I had booked my flight back to New York late enough that I could have most of Friday in Chicago, but early enough that I still had a chance at catching a show upon arrival. Sure enough, while my mother and I were out to lunch with a friend of hers the day before I left, I found out that her stepson’s band would be playing at Brooklyn Bowl the moment my plane landed. While he and I had never met, I’ve known other folks in his band for years, so it was about time I saw them. I had no checked bags and jumped in a cab as soon as possible after arriving at LaGuardia. I was at the club in no time and the ride was less than twenty dollars for a whole lot less hassle. There have been times of larger financial success in my life, but at thirty I am also sometimes willing to suck it up and quit being cheap. As I was crossing the street to the venue, I noticed two guys with horn cases on their backs (in Brooklyn, there’s a lot of us in the turtle club) so I stopped to see who they were. It turned out that these two were in the opening band and thus able to get me in and put my bags backstage. I caught more than half of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound’s very long set, plus made a new trumpet playing friend. I felt rather clever that I had so easily found a place to stash my luggage. Afterward, I hung out with the guys in the band a bit, eventually having a late dinner there with the keyboardist and his Chicago friends, finally getting to know him after years of our families being friends. I even got included in a cab ride back to Manhattan, so my night was nothing but easy, which was a good thing since I had rehearsal the following afternoon for the first time in over a month.
New York welcomed me more warmly than I possibly expected, for better and for worse. I had thought all of the positive male attention in Alaska had been due to the skewed gender dynamics, but after a couple of fun days in the East Village / Lower East Side, I began to realize that it might just be the freshly single and happy vibe I had acquired. Add to that phenomenon a ten-day visit wedged between a month of absence on either end and it made for a debaucherous stay. Stability in the form of rehearsals and a few days of work at the venue was the only thing keeping me at all grounded as I celebrated being both single and happy with NYC for the first time in a long while. I had originally figured this time would be spent with the hobeaux. Instead, thanks to getting dumped, I had a fun time trying to forget him.
So, take the romantic interest which had already been expressed by many friends when I made known the breakup and add to that the sheer confidence of a woman who has been spurned by a boy who didn’t even deserve her. Indeed, the number of suitors was almost as dumbfounding as the common threads between them. I’m not trying to brag, I was more taken aback than anyone by all this attention. I was a bullied late bloomer and have always been a geek, so there’s always a lingering bit of insecurity no matter the present circumstances. There were certain trends, all fairly uncommon for me – actors, guitarists, ginger musicians, Latin men. One old habit I couldn’t seem to break was guys with my ex’s name… there were five of them! I don’t know what attracts them to me in such high numbers, but the person I’d been kind of dating until I met the ex had the same name as well. One at least simply has the same name in Spanish, plus I’ve known him for seven years, so he gets favoritism. All of this romantic chaos has reminded me why I had enjoyed being in a relationship – I had a lot more free time. I’m not so good with moderation, you see.
My week and a half wasn’t all madness and hedonism, believe it or not. The rehearsals with the band were very productive, as the new keys/accordion player had a lot of tunes to learn, and we all had to rehearse the three new songs. I also practiced twice with a group called Jazz Fakers, who play experimental improv music but more melodically than most. I played one on saxophone and the other on clarinet and got a lot of useful feedback from their sax player. I also worked several days at the new music venue and had a couple of fun business meetings at nearby restaurants with the owner. I began to get to know the handsome baristas across the street and the pretty bartenders on the corner, spending increasing amounts of time loitering at their establishments and feeling like part of a neighborhood for the first time in a long while.
Those were productive times during my visit, much of the rest was devoted to seeing friends and enjoying myself. In the middle of my visit, I had a full day of work followed by an absurd night. I met up with a violinist friend of mine and had fun being silly girls. We stopped into a music store in the East Village and just as I was explaining to the owner our conversation about sexy men, a guy walks in wearing nothing but pink underpants, a waist bag, boots, and a fur hat. We had to laugh at how appropriate it was. “Should I go out and put more clothes on?” he asked politely. We reassured him that he had simply illustrated a point and it was fine. Then I realized that I knew him from New Orleans. Not only that, he and his partner were living in the basement of the punk house where I sublet not so long ago. My friend was not surprised. On our way out, she and I got talking to the other guy who had been there shopping, and we had apparently crossed paths at Golden Fest. He taught us a beautiful a capella tune in a language we didn’t understand, and we all sang it for fun on the street. I enjoy New York because things like this happen, but it also bothers me that when they do, nobody pauses to appreciate them.
The rest of the night was lost to the problem of having too many friends who work in bars in the same neighborhood. First, I went to one where I knew the bartender, then another where a friend was producing a burlesque show, then finally one where my friend was DJing. There were also a number of folks working in other capacities who I knew, so the free drinks were far too abundant. I think I finally was ready to go on my post-breakup bender and I did it like nobody’s business. I punched someone in the face (much to the approval and amusement of his co-workers), forgot where I’d locked my bicycle, and somehow befriended two Australian tennis stars who rescued me from further bad ideas at the end of the night. I returned and thanked them repeatedly the next day after I left their place and found my bicycle. I knew the night could have turned out far worse and vowed to take better care of myself. I felt like a certain Ms. Charity Hope Valentine at the end of the movie version of Sweet Charity, as she wanders Central Park after her heart breaks and the world breathes life back into her spirit, “and she loved hopefully ever after.”
I tried to calm down the rest of my week a bit, taking it somewhat easier on myself the next night by simply attending a very interesting radical economics lecture in an NYU building. I went out for dinner after with a couple of the speakers and our mutual friends, honored to be included among them. A man and his son told me about how Abbie Hoffman had lived in their basement when he was in hiding, meanwhile the father published some of his books. Of course they knew the Living Theatre, they had helped send them to Europe. Meanwhile, I finally realized that a friend, who I already knew had published a significant Occupy book recently, had also been an originator of Billionaires for Bush. I made some new friends and resolved to do more serious writing. I ran into a friend in Washington Square Park and met her Croatian bike punk friend. She mentioned which band I was in and he immediately reacted and had her take his picture with me. Things are so odd. I stayed out a bit too late again hanging out with bartenders, but was far better behaved.
I left Union Square on Thursday with nothing but the clothes on my back, my sax, and my computer. I hit a festival on the waterfront briefly, saying hi to the Himalayas and Lady Circus, then left the island until Sunday. Those days continued to be full of rehearsals, drinks with friends, promising new developments, and lots of wandering around Brooklyn. I kept meaning to catch up on my blog and get some other writing done, but something shiny always distracted me. On one day, I saw two friends’ bands (including Raya) and both fed me their leftover band food, not a bad deal. I finally sat myself down to write over coffee at a boho little faux-francais cafe where a new friend was quietly playing trumpet in the corner with some guitarists. It was already almost midnight and I was finally getting some writing done. The next night after rehearsal I tried again to get some computer work done at a bar, but then the next thing I knew, the bartender was feeding me shots of Fernet and an older man from Chicago had lifted his head off the bar at the mention of Alaska and talked my ear off about the Chicago food industry for an hour. He insisted I ought to be a food promoter.
That night, I finally got to see Autodrone, my DJ friend’s gothy band, who was playing at the Knitting Factory. It was nearby and nearly time for it to start, so I would’ve been a jerk to miss it. A new saxophonist friend met up with me in the beer garden next door after the show, bringing along his guest from out of town who was also a sax player. At one point, I was ordering a beer and chatting up the bartender about different types and he remarked on how smart I was and that he was surprised I was hanging out in that neighborhood on a Saturday night. I explained that I play in a touring band, so it made sense. “Well, I’m a professional saxophone player” was his response. Only in New York, a bar full of us. My friends back on the patio pointed out that if he was really so professional, he wouldn’t be working a Saturday night shift behind a bar. Touche.
The next day, I rode through Central Park, remembering fondly the summer park days of my Chicago childhood, hitting the shady canyons of midtown on my way South. On this visit, I’ve been impressed with the city’s ever broadening bicycle infrastructure, although the lane which heads down Broadway becomes a bit of a scavenger hunt once you get to Time’s Square. By the time I arrived back in Union Square, I finally had to lock myself in my friend’s apartment to get anything done. The combination of being extremely friendly and wearing a form-fitting dress were making productivity pretty unattainable in public. I will also be the first to admit that it takes very little provocation to distract me from whatever I’m doing. I turned on my downtempo playlist and set to ignoring a beautiful Sunday afternoon and finishing my vacation post from weeks ago. I grounded myself, saying that once I finished the post, I could go get a meal. So, midnight dinner in alphabet city with a friend it was.
On my last few days in town I put my foot down – no more bar crawls, distant beds, or crazy nights. I actually spent much of the day before my flight sleeping, getting in a few hours of work at the venue before evening. I had another rehearsal at the same space immediately after, stopped to visit at the corner bar, had desert wine and dried grasshoppers at a friend’s apartment, and then shared a bowl of food from Punjabi with another as he walked me home. I had to pack the next day, after all. Somehow, I got everything in order for my afternoon flight in time to catch public transit out to the airport.