Monday, November 12, 2018

New Bohemians, a Thesis on History, and a Lost Tape

The  New Bohemians at Irving Plaza and a flag in  Wappinger Falls and that old Its Like  This tape.

There were countless  favorite New  Bohs shows during those years, some at the.
500 Café 1986, Club Dada,  even one in LA after their album broke.
Eddie looked  at  me.  I  looked at her.
She sang “Love Like We Do” looking me in the eye, seemingly telling me,
She wanted to have my kids.
At  least that’s what I thought singing with her, watching the band play.
I adored the sound, Brandon’s drums, dancing with Kenny’s guitar, Brad’s Jaco like base lines, intermingling with John’s percussion, Chris’ drums, melding a web of sound I listened to driving home from  school on rainy days.  It was a sound I  first  heard after  picking up their tape Its Like This.   
It was my favorite tape, living in my car from sophomore to senior year when someone stole it and all my tapes.
I always missed my tape.
I tried to steal someone else’s copy but got caught.
And lost  my job. 
So  I brought it back.
But I could never really get it back.
So I’ve listened  to the bootlegs, writing stories about those years, when the family disintegrated and I found a new way of looking  at the world acting up and pasting together pieces of narratives, drafting Illuminations on Market Street, the novel that grew out of all that writing.
My first album review in college was for Shooting Rubberbands at the  Stars
After that, the habit stuck.
They’ve always been my soundtrack. 
Its all there, sneaking into shows, losing tapes, and finding something better.
German social  critic Walter Benjamin aspired  to put together a book solely made of quotes from other people. 
We are the part of all those songs and  books and  influence within the cultural tides.
Shaping us.
The New Bohs eclectic mix, of reggae, ska,  jazz, a few Zepplin covers. 
There was always feeling that everything in the world was there when they played.

On Friday, we went to see them, dropping in at 80 St Marks Place on the way, immersive theater experiments, with performers running  to and from,  grabbing  a drink at the bar, a part of  the experience.
Jody shared some fries.
She’s lived  everywhere.
But now she’s here.
The bar was going to be open till midnight.
We walked up to 15th.
The band was already playing  when we   arrived, just as I’d show up at  countless shows of their from 1986 to 1989. I loved the imagery of the lyrics, the drums, the jam, the sensibility. Three decades later, the feeling remains.

Listening to  them I  am reminded of the Texas of my childhood.
This was  a Honky Tonk place,  where we shared  culture, a seemingly  open border, holidays and  spices.
“My ranch is on the river, it's on the border. You can't survive without the river,” Mitchell tells Bourdain. “And we can't survive without the people on that side of the river. They can't survive without us… And they're our friends, for God's sake.”
Of course, the "mutual respect" between Texas and Mexico disavows our president’s panic ridden, opportunistic narrative of the border.  I never heard a Texan  talk like Trump about Mexico.
We shared water, electricity, ideas, and family.
Certainly, that mix of cultures is part of what makes the New Bohs shows  so rich.
Eddie regaled us with stories about a lost guitar her dad won at a bowling tournament:
“I went out for a while
When I come back everything was changed
Or only for a while
When I come back everything was changed

My clothes were on the floor
Spilling out the drawer, someone had been here
My heart began to race
Nothing in its place, suddenly my fear

Oh, take the money, take the TV
Take my clothes
Please not my guitar, empty corner
It was gone

My Spanish style guitar
I wonder where you are, so far from your home
My Spanish style guitar
I want you in my arms, back where you belong…”

My favorite New Bohs lyrics are from ‘Air of December’ featured on that first tape in 1986.
They played it Friday:

‘Thursday afternoon you cast a shadow 'round my room
The breeze moved the curtains and lifted my perfume into the air
And danced with lazy curls in your hair
The sun was in the sky like pink champagne,
And it glistened in your eyes all day
I, I remember you put a chill across my face
Like the air of December
I swear I remember it that way
I swear I remember it that way
I swear I remember it
Where are you now?
Where are you now?
Where are you?
You stood by the lake,
I wanted to take you for granted
The grass was thin and high,
The water mirrored tiny sparkles to the sky
I, I remember you put a chill across my face
Like the air of December
I swear I remember it that way
I swear I remember it that way
I swear I remember it
Where are you now?
Where are you now?
Where are you
Where are you now?”

Lights in the puddles reflecting in the rain, its an idea that found its way across Henri Matisse canvasses, just as it does these songs.

Midway through the set, they performed a song from their second full album, a quiet, sad song about a friend no longer there, except for the reminders:

“How can that dog be barkin' in the backyard?
We ran over him years ago
How can that dog be runnin' by the back fence?
We ran over him years ago
Ghost of a dog
Barkin' in the backyard
How can that dog be scratchin' at the back door?
We ran over him years ago
How can that dog be lying under the shady tree
Where we buried him years ago?
Ghost of a dog
Flyin' through the backyard.”

Supporting a new album, with lots of horns, silly refrains, and drums, they set ended with everyone’s favorite New Bohs song, ‘Circle.’
I remember hearing it for the first time, before leaving my final shift at the best job I ever had at the Inwood Theater, my world disappearing. I was in the Inwood Lounge the sound played across the theater.
“everything is temporary.”
She was right.
But I didn’t want to hear it. 

Those teenage feelings claw at you your whole life Eddie explained as she introduced final song.

“Me, I'm a part of your circle of friends
And we notice you don't come around
Me, I think it all depends on you
Touching ground with us but
I quit, I give up, nothing's good enough for anybody else
It seems
And I quit, I give up, nothing's good enough for anybody else
It seems
And being alone is the, is the best way to be
When I'm by myself it's the best way to be
When I'm all alone it's the best way to be
When I'm by myself, nobody else can say goodbye
Everything is temporary anyway
When the streets are wet, the colors slip into the sky
But I don't know why that means you and I are
That means you and I
I quit, I give up, nothing's good enough for anybody else
It seems
And I quit, I give up, nothing's good enough for anybody else
It seems
And being alone is the, is the best way to be
When I'm by myself, it's the best way to be
When I'm all alone, it's the best way to be
When I'm by myself, nobody else can say
Me, I'm a part of your circle of friends
And we noticed you don't come around
La la la la la la la…”

I’ve loved them through the years, watching the world where I watched them ebb and shift.
People pass through your life, even the people you go to shows with.  Sometimes they are kids.
Sometimes they are your everything.
And you have to live with what happens after they are gone.

Nick Cave lost his child during a climbing accident, explaining:

So how can we find  happiness?
It’s a discussion we’ve had over the last few weeks in Stanley’s class.
Could it be eating  a bagel at Yonah Schimmel?
Could it be listening to music with a friend?
Could it be reading Benjamin on Saturday?
We need history posits Nietzsche.
‘You should write about eternal returns…”  notes Caroline, suggesting I continue this exploration of aphorisms, activism and history.
I don’t  have as many answers.
Only bits and pieces of intersecting narratives and lots  of stories. 
Why eternal returns?
Because we are stupid?
Why fascism?
Why the jealousy and selfishness that is always there?
Why are we so stupid?
Why do we only use 10% of our brains?
Who is the hunchback, we asked reading the first of the Thesis on the Philosophy of History?
Who is the puppet?
Stanley is all over the place.
Can we ever be happy, we ask reading Thesis #2.
There are two schools of thought.
Through a steady march toward progress we can find happiness.
On the other hand, we can see that as long as  there is exploitation of labor,
no one can be happy.
There are few clear examples.
Perhaps, happiness is a bourgeois ideology?
But we can create a society of understanding, posits Habermas.
We can be kind to our neighbors.
Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together, notes Geothe.

Is happiness an bourgeois notion?
Are we just waiting for a messiah?

Is redemption possible?
The messiah is not coming.
We have to save the text, the culture, the book.
We have  to hope.
“There is a secret agreement between past generations and the present one,” writes Benjamin.
We owe something to each other.
The revolution must include culture.  If it doesn’t there will never be liberation.
We owe the revolutionaries of the past our efforts, as we look into the future, hopefully leaving something better  for our children, social security, clean water, skies, but progress  is anything but guaranteed; certainly not today with fires out west, rising deficits, and temperatures.

At least this was on my mind,  making my way to
Wappinger Falls, a village in Dutchess County, where Rob and I read poems, talked writing,  and conspiring.
Looking at the waterfall.
The drug panics in a  crumbling  old town.
The water crashing.

Fulcrum by Addy Brown
for Rob Magnuson Smith

Bathing at the local water-hole
Along the river’s course we watch two boys
Stuck in her kayak across the weir’s brim

Rocking back  and forth on their unexpected fulcrum

We swim across and push them from the stern;
For what is manhood but  leaving the vessel
Of yourself over the dam’s tipping point?

Rob reads Wallace Stevens – a weak mind in the mountains.
And we talk about engagement and  fear.
The Lone  Stryker was-Dad’s fave
Another lament on regret and work.

Historically engaged or detached poems and lives, the weight of history is heavy.

History lulls and tugs.
But how have we become who  we are?
What  is our  becoming?
What becomes  of those  fragments?
Can they come back together?
Can  we?
How do we make the most  of our time in history?
We wonder about it all as we stroll through the Mohonk Preserve, 
Watching the hikers hang, precarious   as ever.
Nick cave lost his child to such rocks.

Eddie lost her guitar.
I lost my mix tape.
Songs were  born.
Novels hatched.  
History is still beyond 

Walter Benjamin

On the Concept of History
(often referred to as…)
Theses on the Philosophy of History
The story is told of an automaton constructed in such 
a way that it could play a winning game of chess, 
each move of an opponent with a countermove. A 
puppet in Turkish
 attire and with a hookah in its mouth sat before a 
chessboard placed 
on a large table. A system of mirrors created the
 illusion that this
 table was transparent from all sides. Actually, a 
little hunchback who 
was an expert chess player sat inside and guided 
the puppet’s hand by
 means of strings. One can imagine a philosophical 
 counterpart to this 
device. The
 puppet called ‘historical materialism’ is to win 
all the time.
 It can
 easily be a match for anyone if it enlists the 
 services of theology, 
which today, as we know, is wizened and has to 
keep out of sight.
‘One of the most remarkable characteristics of 
 human nature,’ 
writes Lotze, ‘is, alongside so much selfishness 
in specific instances, 
the freedom from envy which the present displays
 toward the future.’
 Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is
by the time to which the course of our own existence
 has assigned us. 
 The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us
 exists only in the air 
we have breathed, among people we could have
 talked to, women who 
could have given themselves to us. In other words, 
our image of 
happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image 
of redemption. The 
same applies to our view of the past, which is the 
concern of history. The
 past carries with it a temporal index by which it 
is referred to redemption. 
There is a secret agreement between past generations 
and the present one.
 Our coming was expected on earth. Like every 
generation that preceded us, 
we have been endowed with a weak Messianic 
power, a power to which the 
past has a claim. That claim cannot be settled 
cheaply. Historical materialists
 are aware of that.