Monday, October 16, 2017

Honk NYC for Our City of Friends

There are moments when the entire city feels alive, full of emotions, changing seasons, and people making their way through the streets, parks, and other spaces.  The last time most of us were really happy was a year ago the last weekend in October before the election meltdown.  

But its hard not to be happy when marching bands are playing.  And it felt like that this week as the HONK NYC festival filled the streets of New York with bands from Harlem to Downtown Brooklyn, Staten Island to the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  Bands seemed to be everywhere, bringing a little Brazil and NOLA to our ever crumbling, evolving, and recreating city. 

I took in three events, the opening night at The City Reliquary, Saturday at Rubulad's brasstastic blowout, and Sunday in the East Village with the parade through the Community Gardens. 

Standing at City Reliquary, a quirky museum in Brooklyn, Roger Manning and I chatted about music and clarinet music.  I told him about Aaron Copland's concerto.  He told me about Doreen's Jazz A Closer Walk with Thee.

There is a melancholy to the sound which takes us somewhere really special.

I call that lonely noted Roger.

Sarah Valentine, one of the prime organizers of HONK, and I talked with our friends from the
The L Train Brass Band, a new band in town.  We compared notes about our favorite bands. Their toxic polka is alive and intriguing.

These bands would meander from Downtown Brooklyn to Washington Square, and about the city, special moments all week long.
Marching with the bands through the fall days, it felt like some of the majestic ghosts of the old city came out to play, reminding us, the spirits are still alive roaming through our streets, between gardens and bodies, with music everywhere. The East Village gardens seemed to welcome us, reminding us where we've been, what its meant, and will mean, dancing in wonderment with the earth, the creatures, friends and village people together through the majestic fall afternoon.  Our marching cavalcade paid homage to Charas El Bohio, the activism and feeling of still being alive, zigging, and zagging off to Avenue A.

Join us, i smiled at a woman with her child.

My daughter was her age when i first started bringing her to these.  Now she's 14.

Virginia and I talked about writing and bands.

Last year it was the dancing bodies   This year, it was the conversations with my friends, seeing my tribe shaking and sharing, just glad being together, seeing each other, chatting about music and politics and kids, life changing, time passing, night after night.  We are all a little older, but the feeling is still there, between the heartache of the world and the joy of being alive in our beloved city of friends together.  Austin and I toasted a beer for our small bit of time together, love among the ruins.

Saturday, there was a moment after  Damas de Ferro (from Brazil!) finished playing and  Nation Beat continued the Latin vibe, when a few of us held hands, lifting our arms to the sky.  We formed circles around the dancers, leaning on each other, lunging up and down, in and out of the crowd. Its scary out there. But for a weekend, we all held onto each other, people from all over the world, sharing our passions, hopes, aspirations, dancing to sweet music through the night.

Thanks to the bands, organizers, and our city of friends for helping us come together.

So much feeling. Thank you Honk!

Procession from La Plaza Cultural Community Garden to DROM - Honk NYC, in association with More Gardens! comes to the East Village with Honk for More Gardens! Street parade to celebrate & raise awareness of community gardens. (Photo and caption  by Erik McGregor) — with Virginia Vitzthum, Benjamin Heim Shepard, Yana Landowne, Elissa Jiji and Aresh Javadi at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden.


  1. Thank you, Benjamin Shepard, for always being with us. XOOXOX

  2. Nice chatting with you, Ben. Here's my ancient piece on the Mekons:

    (I have written things since that I like, but I never want to miss a chance to bond with a fellow Mekons fan!)