely into rain, proving the case for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's most of the reason why I haven't attempted to go home yet, and why I've resorted to writing about, uhh, the weather. Growing up in Northern Michigan, I never understood how anyone could hate winter. Never was it a depressive time of inactivity, of endurance. Winter was just as active as the other seasons, chock-full of skis and snowballs, made all the more pleasurable by by all things warm and cozy in conclusion to an afternoon outdoors. It came around at that perfect time when fall was getting a little too cold and gray, then colored the advent of spring with just that much more beauty and excitement. Until a few years of Ann Arbor and then New York, I hadn't realized that not everyone has beautiful fresh snow dumped upon them with regularity, that a more ubiquitous definition of winter includes words like gray, dark, bleak, and miserable.

New York exists in a region where, except for the two or three blizzards per season, winter pretty much sucks. Sometimes I think the best course of action come January and/or February involves leaving the city, seeking either real winter or no winter at all. To the latter, I've considered an LA adventure; perhaps the ridiculous parts would be more bearable if I knew I would never have to wear a winter coat or deal with "sleet." To the former, I sometimes think it would be great to rent a one-room cabin in the forest of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, alone with a bunch of books and a few instruments and pads of paper on which to write and/or draw. Though idyllic and Thoreau-ian it may sound, it would probably best be done with a community of people in a community of cabins, close enough to reach in a walk of 30 minutes or less, but pleasantly out of sight.

But for now, the plan is to hang here in the city and Make Things Happen, at least until the end of January. By then, some sort of intervention may be necessary.

It appears that while the crap falling from the sky hasn't yet stopped, it may be lessening. Time to make my break, I believe. And if I'm feeling especially plucky, perhaps I'll even go running in it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

End Of An Era

And just like that, the largest stash of 45-rpm singles known to YT has been thoroughly sealed off, safe from human eyes and mitts for what could be years. Knowing the imminence, I arrived at The Thing around 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon for one last feverish round of dusty-fingered digging, only to find that the southern-most hallway had already been plugged with easily a couple hundred crates of LPs. Compare the above picture with the one nestled somewhere within this post, taken nearly a year ago and from the same perspective. Indeed, an era has come to pass.

Possibly for the better, though; those old crates had been picked over by every form of record enthusiast, local and international. While not impossible to rescue a few tender vinyl morsels from the piles now and again, the rooting required rarely justified the end result. I can see why truffle hunters employ pigs; perhaps I could train an affable pot-belly to sniff around for Bull Moose Jackson in good condition.

Nevertheless, I built a substantial portion of my singles collection (the scratchy portion) on Thing finds, for which I am nothing but thankful. Most of the essentials are in place, and now it's about filling the cracks (of infinite number and depth). So if I have to work for it now instead of wandering down the local junk shop and rooting around the basement for a couple hours, so be it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lactic And Other

Why is it that seemly no one working behind a coffee bar truly understands what "just the tiniest drip of milk" means? I learned quickly that a simple "yes" just doesn't work for someone who believes a coffee is best enjoyed one fractional shade away from black: barely enough milk to cut the flavor of straight coffee, yet not enough to actually taste milky. "Just a little" doesn't work either, end result there being that milk now constitutes a quarter of my cup of coffee. For the last 10 years or so, the idea of kicking back a lonesome glass of milk has grown more and more disgusting. There's something unnatural about that clingy, gargly flavor coating one's mouth and throat after taking a drink, minerals and goodness be damned. This is probably why all adult versions of us previous to homo sapiens v1.x were naturally lactose intolerant. Then the opportunity to upgrade to v1.x came along (Less back hair! Lose the stoop! Drink milk forever!) and the speculative dairy industry offered to subsidize a full quarter of the upgrade costs for any individual wishing to carry through. Obviously, this was largely a success except for a handful of stubborn and skeptical folks who thought that just about everyone else was full of shit, as evinced by their lactose-intolerant descendants roaming the earth today.

I've come to the point of asking for it in a number of extremely specific manners: "the most infinitesimally small drop," "a hair away from black," "just for the slightest color," "as if it were arsenic," etc. All these work much better than "just a bit," but I still find myself too often in that situation of watching in frustration as the barista dumps a full half cup of the stuff in my drink. If I'm feeling especially plucky, I may say something and they'll begrudgingly dump out half the cup and fill it with coffee. Usually, like today, I just suck it up and fester.

Yesterday morning marked the first substantial snowfall of this season. I completely missed the actual act of snow falling, but enjoyed the evidence for a little while before the rain had it's way with it. I'm happy to be back here in New York, even though Lisbon was a wonderful, warm (and cheap) place to hang out for a while, and at some moments more than others, I really miss their coffee. Two months is a long time to be gone from anywhere, but the change vector is decidedly more sloped here in Brooklyn than most places on this planet except for all those cities in southeast Asia, so a fresh list of new stuff to marvel at presents itself upon each return. That contributes to the Lost-In-Translation-ish feeling that one can have even upon returning to their own neighborhood, as after traveling around even in someplace as comparatively similar as Western Europe can render the goings-on at home strange or even dumb. I've had a number of such realization-moments, staring quizzically at something, wondering how it got to be normal. Surely the remnants of jet-lag or the days spent home alone have contributed at certain points in the last couple weeks, but not entirely. If I can come up with some specific (and compelling) examples, I'll post them here.

So you want stories, eh? And probably pictures too. Yes, there are many of each from Lisbon and beyond. I have a good 20 pages or so of writing in my notebook from those days when I was separated from my laptop, which I shall dutifully post and perhaps backdate, in which case it may behoove you to scroll down every once in a while to see what's popped up in the last couple days, or just rely on The Feed. There are certainly a few Flickr sets to be posted, which I'll be working on regularly. I've got nothing but time on my hands for the present moment!

But what does one do with only time on their hands? I can get old pretty damn quickly, especially when one isn't a naturally-born hermit. That being said, it's all about mindset and moderation, and after a couple months of hotel rooms, a full day alone in an actual apartment can be quite necessary. I have so many books to read, things to build, instruments to practice, and tasks to complete which would otherwise require the hiring of an intern: sort, clean, sleeve, and categorize all records; select, edit, and post all interesting pictures from the last, uhh, few months; etc. No lack of things to do, and the winter months are good ones to do them, especially with good lighting, functional radiators, and enough records to play continually for months without repetition. Add an occasional dinner guest and it all sounds pretty good.

Now, though, time for a jaunt into Manhattan. Gotta see a man about a horse. Check back soon, maybe even tonight...