So says Henry Garfield. It's not a bad mantra at all.
At the second rehearsal we played at St. Mary's, Chris told me something wondrous. He was moving, he said, from his apartment in Williamsburg to a sublet in Murray Hill, and in the process of boxing up his things, he'd found a videotape. "It's a video of this crappy Headliners show we played at Continental back in college," he said. Little did he know, I'd been searching for this grail-like tape for almost ten years -- it's a record of the only full live performance I played in the band. (Billy thought he'd tracked the footage down about five years ago in the form of a Super-8 tape that had to be pried loose from a dinosaur of a camcorder, but after I paid a tape duplication company in The Cable Building to transfer its contents sight unseen, it turned out to be a video of a birthday party for one of Billy's Filipino relatives, affectionately known as "Crazy Uncle Darwin.")
So when Chris offered to lend me the tape, I couldn't believe my luck. I brought it to a Russian video transfer place with offices in a soundless, maze-like building of suites on 35th St. and had it put on a DVD. Contrary to Chris' assessment, the show turned out to be great! Sure, I'm playing way too fast, and there are some missed notes, on the whole it's funny, high-energy, and satisfyingly punk rock (viddy Chris' homebrew "Nike" swoosh). And the whole thing goes down at Continental, which has since forsaken live music for selling shots to creeps in visors. I cut the show up into individual songs and assembled them into a YouTube playlist. Watch it, share it, etc. There's something for everyone: Headliners "classics," like "I Wanna Be Alana's Boyfriend;" songs that made up our latter-day corpus, like "The Thrifty Drunk" and "Wonderful Picnic." Seriously, it's awesome.
I have another thing to tell you about. Back when I lost my job over the summer, I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to take a stab at a game project that Tom had been wanting to design -- I had a head full of ideas about what not to do when writing games for the web. And at the time I started working on it I wanted to prove to myself that I could build a better game faster than we'd done at Rebel Monkey and for way less (or no) money. And for the most part I think I was successful. Or, I should say, we were successful, since Tom's responsible for pretty much all of the game design and artwork. The game is called Battle Row, and it's a massively-multiplayer online game in the same vein as Urban Dead, a personal favorite of mine and Tom's -- only, instead of pitting humans against zombies in a vaguely Canadian-sounding city, we're staging a 6-way battle between street gangs and the police in 19th-century lower Manhattan. We've taken a lot of inspiration (as did Martin Scorsese) from Herbert Asbury's The Gangs of New York; Tom's dug deeper, reserving time at the New York City Police Museum to look up pictures of old-fashioned cop uniforms.
We got the skeleton of the system working in a couple of months, using PHP's Zend Framework (plus what I'd like to think are some fairly advanced transactional caching features that I wrote) and we've been progressively adding new stuff and holding playtests since the fall. We're in the middle of a sort of rolling playtest right now, actually. (Want to get in on it? Drop me a line.)
I attended my first show of the New Year, a co-worker's band at the nearly empty Alphabet Lounge on Avenue C. The bathroom there is on the stage, pretty much, so you have to skirt amps and a bass player to take a pee.
On Saturday morning, although it was paralyzingly cold, I met up with Ted, Cat, Tom, Colleen, and KT to have dim sum at a sumptuously appointed banquet hall in Chinatown called Golden Bridge. It was one of those places that doesn't really look like a restaurant from the outside -- more like a bank or a mall -- but it had a great view of the bridge, and everything was covered in (somewhat filthy) satin. Next to an enormous embossed golden dragon on one wall, a huge four panel flat-screen display blared advertisements for herbal colon remedies, and at one end of the hall was a stage with two empty tables on it, probably reserved for newlyweds or exalted personages. I'd never had dim sum before, but it's a great premise: Ladies push carts full of food around and try to give you stuff, and if you let them, they stamp a little stamp on a card at your table. We ate different kinds of dumplings: egg custard, shrimp, variants on pork. Dissuading the wait staff from loading you up with food was hard work! The one thing we wanted to try but was not practically forced on us was a plate of perfectly round, bright green balls. When we asked about them, the lady pushing the cart said, "They're filled with vegetables and pork. They're just for dessert."
After brunch, Tom and I visited a greatly diminished Pearl Paint, where he bought nibs.
That night, Chris and I went out to Williamsburg to see a show at Shea Stadium, the venue that is impossible to Google. Neither of us had ever been there. The place ended up being up a fairy-lighted flight of stairs behind an unmarked door, 20 Meadow St., out by some warehouses and hot sheet motels off the Grand St. stop on the L. It's kind of just somebody's apartment: one not-too-big room, creaky wooden floor. Not that it's not an endearing space -- among other adornments, one thing I particularly liked was a large drawing on one wall of a haughty-looking white Persian cat wearing a string of pearls; legs spread, its... business... artfully concealed. The place was packed with twee little beardos and a bunch of those porcelain doll-faced, pea coat-bedecked girls that show up at inexplicably at rock shows (I've always found them a bit of a buzzkill, but Chris was down). Someone was selling Miller Lites from behind a card table.
The band that went on when we got there was called, I think, Total Slacker, and they were wretched. It was this guy who looked and acted like a young Andy Dick playing guitar and kind of spazzing out, and then a little mushroom of a girl playing bass. And there was a drummer. But the band was clearly supposed to be a showcase for this awful guy's guitar-playing talent -- he would writhe around on the ground, and sort of bunny-hop around, jump off the drum kit, and just thrash tunelessly on his guitar. "This is the most self-conscious thing I've ever seen," I said to Chris. When their set was over, this big guy in a tweed suit went up to the guitar player and started chatting him up in a boorish, mopey, music critic tone of voice. "I saw you guys play a show at [some place or other]," he said. "I was wondering whether you..." (I stopped listening.)
After that was a band called Golden Girls, which was much better. They played a kind of punky, hard-driving rock-and-roll that sounded, at its better points, a little like Motörhead. The crowd moshed around enthusiastically, and somebody ended up dropping a forty on the ground, which rolled over to my feet at the periphery of the pit. The lead singer / guitar player had a mustache that should have made him look unbearable, but for some reason made me and Chris feel charitably disposed towards him.
During the time between acts, Chris and I stepped out onto the little balcony area for a smoke. A girl from Holland asked, "Do you guys come here often?" No, we said, tittering. She wanted to know if we could figure out which door across the street was 23 Meadow St., since there was a party starting there later and going until 8:00 AM. 23 seemed to be another warehouse, lights on on the second floor, a lonely maintenance man visible through the window pushing some kind of floor buffer. We told her we were in a band (nearly true). Our guitarist was home with his wife. "His wife?" she asked. "Are you that old?" Yes, we said, we are that old.
We ended up leaving (I think) without seeing Fluffy Lumbers, the band I'd originally wanted to see. But we finished out the night with whiskey at a place called Sweet Ups, and that was just fine.