I left the bar just before midnight in search of an ATM, managed to get myself turned around, and ended up walking south down 7th Avenue when I saw a crowd of people and a couple ambulances. It was a nice night, so I went to check it out, not out of morbid curiosity, just to see what was up.
It wasn’t an accident, a wino passed out or anything to gawk at – it was the final night for (based on the t-shirts being brandished) the ambulance union at St. Vincent’s Hospital. The hospital had already closed a few weeks ago, but you could tell that this was the final night for these guys.
One ambulance parked on the street, another in the loading dock with 15-20 guys in/on it, each with their lights flashing and all the people singing, chanting and banging on the dock’s roof… one dude walked by and said “it must be graduation” thinking it was an NYU-related event, but the guy was right in a way. The workers were “graduating” from their place of work and moving on.
Photos were being taken all around, people with Sharpies were signing the plywood covering the entrance to the hospital, and there was a “last night” buzz in the air.
I hung around a bit, soaking in the scene. The revelry of the workers was infectious – every time a cop car would drive by, it’d warble their siren, bringing out a round of cheers – and it felt like a moment: another hospital shuts down in this bad economy. I eventually went back to my party to let the ambulance crew enjoy their last night at the hospital. They didn’t need any more random people watching them, just a little more time with each other at their old job.
Last Night, in the Middle East and ZuZu Lounge, we weren't in Boston, we were in Savannah, in North Carolina, back in the Deep South, back in America. It was the first day of the 2010 Manic American season and we fell right back into mid-season shape.
The plan, as drawn up by RB, was to hit three urban beaches in and around Boston -- Revere, Southie's Castle Island and Wollaston Beach in Quincy -- and we hoped to be able to make them all. A half day, four T lines, 2 buses and 12 or so miles walked on foot later, and that was it -- done, completed. Goals met and exceeded, and the lobster rolls at Tony's Clam Shoppe were the icing on the cake. The drinks afterwards were the cutting and eating of the cake.
We started with an early wakeup call at 8 AM. Shower, rough cut of the INFRA Connolly's film, pack and out. Outside of the Magnificent Muffin Shop an off-duty cop and his lady-friend warned us to not end up in lock-up, or if we got into trouble, to run outside of his jurisdiction. He could tell.
We made it out to Revere around 11:30 and had our first junkie interaction maybe 15 minutes later. We were shooting a new INFRAcard reenacting the Pepsi Man INFRAcard when the semi-toothed right-hand-man of the owner of the dive next door came out to stop us -- the owner doesn't like photographers. He asked where we were from. "Oh you're from Somerville? Wait, what are you doing here from New York?!" Rob bonded with him, he soon became less distrustful of me. We got away with a Vietnam shellshock reference and a head-up to the fatboys patrolling the strip.
The crackwhore of `09 wasn't at her post, but we did find a burnt Christmas tree and a rotting seagull corpse being tossed in the waves (third Corpse Beach in a row, for those of you following along at home). If you've never been, the crowd at Severe Revere can seem like they were shook out of an Arkansas Wal-Mart and placed on the coastal outskirts of Boston -- tattoos, bulbous guts, limps, canes, deformities and hostile attitudes abound. There are also plenty of families and hot rods cruising the strip. There's a reason why we kick off each season here.
`Course we get off the T and the bus to Southie isn’t coming. Between the T fire at Park Street and the water main break which destroyed Boston’s drinking water supply, it wasn't a red banner day for Boston public works. A twenty minute, up-hill climb through Southie later and we arrived at the approach to Castle Island. Dock machinery to the left, air planes on their landing approach to Logan flying overhead to the right and we were on an IFRASTRUCTURE approach to a Manic destination.
At Sullivan's, Rob overheard parents order their children away from me and my camera as he waited for his dog. The dogs were micro yet tasty, the fries plentiful and well-cooked and the drinks frothy and good (a smoothie and shake, no beer yet -- it was all Gatorade-esque beverage to prevent dehydration). A few freaks, fellow photographers, and the mega Lufthansa taking off and landing while we were there.
As the legs began to fail, we walked to the City Point Bus Stop -- a four-lane parking lot, devoid of humans tracing a swath of pavement stuck between the yuppie housing of Southie and the fields of abandoned factories next to the yup-plexes. It took five buses coming through, but one picked us up and took us back to the T, onward to Quincy. No doubts, the third stop would happen. Full or not, the clam-off was on: Santorini vs. Tony's Clam Shoppe (not Tony's Clam Box mere yards away), as recommended by the Boston Globe and Phantom Gourmet.
Quincy. Coulda been North Carolina, Savannah or Vancouver. Quick stop into CVS for more Gatorade, run into a bottled water scrum caused by people hoarding up water rather than boiling it out of their faucets. One water break and Boston turned into Chinatown. Suburbo-walk through the Nazarene community right to the beach. We get there and there's the downtown skyline, with a couple families and a horde of tweens faux-fighting in the sand before us. Photo, photo, photo. I sit there just soaking in the moment, Rob works on long-shutter shots of the skyline, drawing in locals to check us out and talk photo-shop.
Tony's. Menu takes up the whole side of the building: seafood cooked everyway possible, Middle Eastern delights, drinks and ice cream. We got the lobster rolls, which, when combined, end up containing the meat of about 3 lobsters. When eating them, we get the call from Chris -- INFRA is booked at the House of Blues in Boston... the jimmies on the top scoop of the ice cream cone that was the day.
Back to Somerville. Back out, into the night, full moon rising, and before we know it, we've left Boston and are back on the road, back in America, back in the thick of things.
Everytime I do this run, the Fungh Wah up to Severe Revere, the feeling I get is of reading Day of the Locust while driving through semi-barren Conneticut roadside. Which I did for Severe `08 and tried to re-do for Severe `09. This year I'm reading the Book of Bangs and thinking of cutting the latest INFRAfilm, but no matter. The brain does what it does, and we do what we do.
Tonight is a clearing house. Rob is plowing through work shit while I'm on the bus, having done said activity all day. Once I reach the other end of the Astoria-Sommerville Art Axis, everything will be go, the flood gates will open and Manic American Season 6 will begin. Refer back to the Soo Locks of Season 4 if you need imagry, I know I did.
If Season 4 was going pro and Season 5 was about going big and going long, this season will be exposure and traction. The dot-com, Facebook, other blogs, YouTube.... and that's just the plan for this weekend. By the time we get back from J/K, those goals will have been long met and we'll be onto the next stage. Or not. We''ll see, but we want you along with us for the ride.
Tomorrow's plan, as roughly sketched out in one email, is to hit all of metro-Boston's beach communities, eating fried seafood and buffalo chicken eveywhere we can. There are no cocoons to climb out of, we've diving right back into America, starting at places people don't even realize exist in one of the biggest and oldiest cities we've got. Stone lions, crackwhores, Sullies and Santorini's -- that's just Severe Revere. The other communities? We'll find out armed with cameras, camcorders, spacephones and netbooks. A mobile Manic publishing studio, trolling the edges of Boston like a human dredge looking to pick up everything it can.
This is your country, these are our stories.
--- FungWah bus, north of Stamford, CT 04/30/10. 8:46 PM EST,
While in the Port City Java on Front Street in Wilmington I bought a painting of a rooster by Beatriz Moreno for $20. I hadn’t hung it in QNSBOX because I was waiting for my next apartment. Along came the move and it was time to hang the painting.
It’s 11x17, making a frame a little hard to come by. I ended up in a Bed Bath & Beyond in Manhattan looking in their ART FOR SALE section for something that was the same size. Finally I see the framed retro-concert bills that are the exact size that I need: Green Day, Springsteen, Beatles, the Dead.
I’m all set to buy one of the Springsteen one when I turn around and I see they have one from the Ramones, and it’s half off ($5). Done. Sold. It's too perfect. I have no intention of hanging the Ramones bill, but if I have to buy one, I’m buying theirs – I did spend half of LBRDY quoting End of the Century after all.
I go to the check-out and hand the framed Ramones concert bill to the 40-something South American woman behind the counter. She looks at it and goes “Ah, Ramones,” pronouncing it “Ra-mo-NES.”
Had she once been a fan? Was she part of the Ramones' late-career South American success (where they were known as Los Ramones)? Would she have reacted to any of the other bands had I brought one of their bills up?
Oh, and “I Wanna Be Sedated” just came on the radio as was I finishing typing this.
Everything flows, and everything is related - from LBRDY to Manhattan and beyond. It’s all part of the ManicStream.
INFRASTRUCTURE in Philly this weekend,
Austin 2009 in three weeks.
More and more.
Ever since Michael Jackson died, radio stations, TVs, bars, cars, and cabs have been playing his music. Ironically, this much play over the last few years would have help him financially, and maybe have made the London concerts unnecessary. But that’s neither here nor there.
Walking past Union Sq. tonight, we heard more MJ and saw a crowd. Checking it out, there were….. fifty (?) or so people surrounding a couple guys who brought a laptop, speakers, cameras, and a “donation” bucket to play an impromptu all MJ-gig. NYU freshmen squealed, people danced, and I climbed a streetlight to get a better cellphone-camera angle.
I just listened to Iggy Pop talk about the Deep South for two hours. OK, not exactly, but close enough.
It was billed as him discussing his new French Jazz CD, but instead the TimesTalk had him talking about early influences by watching a clip, then him discussing it with Ben Ratliff, the host. Howling Wolf, Bukka White (his favorite), James Brown, the Ramones, a few others… it was fantastic. From song craft, stage manners, the industry, his roots, it all came out. But he kept going back to the Deep South:
Re: James Brown he talked about the swath of land from the Carolinas, Georgia, Northern Florida, to Alabama – I believe he called it the Pine Belt, or something – how the music from there was just this funky beat that resembles Brown’s style. Ig talked about just going down there, renting a car, and driving around.
Re: Jerry Lewis he talked about driving through Natchez, where below the cliffs leading to the Mississippi all the old house of ill repute were located (we drove by a modern version of one) to get to the Killer’s hometown of Ferriday, just across the river in Louisiana. We stayed in Vidalia, but it sounded like the Killer was from the town right next to there. Ig described Killer’s hometown as a quaint all-American town with the ice cream shop, cinema, town hall…. all broken down and doomed. Closed storefronts, people hulking down the streets or hiding in the shadows… sounded a bit like Columbia, MS – one of the last towns we hit before reaching Natchez.
Re: Howling Wolf he talked about the great blues migration north from the Delta to Chicago, the music of which RB always finds a way to have the car playing on these trips, and part of the reason for going in the first place.
Like us, Ig would just drive…. to see the land, get a feel for it. OK, I didn’t talk much about DS09 directly, but did you get a bit of the sense of it? The mood it had (except for when everything got stuck in the Mississippi Vortex [which I may explain one of these days])? Ig’s a highly intelligent hombre who knows his stuff, knows his music, and talks like he has a good grasp of what makes up America.
Last year we drove around his hometown of Ann Arbor. This year we drove through the home of many of his musical influences. Next year, will we drive to Argentina where he was part of the final show of “Los Ramones” --- prob not, but something equally off-the-wall is in the works. Stay tuned.