Thursday, June 21, 2007

On the Road: New York

I’ve spent the last few days in The Big Apple and, as always, it is deliciously red and crunchy. Previously in this space, I have professed my undying love for this great American city and every visit brings more details.

While there, I lived at the Roger Smith Hotel, art-minded lodging on the corner of Lexington and 47th, two blocks from Grand Central. There is the Roger Smith Lab Gallery, an art space attached to the hotel, with unadorned plate glass windows on the street-exposed corner walls. It is "a high traffic, fast paced, converted 'storefront' that features conceptual work and provides a venue for experimental national and international artists and curators and their ideas." Fair enough.

Late one night, after returning home after joyfully roaming around Times Square, I glanced in and noted a live naked women in a bathtub, carefully ‘bathing’ in gobs of dirt. There were lit candles, various bits of nature and a grey-pony-tailed photographer, hopping around, snapping away. The doors were closed but there were no curtains. Even without sound, I could see that Dirt Lady was bossing him around – her fingers pointing, her gums flapping. She was evidently The Artist. A European guy and I discussed it. A typical Monday night.

(By next morning, someone with a pink-brown lipstick stick had scrawled across the window a long diatribe of why it sucked. "You are doing more harm than good with that hippie bullshit ... ")

Earlier that same evening, I caught the legendary Les Paul, Father of the Electric Guitar, at his usual Monday night gig on Broadway, at the Irridium. He was celebrating his 92nd birthday and I managed to deliver a personalized birthday kiss – what a treat!

The night also included a spontaneous award presentation by the American Music Harvest, by an avid music fan in a white dinner jacket. Les was amazing on his signature guitar, despite two fingers quieted from arthritis; I may have emerged with a new appreciation for jazz guitar. Paul's back-up band was predictably talented as well, particularly his pianist, John Colianni, who used to play for Mel Torme.

Best of all were the stories that Paul told from his wild party days in 1950s Hollywood. Apparently, Bing Crosby had called him one day at 6:30 a.m. to talk about recording a song at 7:00 a.m. “What?!?” Les had said, “I don’t even vomit until 8!”

Despite having arrived during Gay Pride Week (it tends to follow me wherever I go) I would again like to stress that New York is also a fantastic place for Straight Pride. The place is positively teeming with sexual tension. I understand it is difficult to date there but as a visitor, I just can’t see it, I only see opportunities. I was propositioned and/or hit on a total of five times in three days – the same number that can be applied to my nine years in San Francisco. (Denver is a happy medium.)

Much as I love Gotham, I can see that living there is Work. The muggy crowded subways, the throngs of people and the long stair climbs to your wildly expensive shoebox apartment could wear someone down. Just like some humans, I can love them best from a safe distance. Still, I was loathe to leave my ridiculously high bed - I felt like Princess and the Pea - and NYC in general. It is the center of the American Universe.

Thanks to the United Airlines computer glitch, my flight from La Guardia was delayed. Once aboard, I planned to sleep but instead became absolutely riveted by the inflight movie, "Breach", it's not my fault that Chris Cooper is colossally talented. The plane touched down hours late and the captain announced that the outside temperature was a lovely 97 degrees. I wormed my way into sharing a cab with two fine young men from Jersey and eventually made it to my house at 7:15 p.m. I arrived at the Avenue Theater at 7:25 p.m. And then, 10 minutes later, this happened.



Mark Dowdy said...

You kissed the Les Paul? Your guitar playing just improved 300 percent.

You are still playing guitar, aren't you?

Kath said...

Glad you made it back in time! Back in time as in back in time for the show...not back in time like back to 1876.

Altho knowing you, you would have had a good time there as well!


hubs said...

Funny, I just wrote about the sexuality of NYC after returning from their a couple of weeks ago. I kissed nobody but my girlfriend, but we sure did a lot of it.

cj said...

Do you own a copy of this CD (or LP)? Some of my other favorite jazz guitarists include Fred Frith, Sonny Sharrock, Nels Cline and Tyondai Braxton.

hotdrwife said...

......... like you're busy or somethin'. :)

Welcome home, and I'll be at the next show! Let me know when?

ClizBiz said...

MD: Yes, yes! I might even be getting better.

Kath: By the hair on my chinny chin chin!

Hubs: We are simpatico, eh? Loved your post, btw.

CJ: Seriously, thanks for passing these names along. My guitar education needs it.

HDW: Can we make out - er, I mean, get together soon?

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