I spotted this hectic monstrosity on our way out of Stonington on Monday morning. A sunburst, I dunno, Firebird? Classy. It looks like a sunset morphing into arctic winter. A barbecued potato chip dipped in ranch dressing. A cotton swab covered in ear wax.
Goodbye Connecticut. Land of tennis, yachts, and contented wealthy people. Your vast array of cheeses, confusing shoppes, and charming oldy worldy Yankee architectural bullshit was much appreciated.
Hello New York City. Land of mob-owned garbage trucks, American flags, and ominous warnings.
The Bronx. Whenever I see buildings this massive I just think to myself, "Wow, that's a lot of toilets." Like, that's it. Not one other thought goes through my head. All I see in my mind's eye is just cramped apartments full of flushing toilets.
That beautiful little blue tug boat is hauling a barge full of garbage. Perfect.
Not any more.
A pointless and losing battle. But I suppose they've gotta try.
Jamie McPhee. Mover, doer, shaker.
PJ Ransone. Occasional celebrated actor and urban vigilante, full-time worrier.
Sassy boots. Who's boots?
Avena Venus Gallagher, my oldest friend.
We met when we were both just 12 years old. Born two days before me. Argyle tights and ass-length jet black hair. As a kid she was a drill team maniac, a bookworm brainiac, and secretly a very sad goth.
Both raised in uniquely rough family circumstances, both quiet and nerdy, both bizarrely ready to get on with life. In hindsight I suppose it was only obvious we'd eventually gravitate toward one another. Weirdos can generally sniff out other weirdos. That's just the way it is.
Despite my attending seven elementary schools, two junior high schools, four high schools, and one university, we've always remained close. About a week after her high school graduation, Avena moved to New York City. Just—POOF!—gone. She's never looked back. Given what's awaiting her back home in Washington State I can't say I've ever questioned her decision. In the ensuing years she's fashioned herself into one of the most sought after and respected stylists in the New York fashion world. Good job! It could've turned out so much worse. Indeed for either one of us.
Through boyfriends and girlfriends, injuries, illnesses, deaths, births, rebirths, good jobs, bad jobs, no jobs, family drama, fun times, and unforgiveably bad outfits...we've remained close. Closer than close. Even if it's just to sit in the back hatch of the car, guzzle a cup of coffee, and shoot the breeze for 20 minutes on Mott St. before returning home to Los Angeles with Tammy. Entirely worth it. Avena, I love you very much.
Upon saying goodbye to AVG, Tam and I met up with the man, the legend—Nils Bernstein. Though he'd known of me since I was just 3-years old, we'd actually only met face-to-face when I was around 16. His best friend Tammy Watson was the younger sister of my mother's best friend. Which means, if you think really hard about it and don't get too confused, he knew everything about my early childhood before even I did. Mind warp.
When I was a teenager we met because Nils opened a record shop called 'Rebellious Jukebox' on Pine Street in Seattle. Turned out we had a few mutual friends in the NW punk and art scenes (Seattle's Fallout Records, COCA, The Monestary, and Tacoma's Community World Theater, Crescent Ballroom, Natasha's in Bremerton, VFW Halls, etc). When he figured out who I was, (or more significantly who my mom was), he had to breathe into a paper bag to offset an anxiety attack. He was well acquainted with her and knew very well the stories of my young life. After a year of knowing one another simply through punk shows and mutual friends, it came as quite a shock to us both. A deeper understanding, I suppose.
Eventually Rebellious Jukebox closed when Sub Pop asked him to run publicity for the label, (as he was already in his spare time overseeing coordination of Nirvana's fan mail). At one point I recall his entire living room floor covered in unopened fan letters. So much so it appeared to have snowed envelopes. People slipping around and throwing their backs out. He answered every single one.
After Rebellious Jukebox, the storefront soon became Righteous Rags, (with Kevin Willis' home and painting studio in back), and then it expanded to Bimbo's Bitchen Burrito Kitchen next door, and then it became the location of the original Cha Cha. Many, many years of my life were spent walking up and down that hell hole nightmare corridor between Capital Hill and downtown. We all lived upstairs, downstairs, across the street and around the corner. We were all idiots. Even those of us who weren't idiots. Idiots all.
Now it is a blacktopped parking lot. The entire building completely gone. It is now just a flat black slab. Idly waiting out the recession to one day become a massive condo project. A slab that tells nothing, shares nothing, gives away nothing.
After a few years at Sub Pop, Nils left Seattle to become head of publicity at Matador Records in New York. It was a prescient decision, for Nils has had a hand in delivering unto the world some of the most beloved albums of the past 20 years.
More than all that, Nils is a truly phenomenal cook. Naturally gifted. Capable of making, cooking, and serving upwards of a dozen dishes at a time. I've never seen anything like it. Had "grunge" and then "indie rock" not swooped him up he likely would've gone on to be a very successful caterer or restauranteur. (man, that's a corny word: "restauranteur").
*[Side note #1: If you happen to be reading this and are perhaps a producer on, say, The Food Network or Home & Garden Channel, you might be wise to create a traveling cooking show around Nils featuring artists and musicians from around the world. He'd host the show, select the recipes, and book the guests, and you'd rake in the advertisers. Everyone would have a nice time. Lee Renaldo and Kurt Vile could make cheeseburgers. Robert Pollard & Chan Marshall could show us how to enjoy beer battered catfish. Crap like that. Et cetera. Just sayin'.].
As well, he's insightful and funny as all hell. Just full of good ideas. Bursting with a lifetime of bizarre and wonderful stories.
*[Side Note #2: If you're reading this and you happen to be, say, a literary agent or book publisher, you'd be wise to snap up Nils to write his memoir now. It would be hysterically funny, poignant, and certainly much more accurate than the baloney that Charles Cross and Everett True continuously shovel off as documentation of the era]. Zzzzzz... what am I talking about? So boring. Sorry.
Starting tomorrow, we'll see Nils for the next four days in Las Vegas at Matador 21. Guaranteed to be a good time/a total pain in the ass for all involved.
Los Angeles is very warm. It is good to finally be home, if only for 24 hours.
Life is full of twists, turns, and winking surprises.