Winter showed up. The apartment's working out well, I think. From the living room windows, I can see an undulating expanse of South Brooklyn, a sea of houses, all brown and red and pale yellow. I feel like I'm looking out at some Dutch exurb as I muddle with the French press in the tiny little kitchen.
The last time I wrote, I neglected to mention the crazy hail storm we had at the end of October. Nina and I had met at the Home Depot on 23rd St. for some ill-fated carpet shopping. I got there early and quickly determined that we couldn't afford any of their nicer offerings, and that their affordable offerings were a non-starter. I waited for Nina and watched a small gathering of termites mill about one of the big plaster columns outside the store. It started to rain on our way back to Brooklyn. By the time the F was going over the trestle, it was pouring, the wind really lashing the rain against the windows like the the yarn of a mop. When the doors opened at Smith St., a noisy veil of water came down in front of them. We got off at 4th Ave., and as the train pulled out of the station the sound of the downpour got even louder. It sounded like someone was whipping little rocks at the sides of the train, and that's sort of what was happening. We found ourselves on the receiving end of a barrage of big, pozole-sized hailstones, distinctively shaped: clear, ovoid, with a dip in the middle like a red blood cell. They poured out of the sky, accumulating in piles on the tracks and platform. After Nina did some citizen journalism with her phone, we made our way downstairs and outside, where drifts of hailstones were accumulating by the curb and in the gutters. No one could believe it was happening!
When we got back to our building, the awning looked like Sonny Corleone after the toll booth.
I carved a pumpkin. Nina carved one better.
As I've mentioned before, I've been going up to St. Mary's every Friday to play drums with Chris and Billy, an activity Nina has termed "Music Club For Boys." And we've been playing music, sort of. Until recently, though, it was sort of just an excuse for me to get crunk. Hotel For Dogs had songs, sure, but they were mostly just these little jams that I would've been loath to play in front of other people. What's more, we'd run aground on one we were working on, a kind of Velvet Underground homage we were attempting to coax out of Chris' forebrain, half sung, half spoken, called "Impecca." It was proving to be a tough song to draw a line around. So we were mostly drinking a lot and playing old Headliners songs. A few months ago, though, Billy started emailing me demos of songs he'd written and recorded -- real songs, with lyrics and hooks and everything. At first I thought he just wanted to show them off, but it turned out he had arrangements he wanted to try. He wanted us to do them. So we've been trying. We've rebooted the franchise, so to speak, and re-christened ourselves Bel Argosy. I'm excited about our new sound, enough to be singing the songs to myself while walking down the street. Rehearsals are now twice a week, one on Friday up at St. Mary's (a bit drier and more focused) and one on Wednesday by my request at some location in lower-er Manhattan (so far, the perennially dissatisfying Ultra Sound).
I woke up on a Saturday morning following one such rehearsal earlier this month with an intense discomfort in the back of my mouth. I should probably reserve the word "excruciating" for something closer to 10 on the pain inventory, but, man, all I could do was sit on the couch with my head in my hands stupidly waiting for Nina to wake up and tell me, sensibly, to take some Aleve. I managed to stick it out 'til Monday when Dr. Dorato was kind of to see me in the morning before work and dig what I think was a jalapeño seed out from under my gums, which brought me some relief. I'd expected him to prescribe me some kind of panacea antibiotic, like he did several years ago when I'd gotten some kind of horrible jaw infection back there, but this time all he said was "it's impacted. It's got to come out." So, grudgingly, I picked up the phone and called the oral surgeon whose name was on the little card he gave me, along with the number of the tooth that had to be extracted, #16.
I say "grudgingly," because having my wisdom teeth out has been one of those planned-for traumas that I've been dreading since I knew the procedure existed. It's right up there with having a fingernail fall off (which did happen to me, and sucked for a good several weeks but was, I should mention, ultimately okay). I guess I was hoping, in a very exceptionalist mode, that I could sort of sneak into adulthood without going through this, dentally intact. After all, one of them (the other top one -- #1?) seemed to have arrived okay.
You see, I'm afraid of general anesthesia, I'm afraid of having the procedure done under local anesthetic ("It's pretty close to your ear," the surgeon said. "You may hear some... crunching"), and I've heard a bunch of horror stories from friends and acquaintances of extractions gone wrong: My roommate in college described with awe how his older brother had taken too much pain medication with too little food and had thrown up in his sleep with enough force to tear out his stitches, drenching his pillow with blood; the VP of engineering at the 'Napse told me how he'd been getting driven home from surgery and had fainted and broken his nose on the dash. Of course, there were plenty of people who reported pretty smooth sailing. Bill and I went out to the movies the evening after he'd gotten all four teeth pulled when we were 20. "I was eating solid food after a couple of days," said Katie.
The receptionist at the surgeon's office could tell I was nervous when I balked at committing to an appointment for the surgery over the phone. "Why don't you just come in for a consultation first?" she said. So I did, and Dr. Carness (who, it turned out, was the same guy who'd pulled Bill's teeth -- and my mom's) was very reassuring. His assistant took a full X-ray of my teeth using one of those standing X-ray machines where you bite down on a little plastic outcropping while a couple of metal plates rotate around your face. He showed me the impaction -- the problem wisdom tooth plowing deeply into my molar and poised to lever the goddamn thing out of my jaw entirely. He also noted that my two bottom wisdom teeth were textbook candidates for future impaction, rotated ninety degrees in the direction of my lower teeth. On the X-ray, with their fin-like roots, they looked like a couple of little Goldfish crackers swimming through the dark gray sea of my jaw.
He settled my nerves about the surgery and I made an appointment for the procedure, a date which, now that I'd committed, seemed far too far into the future to wait with my jaw feeling the way it did. But I'm going to have to stick it out.
Last weekend I went out to Williamsburg to see Kittens Ablaze play Glasslands. I've been into Kittens since I saw them play a few shows a couple years ago - they brought a kind of joyous, chaotic energy. The gang vocals and hand clapping didn't hurt, either. But then they disappeared for a while. I'd never been to Glasslands before, but I've seen pictures of bands playing there: There's this elaborate papier-mache (I think) sculpture affixed to the ceiling and wall behind the stage, a kind of papery cloud with lights embedded in it. It looks like a still photograph of an explosion, or a storm cloud with bolts of lightning in it. It's totally distracting and wonderful.
The bands were a mixed bag. Baby Alpaca was playing when I got there, and they were like a joke. A ridiculous moppet wearing tights, a real Tucker Rountree type, plucked some kind of zither he held in his lap and twiddled knobs on a drum machine while a Williamsburg beardo next to him strummed a guitar seriously. I wished Billy and Sarah had shown up in time to see them. We could have exchanged looks: "What." They did show up in time to see Team B, which was fronted by a guy who plays in Arcade Fire sometimes, I think? He looks like a diminutive version of Dave Grant, from Direct From Hollywood Cemetery. Team B's sound was hard to pin down. Some of their songs were restrained and quiet, some of them were big and brassy (there was a guy playing a tuba), like showtunes; none of them were really, you know, rock and roll. But Billy liked them, and he told the guy so after their set.
After them, Kittens Ablaze went on. They seemed a bit diminished, both in number (didn't count, but they all fit handily on stage) and in spirit. Their playing was more careful, less exuberant. I think they had a different drummer. They opened with a song of theirs that I'm pretty fond of (think it's called, ugh, "Gloom Doom Buttercups"), but never pulled out their hit, "This Machine Is Dying," much to the chagrin, I observed, of the assembled Kittens aficionados.
Good night for now! The next time I address you, tubes, I will be less one wedge of bone and gristle.