So my friend Kate is a drummer and we got together the other night to jam. We've done it before and killer noises flew out of us so we're thinking we'll have a go at it more often and make a band out of it - dig?
I hopped onto my little bike which, until I got my hands on it, was a pepto-bismol pink children's bike with a flowery banana seat. My friends Lauren and Matt gave it to me on Christmas as a belated birthday present, with the encouragement that I bastardize its appearance at my leisure. I spray-painted bits of it neon green and orange and mounted a big Baby Jesus statue on the handlebars so that he leads me fearlessly into the wind like the mermaid on the prow of a ship - if one listens hard enough, one can almost hear 'Flight of the Valkyries' reverberating off the crumbling facades of the local buildings as I tool down the scummy streets at 3 miles an hour. Jesus' right hand (formerly raised in blessing, I believe) had been cruelly amputated at the elbow at an earlier date - before I had rescued him, looking dirty and forlorn and without a damn friend in the world, lying in the filthy gutter near the Jefferson street stop. In consolation he is now the centerpiece of my bicycle, encircled in a warm and fertile halo of dollar store flowers. Though I carried his pathetic little ass home, cleaned him up and made something honorable of him, I have yet to receive a word of thanks out of his pious little mouth. He receives generosity much like a cat.
Baby Jesus and I rode over to my new rehearsal space, which is situated in the basement of an enormous warehouse-cum-loft building across the street from another one nearly identical to it. As BJ and I whipped down McKibbin Street as fast as my stubby legs could pedal us I heard Kate's voice say "HEY!" and there she was, ambling along, Taser in hand. Apparently her boyfriend Cory bought it for her recently as a companion piece to her keychain pepper spray. I must admit that it's pretty badass and puts to shame the cheap kitchen knife I carry around, especially since she walks around with it snug in her hand, ready to strike. I got some thrills and chills out of pressing the button and marveling at the blue static lightning and the zapping sound it makes. Dangerous, items like this - much like a gun, its quick fierceness makes one impatient to find a use for it.
Kate had grabbed some random drum equipment from her place since she didn't want to haul her entire kit over and we figured we'd rig up some semblance of a drum set with what was already there. While we go to setting up Kate told me about an excellent new phrase she had been kicking around in her head. The evening before she had been hanging out with her Irish housemate, whose brain that evening, oddly enough, had become addled by alcohol. For some unexplained reason he was passionately dissertating about various exercises and exercising, most particularly his attempts at doing sit-ups. Unfortunately, due to his drunken slur filtered through a sloppy brogue, he kept excitedly referring to a certain pedestrian abdominal exercise as 'shit-ups'. Now, 'shit ups' sound a lot more exciting and positively more dirty than sit-ups. It sounds like something most of us could certainly relate to, must certainly have experienced. What, exactly, could a 'shit-up' or "shit-ups" be? Any number of things, I would - and do - imagine, but most importantly, Kate and I decided, "The Shit-Ups" could be the front-running candidate for the name of our new band.
We dicked around with the inadequate equipment for a bit but eventually we realized we didn't have much to work with. Undaunted, we headed back out into the Brooklyn night to her place. Heading down the darker end of the block, our conversation slowed and quieted as we realized that an abnormally large group of hooded males were heading dead into our path. BeTaser'd and steak-knife armed though we were, it is true to form that natural animal instincts will cause any smaller-statured creature to brace themselves for trouble, if not attack. We continued to converse but became subtly wary the closer we came to point-blank contact. Our speech eventually became stunted and quiet and our footsteps fell out of rhythm as we sought a clear path on the sidewalk. Once they were within a few feet of us and the dimness of the night gave way to the reflection of the streetlamps, we realized with relief and a bit of a laugh that this was no more than a large pack of innocuous skater dudes apparently on their way back from some sort of skate park field trip. Ah, Bushwick: how doth your face change so fleetly?
And up Bushwick Ave and around the corner to Kate's. Kate's place, by the way, is less an apartment and more of a social experiment, being that it is the Asterisk Young Artist's Project - a very large loft with two performance spaces, a bar, a backyard deck, and a roof deck. The street it is located on is completely industrial so it is isolated and therefore seems to run into little trouble. It's an art gallery and performance space that seems to have people about at all hours, yet somehow people manage to cohabitate with a reasonable amount of sanity there in little compartmentalized rooms nestled among the hubbub. This particular evening there was a big rock/punk show going on, so we navigated through groups of people milling about outside the door and climbed up the stairs into a crowded and sweaty party. As we fought through the people I recognized the round endearing face of Mark, the kindly young man who recorded my band's first album for a pittance in his ramshackle studio in Williamsburg. He looked like he was working the door, which struck me as odd since I had never seen him at Asterisk before and in fact hadn't run into him in quite a while, but upon chatting with him I realized this was no strange coincidence as his band Your Biggest Fan was playing the show that night. I expressed my dismay upon my imminent missing of his set since Kate and I were determined to have a jam, and we discussed future plans to record the Drayton Sawyer Gang together. Kate grabbed her drum shit and we snuck into her room out of the hipsty crowd. Kate and Cory's room is not only a menagerie of unrelenting cuteness (four/five cats and a dog?) but it is strangely vertical, with a high bed, a higher loft for storage, and shelves lining the walls of a very narrow space. We smoked a bowl for good measure on her cozy bed for a bit, lounged about with the cute patrol and with goodbyes to friends headed back out through the crowd onto the black street.
Back at rehearsal we rigged up a funny little kit and got to playing. It was genius, of course, and all preserved for posterity on my handheld tape recorder. Kate plays tribal and menacing sounding rhythms and I abuse wretched sounds out of my bass so you can imagine that the sounds were quite beautiful. Anyone who plays music can attest to the fact that, though composition is quite rewarding and certainly songs are an end that justify much laborious means, playing unabashedly with no direction but your wandering mind and fingers is a distinct and necessary pleasure.
After expending so much intellect through natural and forced mind-wandering, though, one gets tired and needs a pick me up. We stopped for a bit and packed up the bowl for a fresh smoke. This would seem a simple enough task, except we couldn't find a light among the two of us and realized we'd have to forage for materials.
"We'll find someone outside who can give us matches," we agreed. Out front there was a chick in a moving van doing some late night relocating but she couldn't help us. Our eyes raised up to the lights and sounds emanating from the industrial lofts a few stories up across the street - surely somewhere in that huge party we could find something flammable. We crossed the street to investigate.
Heading in the direction of nondescript thumping bass and echoing chatter, we ran up three or four flights of stairs to come upon throngs of drunken and debauched people in the hallway. Perfecto. We pushed on through into some sort of...orporate hip hop party? A racially and generationally mixed crowd of urban professionals canoodled and danced poorly to the DJ's snore-inducing beats. Strangely enough, we nearly felt a bit out of place in this neighborhood we have lived in for years but the party was so crowded no one seemed to give a shit or even notice two bummy little chicks scouring the floors and tables for a light. Knocking about among the inebriated, besuited dancers (at least the men were besuited; the women were dressed in requisite hoochie wear) and avoiding eye contact with drunk guys on the make, it started to look futile as there seemed to be relatively few revelers taking a puff of anything. When I finally spotted a pack of matches on the floor I hustled to find Kate. We laughed triumphantly as we fought our way back out, praying that the matches weren't too soaked in beer to give us the little bit of fire we needed. It was not lost on us that we could have walked out of those digs with plenty of items holding a lot more value than the simple thing we sought, had we had the presence of mind or thieving instinct.
Back at the space we enjoyed the fruits of our labor and jammed for a bit more. Once we were satisfied with ourselves we headed back to Kate's where the show was winding down. The bands were loading out but I drank some bathtub Absinthe with Cory and Voulez and listened to/discussed/sang along to Neutral Milk Hotel's 'In the Aeroplane over the Sea'. Such a beautiful album. Sigh. I rode my BJ bike around the loft and enjoyed the dizzying effects of such a sweet green liquid. Before leaving I had a Pabst and a smoke with Devin and Early at the top of a ladder in their loft room accompanied by an uplifting conversation about alcoholism and the futility of life. Kate had retired to dreamland long ago and I got drowsy, along with the waning discussion - it was bedtime in Bushwick. I hopped back on my little bike and me and with baby J leading the way, wound my way back home through the empty streets.
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