Quaint ramblings and occasional reflections of a journeying Aussie musician...

14 December 2006

Chart

....screw this prosaic elegaic crap, none of us have any time for it in our busy lives anyway, so I'm just gonna give youse a chart of how I'm doing, plus or minus rating....


'So, Mike....'

'ARE YOU OK?'

+

'SLEEPING?'

-

...not much lately, but that seems to be more okay as I get older

'EATING?'

-

...two-minute dinners just aren't doing it for me anymore so I'm branching out into real cooking, but it's tricky for one - recipe suggestions anyone?

'WORKING?'

+++

...constant rotation between teaching, shift work and gigging - have you ever stepped back while reading an intense novel to marvel at the river of words before you? I had this experience with 'A Hundred Years of Solitude'.....anyway, I was scribbling away in my diary the other day and did the same thing....

HANGING/PARTYING?

-

...reasonably....the odd coffee or drink with friends is countered with days of hermitude (is that a word?)....

'LOVE LIFE?'

---

...non-existent, may have to do something about this....

Xmas Cheer....

Camden High Street, about 5pm, last Saturday....

I am walking towards the markets, I can't remember why, in the permanent dusk of an English December afternoon, with about 57 million other people, a sea of black, goth teenagers everywhere....I feel like every molecule of this place is repelling me, every brick, every post, every grim face, every puddle in the mis-shapen bitumen mess outside my ex-council flat....

....for a moment there I was considering some sort of sniper action against all those goths, down there at the lock, maybe from up top of that little castle thing above Starbucks, with a slug gun or maybe a paintball rifle shooting white paintballs, have that constant depressing river of blackshirts all running for cover, falling backwards over the bridge and into the canal....

....and the really crazy thing is, despite the obvious overwhelming sense of conformism, I don't actually have anything particular against goths....

I GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE! I NEED A HOLIDAY!

....but that's all right....most people I know here get to a certain time limit with this place before they have to run off and hang somewhere else for a bit, which is thankfully pretty easy. Mine's about two months, so I'm well past that now, but my escape route is all planned, another Aussie orphan Christmas in Paris...loads of mates, cheese and baguettes, red wine, general merriment skipping down all those gorgeous boulevards - it's not baking Aussie summer Chrissie with family (something I'll be missing quite a lot), but it's about the next best thing I can imagine....

03 December 2006

...the plot thickens!...

...so when I did my three gigs at Park Lane Sheraton, currently a stop on the Polonium Tour of Central London, I just remembered when recounting the whole thing to someone the other day that I was subbing for a Russian guy who runs the gig, who doesn't live here! I got a 3pm call for the 9pm gig from my man NK because the Russian lawyer guy who actually runs the gig got stuck in Moscow thanks to a grounded flight! Bloody hell, I'm closer than I thought....and this bodgy Russian MP3 site that I joined won't accept my credit card payments anymore....what's going on over there, seriously......

Been feeling it a bit lately, the old 'saudage' as the Brazilians say, the longing, for the homeland....whenever I flick through anyone's Myspace page from Australia, the photos always look so colourful...round ere, with all those pallid stone grey buildings in town set under a sunless sky, it seems like all the colour got rained out of this place and washed into the Thames years ago.

From my fellow Australians, I also miss the humour, and the directness, in speech....I've been in conversation with Brits and Continentals on numerous occasions, and I don't know if they even realise it, but they'll launch into an opinion about something and all the passion and articulation will be there but they'll get to the end of it and they won't have actually SAID anything. I've sometimes listened for 20 minutes, half an hour, and they keep cycling around the same things and I have to hold back from saying, "Yeah, but you haven't actually SAID ANYTHING!"

Aussies don't have time in their lives for any Old World rhetoric...it's probably another Irish inheritance...whenever I talk to anyone back home, you can feel it there, the immediacy of communication, and the funny thing is that they may not even realise what they're doing either. I was talking to my mum not long ago on the phone and she said something and I can't even remember what it was, but most importantly, it was straight up, and it was so refreshing to hear....and all of a sudden I got a flash of the sun on those endless fields, and Jugiong Road, and then, a sigh....

.....coming up to Christmas as well, this one rapidly encroaching will be my third in a row away from family.....we've got an Aussie orphans meet up happening in Paris again which'll be fun....

....it's looking like I might be able to stay here as well....I met a guy today who's helped out others in my situation in the past, and he gave my application the nod....I won't breathe easy until that stamp is in the passport, but it's looking promising....as the grimness of the winter sets in.....

30 November 2006

You Know You're In London When...

1.KGB SPY POISONED TO DEATH BY POLONIUM - Anyone outside the UK following this? The tabloids are eating it for breakfast. Put simply, ex KGB spy died here about a week ago after Polonium poisoning, which is a form of uranium that's only lethal when ingested. Turns out after they found he was about to go, traces of it have been found throughout the city wherever he'd been...his home in Muswell Hill, a sushi bar in Piccadilly, now on various aeroplanes, and a couple of places relatively close to home for your correspondent i.e, the Sheraton Park Lane, where I've done three gigs! and the poor guy died at University College Hospital, one tube stop down the road in Euston where a girl I was briefly involved with is studying medicine of all things....
So the back story is that Putin in Russia is about to hand over power and this guy knew some secrets that could blow the whole process. It seems like an incredibly obvious way to get rid of someone, as well as a pretty good way of sending the largest city in Europe into radiation frenzy....

2.WHALE SWIMS PAST COMMONS - this was about six months ago, and I was walking back from Prets (sandwhich shop) to my shift work office when I saw the headline by the newstand. It was like something out of 'News Of The World' and doubly bizarre considering that I was in the city of London at the time, a handful of blocks from the river. They gave it a name, and the inevitable happened.....crowds of onlookers, poor thing got confused, it stayed around for about five days, they tried to ship it out to sea and it died on the way. Perhaps another remotely related sign of what we're doing to the planet on a larger scale?....

3.OUTBREAK OF EBOLA VIRUS IN DALSTON - this is more an urban East End myth I think, but someone was telling me a while ago that the fairly deadly and contagious Ebola virus, known to exist in certain parts of Africa, is stored in dead animal flesh, which could possibly be illegally imported as bushmeat through various African communities and into central London for a possible second outbreak. Third world Africa and the East End, eh? Still, I reckon Londoners should be more worried about the proliferation of places like Chicken Empire - there's some wrongness in those two pound hamburgers somewhere....

....moral to the story? This is a town where absolutely bizarre and potentially life-threatening events occur on a regular basis.....

....but the strange thing is, with all that and the old world inefficiency and ridiculous bureacracy and pollution and how small and cramped everything is, it's almost as if you start to warm to the wrongness, a case of contempt breeding familiarity.....

.....just another day I suppose....

16 November 2006

Round Midnight

....Hidey ho, Kermit the Frog here with another fast breaking news story about your correspondent and his hedonistic life running endlessly through the rat race of this burned out burb, here in the North-East Atlantic, where the sun is already starting to set round mid afternoon, as the ol' girl is regresses into her seemingly natural state of cold, dark and grey.
But it's all right cause you end up not caring really, just flowing along with the rest of the eight millions....currently riding the wave of one of those times where every night is busy and every day filled to overflowing, fuelled endlessly 'off coffee and two minute dinners. Usually these times, like slipping into some wormhole of your own universe, seem to last about a week for me, but this one seems to be spilling over into the fortnight...
No complaints here though, as we're in the middle of the London Jazz Festival, and your humble correspondent has gone all out - Wayne Shorter Quartet last Friday, Cassandra Wilson Monday, Spanish Harlem Orchestra last night (muy sabroso!) and tonight was Michel Camilo and Tomatito. Support act was a Senegalese singer with guitar and percussionist...slept through the first half of course but it was truly great stuff. The main act was incredible - I've been a fan of Camilo for a while now, wouldn't say I love his stuff but it was definitely worth a look....all these big double handers and this little whispery right hand downward thing I'd never seen before.
Currently on world tour to promote their second album, it was to be expected - lots of Spanishy flourishy stuff, famous covers and burning originals, tumbao, flamenco, Cuba, Spain, Argentina, the works, a real concertgoer's concert.
Alas, having napped through a twenty-five quid gig, here I am at a quarter to one AM, sleepless. What to do, what to do...
.......by the way, J-Sax put me on to an Oz show I've been watching on google video called 'The Chaser'? Bloody hilarious!....
So I suppose the main news of late is my impending deportation, due in now less than three months. In a nutshell, all my options seemed closed off, my hopes dashed, and I had resolved to leave. Under a stormy sky I rode up to Primrose Hill with the journal and thrashed it out, made the decision....and then lo and behold, the next day I'm talking to a friend and he puts me on to another friend who may actually have a chance for me. It'll require some heavy blagging and an exorbitant applicaiton fee, but at the moment it's a risk I'm willing to take. More on that as news comes to hand...

29 October 2006

Thus Spake Zarathustra

....this is the music I'm hearing, the Strauss, aka theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey, as I JUST BOUGHT A NEW MAC LAPTOP! It's got a whole swag of stuff, including built in webcam and mike, so any Skypers or iChatters out there, let's talk! I picked it up on the way to a gig in town, came back home, and now it's half two in the morning - my social life is now over!
....More soon....

23 October 2006

New York - Brooklyn Sometimes

Customary to the Jazz musician's pilgrimage to The City is the acquisition of a lesson, some time spent with someone personally considered to be a great, a source of information to glean from along the way of the lifelong journey, mostly for one's own benefit but in certain cases to absorb that information to be passed on to friends and colleagues. Of course these 'lessons' may not necessarily be of an entirely scholastic or academic nature: having taken a few now I've found them to range wildly, from actual discussion of notes and chords and rhythms, to tangental discussions of philosophy and astrology...
Sometimes it's great to just to watch a guy, to observe a certain bend of wrist or turn of finger while playing. Sometimes it's just to spend time with a guy, to maybe pick up one thing not even necessarily even musical, which was part of the reason why I went to his gig. After hanging with him for a bit I figured that I still wanted to talk to him, that there was still some to be learnt, so after checking out of the hostel, some scattered phone conversations led me to take the 'orange ones' heading east from the island.
The carriage emerged from the tunnel into a white misty sky, and the vista of Brooklyn had my vision entirely occupied. DJ said something a while back about this largest borough of the city, if free-standing itself as a city, would be the nation's fourth largest. It certainly looked that way. The line ascended into an arc at the top of which was my station. Barney's apartment was easy to find, and I took a seat next to a kindly old upright.
Having been in this situation before a few times, I had emailed some questions to him a few weeks before in the hope of a specific approach, at least to start with. But as I have written before, one gets swept along with these people, these incredibly optimistic, forward thinking people, and it always, without fail, ends up somewhere else. No flat fives or sharp nines here folks! today's tangental territory wandered into Cuban religion, santeria, the Orishas, and Yemaya, goddess of the ocean, mother of dreams and secrets - love it!
But don't get me wrong - Barney answered all my questions as well as giving me a whole bunch more to think about, as well as loading me up with a DVD of original charts and influential music. The 'lesson' was cut short by the arrival of Gary, a stalwart New York horn player of some twenty or thirty years and one of Barney's closest musical collaborators. We ended up watching parts of a video of Barney's recent gig with legendary ex-James Brown alto player Maceo Parker.
Taking my cue, Barney called me a cab, I paid him the nominal sum he'd forgotten about and sped off toward JFK. It had been a markedly positive experience spending part of the morning with him, and he'd plied me up with more than enough musical knowledge to keep me going for a good time to come.
Thoughts wander on the cab ride to the airport, but this time around I somehow missed out on the common dread of impending return, still transfixed by the dreamlike nature of this place, seeming eerily quiet and still on a Saturday afternoon. Caught a poster at a lights on the opposite side of the intersection - "Divorce only $300 - no spouse signature required." Strolling down a boulevard on the way was a middle age black man in a canary yellow suit and brimmed hat, complete with walking stick....
It was like a dream that I didn't want to wake from. At various times in my life I thought I'd never get there. But I did, and I can't wait to go back...

10 October 2006

New York - Island of Lights and Love

....Alas, dear readers, the last full day of my stay on the island yields little to report, as almost a full week of non-stop walking by day and partying by night had me well and truly bedridden until late afternoon. However, a cute and kindly Spanish dancing student who'd been living there for a week took pity on me, made me a coffee, and we chatted pleasantly in the darkness of an empty room on a Hell's Kitchen afternoon. DJ had been looking amorously her way when here earlier in the week, so I didn't consider pursuing anything, but we swapped emails as she said she was passing through London early next year. That's the hostel vibe I guess. She told of a health food supermarket on Columbus Circle, about three blocks away where I eventually hauled my sorry shaking corpse for a massive metal bowl of curry and salad.
My last eve saw me return yet again to the Village to meet up with Rob and Lucy, friends from London, who had arrived that very day, and we checked out a stonking set by Jimmy Bosch at S.O.B's (Sounds of Brazil). This was a regular Friday night classic salsa set but with that all important difference of it being in New York, with some of the best guys in the country. Trombonist Jimmy was up front in colourful shirt and leather pants singing coros when not soloing. The lead singer was hilarious - ultra slicked back hair, big brown shades, white shirt and tie, grey pants - classic! Completing the front line was the classic little tres player guy, who's obviously been doing it for fifty years, half the height of anyone else on stage and almost dwarfed by his own instrument, but ripping out ridiculous solos all night.
Farewelling my companions, I wandered down some of the more gorgeous back streets of the Village and into the 'chess' district for cheap bodgy internet on the way to Gonzalez y Gonzalez, near the corner of Broadway and Houston, the late night salsa hang. Big long room painted in yellow, full Mexican cantina vibe, sombreros with lights, streamers, a big moose head on the wall (ahh, taxidermy and live music! a lasting and important connection...)...band kicks off 11pm, free entry, dancefloor packed - my kinda place. The band were all right, not quite what I'd just seen but doing well enough, and all actually dressed in the same uniform (first time for everything)...
I felt as though a week wasn't quite long enough. While I definitely put in the hard yards and got to all the clubs on my large list, there was still a couple of places I didn't quite get to. In terms of cheesy tourist stuff though, everything was pretty much taken care of - the only way I could have done better in that respect is to have gone to more museums or galleries. That kind of added to something DJ said a while ago, about the place being mostly for work. While there's obviously plenty to do and see, if you wanted to spend some time there it would be for a distinct purpose, which also shed a new light on all the stories of all my muso friends who'd come and gone to give it a go, or indeed who were still there....

New York - Bad Sneakers (and a pina colada, my friend?)

Thursday 21st September

Today was kind of filling in the blanks of the island, the parts I hadn't seen, of which there weren't many by this stage. After another massive oil grease and salt laden bagel (by this stage in the week I had taken to eating twice a day), I wandered the three or so blocks up to Carnegie Hall - okay, great, but nearby I happened to walk past a plaque (yes I'm one of those people that actually reads that stuff) indicating classic example of studio architecture from the 20s or 30s or something - buildings specifically designed with high ceilings and large ground level windows for artists to work in, with their accommodation upstairs.
There it was again, that cultural interest - more people, more money, more history, and consequently more of a desire and appreciation for paintings, sculpture, live music et al.
Not far from there in the part of the city just south of Central Park was Radio City Music Hall and, behind it, the rest of the Rockerfeller Center. This was real New World stuff, complete with Rockerfeller's own grand statement on humanity and such...
A section I hadn't been anywhere near yet was east Midtown, and with good reason - once again, not much for the wearily wandering tourist, but it eventually melted back into the Village, throughout which I wandered gleefully. Making my way back up Seventh Avenue, I decided to dial it down a bit. After five and a half days of walking non-stop daytime and clubbing nighttime, my feet were killing me and the rest of my body needed some rest, so I picked an artsy corner cafe not far from the Vanguard, pulled up a hot chocolate, reefed out part of the mass of live music street press I'd collected over the week, and nestled in amongst the locals.
Too much to see, to do, too many gigs to go with a couple of days to spare, but checking the dates, I already knew where I was going tonight. Hanging with Sean and Echo the other night, they took me down into Times Square to Sophia's, a solo gig Sean used to do, and on the chalkboard I found the name of someone I had wanted to meet, someone I'd been in contact with prior to coming.
Hostel, dinner, then to Sophia's. A small circular bar, there was about six or seven people there and he was one of them. Not wishing to disturb (...same old nerves coming back...) I took a house red and sat alone on the other side, probably standing out for all to see. In over ten years of doing this kind of thing, going to gigs, meeting guys, shaking hands, there's still that hesitation at the straight-up self-introduction...really quite ridiculous....but then Barney saved me by coming over and introduced himself.
We'd been in touch and he kind of knew I'd be there, and as I had expected, he was a thoroughly nice guy. I have so much respect for these guys, so much admiration and appreciation, that sometimes it's like too much respect, and I end up being unable to talk to them like a normal human being, not being able to think my words through properly, becoming paranoid over saying something wrong and then saying it, with their look of an eye or a turn of face entirely misread...I might be continuing with conversation, all the while going through some sort of momentary internal meltdown, and I look over his shoulder and I see me sitting at the bar, looking back at myself shouting, "You're doing it again, SNAP OUT OF IT!"....but no, I know plenty of people like Barney, with their relentless goodwill toward all and endless enthusiasm about the music, and none of it mattered. He let me sit in with the bass player, agreed on a lesson time and fee (sort of), and I bid him adieu, reeling from oversensitivity and self-absorption and too many house reds, into the miles of flashing neon and TV screens to be sucked into the metro again, again, off into the blackness of the night...
I ended up at the bottom of the Village at Zinc, a tiny Latin bar, didn't know who was playing, ramped up the eve from there - incredible six piece descarga outfit. It seemed throw-together, hand signals, improvised coros and piles of photocopies abounded, but the best throw-together small Latin band I've seen yet, ever. Wailing post-bop tenor player with all the Latin history....harmonically outside intense keys player....cranking percussion....the swirling carnival of Salsa and Jazz....
Back to Fat Cat, the hang, drunken email checking....and a familiar face appears from nowhere. It's MJ, a bassplayer I've come across occasionally back in London! MJ's a pretty driven guy but still cool enough to come say hello, and he showed me the side room (somehow I'd missed it the last two visits) where we slumped in a couch watching a dodgy jam, just as bad as the worst ones I've seen across the world, and he tore it apart, and then vanished!...

09 October 2006

New York - Como Se Gozar En El Barrio?

(NB - I just got around to figuring out how to put up some pics in some of the New York entries - thanks again Sherd...)

Wednesday 20th September

'Lost in the Barrio, I walk like an Injun...'

'Throw Back The Little Ones' - Steely Dan

The haze cleared entirely the next day, and I Metroed to Lexington Avenue and somewhere in the 90s, east of Central Park, for a good long wander through Spanish Harlem (referred to here amongst Latinos as 'El Barrio'). The electricity of the place was incredible; hard to describe (it wasn't like people with trumpets hanging out of windows), but just watching people go about their business, hearing people talk, seeing Cuban flags up everywhere, you could definitely feel it.
Reaching a major intersection on Lexington Avenue, I spied with my little audiophile's eye a record store. Amazing! Floor to ceiling, glass cabinets, full of every single kind of Latino music you want. Of course, having discovered Internet CD purchasing not too long ago, I know that I didn't need to buy anything from there as it's all way too e-accessible, but it's the romance of it, the seeing the cover art right there in front of you, the exchange of a couple of words with the knowledgeable guy behind the counter, the breaking of those annoying plastic covers, the suddenly urgent need to find the nearest CD player...
Venturing further up Lexington, trying not to look at my guidebook too much (I figure I must've been advertising to locals that I was some kind of tourist), after about fifteen or twenty blocks I hit the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, turned left and headed into Harlem proper.
Harlem looks like it's doing pretty well for itself these days - any stereotyped images of rundown urban decay were quickly dashed by the immediately obvious encroachment of gentrification. Still, it was hardly peace and quiet - as I went to cross the street a young man and woman started up about something, wailing in each other's faces to disapproving looks. Yelling at them to stop came from a large woman on the pavement nearby, seated at a wooden table with a sack of what must have been chess pieces and a pile of boards (something I saw a bit of as I continued on). Must have been bad for business...
Reaching the intersection with Malcolm X Boulevard, the major crossroads of the suburb, I decided to leak back off the main drag and see a bit of the neighbourhood. Like the constancy of the horns and sirens, the dominating sound of these sidestreets was that of construction: circular saws, dump trucks et al. A quick stroll through Marcus Garvey Park and I was back on Lexington, heading south in search of a quick Latino feed that never eventuated.
Continuing with the theme of the day, the first stop of the evening's festivities was a venue but not live music - John Zorn's The Stone at the bottom of Avenue C, for a Latino film night. Getting there a little early, I decided to wander one block east to get a peek at Avenue D, the edge of Alphabet City and indeed the streets of the island, sometime home of saxophonists Charlie Parker and Dale Barlow (Steely Dan also give it a mention).
So I take my seat at The Stone, aptly named (prominent absence of bar and accompanying furniture), and the film collector running the night announces that we have about half a dozen local Salsa legends in our midst, notably Jimmy Bosch (who I later saw on Friday night). The movies were wicked, starting from early 20s footage of a Cuban son band (bright whites and cane hats) all the way through to a mindblowing 50s era descarga, live on TV.
After a while it turned into a bit of a local reminiscence fest with the old Salsa guys, so I bailed and headed to the opposite corner of the island to scout out some of the clubs I'd heard of on the Upper West Side. I found Smoke in the hundreds somewhere - stonking organ trio sitting on a turnaround for about ten minutes, but the place was packed to the rafters and a drinks minimum that was a bit too maximum for me. Half a dozen blocks further south was Cleopatras Needle, again quite full - these places were more schmick restaurants with music than clubs to hang at, which wasn't really my vibe at the time (do enough gigs myself in that world), so I ended up walking for about another ten blocks to the nearest Metro - not much to see up there that time of night.
Headed back to the Village and Smalls - didn't care who was on cause I knew it was going to be huge and it was, a quintet run by the bassplayer. Here for the first time, in that tiny basement, I got to feel and see and hear the intensity that I'd only heard about from my fellow muso friends back in Oz. Everyone was so into it, so into doing a great job, so into creating amazing music right there on the bandstand. No slackers, no half-ass playing, no band member too drunk or stoned (from what I could tell)....everyone's soloing and comping were massive, everyone's tone was huge...the live sound again was amazing - no feedback, no level issues. This was the real thing, a New York Jazz club where new music was being performed and created, and, thanks to it being reasonably affordable, a place to hang and meet guys and get into musical adventures....

05 October 2006

New York - Alone (Again)

Tuesday 19th September

After truly incredible weather to start the trip, a white sky set the scene for our breakfast mission, a wander into Tribeca, in roughly the same area as last night. Warehouses sporting trendy shops was the order of the day, and we came across the first proper deli that I'd seen. This place was WIKKID - think your local store but with a massive salad bar and hot food bar right in the front door. It was time for another tourist box-tick - I ordered a lox bagel with cream cheese and took the complimentary pickle. The nice blonde lady next to me ordered the same and DJ was most impressed at me, thinking I was some kind of local. He regularly gets impressed about stuff like that.



On a brief side note, we'd been checking out the 'form' since I touched down, and I have to say we were both rather impressed. Must be all that proper food, gym culture, space to move and such...it's been a while for poor old DJ, and I had hopes for him but it just didn't happen, oh well...meanwhile, I bought a statuette of Liberty for eight bucks for my speshal frenn back in London (and y'all know where THAT got me!) at some bodgy store Downtown before I farewelled comrade DJ, thoroughly chilled from the weekend's activities.
And so it was that I was alone, a travelling experience I still feel a little unaccustomed to. I proceeded to ring the people I knew in town, and got through to Sean. As these things go, he had a solo gig that night not far from the hostel, and so I basically walked the streets until then. My first destination was 'the Village', home to almost all the clubs and the scene I was after. Starting from the Metro on West 14th Street, I wandered down Seventh Avenue in the grey afternoon, totally succumbed to the traveller's amazed daze.
A lot of the clubs I was after just seemed to appear before my eyes - Smalls, Fat Cat, Village Vanguard, SOBs. Peripheral vision would draw me to beautiful side streets, framed circular with trees and the stoops (those classic stairways leading down to the pavement). At the end of the village I headed generally westward, including Houston (pronounced 'How-ston') Street, trendy Soho, Canal Street and its plethora of two-dollar stores...
Finding myself on the Bowery, I stumbled past the Downtown Music Store, an actual avant-garde Jazz record store! There is one in the world! It's narrow rectangle comprised one wall entirely of the fruitiest stuff I'd ever seen, names I'd never remotely heard of. A find for any audiophile...



Dinner was at a pavement restaurant on Mulberry Street, central to tiny Little Italy. Dunno if it was all year around but the length of its three blocks were closed off for this crazy side show thing. Any questions about safety in New York were answered here - there was a cop on every corner and half a dozen at the end of the street.


For anyone who watches Seinfeld, my hostel on West 55th Street was directly above the Soup Nazi! Returning there before the night's hang, I fully checked out the closed shopfront (with sign saying 'Now Franchising') and tired old sign next door for Kenny Kramer's bus tour. Business ain't lookin so good dees deys...



It was mighty good to see Sean and meet his wife Echo - while I'd been entirely consumed by tourist activities, I wanted to also see some of the living, meet the people I knew there and share some of their experiences. From what I could glean from the both of them, times were difficult and it was a struggle, but they knew the reasons why they were there and they weren't about to bail.
Sean was hacking away at a solo gig the likes of which I knew all too well. The surroudings were a little schmicker than I was accustomed to, but it was the same vibe - clean, gleaming fixtures, piano herded into one corner by the chatty indifference of an audience too consumed with themselves and each other to notice. Still, like myself or any other player who's just keen to play and make a quid, Sean has an obvious appreciation of the day-job like aspect of these gigs, and as I sat and chatted with Echo, he willingly plugged away.
I bid them adieu in the next set break and headed to my next juncture, back up the top end of Seventh Avenue to the Village Vanguard. Earlier in the afternoon I nearly missed it - a tiny door with a red awning obscured from the street by scaffolding.
Paying my excessive cover and minimum for the late set, as I stepped past the cover charge guy and saw the room, the sight of the place really hit me. All the famous names and all the famous live recordings throughout the history - Coltrane, Rollins, Josh Redman et al, and a slightly nervous Bill Evans on that Sunday evening in 1961, the last time they would perform together before Scott La Faro died a week later. The room looked old, and smelled damp, but it was the original and there was no denying it.
The late set was the Fred Hersch trio with Drew Gress and Eric MacFarlane (right surname?) - a smattering of people littered the front and I took place by myself near the bar up the back. Fred's recorded work is nothing short of stellar and tonight he didn't disappoint at all. I couldn't believe how good the piano sounded, as well as the overall live sound, something which I would discover at every single gig I saw through the week.
Satisfied with the evening's performance, not wishing to bother Fred, I somehow took a wrong turn and got lost on the way out, before making my way to Fat Cat, the late night hang. There seemed to be a bandstand in the middle of pool tables, as well as much needed internet (I walked the entire island for a week and found about three cafes, all quite expensive), so I pulled up a pint of something and proceeded forthwith...and then took the late night Metro home! After 12.30 pm! Another box ticked about this place.....

New York - Monday

Monday 18th September

Our morning wanderings took us back past Ground Zero, this time in the garish light of morning. Construction has already started on the horrific new tower they're going to build there - I remember reading in an architectural magazine not long after 9-11 about various proposals and some writer suggested the idea of not having to actually build some new gigantic structure there. Did that have to happen?
Traversing the site on some elevated caged walkway, we hit the Hudson River and came back around the island toward Battery Park, the towers of Newark standing at attention to us from the other side.
I was initially reluctant (and with good reason) but the morning's cheesy tourist mission was the Statue of Liberty. Five gazillion people and a massive security check later, the ferry came past the front of her and it was amazing - once again, smaller than I expected but no less impressive. Walked all over, up on the pedestal, down by the river, all around. The stillness of the harbour was once again incredible, all encompassing of ones senses.
Afterwards, DJ took me to another couple of tick-box tourist sites; Washington Square, in the Village, student hang from NYU; Union Square, a bit dodgy; and then to the East Village, like Camden Town but far less grubby and a whole lot trendier.
DJ was good enough to give the Blue Note a go the night before, so on his last night in town I left it up to him. Sadly (!) being barred from entry to 'Hogs and Hooters' in Chelsea cause DJ had no ID(ea), we ended up in the Meatpacking district, in some bar he remembered from his past time here, with a lit-up floor straight out of 'Saturday Night Fever', ending up shooting the breeze with a married Aussie bloke and his gay mate out for some drinks at 2AM before work the next day. That kinda town!....

03 October 2006

New York - Saturday In The Park

Sunday September 17th

....and awoke, to the constant sound of sirens and horns! Jet-lagged and exhausted enough for them not to keep me awake, I knew from the moment I woke that they had remained ceaseless through the night.
DJ had run off to watch a football match, and so on my first morn I was left alone to wander the three or so blocks up from the hostel to Columbus Circle, the bottom left hand corner of Central Park. Stopping off at the nearest deli, I was wiped out by the choice, and that's what it's all about there. Above any deli counter there are at least half a dozen different panels with bagel fillings, sandwhich toppings, different combinations of whatever you want. I thinking that the vibe of the street-eating New Yorker is to charge in and demand a very specific pre-set order, as opposed to my gluttinous wide-eyed bedazzlement.
Settling on some sort of festival of eggplant and garlic, I traversed the Circle to the huge stone entrance and let the park envelop me in it's wooded glory. It was about midday by then and while there were plenty of people, the park never seemed crowded. Walkway melted into roadway into woods and hills, all carefully molded out of the countryside. I found myself regularly stumbling onto fountains and statues...and the squirrels! Out in the day, no time to waste, in groups of sometimes half a dozen. Hardcore, man! I wondered why they weren't ever near the hotdog stands when I figured that they looked so hardcore that they probably owned all the hotdog stands (and had shares in the Yellow Cabs)...
One of the more prominently beautiful features that I'd failed to notice from years of Sesame Street and movies were the rocky bluffs that can be found across the entire park, natural elevation from the rabble of passers-by.



As I continued wandering, these bluffs seemed to flow upwards alongside the paths heading northward.
I really couldn't believe how truly huge the place was, how much space there seemed for everyone. I stopped for a time at the top of the central reservoir - a huge expanse of water right in the middle of the park, stretching to either side. Along it's western edge were the magnificent apartment buildings of the Upper East Side, below it, the rest of the park and the beginning of Downtown. Incredible.



Reaching the very top of the park in a couple of hours, I discovered Duke Ellington circle - Edward Kennedy himself, standing by an open grand piano (big stick), supported by three pillars each comprised of three naked maidens...yep, that's a memorial I think any male Jazz muso would be happy with! Not far from Duke Ellington circle was Tito Puente way....streets named after musicians - now we're talkin'!


I met DJ later on at the Guggenheim, dismal from the street due to renovation scaffolding, but the space itself was gorgeous - I admit it was the first thing in New York I found to be smaller than I expected, but no less impressive. DJ's architectural knowledge commanded us to take the lift to the top and walk down the spiral, as is apparently the proper way.
Back into the park, it was later and cooler in the afternoon and many more New Yorkers were out enjoying the lungs of Manhattan. We crossed to Central Park West and sat by the Museum of Natural History before subwaying it to Brooklyn.
Can I just indulge in a slightly nerdy rave about how good the subway is? Why, thank you kind reader....

itz reely cool cos there are express trains which get you round real fast as well as local trains which stop at all the stops and it's also well cheaper than the tube cos I paid $US25 for a week to go everywhere as opposed to £24 for zone 1 and 2 and of course unlike the tube no huge escalatory journeys down into the bowels of creation and there's also air conditioning on the carriages....

Ahem....my eerily constant fascination compelled DJ to threaten a quiz when I got back - I think I must need a special hat or something....

Emerging at Brooklyn Heights, we rolled down to the East River for some incredible views of lower Manhattan, then simply wandered up to where the bridge started.
It was probably the highlight of my trip, walking across Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, with the sun low in the sky and that wall of buildings, the magic of the island, all laid out in front of you. Travellers in a daze of bewilderment had to take care to stay to the left of the path to avoid the heat of oncoming cyclists in their dedicated right lane (I got yelled at a couple of times!).



....From the Statue of Liberty and ferries on the harbour to Downtown and Midtown, then Empire State, standing out from the 'crowd', then the river and the other bridges, Manhattan, 59th Street and Washington et al, to the expanse of Brooklyn and far off to the Verrazano Narrows, the mouth of the harbour, the start and the end of it all.....
Ending up near Town Hall, DJ took me to Ground Zero. While fully aware of the tragedy and weight and significance that the place had, I didn't feel moved to sadness. It just felt strange.
DJ was a little reluctant at first, as was I (as I always am when trying to sell something called 'Jazz' to my non-muso friends), but true to form, he gave it a go and we headed into Greenwich Village for the first of my marathon gig haul for the week. West 4th Street was first stop, none other than the Blue Note, for the Bad Plus and Jason Moran's Bandwagon, the first solely piano trio, the second same plus guitar.
From both outfits it was heavygoing for these ears - I gotta say that I'm still coming round to Bad Plus, and tonight's set wasn't the most enthralling. It was something about the Chicagoesque blues and occasional freeness of the Bandwagon which left me a bit more satisfied. Or maybe it was those incredible slices of pizza from Joe's Pizza just round the corner (there were no toppings, only cheese and the sauce, and it was that good!)....

02 October 2006

Dumped On The Phone

...So I got dumped on the phone last night. First time for everything, right? It was on the set break at Oxo, and I'd been trying to ring her all day and talk over what happened the night before, so I finally got through to her and it was categorical, there was no correspondence to be entered into. We said our respective apologies, and I knew there was no point in trying to keep it going, and she was fairly direct.
The night before had been her 21st. She'd told me her ex would be there, her ex of not too long before we'd hooked up, and how he kinda looked like me, and at first I was okay with all this in my tried (well tried)and true manner of being easygoing and accepting with these things. But of course, rocking up to the party after a couple of reds and consuming vast quantities more of same seemed to change my sensibilities somewhat.
She was doing her social butterfly thing and that was okay, but it seemed whenever I looked over that she was hanging with this guy. It got to the end of the night and I wondered where she was, and there I run into them on the stairwell. So I slink back into a couch and hold my head for a bit and next thing I'm outside and she's apologising tremendously but I must have appeared not to have been listening, mumbling rubbish about not being mucked around ever again. So I left, in a cab, by myself.
She told me I was a great Guy and all but she'd finally realised that she didn't want to be in a relationship with anybody right now. And it was done. Back on for the second set, so Caroline picked a bunch of tunes for the Dumped set ('Mean To Me', 'What A Difference A Day Makes' et al), and we had a laugh and such.
After a warm September, the Autumn is finally here, and while it remains my favourite season of all, it's still that stepping out the front door at the start of the day and realising you're wearing too much, or not enough, and a breeze picks up and the weather gets up and inside you, you get caught out. I seem to feel it the worst on my upper arms, biceps, in between elbow and shoulder. I made sure I was wearing plenty of clothes today, that I would keep nice and warm and that I kept myself well fed and watered, as I was reminded of an eve not too long ago, wandering around Leicester Square by myself, in a big blue coat to keep me warm, dropping into bars to sit for a while, watching the lights, wandering, not knowing really where to go or what to do. No tears, no joy, just alone, but okay, I guess.
You just wear it. And the whole thing is kinda good in a way. After the three year epic with whatsername, there went a long enough time before any involvement with anyone. Then there was one, for a while, now this other one. It was the whole thing of getting back on the horse, so in a way it kind of feels like mission completed. And they were both gorgeous and we had fun, and I'm still here and alive and running my own show all right.
And now, friends, marks a new chapter in the love life of your correspondent. I'm feeling like I'm gonna go solo for a while, just see how that goes. For the first time ever I just want to do my own thing, not feel as though I desperately need someone to make my life complete. Dunno how long that's gonna last, but it's okay for now....

20 September 2006

NOO YOICK!

....so it's 10 to 1 AM on Wednesday, and after virtually walking for four days, I'm sitting at the first easily accessible internet I've found since I got here. It's near the bar, which is near a bunch pool tables. In the middle of these pool tables is piano bass and drums....this is a VENUE! and a reasonably well known one, but it's strangely also pool hall and internet cafe as well. Part of the mystery I suppose of this incredible town....

More soon my loves.

16 September 2006

New York - City of My Dreams....

Kings Cross Station, Saturday morning, 7AM

No Piccadilly line between Kings Cross and Leicester Square. Due to UNplanned engineering works I imagine. A brief heart flutter at the prospect of missing my flight...but no, I can Victoria line it to Green Park and pick it up from there. I suppose the ol' girl wouldn't let me free without some sort of spanner in the works.
But I don't have to put up with that for a while, dear friends! No more old world grubby cramped inefficiency for me this week! No, I'm off to traverse the shining ocean to the west, on a much-needed escape to a mythical city far across the water, with it's tall, shining towers and expansive bridges, where the streets have no name - indeed, the city of my dreams.
Weekend jaunts to the continent have been loads of fun, but this day marked the the first time ever that I would be going to a place I've always really wanted to go. Throughout my years growing up in small town country New South Wales, I remember having four or five separate and distinct dreams, each quite vivid and realistic, about walking those avenues, seeing those buildings (eating those hot dogs!). Back then the Big Apple might as well have been the moon. But not this day.
Recent plaguing doubts of career and future seemed to fade with each tube station passed. And, as the Picadilly line surfaced and I stared out the window at the ol' girl's tired buildings and pervasive grey gloom, the realisation immediately dawned on me that it's not every day you get to fulfil a lifelong dream.....
The flight seemed to vanish in an instant; consequently of course, the bus from the airport seemed to take forever, the promise of that island only intensified by the traffic of the Long Island Expressway. But it shifted, eventually, the brown of Brooklyn cleared and there was that wall of buildings, lining the east side of Manhattan, immediately imposing and welcoming.
An easy meet up with DJ at the fabulous halls of Grand Central Station was followed by my first walk down those grand streets and avenues. Obviously being able to catch a train everywhere, I would have nothing less than to walk the whole way to our hostel near Times Square.
I'd seen pictures, but a real sense of the length and breadth of the streets can't be fathomed until you're there, and you can see all the way up or across the island, all those tall buildings keep your gaze forever skyward. DJ, who had lived on the island for a year, was good to put up with my constant stopping and pointing ("Wow, that's the Chrysler Building!"), and cheesy thumbs-up pics at Times Square ensued.
First stop was the Empire State Building, which took countless security checks and a maelstrom of people to overcome, but the 83rd floor beckoned and it was quite a sight. The stars of a pitch-black sky had fallen upon the lattice of the bridges and the islands towering, glittering domes, with darkened cliffs of the buildings below forming the chasms through which the lava red energy of the avenues poured, raw and relentless into the night.

Compared to how the rest of my week would turn out, we took that first night pretty easy. I think we went to a vegetarian restaurant in Soho (also quite unlike the rest of the food that would end up consuming me) and then some bar just down the road. The girls were all a bit blonde and generic - DJ agreed with me on a certain Essex vibe, and he referred to the local phrase 'bridge and tunnel' (i.e, that's where they all come from for the weekend).
Weary from the day, I drifted off easily to the sounds of constant car horns and sirens, never-ending....

15 September 2006

Cuplla things....

Peace and love to all and sundry,

My most profound apologies to my more avid readers as to the absence of recent entries. This has been due mainly to the turning of a larger portion of my attention towards more pressing matters (i.e, my impending deportation), and henceforth my subsequent neglect and lack of focus upon the written word and its concurrent deliverance to YOU, my humble reader, of that highest quality of semi-factual prose throughout this blog from which you have hopefully come to expect.

Right, now after all that ridiculous wordsmithing, two things:

* - Those of you who wish to follow my adventures on the May tour and hols with my folks, I'm going to start putting the ones I've already done and entering new ones where they actually happened chronologically. That is, you're gonna have to delve back into previous entries to check em out, but I'll put a little note in to tell you where to find them.
I felt that by writing about things that happened four months ago it was lagging behind and shifting against the electrokarma and purpose of the whole blog thing, so there you go.

* - Tomorrow at midday, I'm flying to NEW YORK CITY! Yep, that's right folks, Big Apple and all that, staying for a week, just for a look see - meeting up with housemate DJ for a bit, but also got a bunch of muso mates over there as well as referrals to a ton of gigs, plus all the (as my French housemate X says) touristIC stuff like Central Park (staying not far from there), Empire State, Brooklyn Bridge yaddah yaddah, plus a cuppla greasy hotdogs, some lox bagels, and the odd cup of CWOHfee....I've been dreaming about this day my whole life, and it's finally happening! WOOHOO! Can't wait....

Brotherly electrohugs to y'all, and more soon, hopefully from Manhattan Island!....

P.S.Third thing I suppose - check some new links on the sidebar over there....

06 September 2006

On Tour - Hamburg

Wednesday 24th May - Hamburg

The venue was in average city type area in the shadow of a giant white telecommunications tower, so once I got past this, an overcast day found me wandring long wide streets bordering on a huge park. Quite contrary to central London, the whole thing had that large spread out feel, perhaps a little reminiscent of Fort Lauderdale (uggh!), and the American vibe would definitely continue with the place I was headed.
Most people I know, when recounting their travels of the continent, speak of endlessly beautiful churches and nice meals and beers set on a gorgeous landscape of rolling green fields, snowcapped alps or hot Mediterranean beaches - the cutesy trappings of the Old World, saturated (sometimes beyond comprehension for us New Worlders) in culture and history....
Screw that man! I'm a touring rock (folky klezmer) star muso, dammit, I got no time for that crap! Nope, after nine nights of sleeping on a bus, playing gigs, drinking myself stupid and living off a scattered array of meat and cheese and egg and chocolate, I'm just wandering the streets in a daze, alone, in that daily window between falling out of the bus and the soundcheck, happy to drop in on whatever I come across while heading for one particular desintation - the Reeperbahn.
Wander the winding lanes of Soho after midnight, floating amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the creatures of the dark, and you'll find a myriad of gay bars and sex shops and toy and video stores and brothels, their colourful circus proudly open for business in the wee small hours, but ne'er to be seen by the garish light of day. No such hidden mentality exists in central Hamburg.
I get to a major intersection, and notice on my left a large cylindrical cluster of trees, at the centre top of which I could just make out the scalp of a stone head. Large human representations aren't something we get much of back home, so I figured that was worth a look on the way back. But for now....
I turn to the right and there it is, the Reeperbahn, in all it's full smutty glory. It must stretch on for a couple of kilometres, four grand lanes. As I strolled down this American style boulevard, lined both sides with massive video stores and live sex shows and cinemas and parlours and such, I was reminded of something someone had said on the bus earlier, about the US military presence after the war and what they'd brought with them. Doors were wide open, and it's Wednesday afternoon.
I was amazed by the sheer unashamed size and length of it. Anything you're looking for, whatever you want, in any combination you want, it's there. Descending the hill, my bodgy tourist map pointed me towards a grittle of side streets on a rise to the left where I would find my second destination - Helenastrasse.
Took a little while but I found it - one short straight street, lined either side with glowing red windows and the madams on their stools. At either end the street was gated with large red iron walls, labeled with a sign forbidding entry to those under 18 and, as is generally known, women. Apparently if you're female and you enter, the prostitutes come out and attack you in the street. There was talk of us all going down and disgusing Soph as a man, but needless to say it never eventuated. She didn't miss much - once again, it's the middle of a weekday, and besides a couple of manufactured saucy glares, it's pretty quiet.
It's time to head back to the gig, and as I wend my way back towards the top of the Reeperbahn, I pass the obligatory rough looking bars with the squads of headshaven blokes with big jackets, sitting in doorways. The red light district in Amsterdam seemed to have some sort of old-world charm - this place was just edgy. Any kind of novelty had completely worn off by now.
Returning to the major intersection, I decided to investigate this mysterious grove of trees which seemed to grow taller and larger as I approached it. While occupying a prominent raised location, there seemed no front entrance to the street, and yet the space inside was obviously quite sizeable, with presumably some large stone statue in the middle. Entering the trees, I found myself clambering up an embankment for quite a way until I got to low circular stone wall.
I looked up and there he was, head bowed, almost staring at me, clenched fists one atop the other meeting at his torso, holding a giant sword with it's tip at his feet, like something straight out of Gotham City. Encircling the statue I found the entrance stairway at the back, and at its base a plaque - Count von Bismarck.
An eerieness pervaded the entire site - closer inspection revealed square stone reliefs of incredibly muscular young men, loinclothed, in various Classical poses (I would later find this sort of thing in a park in Bremen). The place didn't seem to get too many visitors, and consequently a worrying number of spraypainted swastikas (accompanied with what looked like local chapter numbers) were littered throughout...
The gig wasn't much to speak of, the last official date of the tour. On this, the second last night of the trip, our bus driver, ex-army, who up until now had been generally well received amongst the band, dropped a comment openly displaying his opinions of the orientation of our openly gay accordion player. Right there, in the dressing room. I couldn't believe it....love that shit....
Most of the band took hotel rooms for the night except for a couple of us who stayed on the bus to save the money, but as midnight turned I legged it from there to the lobby for some birthday drinks - the guys were really nice about it, they'd bought me an inflatable keyboard for a present and signed a card and everything.
After there we strolled back down the hill, found a Turkish restaurant, and kicked back with a hukkah for about an hour. Never having (or since) smoked a cigarette, I thought it'd make me sick, but instead it gave me this all over body rush that had me stomping my feet on the ground and laughing non-stop for about five minutes. It was nice as well just to chill with these guys, shoot the breeze for a bit, perhaps get to know a little my temporary work colleagues....

05 September 2006

On Tour - Heidelberg and Frankfurt

Saturday 20th May - Heidelberg

...This part of the tour gets a bit hazy, not the least because there was actually a mistake in the organisation of the dates. Our first gig in Bonn was fine, but it was originally meant to be Frankfurt and then Heidelberg, but it was only because of Soph looking at the poster on an in-store gig in Bonn that she noticed that the venues were advertised as the other way around!
Some frantic calls I'm sure thus ensued, but a slight change of plan was all that was needed.
Our venue was the old train station, a large but cute house shaped building sitting right next to the railway as it tunneled into the hillside, a short walk from the old town. Looking like a well-worn tourist stop, old Heidelberg is classic oldey worldey Europe (Gothic architecture, jewelery and chocolate stores ad nauseam) sitting in the middle of a narrow valley at the edge of the modern city, overlooked by a giant 17th century castle still relatively well preserved, visible from every street.
The daily window between brunch and soundcheck opened up, and after umming and arring and mooching around I figured I may never be here again, so dashing up the back lanes of the village and up the steep slope, I found some random staircases that led past absolutely gorgeous old period homes, buried in trees.
Scaling the top of all that, it levelled out above the castle ruins, and the tourist entrance appeared. With limited time I spedwalked through, ogling as much as I could. Strangely, in one of those vague moments that seem to happen to me too often, where I know I should've done something plainly obvious but didn't for some inexplicable reason, I had left my camera behind.
Incredible! A hazelnut brown wall of four or five storeys of almost perfectly preserved windows, stone sills and frames, stood high and alone into the air above maybe what used to be the moat? A carpet of green led ones gaze to a tower at the corner. Strangely reminiscent of some sort of expensive nut-filled chocolate, a major chunk a couple of stories high had fallen off the tower, revealing a cross section within of how the wall was built. The entire vista, castle, valley, town, was glazed in a perfect sunset.
And that's about all I had time for.
After the gig we met up with this audience member who took us to the nightlife, a cavernous dive not far from the bus, where he then proceeded to crack on to everyone in the band! After he got the vibe and left, some drunken mayhem dancing ensued before the wander back, before the speed off into the black, the next autobahn, the next town....

Sun 21st May - Frankfurt.

Not too much to report here I'm afraid. Suburban gig, like Bonn. Miles from town. Rainy day. Scrabble. End of Story.
No, hang on, there was one funny thing...after the gig, there was a DJ and this open free dancing session, where single middle aged people presumably from the nearby neighbourhood leeched out of the woodwork to come and let themselves go, to 'freely interpret' the sounds, while of course standing the regulatory couple of metres away from each other. Trying to stifle our laughter, the band couldn't resist joining in - I think D the guitarist grabbed a tablecloth as a cape or something before being told off by a regular....fruity!....

21 August 2006

..."as the light wind lives or dies"....

Hello All,
So it's central London in the late English summer, as the sun noticeably gets lower in the sky with each day that passes, and the warmth surely and quickly bleeds from the air (to who knows where) as the old girl returns to what feels like her natural state.
The season is moving, the times they are a changing, a constant reminder of the uncertainty of my own situation....
....so as you can see it's the same old rollercoaster....feeling fantastic one day, other stuff the next and a whole jumble more in the meantime......but it's also an intriguingly exciting time too.
Big news of late - I'm going to NYC in September for a week!
It had been a couple of months since Ireland with my dad, and I'd basically gone the rest of the summer without tripping anywhere. I was thinking maybe a region somewhere (southern Italy? Spain?), but then housemate DJ bought his weekend break to the Big Apple and it got me a thinkin'...
So there I was motoring through Hanon chapter 1* wondering about where to go and then it was a big HANG ON!? What about all those distinct separate dreams you had throughout your childhood, visually distinctive dreams, about walking the avenues? What about all that music and the history? What about dodgy hot dogs and lox bagels? C'mon man, there's no choice here, it's five hours across the Atlantic! One of the three places in the globe that you've always wanted to go! The city of your dreams, man!....
And so it was done. I expect the first cuppla days to be partying with housemate, then when he goes I'm thinking of checking out some gigs and hanging with a couple of muso mates over there. When I'm not distracted by the 57 other things on my mind at the moment, I'm literally excited beyond belief....
So, as further procrastination to those of you aching to read of the end of the tour and Paris and Ireland, I shall offer you a piece I often think of at this time of year, probably my favourite poem in all literature.
Until soon, loved ones....

To Autumn
by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twin├Ęd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

* technical exercises for piano

04 August 2006

London Calling - A Sunny Day In Camden Town

I don't know how anyone else wakes up, guess I've never thought to ask, but for me it's usually a highly confusing tornado of memories and music and things to do in the day ahead. Here in the nation's capital at the moment it's warm enough to keep the window open, so the noise of the council flats and the street somehow infuses into this morning jumble, waking me into a greater confusion with which to start the day. But it's the sounds of the hood, so I kinda like it....
So, as I've said before, this new flat rocks! I'm feeling totally at home in it, holed up there in a rather grim looking block of old council flats, but it's all right. It's a room to sleep and have my keyboard set up and put stuff. Now I think of it, it kind of reminds me of the old B and G days where I had pretty much the same thing, and how much I enjoyed that. Screw the whole big house thing - as nice as that is, the flat vibe is going great for now.
Now I'm smack bang in the middle of ex-council flats, there seems to be even more people in the general vicinity. Woken into a hungover fug by the BT guy come to connect us, I just ended up hanging around the kitchen and staircase for a while to make sure that no-one came in to rob the place.
Eventually moving to the keyboard, I ended up doing about half an hour on 'I Loves You Porgy', real slow, first only the melody, then harmonizing two parts, then three. To any players out there, it's simple stuff I know but I've been really trying to get the techinque together lately. Age old problems are finally starting to define themselves, and in doing so becoming easier to remedy.
Brushing my teeth before going into the job, I hear the workmen outside through the bathroom laughing and yelling and carrying on as they've been doing all week, taking the scaffolding down from outside our building. This particular morning sees two of them scraping all the paint off the little railings that define the edges of the tiny little courtyards outside each one of the flats. Watching them hunched over with their scrapers, this is one of those days where I feel quite happy and lucky to be a musician.
One of them turns up the radio and it's the new Lily Allen single, 'Smile'. Musical analysis brain goes into overdrive, a reflex action.....faster reggae feel, two chords, melody largely within an octave so everyone can sing along. It's in that miserable, apathetic English talking singing voice that I suppose most people associate with here.
Analysis finishes....well, do I like it?
Well, maybe yeah, kind of....
Every once in a while a dumb pop song comes along and it seems to just fit the mood you're in, and with the summer and holidays and everything it just slotted in, didn't leave! I wasn't listening to the words, no-one does anyway. They didn't mean anything for what I was drawing from the tune, because it provided that bittersweet soundtrack to your day. I think it was Neil Finn that said once that the best pop music is the happiest sounding chords with the saddest sounding lyrics? That's basically what the blues is about, to me anyway, the avoidance of emotional absolutes, the crossover, those feelings when things are happy and sad and other stuff at the same time. And that was all okay....
I now have a bicycle, and London is mine! The Londoner without personal transport any faster than walking tends to navigate around town largely through the stark modernism of the tube map, further disoriented by the fact that it's all underground. On a bike you start to see the bits inbetween the tube stations. The ride to my day job takes me past the craziness of Kings Cross station and down Gray's Inn Road, so for about ten minutes there it spreads out, gets a little quieter and greener.
So this particular day, I suppose a mental image I can leave you with is your humble correspondent, mid morning on a bright hot London summer's day, riding along, grinning, humming a silly song, all edged with the thought that this nice little niche life I've carved out for myself here could all wrap up in six months.....
I get home after an afternoon of no work, don t-shirt and shorts and stroll down to my local pound shop to buy some cleaning supplies. One thing about this part of town is that you can wear anything you bloody well like down there and no-one will bat an eyelid.
I walk back up the street with my domestic haul and a little girl loses a ball across the street....the grimace as it somehow dodges all the cars and ends up on the other side of the road....I look back and she's hugging the fence, all sheepish, so I do my good deed for the day, walk over to the other side of the road and throw it back.
You see, folks, the people of Camden Town, they respect each other. We share the love in this community. On this same stretch of my street only a week before, I was walking home with my Sainsburys curry wondering how I was going to cook it since there's no microwave in the flat....and what do I find sitting under a tree? A microwave! Walked up, made sure there was nothing inside it, picked it up and took it home. The folks on my street are giving as well!....Camden Town, what a place!

31 July 2006

(quasi)Gig Review - John Abercrombie with Adam Nussbaum

I bade her farewell as I crossed Wardour Street and down the stairs into Pizza Express for my second time there in a week, tonight to see John Abercrombie with Adam Nussbaum. Classic looking band! John's there on the right ( think Buddha meets Shih Tzu meets Confucius meets 70s porn star), with Adam up the back ( think, well, just 70s porn star really) and Gary Versace on B3 to the left. Perched up on some sort of stool with half open eyes and dodgy grin, Abercrombie plays the most beautiful melodies, at a level of the language which speaks to your correspondent wholeheartedly. He quickly turns out to be quite a sharp talker...."Show business is my life; I know I might not look it"....... A dodgy looking character with shoulder length hair and singlet sitting to my immediate right talks continuously through the first set and then between songs offers a ridiculous and request for more bass from the organ. Any awkwardness is immediately dispelled by John who just takes it in his stride...with a bit of back-up from Nussbaum, he immediately smooths it all over with some silly muso comment that brings the house down, a fellow audience member tells this guy to shut up not long after and it's all fine. It was basically just an ordinary jazz gig, but played at the absolute highest level with some of the world's best. The way I have listened to bands and live music has changed significantly over the years. I used to feel like it was me back here in the dark and those gods up there on stage, ten million miles away. Nowadays it's a bit more like I'm sitting with them, or at least the Jazz gigs that I enjoy going to need for me to have that element of invitation to them, like the transcendental secrets of the universe attained through a properly conversing, swinging band are being shared with me. These guys were entirely that.

...well see how it goes....

......So she texted me up for a drink. I knew I wouldn't be able to escape her clutches. And I thought I might be finally ready. So I said sure. .......it was a packed Tuesday night in Soho but I found somewhere big enough with a room out the back to escape the masses. She was late, as she always was, but that was okay. ......the catch up begins....such immediate familiarity! for me anyway, with someone who used to be so close. Figures I guess, but still a little startling considering all the reservations I have had with this particular person.... .......and merriment following the familiarity..... ......the life forces of the earth surround this person, you can literally see them in the air around her, in a flash of those huge eyes or a laugh or that big white smile. She wears her heart on her sleeve, proudly, and despite the history, I still admire that...... .......she lays it all out there, saying how she wants us to be okay, especially since I may not be around for too much longer.... .......and I think I might be okay with that......not to have it forced down my throat like she seemed to be doing, but just easing into it, easing into being friends again, people who hang out, spend time with each other...... .....we'll see how it goes........

20 July 2006

On Tour - Bonn

We were a week in Germany, and some of it's become a bit of a blur, especially the earlier bit, but I'll see what I can fish out. After the kickoff gig in Amsterdam and the French splendour of Brussels and Paris, the word amongst the band on Germany was that things were a little different there in a couple of ways, and my experience would confirm this....

Friday 19th May - Bonn

So I wake up to find that we're in sleepy suburbs. The bus is parked smack bang in the middle of what looks like a free carpark, quite empty of cars, and the usual power line is run from the back of the bus and into the venue. The day rooms were a cab ride away, and the centre of town was further, so as opposed to the day before, there wasn't really a place to go hang as such, so I just ended up mooching around the venue. Sophie, Mosh the sound guy and I walked to a nearby supermarket in a clump of shops - it's Monday morning and the whole place is deserted. Welcome to Germany....
About half way through the day a car pulls up in the empty car park and a large square black haired German guy in a leather jacket strides up into the venue (it may have been the promoter, I can't remember exactly). The word around is that the bus isn't meant to be parked in the carpark, as the venue has had endless noise complaints from the neighbours, but our driver is adamant that the bus isn't moving anywhere. It later emerges that the reason we're even there at all is because of some sort of favour by the venue management to the label during what is usually the venue's closed period of the year.
Wandring past a little later I see him quite clearly flustered and raving to somebody about something. A little later we're watching a video in the back of the bus and the power is cut. It's been cut by the guy. The bus has to move.
Before any further discussion can take place, about half an hour later some other random bloke appears in the car park, standing by the bus. Flustered Guy, in a fit of, well, flusteredness, has dug someone's cousin out of somewhere and paid him 50 euros for the next seven to ten hours as some sort of sound bouncer, to make sure the bus didn't make any noise to disturb the neighbours. We all had a right laugh about that....what's he gonna do if it does make a noise? Walk up to it and tell it to be quiet?!....
The bus was moved. The gig went fine - a sit down audience, a little sedate, but they got into it. As we left, the bus steered out past a couple of cars. Quietly!......

17 July 2006

Meaningless Minutiae

"My best days may be behind me, but I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now."
Samuel Beckett

As a counterbalance to the weight of my most recent entry, round about lunchtime on a sleepy day at my deskjob, I am now to relate to you a series of random unrelated things that will now pop into my mind. A full tour and holiday recount is still on the way, but I've realised with all that that the true nature of blogging is the now, the last 24, and so to get a bit of that vibe back into it, here we are....

* - Getting the old latte and croissant from my local Nero, I've realised that bad coffee actually makes me feel bad. This is quite apart from that other bad coffee phenomenon, like the stuff from a service station where you're so amazed that it tastes so bad but you're still hypnotised into drinking it. No, I'm talking about where you finish it and it's about an hour later and the heightened state of awareness you thought you were going to get from it is now in equal parts to the dehydration and absolute thought jumble that ensues. And I'm realising that just after all that, it actually makes me feel a little depressed. This town is full of bad coffee; served way too hot, way too much froth, never enough actual caffeine (or flavour for that matter). Thus, here is a list of your correspondent's favourite cafes in the city:

1) Flat White, Berwick St, Soho - run by Aussies and New Zealanders (naturally), they actually serve the real thing and do good food. Wood floor, nice interior, quite reminiscent of a certain Brunswick outlet I used to frequent back in Schmelbs. Last time I was there with Mr N, the owner alerted us to the pub just across the street with an astroturf beer garden - hooray!

2) Coffee Plant, Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove - White exterior, glass front, full of anti-Bush 9/11 conspiracy articles all over the walls, with all the sacks of coffee and grinders up the back. Also run by antipodeans (naturally). When you drink in though they still serve it in paper cups which is a bit lame.

3) Tinderbox, Upper Street, Angel - Wood finish, airline seats up the back (if you're lucky). This is one of the better chains around London, so as it goes there are apparently 0nly about half a dozen others although I've never seen any. You can get a mega coffee which is basically a bowl with two handles. And you're smack bang in the middle of Angel - yeah.

* - Bought a bike a couple of weekends ago from my mate JC out in Clapton for £50. 1957, dual alloy frame, racer, goes like the clappers. I rode back from his place all the way down Victoria Park and back along Regent's Canal. Stopping off at Broadway Market for fish and chips and a ginger ale, I went up to London Fields, found a bench, people watched in the long UK dusk.....it's times like these when I wonder if my best years are still ahead of me.....
Got a chain last weekend, and just on a couple of preliminary rides, London is starting to open up to me, after all this time. It's such a closed off place, but the counter to that is that when you find a cool bit, you feel like it's just yours....

* - Bought Thom Yorke's new solo album, 'The Eraser', on Saturday. It rocks! There is a very small list of artists that your correspondent will buy from without prior investigation, and that's the thing that rocks when I go get that stuff. I know that it's gonna be good, and I wasn't disappointed. Definitely coming from Radiohead but his own thing too...sounded very produced i.e, not too much acoustic instruments going on, which I guess I always associated with his haunting tones. Oh well, go get it if you're keen....

* - Don't you love that Beckett quote? I saw it when I was in Ireland on a bookmark with famous Irish authors and their best quotes. It was below a photo of him looking like an incredibly crusty wrinkly old man. I like it because it feels like it's about making the most of the time you have, whether it be a lot or not much. I guess when you're in your late 20's, the time of your life, being aware of the small time before and the long time coming up, that there's a certain niggling in the back of your head, perhaps a pressure (if you allow it) on whether you're making the most of it. Then again, if you do spend too much time thinking about whether or not you are, then I guess you're not putting enough action into actually doing it!

Oh dear, I got a bit heavy towards the end there...can't bloody help myself.....but there we have it. Lotsa love, more soon....

07 July 2006

July 7 2005

Today

Revelling in the central location of our new flat, it was about a quarter to nine when I staggered out onto Camden Street in search of some sort of public transport to get me to my sleepy day job. Well looky here (in an experience not uncommon to Londoners), there's a bus that goes from the stop just outside of the estate to where else but the tube stop just near my work!
Bus is packed, rush hour, whatever...we wind our way through the new Eurostar terminal, come out on to the main road and I look up to see a floodlight on a raised tower thingy....strange. The bus swings past Kings Cross Station, and it's only when I see the half dozen reporters on the other side of the road, standing in front of more floodlights and cameras pointed at them with the station in the background, that I twigged.

It really was a year ago today, wasn't it.

An eerieness quickly crept in when I realised that the time happened to be a couple of minutes past nine o'clock, almost exactly the time, on this day a year ago, that the station was evacuated and I poured out with the river of black white and grey on to this very street, to search in vain for a bus to the next station.....


A year ago...

As the cliche goes, it started, as any one who was in central London that morning will tell you, like any other day. To an overcast morning, I awoke alone in the one bedroom flat I shared with my ex-girlfriend at the time, donned the white shirt and grey pants (too small) necessary for the full-time temping day gig, and ate my cereal and banana in silence before trudging down St Paul's Road to the melee of my local tube station.
Descending into the bowels of the beast, my journey started that day with the Victoria Line, the light blue one, always fast, always packed in the sleepy angst of a London rush hour. "I'm not one of you, you know," I kept telling myself back in those days, even though I fully realised every day what I had (or hadn't) done to end up in the position I was in. And being determined to make it to work every day of those stupid-ass jobs was my way of getting out of it.

I distinctly remember thinking in the couple of days before that things couldn't get any worse.....

Making the change at Kings Cross station to the Northern line, I was standing there with the swaying masses on the southbound platform at what must have been 8.50 AM, when I happened to be staring up at the lights in the ceiling of the tunnel and saw them flicker, and my mother's voice in the back of my head instantly thought that can't be right.
Already running late for the job, I missed the crush for the oncoming tube...damn I'm gonna be late....turns out it didn't matter that day.
The next tube is halted at the previous station. An automated male voice tells us to leave....the usual hissing from the tube crowd....it was that flicker, wasn't it.....overheard someone mention an electrical fault.....
Pouring out with the sea of black white and grey and into the streets of Kings Cross and the already overflowing bus stops...screw this, I'll walk to the next station.
And so I ended up following various lines and stations, cutting southwards across the city, encountering more and more crowds of confused commuters. The Square Mile was cubically full of law and finance minions as far as the eye could see, but there didn't seem to be any sort of confusion. A random foreign woman came up to me out of the crowd, asked me how to get to a station on the other side of the city. I advised her that pulling up in the nearest cafe was probably the best option.
I never twigged, the whole time. I overheard someone mention a bomb, but despite the crowds, despite the occasional fire truck and helicopter, I never stopped to ask anyone or find out what was going on. It was only my fourth month there, still getting used to the place, and absolutely determined to earn some money that day.
It was only when I pulled up at Tower Bridge, the eleventh or twelfth closed station I came across that day, and read the tube info sign advising to 'get out of central London' that I realised something heavy had gone down. Not long after I saw a panicky looking cop hand signal a bus into a driveway. As I walked along the main road heading east out of town, entirely filled with cars both ways, I noticed that the sound of sirens, which had been building continually all morning, had been non-stop for about half an hour....
After three and a half hours walking, I got to within a block of my job when ex-girlfriend A called me up (on a rare mobile call to make it through that day) and filled me in.
I had to stop on the corner for a second as the weight of the events hit me.
I looked up at the lights on the tube platform. The lights flickered, and people died. Meaninglessly.
I soon found out that the most casualties of the morning were on the Piccadilly line, between Russell Square, the next station along, and where I was standing. It could have been any one. The bus explosion at 9.47AM was at Tavistock Square, about a kilometre from Kings Cross, which was about the time I was wandering around that neighbourhood. The bus was a number 30, one of the routes which went past our flat, a bus that A and her sister C caught all the time. Could have been any one.
The next day was like Day of the Triffids, eerie. Angel station was deserted. I entered the DLR carriage to find about half a dozen people with newspapers who all shot a quick glance as I stepped in.
For the next month the city was in lockdown, everyone was wound up so tight. I was living between friends places at the time - heading to a different job one morning, carrying a large black bag with clothes and a small keyboard amplifier, I got pulled over by a bobby at 8AM for a 'regulatory search'. That was some quota they had to fill.....

It's not a remarkable story. I certainly didn't see any blood stained people staggering down the street, didn't hear any explosions, didn't know anyone affected. It's quite a pedestrian account, considering I now live with someone who emerged from his central Manhattan apartment at about 9AM on the 11th September 2001 to witness, shall we say, something new.
But everyone has that special memory reserved for where they were when certain world events occur; a scratch on the surface of the collective consciousness. So I guess that in the future, whenever anyone mentions July 7, then I can say, quite honestly and wholeheartedly, that I was there.

That Guy Returns (again)

For anyone who is hospitalised on an IV drip from starving themselves waiting by their computer for my next blog entry.....well, I salute you! For anyone else, the scramble of the last two or three homeless weeks is finally over. We've all moved into probably the tiniest but nicest little ex-council flat in Camden Town in the most amazing location - two minutes walk from Mornington Crescent and five to Camden Town tube itself (for those who are unfamiliar, take my word that that's pretty bloody good!). Quite a turnaround from the last place, but totally welcome....
So now I have somewhere to practice and store things and sleep, and with the onset of teaching holidays, I'll have far more time to pay attention to self-glorifying activities such as the one you're currently reading....tally ho! what what.....

03 July 2006

On Tour - Paris

Thursday 18th May - Paris

Sucked up in the twister of alcohol, I rubbed my eyes mid afternoon to peer out the curtained windows upon the eternally inviting boulevards and cane chairs of none other than the City of Lights. This was a trip to the gig like no other. I knew this one would be a highlight, one that would go down in the books, and I sure wasn't disappointed.
As everyone knows, parking in Paris is utterly ridiculous, and so we had to lug everything right there on the street and straight into the venue, after which the bus headed back to somewhere on the Peripherique. During one of those time windows that pop up between sound check and getting ready, I dashed down the street for an Evian. Feeling that warm Parisian glow from all the buildings in their faded yellow glory, caught up in some personal reverie of the momentousness (for me at least) of the afternoon, I couldn't help but spare a brief thought back to that very first paid gig I ever did, back in the Coota Town Hall, eleven years ago...
The venue was ace - La Scene, Rue de Talliandiers, 10th (I think?) Arrondisment, near the Bastille, a medium sized pop venue in quite a hip part of town. The promoters showed up and took us out to dinner in this exquisite restaurant about a block from the gig...the weather was gorgeous.....nothing could wipe the smile off my face!
Housemate X and some friends rocked up with about an hour to do - having friendlies in the audience always makes the gig feel that little bit more worthwhile. As always, we rocked the casbah, then repaired to this bodgy establishment a couple of blocks away with loads of cute American girls but a totally inept mother and son running the bar, before the beige monster suddenly appeared to whisk us away to the east. Ah Paris, it was only my second time there and again, you blew me away!....

27 June 2006

On Tour - Brussels

Tue 16th May - Brussels

Woke up to find us parked next to some old botanical gardens thingy just on the edge of the city. Our little mobile home was parked on the curb and would be so for the next 48, making us basically the best paid homeless street people in town that week.
The venue was pretty similar to Amsterdam - basement vibe.....ticket count wasn't too sure for early on, but it got much better come gig time. It was more for the people from the label, to see what the show was all about, and they dug it big time. Late night cab to the Turkish kebab street for some ridiculous slabs of meat and bread which are always gluttinously delicious - the late night muso's curse.....

Wed 17th May - Brussels

Strangely enough, our one day off through the whole tour was after the second gig, so we wandered around town for a bit...a nice enough place, very French. Left the crew after a while to scout out some touristy things and take photos I'm sure everyone else has taken. Vietnamese for dinner, drinks after, and then those of us left over, in a vain attempt to find some late night carnage, followed the accordion player round a bunch of gay clubs....on tour, eh!

N.B.

Apologies for any of you waiting for new entries with baited breath, as it's been kinda nuts lately....just briefly, in a bizarre turn of events to go down in the annals of sharehousing, I've been homeless since Thursday, staying on the floor at Mr N's place, with my few belongings distributed amongst north London, until the new house comes together sometime towards the end of the week. I've got this new girl, but she's taking off, also at the end of the week. I think I'm about to lose some teaching for the new school year, but the gigs are up to about three a week which is good. Oh yeah, and my visa runs out in six months, and so in the face of challenging prospects I'm trying to figure out some way to stay here in this godforsaken maelstrom.....

Bloody hell!

Oh well, on with the show....

19 June 2006

In My Solitude....

Sometimes you just wanna run away from it all.

It could all be going great guns, or it could all be going insane, or (and I'm seeing the world more and more like this as I get old and wizened) both and other stuff too. But just sometimes, you want to leave it all behind and find a spot in the world where you get to do just want you want to do, responsibility free, with absolutely no-one else around. A fantasy of solitude, if you will.

Mine is living in a hut in the middle of the forest with a nine foot Steinway and a tape player learning to play stride piano. I could happily burn up twelve hour days eating baked beans out of a can and fully absorbing the intricacies of Tatum, Erroll, JJ Johnson and all the others....build up a massive left hand while watching my body waste away.....

So that's mine. What's yours?

Just curious.....

16 June 2006

On Tour (finally!) - Amsterdam

In a nutshell, my honours year was about six months of hanging out with my girlfriend who lived across the road, and about six months of intense catch-up practice and research. It got so full-on there towards the end that I literally couldn't take a free breath until the night of my graduation recital, in fact, until the very last chord (I remember it being more of a cluster* actually).
And so it was that my last Sunday in the Big Smoke was a bit of an echo of this. After taking Girl out to breakfast and putting her on the Bakerloo line, the next ten hours were madly rushing around, making tons of tedious phonecalls and emails, ridiculous last-minute leavings, and then at about 10PM I realised I still had to PACK! Nevertheless, the cab swung by and I loaded up for the short trip to Sophie's for the coach, leaving midnight Sunday.
And so it was, after two weeks of madness, it wasn't until the bus set off and I cracked open that first beer bottle (of many) that I could breathe easy, sink into the upstairs couch, and talk a little with the seven or so people whose pockets I would be living in for the next two weeks.
Now, sure enough, I could give you a classic rave about each date, but I've decided instead to provide a series of vignettes, if you will, little grabs of each place I seem to remember....

Monday 15th May (bus from Earls Court to Dover, ferry to Calais, drive to Amsterdam)....

Trying to read 'A Clockwork Orange' on the ferry at 5AM, with a beer. Note to self, o my brothers - nadsat is far less tedious and easier to read when you're drunk!

Monday 15th May - Amsterdam

A and I made for the nearest hash bar and then walked off into town. No real reason to stop, so we just kept going, for hours, until we found this place called Westerpark. Think the village where the hobbits live - a moat surrounding a very green park looking place with all these little huts on neat gravel streets, and it went for kilometres. Too curious to resist, Andy and I found one of the few bridges and wandered in, promptly getting lost, wondering if we would be suddenly be sprung upon by murderous Ewok-looking people and chopped up for sellable body parts...

It ended up being a complete Amsterdam experience:

1) Smoked some hash
2) Saw plenty of weirdos in town
3) Visited the little wood people in Westerpark
4) On the way back, saw some prostitution take place in a carpark

....lost in the Jordaan somewhere, we were surfing the old rolling cobblestones as they flowed down the street over tree roots towards one of the many bridges. On the corner was this gorgeous restaurant with people sitting having lunch....in the corner of my eye I picked up the flutter of sycamore leaves in a breeze.....what a beautiful place....

First gig rocked - basement vibe, and old mate Lucky dropped by (got him in for free) so we hung after for a bit.....all engaged and stuff, with his visa about to run out, he was destined for the homeland with his fiancee.....bye to yet another friend, for a while.....
Farewelling him out the side door I was bustled past by fellow band members, their arms full of consumables from the dressing room, destined for the bus. Okay, so I've been doing this for ten years and I finally hit a well-paid engagement, where everything is taken care of, and we're still racking stuff after the show? Nutty....

More soon....

* cluster - a collection of notes played simultaneously but not quite a chord, sometimes played with fist or open hand or perhaps buttocks if you're Frank Zappa....

12 June 2006

THE COUNT IN

A Thursday afternoon, long ago.... So I'm battling through my last week in cold London town, madly trying to reorganise my ridiculously busy teaching schedule, but of course I still managed to drop cute Japanese girl an email the next day, not expecting anything at all. Gotta give these things a go, right? And to my ultimate surprise she wrote back the next day with her mobile number! Bloody hell, I thought to myself, this is gonna happen, innit!? Right in the thick of it, at the worst possible time, just before I go away for a month. It's how it's always seemed to happen in the past. Oh well, it's not gonna stop me, right? I took the Thursday afternoon off the day job, funnily enough forgetting to tell anyone, and took my place on the pavement outside Green Park tube, wondering if I'd be able to recognise her on the Sea of Piccadilly. But sure enough, she emerged out of the melee and we took sandwiches and coffee into the park on a gorgeous London afternoon. The nine-month winter was finally over and we made our way to some shaded green. No pint-oversized confidence now, just me, her, and the pallid afternoon sun leaking through the leaves. Her English was a little slow but definite and intelligent, a suitable counterpoint to the native speaker sitting before her, bubbling away off a strange brew of nerves and caffeine high. Eventually I took a couple of deep breaths and levelled out, physically and mentally, and for the first time in I can't remember how long, I started to open up, chill out some, lying on my back on a sunny afternoon in a park (wow, when's the last time I did that?). Just the usual stuff, London, Oz, Japan, travel, all very amicable....she seemed to laugh a lot at my dumb joke-like statements...... We got to a natural pause in the flow and I asked her if she wanted to stroll some more. "No, I would like to sit here," she said slowly but surely, with those dark eyes and enigmatic smile, as the breeze sang softly through the boughs overhead.... She loves Brazilian music! My stars! AND she's going in two months to visit Salvador! Capital of Bahia, the African state of Brazil, home of music divine. I was instantly envious.... ......Well, I thought, there's nothing for it but to wander east to Guanabara, the hippest Brazilian club in town, to listen to some forro and drink cheap caipirinhas.... .....we get lost amongst the Circus and the theatres in the long afternoon.....the cool windowless club quickly melts the eve into night.... .......the music is crap so she knows another place, in the East End, some French Brazilian place...... .........yes you'll have to take me there after this one.........or the next one..... ......tube to Old Street...........tall palms indoors..........a table up the back........ ......dark eyes......smile..... .....lost...... A Friday Morning, long ago...... .......vapour..... .......herbal tea....... ......window in the kitchen....... .......a view across the terraces in the low morning sun....... .......wearing yesterday's clothes......... .......lost among the grim faces of a rush-hour crowd, while trying to hide the occasional smirk upon my own..... .......standing facing the girl in the tan jacket, with those dark, intelligent, humourous eyes and enigmatic smile...... ......"I'll see you soon, yeah?"....... ......"Yes."............ ......a peck on the lips in a crowded tube...... ......and gone.......