This morning I found drunk skaters doing blow on my roof.
My building has this awesome roof with a panoramic view of Manhattan, both uptown and downtown skylines. You can see the peaks of all three bridges to Brooklyn. The building itself is relatively modest, but it’s right in the heart of the exploding Lower East Side; my neighborhood is where the bars are, where the whole city comes to get wasted. It’s kind of like a New York version of Downtown Disney in Orlando.
There aren’t any bars on my block, so it’s not a drag to live there, bar the occasional girl in a black dress puking on the curb. And like I said, the views are fantastic. One other benefit: all my immediate neighbors work in the morning. I get up early to write, and–hilariously for this area, once the junkie/indigent artist nexus of the city–once I hear all my neighbors’ doors shut, as they head out to gainful employment, I turn on the amplifier and start playing.
I was up at 8:30 today. I got coffee and went up on the roof to drink it in the sun. There were two shirtless kids there, with tattoos on their bellies and beers in their hands.
I said good morning. They clearly had been up all night.
“Hey man,” one of them said. “Do you live in this buiding? We’re pro skaters–I’m from L.A. He’s from Hawaii. Is that pointy skyscaper up there the Empire State Building? Hey, can you tell me where ‘upstate’ is? My sister lives there. My name’s Bob Gnarly.”
They were soon joined by two girls–my fellow tenants who Bob Gnarly and friend were crashing with. The girls brought a yoga mat, laid it in the shade, and lay down. They were groaning, achy; that up all night doing coke feeling. The pleasure’s all gone; now it’s about maintenance.
“What time is it?” asked a girl. “No, wait–I don’t want to know.”
I told Bob Gnarly that I had just been out in L.A., and had played a sold out show at the Troubadour. It blew his mind. I went downstairs and got a copy of Haughty Melodic to give to him.
“Bro! You’re a rockstar!” cried an astonished Bob Gnarly. “You’re stoked!”
My neighbor apologized for making noise all night. I said No problem, I didn’t hear you ’til I got up today. “Oh I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry,” she said. No, no; no problem. I smiled at her. It’s funny. Having been a drug addict, I look at drug users and think: my people.
They organized a beer run, and asked me if I wanted anything. No thanks, I’ve got coffee, that’s enough for me.
Bob Gnarly’s parting words to me: “Dude, I’m gonna tell something that’s gonna blow your mind, I mean you’re gonna roll in your grave. The Get Up Kids broke up! And you know the one guy? You know what he’s doing now? He’s the keyboard player in Simple Plan!”
Here’s the weird postscript. As I walked back into my apartment again, I realized I felt kind of shaky. I got somewhat of a contact high (well, at this point in an all-night blow party, it would be more like a contact skeeze). Maybe I’m kind of Zelig-like when I encounter drugs. It’s an innate reaction.
And now I’m laying down on my very own couch with the laptop propped up on my knees.
(The photo above by Todd Roeth)
We drove out of Aspen, CO at 9 am Mountain Time, Saturday morning–we pulled in front of my building on the Lower East Side at 9 pm Eastern Standard, Sunday night. Other than three individual stops at three individual Cracker Barrels–in Lincoln, Toledo, and somewhere in Pennsylvania–and a couple of fill-ups, the van ran straight for 34 hours. Chuck took the long night shift–from the Nebraska Cracker Barrel to breakfast at the one in Ohio–and Dan and I divided up the daytime shifts.
Aspen show was weird. It’s a rich town–like a miniaturized Boulder, but with Prada and Ralph Lauren stores–and it’s the off-season. There was almost nobody there. This after a pretty triumphant tour in which all the shows bar three sold out–what a weird note to end it on.
There were a couple of blaring drunks jabbering up front, so Handsome Dan and I threw out the set list, I picked up the electric guitar–Greeny–and we blasted through twenty tunes at top volume and breakneck speed.
It was fun–we made the best of it. There was a girl in a blue dress dancing on the near-empty dance floor, and I tried to focus on her sway and not the inebriated rich kids that yelled patronizing compliments at us.
Anyhow. I’m back. It’s really strange. Sitting in that van as we passed from Pennsylvania into Jersey–and as anybody who’s driven I-80 East to NYC knows, there is a SHITLOAD of Pennsylvania–I was exhilarated, captivated by thoughts of my clean sheets and the soy yogurts in my fridge. And how amazing to see that New York skyline when it first appears on the horizon.
But there’s always this sense of dread; just barely a trace of mysterious dread. When I’m off the road, I dread going on tour; when I come back, I dread coming home.
I bought this guitarron, a massive bass instrument they use in Mariachi music, in Tucson.
I’d seen the many guitarrons they keep in stock at Chicago Music in Tucson when I played the Hotel Congress there a couple years before, and always regretted not buying one. I think I slightly blew the store guy’s mind when I rushed in, between radio appearances in Tucson (we flew in that day and out that night, there was no gig, only the radio stuff), and said “Gimme that instrument! How much? Oh, do you have spare strings? What’s the thing tuned to?” And slapped down the credit card and rushed back out.
The road up through Independance Pass was so high up that we felt like we had weights on our chests. It was intense. We contemplated dividing up our 18-song set into 6-song minisets with intermissions, as I couldn’t fathom being able to take a single deep breath at this altitude, much less sing 18 songs in a row. Thankfully Aspen is 4,000 feet lower than the continental divide, and now I only feel as if there is a mere paint can atop my lungs.
I’m at the club in Aspen as I type this–doors just opened–onstage in–an hour? Something like that.
Tonight’s show in Aspen is the last of this tour. Smokey Chuck Chuckstein has talked me into doing the drive back from Colorado in THIRTY HOURS STRAIGHT.
I met a girl last night, in the autograph line, named Merlot. How you like them apples? And what will she do if ever she should meet Paul Giamatti?
I met a guy who got kicked out of West Point (I grew up at West Point; my Dad teaches history there). He’s now going for an M.F.A. in poetry.
Also: the photo below stands as proof that one can not touch a drop of booze and still indulge in maniac behavior. Which for me, last night, involved going out with a bunch of good, crazy drunk people and taking pictures of them.
“Looks” off Skittish was originally performed by a late-70s New York band called The Student Teachers. Click the link for a site that documents their brief career, with MP3s–including the original version of “Looks.”
An appearance, the other day in LA, on Steve Jones’ radio show, “Jonesy’s Jukebox.” Had you told me as a 15 year old that one day I’d be hanging out playing my tunes for a Sex Pistol on the radio in Hollywood, I’d have cried because you shouldn’t tell such terrible lies to an impressionable teenager.
JONESY: What’s that one Soul Coughing song I like? That I play all the time?
MIKE: I don’t know…”Circles.”
MIKE: “Super Bon Bon?”
JONESY: Yeah. Can you gonna play that one for us, then?
JONESY: You must hate all us in LA, then. Think we’re a bunch of phonies, then, innit?
MIKE: Who am I, Biggie Smalls?
Later Dan and I played “The Gambler” for him, and broke a string, and Steve happened to have an acoustic guitar sitting there. “You’re gonna keep on, right?” he said, and handed me the guitar, and we finished out the last choruses.
The Pacific Northwest continues to rock me. I do my best to rock them back.
Mike McGonigal, above, who is beloved to me, DJed the gig, spinning Gospel, tweaky hip-hop, and other rocking and apocryphal shit. The man is a master.
Look. I’m never leaving the Jupiter Hotel, here in Portland, where I stayed last night. The Doug Fir where Handsome Dan and I played is in the Jupiter Hotel. The grilled cheese with impossibly good thick-cut bacon that I devoured with tomato soup? Yes, the Doug Fir as well. The joint is cheap and cheerful–a converted motel–but impeccably fresh in its design.
I think my next tour will be a two-week stand here; if they want to see me play, they can fly to Oregon. And I’ll wake up every day in my chic room, with the breeze and the smell of the pine trees wafting in, and those astounding Oregon clouds–what is it with the clouds in this part of the country? So beautiful, like, Wagnerian or something–visible through the gauzy curtain.