Tuesday, December 23, 2008

CB's tale of holiday Beatle redemption

I wrote the story, clickable below, 5 years ago and haven't looked at it since I published it at Christmas 2005. The story takes place in 1995. Things have changed, but some things haven't---most noticeably the Drama leanings.

Here's "Broke For The Holidays."

(My apologies for "Thoughts skittered around my brain like hot water dancing on a skillet.")



Friday, December 19, 2008

A for-real Festivus

I pulled over at Broadway Farms on the Upper West Side of Manhattan late last night and dashed, leaving Mrs. B in the passenger seat.

I passed a short, elderly man and quickly realized it was this guy.

He looked at me, I looked at him, and we both went on. He was wearing a baseball cap with "Comedy" on its brim, and he walked very slowly.

Pause, baby.

There are famous actors and musicians, and then there are the guys who have really meant something to you, day in, day out.


I'd passed a magic man.

I texted Mrs. Bananas from the frozen section, "Keep your eye on the front door. In a moment, you'll see Jerry Stiller coming out."

I checked out my goods before Stiller did, so Mrs. B and I sat in the car and waited so she could get a look. And waited. Debated whether or not to skat, but one of us said, "You will most likely never see him again, and you will remember this forever." Agreed. We sat.

He emerged, turned left and slowly walked north, glancing at us as he passed and continuing on into the night. Satisfied, we drove off.

This makes the third "Seinfeld" actor I've randomly come across. The first was Jerry himself, at the 79th Street boat basin in 1998, at the height of the show's popularity.

Nobody ate. I looked around at the restaurant and every single head was turned toward JS, who ate, talked and laughed with his male pal.

Two years ago I saw this man in a Maui Hotel:

Since he's the cousin of a musician friend, I dropped the name and Wayne Knight turned around. He asked all about my friend, his wife, their family, and I told him. Off we went and off he went.

Why do we care?

Because the USA is glutted with so-called "stars", but the artists--the ones who truly deserve fame, money, adulation and their eternal life via the tube and elsewhere, and especially those who make us laugh, are rare and magical. If you see one, you stop what you're doing and say hi, even just in your head.

Now, like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre a month ago, I've seen Frank Costanza in person, and I'll go on my way.










Thursday, December 18, 2008

The gas, please, at once


At the dentist, waiting to get an "onlay."

The hygienist, they told me at the front desk, sings awesome.

Far out. Something to talk about after she applies this mouth-numbing goo before the 100-foot needle(s) go in my (gums) eye.

"Singer, eh?"

"Yea."

"Where do you sing?"

"Oh, just pop stuff."

"No. Where?"

"Oh, just around the house, a capella."

"Sing me something. Come on, man."

"Ha! Ha."

"How about this one? (sings) 'Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you've got 'til its gone/They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.'"

("Big Yellow Taxi," Joni Mitchell, 1970)

"I don't know that song."

"Ok, here's another: (sings) 'Busted flat in Baton Rouge/Waitin' for a train/I was feelin' 'bout as faded as my jeans/Bobby flagged a diesel down/Just before it rained/Took us all the way to New Orleans.'"

("Me and Bobby McGee," Janis Joplin, 1971)

"I don't know that song."

"So what do you sing?"

"Oh, just pop stuff."

"Who?"

"Britney, Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus."

Things get hazy after that. I know I screamed.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fortunately for me, there's you

Every once in a while
Life becomes a trial
And I sink down, down, down
Into the Goo
A hairy beast gone wild
Kicking my feet like a child
But fortunately for me there’s you

Takin’ it all so hard
Puttin’ up my guard
Bitin’ off more
Than I can chew
When the world breaks balls
My spirit slips and falls
But fortunately for me there’s you

You are all that is good and kind
The rope without which I would sink
Compassion and healing combined
Bringin’ me back from the brink

When the sky starts to cloud
And the voices get loud
And I feel the turn---the turn of the screw
When all the horns start to beep
And every hill looks steep
Fortunately for me there’s you

You are healer and priestess and sage
The fence at the end of a ledge
Siphoning out all the rage
Pulling me back from the edge

When the Gods are drunk
And makin’ me their punk
And they come down and dunk
Dunk me into the stew
When I’m stuck down a well
When everything’s shot to hell
Fortunately for me there’s you
Fortunately for me there’s you
Fortunately for me there’s you

(c) Josh Max



Friday, December 12, 2008

The Ash-Scram Part 3

Part 2 may be viewed by clicking on this sentence.

The door to my bedroom opened a little after midnight. I turned over and saw the silhouette of a woman standing in the doorway.


“Hello?”

“Hi," she said.

“Can I help you?”

“This is my room.”

“Um. Wow. God. Really? Yakaru put me here.”

“He did? Where’s Amitab?”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“Mmm.”

“I’m just in from India, and I needed a place to stay. I’m not moving in or anything.”

“It’s ok. Where’s Amitab?”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“It’s ok.”

Silence.

“I’m going to take a shower,” she said.

She left the room and I turned over and fell into twilight. 10 minutes later the door brushed open and I heard the sheets move on the other side of the room and the sound of a body getting into bed.

“That you?” I called.

“Yup.”

“Ok.”

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

I turned over to go to sleep.

“So where are you from?” she asked.

I turned back over.

“New York City, but I’ve just come in today from India. I lived there 5 months in the Ashram.”

“Wow. What’s it like? I heard it’s amazing.”

“It is. You should go.”

“I want to.”

“Where are you from?”

“Israel.”

“Wow. You’re a long way from home.”

“We’re all a long way from home, man.”

I liked her.

I decided to take a bold leap. It was a commune, after all, and if it was anything like the commune I'd just left, my request wouldn't seem entirely unreasonable.

“Hey," I said.

“Mmmm?”

“If I have a bad dream, can I come and sleep with you?”

“If you want to sleep with me, say you want. Don’t make up a story.”

I gulped. "Ok, I want.”

She got up, came over to my side of the room, pulled the blankets away, climbed into bed with me, pulled the blankets over us, and came into my arms.

24 hours of taxis, buses, plane rides, car rides, another new country, horns and smoke and noise dissolved in the healing presence of Pritidana. It was not a mindless, mechanical encounter, but rather a sweet, gentle, fun and organic experience, and we did not cross that certain line.

Finally we both drifted into semi-sleep, a single, foggy thought crossing the brain, which had absorbed so much so recently.

"I dig London."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Ash-Scram, Part 2 of 3

Part one may be read by clicking on this sentence.

Part 2:

I was welcomed into the house by the sinewy, kind-eyed Yakaru, who led me to a large room with a fireplace, enormous windows, two generous beds and the smell of wood everywhere.

It was a far, far cry from the kitchen floor of the busted-up flat I’d lived in at the Ashram, and the room was mine for the ridiculous sum of 10 American dollars a night including food and the use of a washer and dryer.

I immediately saw my new digs were maintained impeccably; windows expertly painted, raising and lowering in perfect silence, heavy, finely oiled doors with gleaming glass knobs, furniture of the highest quality and placed just so. It felt as though the room was my official welcome to England, and a first-class welcome it was.

Famished and filthy, I took my biggest English carrot into the shower with me and rinsed the last of India down the drain while I munched under the warm water. I wrapped my room towel around me, threw my entire wardrobe in the laundry, and waited for---what? It was 3 in the afternoon and no one was home except Yakaru.

I padded into my room, closed the door and wrote in my journal, “I miss you, Valeria.”

I got a surge of mojo from the shower and clean clothes and decided to walk the streets to see if I could scratch a farthing making music. I threw back the shoulders, walked to the Crouch End tube, pulled out my box and sang for an hour, mostly Sun Records stuff like early Elvis, Jerry Lee, Perkins. A few stopped to look and in 60 minutes I had 22 new pounds in my case. English money can be heavy. Indian rupees are always filthy and beat-up.

I headed back home without a key.

Knock.

"Yes?"
"Hi, I'm staying here."
"Huh?"
"Yakaru knows."

The door closed, and swung back open in about 5 minutes.

"Come in, then," said Yakaru's wife, as though addressing a deliveryman.

People started arriving home from their jobs at around 6, going about their business. None seemed impressed or curious about their new visitor. The housepeople were so quick and so comfortable with each other that they all melted into one blap of “stranger with an English accent”, and I couldn't process each as individuals yet except for two 17-year old girls who looked right past me.

Dinner was prepared. I offered help and was given the job of chopping vegetables and putting them in bowls. I really didn’t want to do anything but figured I ought to, and when the meal was on the table, I ate surrounded by strangers who talked among themselves, with only the most fleeting logistical interest in yours truly. An enormous, bearded, leather-clad biker-looking guy turned to me and blew his entire image with “’Would you pahss the buttah, please?”

Energized by food, I accepted an invitation to attend a party with three dinnermates. We pushed into a car, drove to a club, parked and the others took off into a crowd of about 100 people dancing to house music, leaving me to wander, looking for a sign of welcome warmth, of tenderness, fun, understanding, humor and intelligence. Instead I found attractive people with emotionally constipated faces and perpetual cigarettes parked in their mouths, and I felt as lost as I had when I first arrived in Bombay. I was also clobbered by a new wave of fatigue and could barely stand.

Annoyed by the noise, the people and the smoke, I found one of my housemates and told him I’d be on my way, and he graciously found someone to drive me. Deposited back at the house, I took a hot shower, rinsing the club smell off me, and went to my room.

As I climbed beneath the cool, fresh-smelling sheets, I began to feel better. It was the first time I’d been truly dry and clean after months of humid, filthy India. I let down my mask, the mask I’d needed to deal with customs, to arrange logistics, rides and lodging, to postpone deep feelings of any kind, letting go of my friends and all my adventures in India and to produce some kind of pleasing personality to stranger after English stranger.

Now, alone with the silver moon bathing me through my window, I felt flush in the wake of what I’d done, where I’d carried myself to in these last months, busting out of a Manhattan shell and taking a chance halfway around the world. What would happen to me tomorrow? I had no idea, but for now, I had a beautiful bed in a beautiful house, I was as clean as a baby, and I’d found my own North Star once again. Even if there was no one else in the world who was soft and gentle in the world at that moment, I would be soft and gentle with Mr. Swami Gyan Shunyam, taking him away from loud fools and parking him in bed where he belonged.







Friday, December 5, 2008

Leaving the commune, or The Ash-Scram

The Captain offers Slappy Frankenstein
aficionados his post-commune
adventures, in 3 EZ installments.

PART 1: THE ASH-SCRAM

I’d been in India five months and the spiritual cracks had been scraped, patched, sanded and painted. It was time to head west. Even master Osho said you have to go back out into the marketplace eventually and see how you do with your new, improved self. And I wanted a bath.

My first phone call in five months was to book the return trip of my plane ticket back to New York, and the first flight was in 24 hours.

I wandered around the Ashram and said goodbye to different friends, teachers and ex-lovers like Premartha, Sushumna, John Anando Masta, Marga Uti, Rohi, Shivan, The Spanish Guy, the Prince and the Pervert. I fished my smashed Western clothes out of the bottom of my duffel bag and left my mattress on the kitchen floor where I’d found it. I counted my scant cash and did what meditators do best---waited.

A nationwide rickshaw strike was going into effect the next day, imperiling my ride to the airport. I was directed to Nanu, who ran the Ashram “brown” market where Westerners could change money for better rates, rent bicycles and arrange other transactions.

“No problem, Baba, I am going to the airport myself, and you can come with me,” he said.

After my final night on a Poona floor and last breakfast of mangoes and papaya, I stopped by Nanu’s hut at 8 A.M. to confirm our 4:30 trip.

“4:30, Baba,” he said.

I showed up with two bags and a guitar at 4:30 with my girlfriend Valeria, who would see me off.

“I cannot go, Baba,” Nanu said. “There is a nationwide rickshaw strike.”

Blue Diamond had a coach that was leaving for the airport in 15 minutes, he advised.

Valeria grabbed one of my bags and ran with me the quarter mile to the stop. The bus was full when it showed up because of the strike, but there is no such thing in India as a train, bus or car that can’t squeeze in one more person, so Valeria pushed on my behind like she was jamming a vacuum cleaner into a closet and when I was more in than out of the bus, the driver set off with the door ajar. Valeria ran alongside the bus, waving, the prized tigers-eye necklace I’d given her bouncing on her chest. I held up the good luck electric yo-yo she’d given me and waved back as she receded into the distance, clomping through the Indian muck up above her ankles.

As I felt the bus wheels lurch violently over the deep divots of mud mixed with cow dung that were typical of the country’s roads, it seemed as though India and the ashram were giving me one final spiritual shake as if to say "Don't fall asleep out there in the world, baba."

I took a dented plane to Mumbai, checked into a cheap hotel and walked the filthy, shitty, packed streets, wanting to fill, fill, fill my being with the flavor of the ancient country in my last moments there. When the traffic fumes and the smell got too much, I found my way back to the hotel, ordered a last bowl of Dal and watched Indian MTV until midnight. At 5 AM, Air India whisked me out of their country, and the door to the East officially closed.

I’d left New York in March; it was August and I feared what I’d be in for when I got home. I had a new outlook, a new name and hundreds of experiences both tiny and monumental. How was I supposed to land in Manhattan, unpack my things and jump back in the river of urban mayhem, say hi to people without hugging them, get by with no morning and evening meditation in Buddha hall?

I had no money, was sunburned and dusty, I couldn’t explain the purpose of my visit or how long I planned to stay, but the customs man let me through when I decided to jump ship at Heathrow airport in jolly England, and there I disembarked.

It wouldn’t be too hard to bop around London like a pro, I reasoned. Hadn’t I watched “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Quadrophenia”, “Frenzy” and “The Wicker Man”? I’d been given the name of a local bookstore in London where they sold Osho books and took a big black English cab to get there, gaping out the window in search of Carnaby Street, Abbey Road, Michael Caine, Elton John or Led Zeppelin standing on a corner.

“Oy, ‘ere’s another ‘ippie!” the clerk called to the owner of the store when I showed up. I was given a phone number and the address of a commune, called and was told I would be picked up in a car in an hour. An adjacent room in the bookstore was used for meditation and I was invited to wait there. I plopped the bags, closed my eyes but got no meditation accomplished; the mind went nuts.

A hulking buzz-haired guy picked me up in an asthmatic Vauxhall and we rode to wherever it was I would end up.

“I just got back from 5 months in India!” I announced.
“Oh, yeh? Ow wuzzit?”
“Amazing.”
He didn’t ask anything more about it, and I didn’t tell him.
“What’s your name again?” he asked after 10 minutes of silence.
“Shunyam. What’s yours?”
“Pragyan.”
“What’s it mean?”
“I don’t know, bliss, sunshine, the usual rubbish.”

I had assumed every Sannyasin I met outside India would have longish hair, colorful clothes, a colorful mind and a playful attitude towards life, like me and most of my pals in the ashram, and I was shocked to meet a conservative man with a Sannyasin name. Pragyan stopped for an errand and I ducked into a small grocery store, buying English carrots and English grapes, my first in almost half a year.

We pulled up to a homey-looking house on a quiet street in a neighborhood called Crouch End.

“ Thanks for the lift, Baba,” I said to Pragyan.
“Huh?”
“Thank you for driving me.”
“Mmm.”




Saturday, November 29, 2008

Captain Bananas' Thanksgiving truisms



*Before you leave your house, it's smart to butter the doorway to accomodate the 28,472 pounds you will gain today.


*It's better to cook the night before. This way, if whatever you're making sucks, like my first batch of cookies did, there is still time for a do-over. However, just because it's best to cook the previous night doesn't mean you'll do it. Instead, you'll go to Rodeo Bar and stay out until 1:30, ya stew bum.

*If a relative calls and their message goes to your voice mail and you subsequently call back and your call goes to their voice mail, it counts as having spoken to that relative.

*If you bring a camera, shoot early because everyone looks a little beat-up after 8 hours of Thanksgiving.

*On the way home, you won't bother to check and see if it's best to take the Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge back to the city because, after all, it's 10:30 PM on Thanksgiving day---no one will be on the highway.

*When you get home, 19 turkeys, who know where all the vegans live, will emerge from behind the stairwell wearing raincoats and Groucho Marx fake noses, eyebrows and moustaches and want to sleep with you in your bed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."

Alexander Bullock,"My Man Godfrey," 1936



Friday, November 21, 2008

The plane lands; the Captain doesn't

I had resisted being BFF---Back From France.

It took me two days to acknowledge I wasn't waking up in the Napoleon hotel anymore, that I would not see the Arc De Triomphe to the right upon leaving my residence each morning, nor would I hear “Bon jour, Monsieur!” from the friendly bellhop with the “Stinky Armpit Championship” ribbon pinned to the lapel of his jacket. I was home, in Inwood, tactfully referred to by real estate agents as “Upstate New York.”

Inwood, where three parking garages, a gas station, a car wash, auto parts stores, a couple of restaurants and scattered bodegas bustle to my north and whose streets are almost completely deserted at night except for those walking to and from the subway or who find themselves in need of chicken claws from the 24-hour Fine Fare or a live pigeon from the store on 10th Avenue. Fort Tryon park nearby, yes, and one must be grateful for the trees, but you cannot munch “rocket salad” in this park, nor can you walk its wooded paths without being propositioned by Joe Buck minus the hat, fringe and accent.

I grew up with a similar collection of trees in Westchester, anyhow, cut off from the world except for the deer and squirrels, and was similarly removed from civilization. Everything interesting in Manhattan---theatre, coffee shops, cinema, art, live music, diversity---begins below 96th Street. I am here, nudging the Bronx, squeezed like the last blop of toothpaste.

But Paris! Civilization 1,000,000 times multiplied. I’d gorged and guzzled her over three days, rolling as a dog rolls in dirt, covering myself, getting her on my face and between my toes, screaming “Sacre bleu!” and “Zut alors!” with each roll, and stuffing my pockets with snails, French attitude, a lock of hair from Quasimodo, a vial of Seine, a photo of a guillotine and an eclair before my wife and I left the country.

In three days, we did the Louvre, Muse d'orsay, a Seine cruise, the top of the Arc, the stroll down the Champs Elysses, the Metro, the Tour de Montparnasse.


Determined to learn the language of my new girlfriend quickly back home, I dialed my Satellite Radio to NPR in French and let it ride all day.

Two days later, I still didn't understand what the men and women on the radio were saying.


I remembered, though, how long it took me to learn the language of the chords of the Great American Songbook in the early 90s as a non-reading musician, how I had to pick out every note of every chord of Bobby Short's version of "I've Got A Crush On You." by ear. Today, I hear and speak that language fluently as if I've always known it. Some day it will be the same with French. Not today, not tomorrow.

I obtained recordings of the work of the following French musicians:

Charles Aznavour
Jacques Brel
Sylvie Vartan
Daniel Colin
Jacqueline Francois
Maurice Chevalier
Josephine Baker
Mistinguett
Yves Montand

...and let their quick vibratos, accordions and drama wash over me as I stood doing the dishes.

Wednesday, I went solo to "The Wild Child", a 1970 film by Francois Truffaut, at the Film Forum.


In the movie, Wild Child Victor's teacher attempts to teach him to speak, and as such I also learned, from watching, the meaning of lait---milk---and clé---key.

Finally, on my 4th day back in New York, I went for a run in the freezing cold, running for my life as if chased or chasing, breathed deeply, and felt the sorrow of goodbye.

Then I was able to face being home at last.

And I must say it was nice to exchange the following with the customs man at Kennedy Airport Sunday night:

"How y'doin'."
"How y'doin'."

It is possible for a parent to love two or more children, and it is possible to love Paris without being disloyal to Manhattan.

I shall see my girl again in May---a long 6 months away.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Captain ships out


Mr. and Mrs. B sail to London today.







Thursday, November 6, 2008

Love, Popeye

Olive, Olive
On the movie screen
Olive, Olive
You're my cartoon Queen.
Will you---won't you
Take this sailor boy?
Do you---don't you
Hear me sayin' "Ahoy!"?

I know
Bluto
Thinks he's quite a catch
But let's you 'n' me
And S'wee Pea
Go wandering through
The spinach patch

Olive, Olive
Where do I begin?
Olive, Olive
You so tall and thin

Out at sea
When you're not with me
The ocean seems to spoil
But the whis'pring gales
Blowing through the sails
Will carry me back to my sweet Miss Oyl

Olive, Olive
On the movie screen
Olive, Olive
You're my cartoon queen.
(c) Josh Max


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Captain's Beast Loaf


I would like to show you my "meat" loaf from last night, thanks. We saved some for you. It was made with faux meat and sausage, bread crumbs, bar-b-cue sauce, Heinz, Dijon mustard, assorted spices, an onion puree, chopped garlic and luv xoxoxoxo.

Mrs. Bananas ate it with relish (figuratively) and she grew up in Ohio, where they know their frito pie, their lettuce-with-mayonaisse-and-peas, and their meat loaf.

Friday, October 31, 2008

That scream you heard


was a musician getting a large break.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wanted: The Captain's music, at last


A child isn't supposed to live at home after they're grown, and CDs shouldn't either.

So off goes "The Maxes Sing Al Hoffman", disc by disc, to this one and that one, each with a letter of explanation and a kiss before I drop it in the mailbox.

People ask me how I drive exotic cars---hell, cars of any kind---without crashing 'em at least once, or how I ride a motorcycle without getting knocked off like a porch pumpkin smashed with a baseball bat.

I tell 'em: "I surround myself with a bubble of love."

I do the same with the discs I send and hopefully the opener has an orgasm when he/she opens the package, or at least a flutty-wutty feeling. Off the discs go, like birds dropped from the nest, or bird droppings, depending on your point of view.

Some of the birds land.


Got a call three days ago from the New York music publishing office of 1/4 of That Band whose name rhymes with Needles, offering representation of 10 of my songs. Gonna meet with 'em this tomorrow to hammer and yammer.

Took a meeting last night with a record company distributed through WB who wants me, us, The Maxes, to record 3 more discs, soon, full budget, full production, horns, strings, and distribution in the US and Europe, and the dough ain't coming from my paper route. Yeah, you gotta recoup, but this deal is let's go let's go let's go we love you let's do it. We say ok. Gotta have the expert look at it and approve it, but barring incident...

Giddyap.

Got this quote from Sirius DJ Meg Griffin yesterday regarding last year's "The Maxes", whose "Stand and Dig It" and "Fortunately For Me, There's You" she played a billion times:

"The Maxes...are infectious and optimistic in a way that defies the dysfunction of our times, and they sit quite nicely between Flaming Lips and the Jetsons. I'll have some more, please, especially on the radio where this kind of fun just grabs the listeners."

I have sent hundreds--hundreds of letters in the last 10 years to people in the industry. Tapes, discs, photos, calls. Repeat.

It's easier to get a Bentley Continental GT to show up at your door than to make a quick dent in the Biz, in my experience.

But in the imagined words of sewer worker Ed Norton of 328 Chauncey Street:


"The s--t moves along at last."



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beanus interruptus

It oughta be an Olympic event; the 20-yard New York City store dash from auto to store to auto in 30 seconds or less. I tried it last night at Chipotle on West 48th between Broadway and 6th Avenue.

A frantic gesture by Mrs. Bananas outside the store alerted me to the presence of a car behind my car, and it wasn't Mr. Softee.

It didn't help that my car was a milk-white 2008 Volkswagen Jetta wagon with Michigan plates.

I charged out out out. Before I could get a word in edgeways, I got the grille.

"Is that your car?"

"No, ma'am, that's a test car. I am reviewing it."

"Well, you ain't got a press sticker in the front windshield."

"No, ma'am, I sure don't, but I'm pleading hunger in the 1st degree. I'll git, right now. To heck with the food."

"You're gettin' a ticket."

"If you have to. I sure would appreciate it if you'd let me go."

"You're gettin' a ticket."

"How about leaving off one of the numbers?"

"Now I'm writing 'Tried to bribe.'"

"How am I bribing you? I just asked you to leave off a number."

Silence. Since it appeared I was nabbed, I shrugged and started to dash back into the store to get my food.

"I already got it!" Mrs. B. said.

I waited. Wasn't I supposed to get some kind of orange envelope with a summons?

Walked back to the traffic agent's car, stuck the puss in the window.

"Hey, can I get out of here?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

Off I zipped.

You don't get sent to the Principal's office a billion times without learning something.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Jack O'Bama!


West 73rd street steps, NY NY photo by Josh Max



Thursday, October 23, 2008

A life in New York movie houses

The Captain looks back---
sometimes wayyy back---
on pivotal
New York
movie experiences.


Everyone who lives in New York has a New York story, whether it's the neighborhood they live(d) in, the person they married or dated or divorced, the struggle to survive and thrive or watching H&H bagels go up to two bucks apiece. As an American cinema aficionado, I can point to several movies I've seen in my time in the city which shifted or shaped my viewpoint whether because of the content of the movie or what I was doing at the time.

Here are six.

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

This critic's favorite, starring Jeff and Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer and which I saw by myself at the Angelika, won several awards. But its story of two middle-aged piano playing brothers who mostly gig at crap lounges---one keyman a true artist, the other a hack who sprays his bald spot black before each show---put the fear of Zeus into me. "Welcome to your possible future," said a little voice in my head. "Baker Boys" is one of the reasons I do not play more in public, even though I have 3,000 or so songs in my head and could easily attain employment at some hotel or club playing your favorite hits.

Just because you can doesn't mean you have to.

Midnight Run (1989)

I saw "Midnight Run" at the Metro three days before I went to an Indian ashram to live for 5 months, and laughed louder than I might of had I not had felt a deep excitement mixed with panic. "In three days, I will on the other side of the planet," kept running through the brain, and "Midnight Run" is now cemented in that time period for me and is as much a reminder of India as are mangoes, papayas and the smell of burning leaves and cow shit.

That Thing You Do! (1996)


It's never been a great movie---the band-frolic scene is shamefully stolen from "A Hard Day's Night" and lead singer/songwriter Jimmy Mattingly looks more falafel than 1964 white bread. Look at the below pic---do you think "Rock 'n' Roll!" or "Ravi Shankar!" ?

It was the first movie I saw with the woman I'd marry, though, and if it comes on the tube, we both stop and watch and reminisce. I was also living, at the time we saw this movie at Lincoln Plaza, in my official Worst New York Apartment out of the 14 places I've lived, I was painting apartments for a living, and had just started a band which would become Josh Max's Outfit. "That Thing" is a reminder of what's vanished and what remains 12 years later.

I live in a better place now, I don't paint anything and the band has a new name and is on its way to recording its 4th album. Unlike the Wonders, the Maxes never broke up; we just had to find a way to make a jump out of the clubs and into Central Park Summerstage,for example, and we continue to weasel our way into show biz. The cannons still fire daily, as they must.

It's also interesting to watch all those actors in the movie band, "The Wonders," and note that none of them has gone on to stardom post-"That Thing."

Detour (1945)

"Detour" was part of a festival of noir playing at the Film Forum in the summer of 2004, and Mrs. M and I didn't miss "Double Indemnity," "Casablanca," "Touch of Evil," and about six others. Every time I get beyond fed-up with New York City and need to find reasons to stay rather than going somewhere warm, at least in wintertime, the Forum's at the top of the list. If you become a member, movies are only 6 bucks, too, so there's less pressure to stay if the movie blows.

"Detour" is also my top favorite noir flick---cheap, violent, packed with classic lines like "As I drove off, it was still raining and the drops streaked down the windshield like tears," and "Listen, Mister, I been around, and I know a wrong guy when I see one. What'd you do, kiss him with a wrench?"


Monkey Business (1931)

Saw this antique gagfest in a double feature at the now-defunct First Avenue Screening room at age 11 with Nick Max along with "Horsefeathers," "Duck Soup,"and "Cocoanuts," over a series of successive weekends. My life can be accurately divided into before and after the Marxes.

Big (1988)


I was dating a woman named Susan at the time, and the two lead characters in the movie are called Susan and Josh. "Big", for me, recalls that pre-Ashram time when the old mental, emotional and spiritual world was melting, and new concepts and attitudes toward life, work, sex, relationships, the world and the self were all rushing in. Susan was also the first person in New York I'd met who made enough money to have a new car and a nice apartment with the proceeds from her jewelry business. Dating her raised my bar for what was possible in the world of self-employment, as opposed to having a job.

Annie Hall (1978)

The final scene of this Oscar-winning Woody Allen movie, much of which occurs in Manhattan, takes place outside the Thalia, and I saw it in the Thalia. When the key scene appeared, the audience burst into wild applause. I saw it by myself soon after I moved to New York, and felt I really belonged afterward.



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

7 years of marriage today---Captain's log

Married? Harried?
Captain B offers salve for the
baffled, the ornery, the battle-ax
and the bastard on the couch


Some people do better alone or with a cat or a book in the apartment than with another opposing-thumb creature using up the TP.

But if you're one of the millions who voluntarily plunged into what Chang and Eng Bunker did without a choice, I'd like to offer a few observations and or/pointers on this, my 7-year anniversary.

*Experts say marriage is work, but I haven't found that to be true. Mine's fun. Sanding 4 closets for 8 hours in 96-degree weather in an apartment with no air conditioning is work. If you're not having any fun, you're not looking for fun, and you don't have to look further than the guy in the reflection of yer bottle of Bud.

*Always strive to make the marriage the best it can be, and strive to be the best spouse, forever.

*Expressing yourself in a relationship is an art, but it's an equal art to know when to hesh, or find a better way of saying what you have to say.

*Don't try to have a conversation when one of you isn't in the room or has water of any kind running.

*Don't piggyback little complaints onto the big complaints.

*If you don't know what the other is thinking, ask them.

*Try not to go dead just because you're married. Keep seeing new possibilities, opportunities and seek adventure everywhere.

*Don't close the taps on loving others, even those of the opposite sex.

*Even if you've told them you love and appreciate them last week, tell them again this week and next week.

*If you come into a little money and want to spoil yourself, spoil her, too.

*Using either kindness or anger in an attempt to get what you want may not produce results, but one puts dents in the marriage and the other doesn't.

*Don't ever complain, even the slightest little bit, about your spouse to anyone, ever.

*From time to time when they're not home, go and look at the little objects they use in their life, like a shoe, a shirt, a necklace, a book, an eye mask. This will make you long for them.

*Always be flirting with them.

*Take her for a nice ride in a $375,000 Rolls-Royce and let her drive it in a parking lot. Ok, ok, that's my own little quirk. But ya get the point.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Beatles in the Sky With Bananas

Captain B performs Lennon-McCartney
songs at wedding 2 feet from asparagus,
roasted red peppers, bruschetta

"She loves you" was written in the back of a van; most of the early Beatles material was written in an equal hurry under whatever circumstances.

And there I was, 45 years later, playing S.L.Y. and dozens of other Fab songs on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Center for a wedding cocktail reception gig.

Photo credit: Josh Max
Got the call Thursday; "Beatles, 90 minutes, no singing, black suit, can you do it?" Sure.

I busted out my 1968 Gibson ES-335 to do the set.

A few things:

*There is something vaguely sad about a big wedding. It's a beginning but it's also an end, and you know a great deal of the people there were arguing right before they left the house to get there, and why didn't you put gas in the car this morning instead of waiting until we were on our way and I f---king hate midtown at rush hour and what do you mean 40 dollars to park my car. That said, this was a well-behaved bunch of bananas, and...


*A person in a black suit playing an instrument at a wedding is the same as the grilled shrimp, bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms and penne. The only people who look you in the eye and appreciate the wonder of being able to put your hands on a piece of wood with strings and make something called music are children. Otherwise, you are there for consumption and there isn't anything wrong with that. It also allows you to observe people without being observed, like a painting with eyes.

*People in their 60s will walk by and listen intently to a simple song like "From Me To You", mouthing the words without even being conscious of it---so ingrained in that generation's brains is this material---and you will reach them whether they know it or not.

*When someone requests all Beatles, that means you can play "Within You, Without You" if you wish, and I did.

*The bride and groom, who most likely requested the all-Beatles set list, did not appear and thus it probably wouldn't have made a scrap of difference to the crowd if "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" was substituted for "I'll Get You."

*I always want Clemenza, Tessio, Kay, Sonny, Lucy, Mama Corleone, Fredo, Johnny Fontane, Paulie Gatto, Michael, Kay, Vito and Luca Brasi at every wedding I go to.

Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures(c)



Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Plant's right not to tour

The former Zep frontman isn't Planting his feet in a reunion tour.

Photo courtesy of RobertPlant.com

Former Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant has perhaps the most perfect post-supergroup career in rock history. Last October, duetting with Alison Kraus, he appeared on"Raising Sand", a collection of earthy, moody covers impeccably produced by T-Bone Burnett. If this album was released by any artist at any time, it would be hailed as a masterpiece of vibe, color and feeling. That 60-year-old Robert Plant is half of this duet makes it all the more compelling.

There isn't a trace of Zep on "Raising Sand", but the album once again proves Plant's unique color, phrasing and intonation are inevitably overshadowed by his famous screams immortalized on the 84 million albums Led Zeppelin has sold worldwide. Listen, even on Zeppelin's debut, to Plant hitting a note a half-step above the root at the breakdown of "How Many More Times" on the line "Cause I've got you in the sights of my gun" and you'll hear the choice of a master. His genius, also, frequently came not only in a song's melody, but in his ad libs, most of which have become signature parts equally as recognizable as any guitar riff.

"Goin' down---goin' down, now."

"Do be do, bop bop a doo whoah."

"Hey! Oh! Hey! Oh! Hey! Oh! Hey! Oh! Oooooooo!"

"Keep a'coolin', baby. Keep a'coolin', baby. Keep a'coolin', baby.

After an ecstatically recieved Led Zeppelin reunion show at London's 02 Arena November 26, 2007, the surviving members were game to tour.

Plant refused, and continues to refuse. He doesn't need the money; he said so. But there is a another reason for him not to tour other than not needing the money and that he's got another project that's wildly successful.

Even at last year's reunion, the instruments were tuned down a whole step to accomodate 40 years gone. The person who sang "I come from the land of the ice and snow/From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow" has left the building and isn't coming back.

The one-off concert was a chance for fans to express their thanks and to raise funds for the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, and it didn't matter that Plant's voice isn't what it was in 1970. Is anybody's?

If Plant did an entire tour, screaming over the Zeppelin jet, he'd have nothing at the end but a big(ger) bag of money, a year of his life gone, an even more shot voice and dozens of videos out there on YouTube that would be available in ten years, twenty, fifty from now.

I would not want to leave that to the world.











Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We replace (this A-lister's) name with Captain Bananas'

Despite weight gain, Captain Bananas still a size zero

Captain Bananas, sexiest man in the world

Oh, my! Captain Bananas is beyond fit. The star - and his rock-hard abs - celebrated his birthday on Saturday with a jaw-dropping jaunt at an Australian beach. Scope out Captain Bananas' sizzling seaside stroll and other celebs' enviable beach bodies.

Yee-haw! Captain Bananas embraces NASCAR!

Bananas unscathed after condom incident

Attorney: Jailed Captain Bananas believes he was 'railroaded'

Bananas stalker accepts plea deal

Bananas angered by claim he faked AIDS

TRUTH BEHIND BANANAS' DEATH

MED CARE SUIT SHOCKS BANANAS

Bitter Bananas won't sign autographs

Bananas flips out over 'Dead Wrestler' joke

Puffed-up Bananas blows off his fans

Captain Bananas sends his tight end back to work

Captain Bananas---Paris REALLY hates you

Captain Bananas---living it up in London

Captain Bananas enjoys outing with the stars

Captain Bananas is in shape!

Captain Bananas Loves Johnny Depp, Not Marriage

Captain Bananas takes Negative, Bitter View on Former Show

Captain Bananas, Cosmopolitan Cover Girl


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's Norman Gimbel on the line, Mr. Bananas

The last known surviving
songwriting partner of Al Hoffman
also wrote a few other songs
you might know.


Norman Gimble co-wrote "Whale of a Tale" with my great uncle Al Hoffman for the 1954 movie "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea."


Gimbel also wrote the lyrics to Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song", "The Girl From Ipanema", the lyrics to "Makin' Our Dreams Come True" from "Laverne and Shirley", "Happy Days", "Wonder Woman" as well as scores for over 90 movies. He's been a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame since 1984.

I called him two years ago because as far as I know, he's the only person alive who co-wrote with my great Uncle Al Hoffman. We traded phone messages.

"Wonderful guy, Al." he said. "Send me the disc when it's done."

I'd called him two weeks ago and offered to send, and he finally called back yesterday. He asked what I did with myself and I told him, which was kind of like telling Mickey Mantle about your sandlot ballgames.

All his pals are gone, Norman said. He's 81 and lives in California. We blabbed the stock market, the presidential election and the Santa Barbara weather.

"Send me the disc," he finally said. "I'll check it out and get back to you."
"Will do."
"Bye."
"Bye."
Click.

I thought about it a second, then called back.

"Norman?"

"Yes?"

"When you wrote the line 'Strumming my pain with his fingers', in "Killing me softly', was 'pain' the first thing that came into your head? Was it 'soul' or anything, or was that your first choice?"

"The line was written the way you heard it. Over the years the rumor has flown that the song was written about Don McClean, but that's baloney. I had to write ten songs for this artist named Lori Leiberman on Capitol Records, and that was one of them. I got it from a book I was reading."

"Thanks..."

"That it?"

"Yes."

"Bye bye."


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pedaling, Possibly, for the People

I aimed for 18 bike miles yesterday, leaving my apartment at 5:30 PM knowing that the distance would mean I'd ride in the dark for some portion of the journey. That was ok with me.

A few things occurred to me as I rode, and I'd like to share them with you.

Part of my path to Central Park includes a 20-block jaunt through Harlem, which is almost completely populated, naturally, by African-Americans. At one point I passed a group of young boys on bikes, pedaling in a mish-mash manner, caring not about lights or "one-way" signs and just having a good time.

And it struck me: no matter who wins the November presidential election, each one of these boys, now, today, could imagine himself growing up to be the President of the United States.

I was also completely unafraid of any Harlem block. When I moved to New York City, even the people who lived in Harlem were scared to walk its streets, and if you went to Central Park after dark, you were either a fool or from out of town. Things have undeniably gotten better here. Banks and Gaps and Starbucks have invaded every neighborhood, robbing the town of its flavor, but one doesn't have to fear being shot or killed as we once did. It doesn't mean you walk around with 20-dollar bills peeking out of your vest pocket, and the cars will still hit you if you don't get out of the way, but the fear factor has lessened greatly.

(Addendum four days later; gang of 7 teens randomly attacks 7 adults on Columbia University campus.)

I passed a flyer advertising a Communist Workers Party meeting on 125th Street. Always attracted to nuts, I read the flyer in its entirely, and was surprised I agreed with many of its points, such as:

1. Affordable, decent housing should be a right.

2. The Capitalist system, so famously crashing now, was built on the labor of enslaved Blacks and the robbing of land from Native Americans after slaughter.

I didn't find anything wrong with those assertions, and began to play with the idea of dropping my life and working, from now on, for the rights of the people instead of trying to buy my own apartment at last as practically every one of my friends and family have done.

I'd give up my iPod and the testing of sky-fouling cars and trucks for money, move under a bridge and send laptop missives from the abyss, my voice echoing and bouncing off the minds of people equally awakened to their own bamboozlement, the relentless pursuit of money and fame and obsession with the trivial, like pop music and movies.

It got dusky sooner than I expected and I found myself riding in Central Park in a rapidly descending other world---New York at night. I let the mind go wild as I pedaled through the dark, the path back to my apartment adjacent to the Hudson River now unlit and unfamiliar. Usually this route is populated by hundreds of Hispanic barbecuers, beer-drinkers, salsa-blasters, bikers and passers-by. It was now deserted.

A rat crossed my path, then a raccoon, both illustrating the sort of life one lives in the woods of New York as opposed to coming and going from an apartment building. I pedaled faster, the pointlessness of my own struggle becoming more and more clear as the sky got darker and darker. You cannot argue with the sunset.

There is a section of my typical path surrounded by trees, and it was completely black now. I was also wearing all black, and my bike is black. Into the abyss I pedaled, a two-wheeled Ichabod Crane fleeing imaginary headless horsemen. I decided to listen to music to fortify me against the long, dark journey, knowing it was dangerous to handicap my ears as well as my eyes, but wanting the company. I pulled my iPod Nano out of my belly pack and selected The Beatles' "Twist and Shout" out of the glow of its menu. I forgot about Communism, glass, potholes and bank failures, and just concentrated on getting the carcass home to a bath and a meal.

The night has a way of telling you things that will not occur to you in the daytime, and sometimes it's fun to be scared and to go fast and to consider Communism.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Esperanza Spalding

Every now and then Zeus decides to mess with all the musicians and fires a bolt that knocks us into next week.

Esperanza Spalding is such a bolt.
A jazz star has come to your town and mine; a bassist, singer and songwriter whose sound and style emanates from a place far beyond that of mortal men.

Esperanza Spalding


photo by Johann Sauty

I was a pin to Esperanza's bowling ball for 90 minutes in the packed Highline Ballroom on West 16th Street last evening, not knowing what to do with all the musical light, color and sound coming at me like a freight train except to clap and yell and turn from time to time to the three others at my table to catch an eye. Each time, all present just shook heads and directed attention back to the band, to the vibe and the groove borne of soaring voice and standup bass mastery, each member of the 4-piece band comprised of piano, drums and guitar delivering statements as sharp and succinct and compelling as expert swordsmen.

This tiny 24-year-old beauty
expresses pure feeling beyond language, bypassing the mind and going straight to the heart and soul of jazz. All that can be done is to stand right there, let her zap you and cry Amen, that was music to my ears, brothers and sisters, you heard it right there, witness.

****

Mrs. M met Esperanza the day before her Highline Ballroom show at the radio station---the singer was there to do a live solo set and interview---and Mrs. M discovered ES often warms up with Al Hoffman's co-written smash, "Mairzy Doats."

You'll all know her, soon.

Esperanza Spalding and Mrs. M, post-show


Esperanza, post-show, and the still shell-shocked JM







Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vacation in my mind

I’ve been far, far too long
In the center of the throng
Was gettin’ fed up right to here
I thought it best to disappear
So I checked the bank account
There was not a large amount
But it mattered not to me
There’s a world that I can see

And it’s just beyond the subway door
The cubicle, the coffee cart
The office chair nailed to the floor
I’ve had enough, time to depart

On a vacation in my mind

Cross my heart, hope to die
There’s no better way to fly
That to close your eyes and dream
When your wallet’s out of steam
Happy trails up ahead
At the place inside your head
Though the boss may stew and burn
You’ll return when you return

Now I got the blanket, got the lotion
Got the sun inside my brain
Got the swim trunks, got the ocean
Close my eyes, get on the plane

On a vacation in my mind

There I’ll sit, so sublime
With a seltzer and a lime
Let the world fly by my door
I won’t notice anymore
If the boss makes a fuss
Tell him I got on the bus
Better call some other sheep
Or leave a message at the beep

And I’m Dorothy lookin’ for the rainbow
A leaf just sailing in the wind
Close my eyes and let my brain go
Where the maddening crowd has thinned

On a vacation in my mind


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bunkmates

Who says New Yorkers don't know their neighbors? This is my current cast, though I sometimes suspect they are all dead and fig newtons of my imagination, or I of theirs.

*Friendly lady
I sold my late father's exercise bike to who has four dogs, a bunch of cats, a fish and a turtle.

*Mom who owns lingerie store two blocks away that I've never bought anything from.

*Well-dressed man who hasn't said anything but "hi" in three years, but whose other half is always friendly and always asks me how my races are going if I'm doing one and who says she wants to be a bodybuilder but will never do it.

*Canadian actor who just got a Green Card, his psychiatrist wife and their cute, well-behaved poodle who are fighting with the man in the apartment below theirs and who claim he keyed their car recently.

*Two young guys with particularly great mutt who always leave the building to smoke.

*Couple across the way whose flat-screen TV is always on and who may or may not have seen me without my clothes.

*New neighbor mom who recently said she was moving, with husband, to a floor above due to severe second-hand smoke coming from the apartment below, but hasn't done it yet.

*Amiable Oscar Madison-ish palooka who smokes cigars and has been in the building since the 70s.

*Adorable 90+ year old lady across the way who doesn't speak anything but Spanish and who I've never seen wearing anything except a nightgown in 5 years.

*Angry, handsome man with moustache who recently said hi for the first time since I left him notes about his barking dog 3 years ago.

*Crazy lady from Iran. KEEP BACK 100 FEET

*Petite lady from Portugal who is soft and sweet and friendly and who reminds me of my mother.

*Couple 3 floors below us who have expertly remodeled the interior of their apartment; if you happen to go by while the door is open, you'll see marble kitchen counter tops, tasteful cone lighting and lots of wooden things.

*Angry actress who has given up acting.

*Six-foot-two bassoonist who has gained and lost weight over the last 3 years.

*Happy new Mom who owns a condo in CT that she rented to people who were arrested within a few days of moving into the apartment; they were using it to deal crystal meth.

*"Running man", who you may remember used to leave notes at my door wanting a ride to Strand Books on W. 12th Street. He is Running Man because he runs from the door of the apartment building to the subway three blocks away.

*Guy whose Asian girlfriend moved out when they broke up.

*Short fellow with two kids who I always make the embarrassing mistake of saying, "Hola!" and "Buenos Dias!" to even though he told me he's not Latino.

*Superintendent from Puerto Rico who worked for Con Ed for 18 years, used to have an auto body repair shop in the Bronx before that, and who I gave a joyride to down to the George Washington Bridge and back yesterday in a 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo.

*Curly-headed guy who doesn't seem to have a job and his friendly wife with the red hair.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Captain Bananas' unassailable Saturday truths

*There are only a few seconds' window between the time you put your left leg in a pair of pants and the right; if you take too long, over you go and it doesn't matter how many times you've put on a pair of pants. When you fall, somewhere a flamingo with a webcam in your apartment is typing LOL to another flamingo.

*It doesn't matter how many different and careful ways you try to take off your pants or how cheap or expensive they are; unless you remove all the change from the pockets first, the money will rain and scatter all over your floor.

*It is one of life's great injustices that one has to make coffee before one has had coffee.

*It is possible to shatter your coffee beaker, buy a new one and shatter that, too, within a week's time due to lack of coffee. It is best not to try and remember to wear socks in the kitchen for the next few weeks, instead accepting the fact that each foot's big toe, heel and ball will locate extraneous shards of broken glass and you can have fun yanking them out with tweezers while wearing a wife-beater and smoking a Lucky Strike under a bare lightbulb.

*Your house has a plan to devour you, and it's winning. Every time you leave, the objects move a few more inches toward the couch, bed, desk.

*There is a man in your building who, when you told him he doesn't have to ask why he hasn't seen you at the gym every single time he sees you, didn't talk to you for two years. This man said "Thank you" when you held the door for him the other day, but that may have been because he forgot he decided never to speak to you again.

*The biggest insult you can give an artist isn't criticism, but indifference.

*In your life, more than once, more than twice, some powerful media person is going to call you at home, express great interest in your project, offer to help you in a few ways, make a date for lunch the following week, and you'll never hear from them again even though their mother or wife isn't in the hospital, they didn't have a lot of money in the stock market and their workload is what it is.

*Anti-clutter affirmations printed out and taped to your bathroom mirror and kitchen cabinets may not produce a more orderly household, but they make you feel as though you are trying to do something about the fact that you can't find one of your own CDs to send to someone and have to call your wife at work and ask her if she knows where one is.

*When you get a Lamborghini Gallardo and take it on the West Side Highway on a Friday night when the Lincoln Tunnel is closed because of an incident, you have to drive it 5 miles an hour for 40 minutes the same as everyone else, and the universe doesn't care that a Lamborghini Gallardo gets 9 miles to the gallon.

*Sometimes you find $140 cash and the Verizon bill in the pocket of a pair of pants you haven't worn since August and it compensates for having to look for your newly written Uncle Al bio for 20 minutes on your computer because you didn't name it something obvious like "Uncle Al Bio".

*You can learn how to talk to a cop who has just pulled you over by watching political debates and paying close attention to what politicians say when asked a direct question.

*Your wife's hair looks amazing.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Park It Here - final installment

A short, hippie-looking older dude with round sunglasses circled me for a good 20 minutes one day. He finally approached and said he had a job for me.

“We're making an album,” he said."And I need a guy who knows a lot of chords." The timbre of his voice sounded as though he was ever-so-slow in the head, but a job was a job. He handed me a card upon which was written “David Peel - Orange Records.”

I showed up at Peel’s East Village tenement later that night, ready to work, but after a stream of guitarists began showing up, some of whom I recognized from the park, I realized it was just a party. He had no musician accoutrements to offer guests, but instead basked in the glow of his long-ago tenure with John Lennon and Yoko Ono who produced Peel’s third album of hippie anthems, “The Pope Smokes Dope.”


He was a novelty act and the music sounded worse with more musicians, but it was a night’s floor, and there I crashed. A few days later, I took the train in from Westchester specifically for Peel’s recording session in Tribeca.


Peel’s songs were similar to Peel, but his recording methods were novel in that he gathered 15 acoustic guitarists in one room all playing the same thing around a single microphone, producing a purposeful Phil Spector-ish “Wall of Sound”. I played bass on the 3-chord song after the assemblage had laid down the guitar tracks, and all were satisfied.

At the end of the session I asked when I might be paid, but I'd learned by that time that if Peel didn’t want to answer any direct question, he’d somehow turn an answer into something about John and Yoko, hoping to bamboozle.

“That comes later,” said Peel. “When I was with Elephant’s Memory, it was all for one and one for all!”

“When later?”

“You’ll learn, you’re young. Que Pasa New York? Call me.”

I was trusting and excited about recording, and somewhere inside I knew I wouldn’t get a penny, and it was ok. I had seen how Peel lived and I had evaluated his talent and chances for massive album sales, and I knew there wasn’t any money. It was back to the park.

I saw Peel two weeks later one early, drizzling evening, walking by himself. He didn’t recognize or remember me, then said, “Oh, yeah! The yuppie!” which was an indication of the state of his melted but harmless hippie noggin. I bore him no grudge and demanded payment of no debt; instead we just blabbed about music, and I still wasn’t sure if he actually remembered me. Presently he lit a pipe he was carrying, took a long drag himself, and offered it to me.

I didn’t smoke pot or do anything that would damage my voice, but it was raining and the park was getting deserted. I decided to take a puff.

Within a few moments, my consciousness went sailing back into a tiny, tiny portion of my brain, and I turned into an instant, floating collection of muscles, veins, organs, limbs and hair. I hadn't thought to ask what was actually in the pipe. PCP? Angel dust? I didn't know. All I remember was slowly sliding down the wall of the arch until I was sitting, the universe exploding in front of my eyes and the outside world of Manhattan erased. I sat there like a building on fire, feeling the drug devastate my consciousness, unable to play the guitar, and hoping no one would take my money or cart me off to the hospital. I was profoundly, deeply drugged in a very public place, and the only thing that kept me from panicking was the mantra, “You’re on a drug and it’s going to wear off. You’re on a drug and it’s going to wear off.” When would it wear off? I didn’t know; it might be 20 minutes, an hour or 12 hours.

I called Nick Max and told him what had happened.

"Are you ok?"

"%$xxdfh"


Yea, I was ok. There was nothing to do but wait while the world shimmied. In about an hour, the world started speeding up again like a steam train gathering momentum, and soon I was back to relatively normal. Peel was gone and I never saw him again, or heard the record we’d made.

I played and sang and sang and played that whole summer, broke all 6 strings dozens of times, begged a shower or a floor here and there, had to stand in between a homeless guy and my case full of money a couple of times while swinging the arm of my guitar as a warning, was drowned out by ghetto boys walking by with boom boxes, was offered every kind of drug known to medicine, was chased away by the police, got soaked by sudden rainstorms, smiled at N.Y.U. girls, hooked up with a few who allowed me to, and became that which I set out to be.

One early Saturday morning, the wind bit my fingers as I tried to chord a song, and I decided to wait until noon when the sun would defrost the West Village. It never warmed up that day, though, and as truly inured as I’d become to every obstacle that would chase a musician away from his spot, in the end it was cold that shook me off the public stage of Washington Square Park.