At my holiday party last Sunday, a friend saying goodbye at the end of the night said, "thanks for having us and getting our minds off of Havel." They'd been crying all day, unexpectedly, at his loss. I turned to the computer to look at the Czech news and saw the public outcry, so completely out of character for the country, and thought of New York, a city so full of important people for and in Havel's world. The result is here:
From Vol.1's "Best 3-minute stories of the '90s" reading on Wednesday at Matchless in Brooklyn:
I grew up in Youngstown, OH, where there kids have nothing
to do but go to the mall or bum rides to places where loitering is nominally
tolerated. Our place was Camelot Lanes, or more specifically the game room
inside the bowling alley. It had everything you needed: Mortal Kombat, Addams
Family pinball, Pole Position, which had the crucial two seater space for make
out slash serious talk, and a dark corner where people could take self-imposed
time outs when crashing out in Pole Position.
of the time we couldn’t bum rides so we skated there on boards bought at our
friend Tim’s grandma’s skate shop. That Tim’s grandma owned a skate shop made
him a kind of star among us, and also meant Tim had lots of older friends who
were like, actually punk rock. When we got kicked out of game room we hung
around outside in the space between the bowling alley and the Taco Bell that
sat in front of it, cutting up our knees on the blacktop. We couldn’t get too
close to Taco Bell because only jocks parked there, but the stoners and
everybody else inhabited the grey space, listening to Metallica and ollieing
parking lot reaffirmed that whomever got to 16 first was in a seriously
superior position to anyone micro younger. Fourteen and 15 year olds who were
even allowed out alone at night had all kinds of disingenuous relations with
these folks to score the all important ride, and of course there was a serious
filter for older kids letting these losers in. Tim already had an advantage,
but slowly over the course of fall 1992 he came up with a clever plan to assure
his way around town among the hood elite: he became a merchant of bass.
every single one of us was a metalhead of some type, filtered through grunge
or classic rock or something, but united always when “Mother” came on in
basement hangouts.Tim had been a
huge Mr. Bungle fan and I once spent four hours on the phone coaxing him out of
suicide while “Come As You Are” played on repeat in his bedroom. But that fall
something snapped in Tim. One day he showed up at the bowling alley in the car
of a 16 year old, who incidentally my mom would later call me at college to
tell me had been arrested for dealing crack, but who at that time was just
another one of the undifferentiated trenchcoat masses. The car was bumping,
like…no trunk rattle, serious subwoofers installed in custom boxes in this car
that could only be called a hooptie. Then came that lazy Leon Haywood
psychedelic soul lick and backbeat hit over subbass with Snoop counting down,
1, 2, 3 and to the 4: not for time but just to warn us he’s coming. We’d all
seen the video and we knew about a kind of cool that eluded us: urban, or
black, or older, with a fridge full of 40s and friends who actually danced at
parties. We weren’t those people, but suddenly Tim was no longer just one of
us. I mean, he didn’t even look like he was kidding as he sat there in the
passenger seat, and whatever obnoxious shit we said that first night, the metal
heads quickly fell in, learning about amps and tweeters and daydreaming about
Soon Tim was doing a swift business in stereo installs,
swapping parts and building his secret machine with the best of what he got. He
swapped my shitty CD player for his Fender bass, which he no longer wanted, and
we bought a new CD player for my first car, a Chevy Cavalier that had survived
a high-speed crash. The system was nothing really, some 5x7s and anyway I
annoyed him by only using bass to bump the Breeders. Still, Tim took the seat
of honor on the way to school that spring, and for a brief while my car became
the belle of the ball in the Camelot parking lot.
Then came the fateful day in May. I remember getting out of
my car in the high school parking lot and standing at the trunk of my car
waiting. Tim got his driver’s license. I thought for sure I’d hear him before I
saw him, and I stood there ears peeled, only half registering what my eyes saw
from the turn off the road to the half mile drive up to campus. There was no
sound, but there was a color. It was salmon pink, and it was moving so much
slower that other cars built up behind it like on a racetrack after an
accident. Then, just like it did while first hearing The Chronic through those speakers in the parking lot, time
stopped to let this awesome rupture catch up and roll by. I saw that same
serious face on Tim as he passed, one hand on the steering wheel and bass
shocking through the trunk in the 8:30 am school traffic. He was beatific while
the outside world went sideways to accommodate what I could then confirm was a
Camero painted like a Barbie birthday cake.
It was the talk of school all day, and I’m sure I was just
one of dozens of people who couldn’t stop asking questions about the car. Was
it pink? No, it's peach. Was it that way on purpose? Yes, he liked it.
Really? Really. He continued with his beatific look and gracious responses all
day, even as these questions turned from curious to outright ridicule.
That weekend we took our places at the bowling alley, spring
air making for quality lounge time under the mercury lights. We weren’t really
waiting for Tim because waiting would imply fear he wouldn’t be there: everyone
was always at Camelot. And there he was, in his by now trademark drawling drive
with bass that seemed to hold the car to the ground. He rolled to us, then
past, looping by the front door of the alley and coming back around, a
traditional first pass of the evening. But he didn’t stop, or even slow down.
Instead, the salmon pink Camero rolled past and into the Taco Bell parking lot,
taking a place of prominence one slot away from the Handicapped spaces by the
The window rolled down, and a few guys walked over to the
driver’s side to chat. They laughed, but then they asked Tim to pop the trunk,
and the four of them stood around back. And with that, Tim was gone. Soon
after, it became very unfashionable to skate at all at Camelot, or at least we
stopped doing it.
Best part of this 1993 Arsenio Dre segment:
"You said there's a lot of comedy in your rap. Like....what's funny in here?"
This post is a call for lovers of the Best Music Writing series to come together to support a new initiative. Starting with the 2012 edition, the series will be independently published and have a new editorial structure that will better serve the music writing community and create a more dynamic, wide-reaching book for music writing fans. We need your help to make it happen!
Best Music Writing is the beloved annual publication of the best English-language music
writing. The book collects the outstanding music features, essays,
reviews, profiles, blog posts, short stories, news reporting, Tweets,
online commentary and many other forms of writing into one handy space
that defines the cultural conversation had through music today.
The 2012 edition will be the first book for a new, music writing-focused
press, of which Best Music Writing will be the flagship title. We need
support from followers of the title, music fans, music writers, music
publishers, the music industry, and independent publishers to get
We launch this campaign to raise $30,000 to pay for the production of
our 2012 book, including paying writers for their reprints (at a new
rate), a small editorial board stipend, graphic design services, and
administrative services for licensing and project management.The first $15,000 we raised in two months through Kickstarter. The second $15,000 we hope to raise through We Pay.
This campaign is the first phase of the book's production, and we would be more than
happy to raise more than $30k to cover administrative and start up costs. We would love to hear from other funding sources,
donors, or from those who would supply us with in-kind services. If you are a music and music writing fan who has have brilliant ideas or skill sets related to publishing, marketing, or editorial service, we want to hear from you.
The Best Music Writing series stands as the most important space for
music writers to be honored each year and has brought many readers to their favorite writers, musicians, and publications (send a testimonial if you're one of these people!) With your help, the book will be
even better and its future will be assured. We promise to maintain the
high level of attention to quality writing and depth of coverage to as many forms of music and music culture that the book has
offered in the past, while reaching out to a global network of writers and publishers,
embracing new formats, and serving 21st century readers and writers.
The series will be growing dynamically this year. It will have a new, improved submission process that is, as always, completely open to the public for nominations of great writing from 2011. For the 2012 edition, there will no longer be a "series editor" position, but rather an editorial board of ten music writing peers who will solicit
materials, read, nominate, and argue for or against pieces. Their selections will be "The
Best Music Writing of 2012." Then our guest editor, selected after consultation with the board, will select the pieces that go in the curated book
version of this list. The book will exist as a low cost digital copy and as a
print copy, and will be designed by a noted book designer who loves music. It will
appear earlier in the cycle of “best” anthologies than it has in year’s past. Read more about the project structure here.
I ask you as lovers of this book, as writers, editors, and
publishers, as book buyers and book reading attendees, maybe even as friends, lovers,
or parents of people involved in music writing, to support this campaign by donating to
the fundraiser. Think of it as a really early pre-order, since everyone who gives $15 or more gets a copy of the book.
I also ask readers who are keepers of the media to write about this
campaign to make a new, better Best Music Writing. I'm happy to talk to you about the project and/or about the 2011 book (with Alex Ross! It's fantastic!) for news pieces or features. Please post, Tweet, or otherwise encourage your audiences to
support the book now, and come September we will have a book launch party that
will be that much more spectacular, because it will be of us, for us, by us.
Stay tuned for news and updates here (or sign up for the mailing list), and join me in the making of a new, better Best Music Writing series.
From Patti, with love: a show review Patti Smith's recent Met concert. This is my first ever writing on Patti, a pretty intimidating task given that so many great writers, and the artist herself, have written so well on her life and work. I am entranced by Lenny Kaye's relationship with her, as you can tell from this piece. I can't recommend that book of O'Keefe/Steiglitz letters highly enough, read it to the lover in your life.
Keep Kate Bush Weird!: an album review for 50 Words for Snow. Since the piece was mid-cycle for the album release, I decided to look more at the influence of Bush on the last 20 years of musicians. It's really not common for me to name drop so many different artists in such a short article, which is why I laughed that someone called me out for it in the comments. I know, "never read the comments." But this was my first piece and I am wondering how the community for Capital is coming along.
"When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into
being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among
men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue
on her seat again."
I arrived at 10:30 to see the barricades already up outside Lincoln Center. A group, maybe 80 deep, stood on the sidewalk on Columbus Ave. "What are we waiting for?" The opera goes until 11pm, a woman said. The Occupied Wall Street paper boy, who had been inside the Lincoln Center campus, was crying out the news somewhere near the library. A man next to me started singing his Occupy Broadway song, using famous tunes with 99 percenter words. He's performing tomorrow, a few sets, one as a clown. He took out a piece of paper and a pen and crossed out some lines that didn't work. People walking their dogs asked what was going on, they hovered, then one of the few who got through before the barricades went up tried to walk down from the plaza to us on the steps, and was detained. "Shame on you, shame on you." Now a familiar phrase, unfortunately. A group of marchers in paper hats appeared from Broadway, "we are the 99 percent." Did they come all the way from downtown? They arrived with cymbals and a livestreaming laptop. The crowd deepened, a buzz began, the police stood firm on the plaza steps over LED words like "fashion" in the steps, and then the opera let out:
As Alex Ross (who took this video) mentioned in his blog post about the Occupy Lincoln Center protest, among the many well-heeled attendees was Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, who came down the steps to join and hear Philip Glass's mic check. They were just on the other side of the barricade, and after a little figeting, we managed to get the barricade open so people could move through one point in the space. A policeman came down to close the gate again, and the crowd helped people pass over, including a man in a gorgeous suit and his date in a full length coat, black stockings, and high heels.
The crowd used the mic to talk about the pay of arts workers, labor policies at CUNY, the story of Gandhi's non-violence that is the center of Glass's opera, to express solidarity, and to speak of the right to make art and to sleep in public places. Reed spoke as a livelong New Yorker to condemne Lincoln Center's barricades; Anderson, always thinking broadly, asked us to speak to our friends and not-friends about these issues, and to "occupy America." And at the end of the night, a man made a declaration of a hunger strike, which was addressed from human mic to Lincoln Center administrators who first turned their backs and then processed into Avery Fisher Hall without acknowledgement. We turned and repeated the seriousness of this statement, then general assembly was over, 2 a.m.
Kudos to the fab Michaelangelo Matos for his annual track down of all the very worthy "Other Notable" writings that appear in the back of the Best Music Writing book. It's a painful process to get from that list down to the 35 or so pieces that go in print, and this really helps those worthy writers shine as they should.