Overheard on the Subway pt.3

I like hearing music while waiting for the subway. I’ve seen guitar players, Chinese erhu squeakers, break dancers, a lady bending a giant saw and playing it with a violin bow for a creepy haunted house sound, even competing Andean pan flute bands just like on South Park. Sometimes the music is on the trains, so you can take it with you.

About a month ago this homeless guy jumped on the G train and started singing for money, looking around for cops the whole time. It was kind of sad, but he actually had a good voice, so I gave him some spare change. Unfortunately, iphones don’t come with a shotgun microphone, so it’s hard to hear him from across the train.

Tonight I was going to Manhattan on the J train and sat down next to a Rastaman with a drum. At the next stop a few people cleared out and his friend moved from across the train with his drum and they started playing some cool beats. I had a good ten minutes of this and shot this clip as we crossed the Williamsburg bridge into Manhattan.



Funny thing about dialogue and dialects is how it can vary regionally. When I first got here I was going to a coffee shop around the corner from where I was staying and there was an Asian girl who worked the counter that I would usually see. Turns out she is originally from Nepal. The first time I ordered some food she threw me off by asking, “To go or to stay?” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant so I had her repeat the question. Once I understood, I just thought that was a funny way of saying “For here or to go?” I chalked it up to her native language not being English. The more I have been here, however; the more I have discovered it to be a New York thing, or possibly an East Coast thing. Everybody says it that way, and frankly I think it’s weird. When I say “for here” people don’t understand me. It seems like a trivial thing, but as an English major and former ESL teacher, I guess it’s fun to nitpick over and say its bad English. When I was in Korea, I would be out drinking with Canadian teachers and we would argue over stupid stuff such as, “I’m gonna get more BEER.” or “I’m gonna get more BEERS.” The first choice is clearly superior, even when you’re buying a round for the whole bar. “I’m gonna get everybody more beer.” Simple.

So I miss some of the things about where I come from, and I definitely miss seeing people, but I’m not homesick. I think of it as timesick. You can return to a place but you can’t return to a time. This graph has an X-axis and a Y-axis. If you go to the home you grew up in but someone else lives there now, guess what? Your life is different, things have changed. Change is inevitable and we all need to grow, learn, live in the moment, and move towards the future.

Sometimes however, it’s good to have our memories and a little nostalgia for the past. I’ve had a little nostalgia the past week with the passing of Dick Clark, Levon Helm of the Band, and Greg Ham of Men at Work. It’s interesting how we view celebrities. If you’ve never met them, why are you connected? I have found actors and actresses to be cool or beautiful, but nothing creates a void for me such as the loss of people who have blessed the world with music. Maybe Dick never made music himself, but I remember watching American Bandstand as a kid. We even lost his counterpart Don Cornelius the host of Soul Train only a few months back. And I watched it too.

Marcel Proust wrote of how a smell could evoke memory in Remembrance of Things Past, and I agree with this. I also find that music has this power, as I have heard songs for the first time in years and been transported to a moment in time and vividly remember so many details of who and where I was when I first heard it, or wore out my cassette tapes playing it over and over.

So of course I stumbled across Built to Spill’s first album sometime in the last few days to add to my nostalgia trip and it took me back to Eugene, Oregon 1992. That was twenty years ago! And the music is still great.

The latest news was Greg Ham, the horn player for Men at Work, found dead in his Melbourne home at 58. Even worse is that the police haven’t ruled out homicide. Greg had long ago fallen from the spotlight, had financial difficulties, and was working as a high school music teacher. At least he was still sharing the gift of music. Men at Work was actually the first concert I ever went to as a jr. high kid. It was at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum and the opener was the mostly unknown at the time Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was just starting to learn the guitar and rest his soul, Stevie Ray blew my mind! He was incredible.

Then Men at Work took the stage and Greg Ham was playing Saxophone, Flute, Synthesizer, and all kinds of other horns. The guy was probably the most impressive member of the band. Colin Hay has a signature voice, but Greg Ham provided the catchy openings to Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under. For that I give gratitude for his contributions to the world of music.

We are all on Earth for a limited time. Let’s enjoy our friends and families and share our experiences while we are here, whether we are near or far away.

Jimi once sang “If I don’t see you anymore in this world, I’ll meet you in the next one, don’t be late.”

I once sang, “Heaven and Hell, Great Gig in the Sky, I’m gonna Jam with Jimi when I die.”

Rest in Peace my musical Heroes.

-Stevie Tre

I’m Walkin’ Here!!

I was walking around the East Village the other day because I was in search of a new job. I left my interview and cruised down to Houston Street and the whole time I’ve got the music from Midnight Cowboy going through my head. I haven’t seen the movie in years, but it’s such a New York movie, that I’m sure much of it was filmed around that area, it just seemed to have that feel to it. It could also be because I haven’t spent much of my time in Manhattan lately, since I started working in the Park Slope part of Brooklyn.

With Harry Nilsson providing the soundtrack in my head, I was reminded of a time many years ago when I was here for my friend’s wedding, and I believe a few of us were out one night, or maybe it was one day, but I’m pretty sure drinking was involved. So maybe the memory is a little hazy, but the important thing for future generations to remember is that we were crossing the street and a taxi tries to run the crosswalk and one of us, not me, slams his hands on the hood of the car just like Dustin Hoffman and shouts, “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!” Classic.

Being in the East Village, I wanted to stop by some iconic New York eating institutions, Russ and Daughters, and Katz’s Deli. As you probably are aware, New York real estate is very expensive. I saw an Anthony Bourdain show titled Disappearing Manhattan, which was dedicated to the places established in bygone eras that still remain today. The thing is, there aren’t very many of them. Anthony lamented the lost dive bars he used to frequent and talked of anachronistic restaurants and butchers that were still around for one big reason:  They owned the property they were on. Otherwise, greedy landlords raise the rent when the lease expires and drive unique businesses away, leaving room for bland chain stores, and corporations with deep pockets. That’s what happened to the famous music venue CBGB. Someone who probably already had more money than most of us will ever see owned the land and wanted more money. And now where CBGB once stood is a mutherfuckin’ Chase Bank. I went by and it broke my heart to see.

I made it to CBGB once back in the ’90s for a night of shitty punk bands, where The Ramones, Blondie, The Talking Heads, and Patti Smith had once played. I made out with an Australian girl in the rain outside some nearby bar later, so I’m going to call the night a success. As for 2012, I realized I better not wait before I missed out on these other classic places, I had to see them for myself. I stopped at Russ and Daughter’s to pick up some very tasty lox, their specialty but passed on the skimpy bagels, because I have found a better source. I then went to Katz’s for a $17 pastrami sandwich that was really good, but cost $17!!!

So I know what you’re thinking, big deal.

But you’ll never guess who I ran into?

Okay I didn’t actually meet him, but his picture was above my table, and Katz’s is big and full of pictures, so this was kind of random.

Call it kismet.

Waaaaah Wah Wah Wah Wah.  Wah-Wah Wah, Wah Wah Wah.   Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

I’m back!

It’s been a long hiatus and I don’t know if I can ever cover the posts that I wanted to do while I was away, but let’s see what I can remember in the next few days. The reason for my delay was the all important move into my new apartment. It took place on April 1st, and honestly that day felt like one big cosmic joke from the universe. Everything that could go wrong did, took way longer than it should have, and ended up with me being late for work. Did I mention the apartment was being remodeled, and no work happened for about a week before I moved in? The stove wasn’t connected to the gas line, the closet had nowhere to hang clothes, there was no hot water, or toilet seats. Yep, you heard me. Let’s just say the time I spent traveling in Asia prepared me for these third world conditions.

Yes, New York, the city that never sleeps, the people who rush around like chickens with their heads cut off, drive like a bunch of immigrants with their first car, and work still gets accomplished very, very slowly. It took a week of living here, but those issues have finally been resolved.

I now live in the Bushwick neighborhood, which is populated with Domincans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and weird white kids. I went to the closest bars to me to check out some music on Saturday night. It was a weird contrast of stuff from a guy in a tutu singing Twin Peaks songs and busting out wicked and wild Ornette Coleman style saxophone at one place, to crazy noise punk with a guy on bass with an octave booster and him and the drummer with microphones taped to their faces, and a Japanese guy with an acoustic guitar blasting through a Marshall half stack and a drummer that was amazing. Here’s some crappy iphone clips of it. The Japanese guy’s band is called Ken South Rocks, you can see him when he jumps on on stage at the end of the clip. I highly recommend you at least skip ahead to this if you don’t watch the full clip.