Cold in July – A hot ticket

If you live in the NYC area and are interested in seeing indie films, there are a few great places to see them, including the IFC Film Center.

So last week when I wandered by the theater, and IFC was advertising a preview of Cold In July, the new Jim Mickle film starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson, I couldn’t resist and snapped up a ticket.

Cold in July

The preview included a Q&A session with director and co-writer Jim Mickle, fellow co-writer and actor Nick Damici and one of the main actors Don Johnson. That was the final bullet in the chamber for me, so to speak.

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Left to right - Jim Mickle, Nick Damici and Don Johnson doing Q&A at the IFC Film Center at the Cold in July preview

Left to right – Jim Mickle, Nick Damici and Don Johnson doing Q&A at the IFC Film Center at the Cold in July preview

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The film is set in Texas and follows Michael C. Hall’s character through a series of horrifying and life changing events, beginning with the shooting of a burglar / intruder into his home and ending … nearly two hours later … with a major scene of carnage.

I take it from Director Mickle’s comments at the preview that given the relatively low budget, the team was ready to make some compromises on certain aspects of the shooting but I must say that this does not look like a low budget film.

The DP did a great job on the look and feel of the place, and the costumes and sets felt authentic to time and place, even though the movie was actually shot in Kingston, upstate  NY rather than Texas. You would not know it to look at the film.

Hall, Shepard and Johnson did an excellent job in their roles. Shepard plays an ex-con just out of prison and he nails the performance by being understated and yet prone to threats and violence. Hall was perfect as the “joe civilian” who is lured into a world far beyond his normal suburban life, and Johnson was wonderful as the colorful bounty hunter. Johnson added a lot of levity and light-touch moments in an overall dark themed film.

The primary issues I had with the movie were the plot inconsistencies, and there were several.

Most glaring, for me, was in the first portion of the film. We’re told someone that is shot and killed is not who the cops are saying it is and Hall and Shepard actually go dig up the body to check. Sure enough, we are told ‘nope, it isn’t the guy we were told.’

Hall becomes a bit obsessed about who is this guy in the grave? It starts nagging at him, so much so that he starts snooping around on his own to find out. This leads him into other predicaments (which is the point, of course.) However, who is in the grave is completely dropped as the movie transitions into the middle segment and we never find out.

I’m not a fan of luring an audience into something using a dead body, and being told it’s “really important” only to have it drop away into nothing, without further explanation.

But, don’t get me wrong, this movie is so well acted and well made that it’s fun to watch. I am NOT a fan of shoot-em-up films with lots of carnage, and yet I felt myself willingly going along for the ride … much like Michael C. Hall’s character.

I’d recommend giving this movie a chance. It’s got a lot to like, especially the wonderful performances by Hall, Shepard and Johnson.

 

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Beautiful Balinese Percussion at Fat Cat

When I think of Fat Cat, I think of swinging jazz bands. Tonight I happened to be in the city and when I decided to drop by Fat Cat, I had no idea who was going to play.

Boy, was I surprised when I found out.

The Dharma Swara Balinese Ensemble playing at Fat Cat

The Dharma Swara Balinese Ensemble playing at Fat Cat

That’s something that happens in New York City, sometimes you wander into an unexpected event. Then you realize you are having “an experience.”

So it was tonight.

The Dharma Swara organization hosts a “Summer Institute in Balinese Performance” (held in Worcester, MA) and they wanted to come to New York City and play for a crowd hoping folks might be interested to sign up for Bali percussion camp.  http://www.dharmaswarma.org/summerinstitute

Bang a gong, and a drum, and a...

Bang a gong, and a drum, and a…

It’s hard to describe the wonderful music these percussion instruments make in combination, but think xylophones, drums, gongs and flutes all going crazy in barely choreographed chaos.

Then the group took a break and when they came back, they introduced a Bali dancing segment with three lovely ladies in traditional dress holding bowls of rose petals in one hand doing perfectly timed head, hand and body movements to the accompanyment.

Bali dancer with rose petals

Bali dancer with rose petals

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I was so enthralled with the performance I stayed about two hours watching these folks play.

One of my favorite pieces was played by two women who came out with their own mini-xylophones, and they played something called The Drunken Bird (I think?) that is supposed to be traditional.

Drunken Bird Bali percussion

Drunken Bird Bali percussion

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Drumming at Bali percussion

Drumming at Bali percussion

Of coure, I HAVE to mention the wonderful drummers they had throughout the evening. The drumming was always in the front of the ensemble, and leading the entire group through their paces.

Tonight’s Balinese music performance was a stand out for me, and I’ve been to Fat Cat many times.

New York City… you gotta love it.

A Pax on our Houses – or – Endless Winter

The latest snow-hurricane, storm “Pax” has passed, and we hardly had a moment to breathe here in New York City when another dumping of snow is upon us.

Will Winter ever end?

Normally the weather is not of interest to me as a blog topic, but I know I’m not the only person feeling an abnormal amount of cabin fever right now.

The average high temperatures for our area at this time of year should be around 40 degrees. We haven’t come close to that, it seems, in weeks. Certainly not on average.

And I’m sure we’ve had record amounts of snow this year too.

You’d think with all this time indoors that I’d somehow be more productive, but no. I’m as lethargic as a bear in her den, still waiting for Spring.

Still, as the days click by, the sun stays out just a little bit longer. The sun is setting around 5:30pm, and that sunlight holds a lot of promise for the thaw to come.

Three Shows on Now – Chelsea Art Galleries

Yesterday I went art gallery hopping in Chelsea to see the latest and greatest. It has been many months since my last visit. Along the way there were three artists I found interesting enough to want to share their work here.

It’s impossible to go to Chelsea and see “all” the galleries in an afternoon, there are too many. So what I’m presenting here is just a tiny slice of what I saw yesterday, which is an even smaller slice of what’s actually on view.

The first artist is Justin Bower, and the show is Panic Room. It’s on (through December 10th) at Unix Gallery, 532 W. 24th St in Chelsea, New York City.

Here’s an excerpt of the statement on the show:

Panic Room focuses on the destabilization of the human subject and problemitizes how we define ourselves in this digital and virtual age. Complex backgrounds referencing optical art relate to a certain kind of “code” and control the subject in Bower’s paintings. His art interrogates the autonomy bestowed upon us by the ideals of the Englightenment and opens a dialogue documenting the trauma that technology has on the contemporary human. In an age where infinite data is comprised of replicable code, the works confront the viewer with a radical question of “What am I?”

Alternatively, you could go with my interpretation of these works:

Chuck Close on acid.

I like them.

Here they are:

Justin Bower - Panic Room face 1

Justin Bower – Panic Room face 1

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Justin Bower - face 2

Justin Bower – face 2

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Justin Bower - face 3

Justin Bower – face 3

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Justin Bower, face 4

Justin Bower, face 4

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The second show is Skylar Fein’s The Lincoln Bedroom, on now (through Dec 21st) at C24 Gallery, 514 W. 24th Street, NYC.

The Lincoln Bedroom is a series of installation pieces that provoke the viewer to re-imagine history as a not-so-sanitized version of events as what we might read in our school textbooks.

Here’s an excerpt of the gallery text describing the show:

Abraham Lincoln shared a bedroom with Joshua Speed in the 1830’s in Springfield, IL. Many historians, biographers, and scholars have speculated about the nature of their relationship, causing an ongoing debate about Lincoln’s sexuality. Fein’s work combines factual and fictional histories, and proposes evidence of these uncertain moments through his imagery and objects. Since no photographs exist of the Speed residence, the artist relied on photos and sketches of similar structures, as well as on his imagination to create an impressionistic, and slightly hallucinatory recreation that is far from a museum period-room.

What I can tell you is that the Lincoln Bedroom is highly amusing and yes, thought provoking. The installation works well and pokes fun at many histories that have been told and re-told, or are largely untold, in the textbooks.

Here are some images from the show:

An entire building was constructed to house the bedroom. The outside looks like a general store.

An entire building was constructed to house the bedroom. The outside looks like a general store.

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"Men's Magazines" is a rack of fictionalized mags, many with pornographic themes

“Men’s Magazines” is a rack of fictionalized mags, many with pornographic themes. My favorites are the top two on the left showing a menacing wrestler in his underwear, but the topics are “antiques” and “camping.”

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Moorcock's "Specifics" - treatments on the right for women, and on the left for men. Very funny stuff.

Moorcock’s “Specifics” – treatments on the right for women, and on the left for men. Very funny stuff.

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The last show I have to share is Shinichi Maruyama’s Nudes on at the Bruce Silverstein Gallery, through Dec 21st, 535 W. 24th St., NYC.

The SLATE article written about the show says it well:

Specifically for NUDE, Maruyama created each image by combining 10,000 individual photographs of the dancers to compose a single shot. Maruyama is aware his images capture a new way of showing the human form and motion over time, and he hasn’t forgotten photographers who paved the way for this new technology.

“I know the advancement of technology has allowed me to create these new images that would have been impossible for others in the past,” said Maruyama. “The scientist/photographer Étienne-Jules Marey, who contributed a lot to many artists more than 100 years ago, used a camera that shot 12 images per second. But because of the technology we have today, I was able to use a camera that let me take about 2,000 images per second.”

I took some shots with my cell phone camera to share here, but the shots on the SLATE site are much better quality. Use the link I provided above to SLATE if you want to see more images than what I have here.

Dancer 1

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Dancer 4

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Dancer2

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Dancer3

That’s it for now, until the next time I visit the Chelsea galleries!

A beautiful day in the neighborhood – Jersey City view of the Freedom Tower

It was 65 degrees and sunny today – the Freedom Tower looked fantastic glinting one of its jeweled facets in the sunshine.

Beautiful lower Manhattan skyline view from Jersey City - Nov 2013

Beautiful lower Manhattan skyline view from Jersey City – Nov 2013

Also, it’s been made official, while the building itself is 1776 feet (the year of independence for the U.S.) with the architectural spire at its crown, the Freedom Tower is the highest building in the United States.

Sometimes even I can’t believe how lucky I am… this view is only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment!

The Freedom Tower - Nov 2013

The Freedom Tower – Nov 2013

It was a great day for a walk in the neighborhood!

A World Trade Center Milestone!

I’m overjoyed to report that the inside tunnel FROM the PATH train at World Trade Center TO the World Financial Center has re-opened as of: TODAY!

Tunnel entrance from the PATH Train at World Trade to the World Financial Center

Tunnel entrance from the PATH Train at World Trade to the World Financial Center

It has been twelve years since the nightmare of 9/11 and this is the first time that “the old way” of getting from one of side of the West Side Highway to the other side without having to go above ground has been replaced.

Exciting Signs of Progress!

Exciting Signs of Progress!

And how it’s been replaced is beautiful. The “tunnel” is made of white marble, and winds its way from where folks exit the PATH and arrives at a bank of five steep escalators, that look exactly like the bank of escalators that USED to be there … the ones you’ve seen in movies, if you’ve seen movies about NYC that had “Wall Street” themes from the 70’s and 80’s.

When you arrive at the top of the escalators, low and behold, you’re in the Wintergarden area of the World Financial Center overlooking the harbor and the Hudson River promenade which faces Jersey City on the other side.

I nearly cried when I got to the top of those escalators today. I’d been doing the commute from the World Trade Center to the World Financial Center back in the late 90’s, and seeing the tunnel and escalators restored today was very emotional for me.

Aside from the beautiful way the tunnel has been constructed, the rest is not much to look at because Brookside, the building management company which runs the World Financial Center” is still undergoing extensive renovations.

But gliding down that tunnel today, I saw the glimmers of a bright future ahead.

Cultural Gluttony: BB King, The Armory Show and more

This week I’ve binged on culture and this post covers my wanderings.

I saw BB King and Robert Cray live, went to the 100 year retrospective on the Armory Show at the NY Historical Society, and saw blues artist Joe Nemeth for his one night NYC performance.

I've got a golden ticket!

I’ve got a golden ticket!

Read on for details!

BB King and Robert Cray – live at the State Theater

BB King is now 88 years old, and I’d never seen him play live, so it was a treat to see him this week.

His eight piece back-up band, consisting of 4 horns, a keyboardist, drummer, base player and guitarist were great, and from their ages I’d say they’ve been playing with BB a long, long time.

BB with the band - 8 pieces!

BB with the band – 8 pieces!

The State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ is an intimate setting, and for my $100 (USD) ticket I got a seat in the “front balcony” of the theater, above the main hall and overlooking the stage. I could see what was happening on stage clearly, but I wasn’t close enough to get good cell phone photos. Still, you can see some of the stage set-up… :-}

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Lovely view of the State Theater stage before the show

Robert Cray and his band opened the show with a one hour performance of some of his classic popular blues hits like Strong Persuader, but I’m sorry to say he never played Smoking Gun, probably his biggest hit. Still, Cray’s voice and guitar playing are top notch.

The Robert Cray Band

The Robert Cray Band

It occured to me, during Cray’s set, there’s a reason why he made it as a professional. His stage presence is strong but easy going; he’s so obviously a talented and capable musician.

After Cray’s band finished, the re-set up process created about a 45 minute intermission before BB King’s band came on.

Once BB’s band came on, they played two numbers without him as a warm-up, and then he joined his band and played perhaps five or six songs total to finish the evening.

BB likes to patter with the audience and joke around, which fans know if you’ve seen videos of his performances or listened to his live albums. This performance was no exception, and BB delighted in leading the audience in a sing-a-long of “You Are My Sunshine” and then kidded around with some of the folks down in front near the stage.

It was extremely charming that as his band was playing When the Saints Come Marching In to end the show, BB didn’t really want to leave the stage. People rushed to the front of the auditorium to shake his hand, take his photo and get his autograph… while they still can.

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

BB King is rushed by adoring fans at the end of the show!

I can’t blame them – BB King is a living Blues legend.

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The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution – new show at the NY Historical Society Museum

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

Original 1913 Armory Show set up

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Cutout of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

Cutout of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase in front of the NY Historical Society

I’d been greatly anticipating seeing this show at the NY Historical Society and finally got the chance to go yesterday. The show will be up until early 2014, so there’s plenty of time to see it.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

Duchamp – Nude Descending a Staircase

Travel Tip: Since it’s only the second weekend since the show opened, I’m happy to report it was crowded. Still, tickets are readily available at the museum, you may not need to reserve them online. (I called the museum to check on ticket availability and was told to come in.)

Matisse - Blue Nude - 1907

Matisse – Blue Nude – 1907

This retrospective show is very small compared to the original Armory show, which had hundreds of artworks. In fact, the entire NY Historical Society coverage consisted of two galleries, while a third gallery covered pieces shown “soon after” the Armory show but not from the show itself.

Still, the curators of this show have gone to lengths to explain the original placement of the artworks and the cultural context for the showing of these works. One thing that fascinated me was the curator’s emphasis on how the artists were found for the show. Half of the works at the original show were American, the other half European. There is a lot of good reading material in the show too, and if you’re interested, there is a catalogue for sale.

What surprised me most about the show was that many of the works shown were not only “not shocking” they were traditional landscapes and portraits. It turns out that the organizers of the original Armory show were trying to show viewers an art trajectory, from the classical European, to the American point of view, and then the big divergence with Cubism and Fauvism and so the traditional works were a purposeful lead in, to help the viewer acclimate to what they saw in the final gallery.

Van Gogh - Mountains at St. Remy - 1889

Van Gogh – Mountains at St. Remy – 1889

This final gallery was the only section of the original Armory show which showcased the “new” works, and the public was shocked by them due to their bold colors, multi-varied perspectives, non-traditional forms and in some cases content.

One of my favorite “put-down’s” of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase was that it looked like a “splinter salad.” The reaction was clear: critics of this art were severely challenged to understand the new forms.

Although today’s viewers will likely not be shocked by the Matisse, Duchamp, Gauguin and other paintings and sculptures they see, it’s good to be reminded how new art forms CAN shake viewers up, and CAN challenge them to think about art in new ways.

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Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues, Thurs, Oct 17th

What can you say about Terra Blues on Bleeker Street in NYC except that it’s a Blues Institution. This venue attracts top talent from all over the world to come and play blues, and yes, sometimes the acts are only in town one night – as was the case with Joe Nemeth, a blues harmonica player and five time Grammy nominated musician.

Joe Nemeth - Blues harmonica and lead singer

Joe Nemeth – Blues harmonica and lead singer

Nemeth and his band played a funky blues first set, and then… the electrical power went out for the amps in the back of the stage.

Nemeth was undaunted by the set-back, and sent his band offstage to take a break, while he decided to sing solo, just a boy and his harmonica, and he brought down the house.

Joe Nemeth at Terra Blues in NYC (bad lighting!)

Joe Nemeth and his base player too at Terra Blues (bad lighting!)

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However, after his one solo song, the power had not come back on, and so he too took a break. Unfortunately, many in the audience didn’t wait for the electrical repair and got up and left. Since it was only Thursday night, and I knew I had a busy few days ahead (to see BB King the next night, and then off to the Armory show too) I also decided to call it a night.

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

Young drummer for the Joe Nemeth band

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The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

The very talented lead guitarist for the Joe Nemeth band

Does it look like I was sitting right next to the stage? Because I was at the very first table next to the stage. I could have almost reached out and touched the lead guitarist’s cowboy boot!

Enjoy!

Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough

Tonight I attended an opening reception at the Scandanavia House for Danish Paintings: From the Golden Age to the Modern Breakthrough.

Vilhelm Hammershoi - DETAIL - Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Vilhelm Hammershoi – DETAIL – Courtyard Interior at Strandgade

Scandanavia House – which is part of The Nordic Center in America – is located in a swanky mid-town neighborhood on Park Avenue in NYC. I’m bringing this up because while this opening was certainly about Danish paintings, it was at least as much a New York City-centric event than anything else. Yep, it’s good to be home. When I filed into the auditorium in the basement of Scandanavia House, I felt like I’d been put into a time machine from earlier in my life when I used to work in this neighborhood. All around me were men in suits and women with serious jewelry. These men and women obviously had a lot of money; they were attending this event to help pay homage to the personal art collection of former Danish Ambassador (from 1981-83) of John L. Loeb, Jr.

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Ambassador Loeb, who seems to be in his … 70’s? … has amassed the largest collection of Danish paintings outside of Denmark, and is an ardent supporter of the arts, including the two co-curators of this exhibition, the five additional staff assistants that helped put the show together and the printing of a “handsome catalogue,” I was informed by one of the curators during his lecture. In addition to the opening event tonight, there will be ongoing events, like docent tours, etc. from now through the end of January 2014 when the exhibition closes.

PS Kroyer - Self Portrait - Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

PS Kroyer – Self Portrait – Sitting by his easel at Skagen Beach

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PS Kroyer - Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

PS Kroyer – Portrait of the Artists Wife Marie

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In the lecture, the curators presented the concept behind the show, which is staged in three parts, one for each display gallery: The Academy; The Land; and The Modern Breakthrough. The Modern Breakthrough represents when Danish painters thought about:

the psychology of the individual, the role of the environment on identity and the ways in which the act of painting itself could be used as a medium through which emotions could be expressed and society renewed…

The opening image, my detail of the figure hanging out the window looking into a courtyard by Hammershoi, is an example of a piece within the Modern Breakthrough.

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior - full painting

Hammershoi Courtyard Interior – full painting

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Here are some additional images from The Academy gallery…with some information from the curators.

Jens Juel - Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

Jens Juel – Seated Chinese Man (Section: The Academy)

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Joel Ballin - 1882 - Study of a Model - Young Girl Undressing

Joel Ballin – 1882 – Study of a Model – Young Girl Undressing

During the lecture, we were told that the Danish Art Academy was one of the first (if not the first?) to have women models come and pose nude, rather than just male models.

The curator’s description in the gallery reads:

This work, painted in CW Eckersberg’s life class at the Academy records some of the professor’s most important pedagogical innovations. Traditionally, studies of the human nude had been conducted exclusively with male models, and only in the artificial light of candles or lamps. The point was to not represent life but to evoke an imagined realm of ideal beauty. Eckersberg … brought female models into the studio and instructed his students to paint them in the light of day and in realistic domestic settings.

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Christen Dalsgaard - DETAIL - Young Girl Writing

Christen Dalsgaard – DETAIL – Young Girl Writing

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So if you find yourself on Park Avenue near 38th Street between now and next January, you may want to stop by and see these Danish paintings from the private collection of the former Danish Ambassador. While you’re at it, pick up a handsome catalogue documenting the Ambassador’s collection by expert curators and enjoy the show….

25 Minutes of Heaven: Small’s Jazz Club

I have never been so sorry to have shown up late to a live set as I was when I heard the last 25 minutes of Joey G Clef’s set at Small’s this past Saturday night.

Small’s is a legendary jazz club, a tiny hole in the wall place where many extraordinarily talented jazz acts have played. I only recently started venturing out to hear more live music in the past year and this was actually the first time I’d been to Small’s to sit in on a set. The early set.

Unfortunately the Small’s website had an error showing Joey G Clef playing an early set and a later set (even I thought, hmm, that’s interesting…) but it was just a mistake. And so there I was at 9:35, listening to a hugely (figuratively and literally) talented alto saxaphonist and his band play swing jazz – and they were swingin’ it right!

And while I did stay to listen to some of The Jimmy Greene Group, they played a kind of jazz I’m not as into… a kind of somewhat discordant variety where the notes are all over the place and (for me at least) I can’t hook into the rhythm. I can listen to that and appreciate the artistry, but I’ll tell you what – Joey G Clef had people dancing in the aisles. People could not stop moving while his band was swingin.

Apparently he also plays with another band, which he told the crowd. It’s called the Yalloppin’ Hounds. The name alone holds huge promise!

While my 25 minutes of heaven at Small’s was totally worth the $20 cover charge, the next time I see Joey G Clef playing around, or the Yalloppin’ Hounds, you can believe I won’t be late!

P.S. If you’ve never been to Small’s Jazz Club – check it out! 183 West 1oth Street

Jr. Mack at Terra Blues!

Sometimes you see live music and you’re so blown away you have to tell everybody.

Tonight was one of those nights.

After having dinner with a friend, I decided to head over to my favorite Blues club in Manhattan (actually, it’s the ONLY Blues club in Manhattan) … Terra Blues. They attract the best local and international talent around, and Jr. Mack and his band proved again tonight why Terra has the stellar reputation it does as a showcase.

Jr. Mack just got back from Amsterdam, he told the crowd, and he said he was a little jet lagged. If this is how he plays when he’s jet lagged, I can’t imagine how he plays fully rested! He and the band repeatedly brought the house down with his renditions of Born Under a Bad Sign, Melissa (he sits in with the Allman Brothers when they come to NYC) and original tunes like I Believe I Need to Make a Change.

Clip of Jr. Mack playing I Believe I Need to Make a Change:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suACaSou_JY

Not only does Mack play the blues, he is also a jazz musician and sprinkled in jazz riffs throughout the night. His band backed him up every time, and the second guitarist (Bobby Bryan) did an amazing job alternating the lead parts with Mack and then singing a few tunes too. The bass and drums were also impeccable.

Oh yeah, did I mention Mack was just nominated for a Grammy? Yep, his album And Still I Rise, with the Heritage Blues Band was nominated for Best Blues Album in 2012. He’s really the real, real deal.

If you’ve never been to Terra Blues and you are in the New York City area and like live Blues, you absolutely must go. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear talented guitarists like Jr. Mack wail out the blues with such emotion and force, you can hardly stand up when he’s done.

 

The Turn Around

Right to left, east coast to west, then turn around and come back again…

I’m finally back on the east coast in my beloved New York City. I was supposed to spend two weeks in California, but plans changed and I wound up staying a third week. After two weeks on the west coast I started to feel homesick, and by the end of three weeks I nearly danced onto the plane to get home.

When we landed at Newark airport, and I saw the city in the window, my heart leapt up to meet it.

One thing that’s surprised me is how short term vs. long term memory works as it pertains to my travel schedule. What I mean is… after being away from home for three weeks, it feels much longer. I start to lose my day to day familiarity with the places I haunt regularly when I’m not there.

I know this because when I return home and go to my regular diner, for instance, they seem surprised to see me. “Hi!” they say, “I haven’t seen you in a while!”

Yes, they sense it too. I’ve been gone just long enough to seem really gone, and when I come back, it is surprising and somehow feels new. My first diner meal when I got home? Greek salad with toasted pita. East coast diners know how to do that right.

And on the west coast, I’m developing a set of go-to places too (a survival tactic). I found a diner, well… let’s call it a diner, but it’s a California diner which is not really a diner but it’s as close to a diner as I’ve found out there. It’s got chrome on the outside; inside it has a counter with swivel stools; a dessert case with eclairs the size of your head; and strange low-slung booths covered in vinyl; plastic plants: all the accoutrements of what is known as “diner.” The menu is decidedly west coast though. Most omelettes come with salsa and sour cream, which is just wierd; and the waitresses don’t call you hon. (I hate that!)

Yeah, Silicon Valley is a massive, sprawling suburb. The towns are intersected by large 10 lane freeways and 6-8 lane expressways and busy four lane “local roads.” The traffic there is oppressive. It is not unusual to be completely stopped on a 10 lane freeway, and when traffic begins moving, you’re doing 10 miles an hour for miles and miles. A trip that should take 10 minutes takes 30 during the morning rush hour. (The price of one gallon of regular gas was $4.35 when I left, incidentally.)

Ahh, it’s good to be home. I can jump on the PATH train for 2 bucks and be in New York City within minutes. I can stroll around my Manhattan and enjoy the early signs of Spring arriving (I’m choosing to ignore the weather prediction for light snow showers tomorrow…)

The thing is, I’ve spent this weekend doing a lot of laundry, paying bills and doing my best to catch up on all the tasks, large and small, that need doing but can’t get done if I’m not home.

For example, the handle broke on my heavily abused suitcase when I yanked it off the carousel at Newark baggage claim. So part of my weekend was spent in the search and acquisition of a replacement.

As I brought the luggage to the checkout, I casually mentioned to the cashier that I had just come back from California and the handle broke, so I needed a new bag, yadda yadda yadda.

She said, You were traveling in California? That sounds so glamorous.

That was the word she used. Glamorous. And I said, well, traveling for work isn’t glamorous, trust me.

But it sounds that way to me, she said.

I asked her, Do you have family here?

She tilted her head quizzically. Yes, she said.

Okay, imagine leaving your family for three weeks and living out of a hotel while going to work everyday, I said.

Her brows creased a little, Oh, she said, I guess I see what you mean. That must be kind of hard.

Yeah. That’s what I mean.

And soon I’ll be hitting the road again. And by soon, I mean tomorrow. I’d better enjoy the minutes and hours I have left while I can…

In the meantime, I’ve got to throw the laundry in the dryer………….

Coming out as Bi…

I’ve been hiding in my New York City closet for some time now, alluding to the fact that sometimes I went to a place far away, someplace I was hesitant to admit I was going… but it’s true:

I’m Bi-Coastal.

There, I’ve said it. I can only hope my New York City friends won’t hold it against me, but I’m cheating on them with California.

It’s been a few months now since I started my new job, which has had me on the run to the San Jose/Silicon Valley area. I’ve been spending so much time there for my job – weeks on end – I’m starting to get to know the place better. I’m making friends in California (at work, but it’s a start to establishing my personal network there…) and going out and exploring new places with them, having lunches and dinners, etc. They’ve gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and for that I’m very grateful. There are already a few people I can easily see becoming good friends with, which is a pretty amazing thing to say after such a short period of time.

Eventually, I will have to pick up my belongings from Jersey City/NYC and relocate to the West Coast, somewhere in the San Jose area. So this bi-coastal living is really only a temporary limbo, but an important one because right now I have the best of both worlds… I can come home on weekends and see my friends and maintain the kind of in-person contact that’s so crucial for relationships, and I get to spend time with my new friends in California when I’m there.

I won’t say it’s all roses and rainbows though, it is strange to live out of a hotel room for weeks on end. I can’t call it “hard” because all of my physical needs are taken care of: food, shelter, clothing… but this life is disruptive to having any kind of routine. It also makes it more challenging to maintain the close personal relationships that are so important to me, without those, I become emotionally adrift in my life. Those are the toughest moments. I’ve noticed a tendancy to feel melancholy when I’m alone in the hotel room at night, sitting and reading a book, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life… then the moment passes. I do my best to refocus on the tasks at hand.

Transitions are, by definition, in-between spaces. They aren’t intended to be permanent places to rest, they are a moment in time when you are in limbo, neither here nor there, neither one thing or another.

That describes how I’m feeling these days, I’m neither in Jersey City or San Jose. I’m not with my closest friends as much as I had been, and I’m not with my new friends as much as I could be.

Yesterday I was on a plane from California to New Jersey. In a week or so I’ll be on a plane from New Jersey to California. And so it will go, and so I will go. It’s not an easy thing, living in this in-between space, in this bi-coastal life, but I’m managing for now and hope to find a place inside myself where I can call home, a resting place that is both here and there… one thing and the other.