Best book I read: Blood's a Rover
Best album: Titus Andronicus, The Monitor. No contest.
Best show I went to: Titus Andronicus, at Bowery Ballroom, March 6th
Best new reason for donating to WFMU: Tom Scharpling, drunk.
Best scone: Cranberry, Not Just Rugelach.
Best movie I saw in the theater: Inception? I don't know, I didn't see a lot of 'em
Best movie I saw not in the theater: Animal House
Best worst movie: Tie: Revenge of the Stolen Stars / The Star Wars Holiday Special
Best brunch: Colombian breakfast, Bogota
Best pie: Winter fruit, again
Best recipe: Green pozole with [tofu]
We played two more shows around Christmas, one at Cake Shop, the other at Bruar Falls. Andy Bodor, the manager of Cake Shop, booked us for the 14th, the bitterly cold day after Amy Klein from Titus had, incidentally, played that stage with her side band, the confusingly-named Hilly Eye. I'd brought the pink vinyl shoulder bag, still laden with pedals and cymbals, to work. I considered walking it down to Cake Shop from 19th St., but as soon as I left the office and felt the freezing metal of our heavy ride cutting into my finger joints, I was like "fuck it." As I was trying to hail a cab, a well-dressed young woman wearing a fur collar and a lot of make-up approached me.
"Excuse me," she said. "Could you spare a few dollars?"The exchange left me annoyed and preoccupied at Cake Shop as I waited for the other guys to show up, but the feeling evaporated after I spent one of my drink tickets. The show ended up being well-attended! Sarah and Nina and Chris' girlfriend Lauren showed up, as well as Eve and Josh and Emma and Tom, which was very nice. In addition to playing a brief solo show before us, Beau'd secured an opening act for us, a two-man group called Ken South Rock, made up of a muppet-like American drummer and a Japanese guitar player who looked a bit like a Jamie Hewlett drawing. They went on before him, and they set an unexpectedly high bar for us: The guitar player, Ken, turned out to be a consummate showman, despite the language barrier, and was able to extract a phenomenally rich tone from his guitar, which was this gorgeous vintage Epiphone EJ-200 (I think). Adam, the drummer, was a real Keith Moon type, and he played these jaw-droppingly fast and intricate fills. Although they were unmistakably playing rock songs, the complement of their individual sounds created a deep and almost meditative resonance. I thought they were great, although I worried that I wouldn't be able to follow Adam's drumming.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"It's for a hostel," she said. "Do you know what a hostel is?"
"Yes," I said, bristling. "I know what a hostel is."
Somehow I made it, though. Our set came off without a hitch after Beau played (during which he donned his much-talked-about Christmas light suit, which did not disappoint). Ken and Adam were exceedingly gracious and congratulatory, which was very sweet, considering how comparatively advanced they were. Unfortunately, in the rush to consolidate our equipment and pack up the van, which Billy and Sarah had driven down, I got confused about which cymbal stands were ours and which we'd borrowed from the club, and we ended up leaving one of them behind. I felt crappy about it, but luckily Chris and Lauren were able to swing by the next weekend and pick it up from one of the bartenders, who was surprisingly willing to let them rifle through the store of equipment.
At some point it was Christmas. Nina fled to Clarks Summit, and I visited my parents' house to deliver my meager offerings: I got my mom this year's ubiquitous parent gift, Mark Twain's unexpurgated autobiography; I got my dad a signed copy of American Tabloid, by that shaved ape James Ellroy. Wondering if he'll be horrified. Christmas evening, I'd casually organized but extensively prepared for a screening of Bad Santa with Billy and Chris and Winnie and Evan and had planned extensive food options; Billy and Chris canceled, independently, leaving me at loose ends, but Winnie and Evan came over and we managed to homph down most of the coffee gingerbread and chocolate apricot cookies I had made. We didn't watch the movie, but we played a fair amount of Red Dead Redemption, which Evan had brought over and just left, and then we spent an embarrassing number of hours trying to unlock hidden characters in Super Street Fighter IV by beating that asshole Seth. There was a lot of swearing.
The next day, the snow began. I'd asked Winnie to come by to help me work on a present for Nina, a painted pair of All-Stars. The snow was blowing horizontally by the time she left Bensonhurst, she informed me in an incredulous phone call from the outdoor subway platform she was waiting on. I hustled out to Joe's (née Prego's) for a half-mushroom pizza to make it worth her while. There was so much snow blowing around that you couldn't see for more than half a block; the streetlights made everything beyond that into a brownish-orange blur. It felt like a gusty day at the beach, the wind whipping stinging little ice crystals against my face like sand. Winnie arrived intact, and we lay down some newspaper. The snow accumulated on the windowsills while I sketched out a little design for the shoes and watched her as she expertly mixed and diluted colors of acrylic paint. We watched The Return of the King one and a half times on SyFy before finishing our work.
The storm had gotten even worse, so Winnie crashed on the fold-out sofa. As has since been more than adequately reported, the city was in a bit of a pickle with the snow the next day. I stubbornly resolved to go to work that day, but judging by the relative emptiness of the R train, when it finally came, I was in the minority. I feel bad about saying so, since it costs millions of dollars and people die, but I secretly find these kinds of weather events thrilling in the transformative effect they have on the landscape of the city. 5th Avenue in Park Slope was a white desert: There were cars spun out and simply abandoned in the middle of the street. Teams of dudes with shovels roamed up and down the avenue offering their services to those what needed help digging out or pushing their cars. At Union St., the stairs were a white slide, and drifts of snow had wended their way down the stairwell and into the station, making it look more cave-like than usual. I was the only engineer in the office all day.
Despite the breakdown of civilization of we played a show at Bruar Falls -- the sister club to Cake Shop in the Bodor entertainment empire, I learned -- on Tuesday. The Falls have speakers but no amps, so we needed to drive the van down from St. Mary's again. I'd taken the liberty of going to Guitar Center after our last show and stocking up on felts and jackets and other small bits of drum hardware, as well as investing in a cymbal case, which proved to be a life-saver for my fingers in the cold; additionally, Chris labeled all of our equipment to prevent a repeat of the confusion over whose hardware was whose. I hopped the subway up to Harlem on Tuesday to help Billy and Chris dig out and load the van, but they were already done by the time I got there, so all I had to do was ride down with them. The St. Mary's van is funny: It handles well enough for its age but complains audibly, and the interior fills with exhaust so you have to keep the windows as open as you can bear. As such, the ride to Williamsburg was freezing and not a little stomach churning as we attempted to navigate to Grand St. via side streets that were only intermittently plowed. Chris commented repeatedly that the fumes were making his extremities go numb, although I think it was probably the cold. For my part, I took of my boots and wrapped my scarf around my feet, which were like ice; ice feet. It was a very band kind of van ride.
When we got to the place, Chris hopped out and lugged some stuff into the club. I attempted to direct Bill into a parallel park up against a piled-up all of snow, but Chris had to re-do it when he returned. Our set went off well, except that Chris and I had trouble hearing the rest of the band, and some kind of firmware change to Billy's pedal board had led him to tune his "A" to 448hz, leaving him subtly and confusingly out of tune, which he blamed, at the time, on Beau. Ken and Adam headlined this time, as they should have, and played a characteristically vigorous and virtuosic set, although theirs was not without incident, either: Ken managed to unplug his amp during one of his solos. (The sound guy staged a daring rescue.) And Adam sliced his hand open on the lip of the snare and spattered all of the drums (including our cymbals, which they'd borrowed, with gore -- a mark of distinction, as far as I'm concerned.
And, unfortunately, there was yet another equipment SNAFU: While we were loading up the van after the show, somebody put the cymbal case into the van without all of the cymbals in it. I noticed this and brought the bag back into the Falls to collect the other cymbals but got distracted and left the bag in the club. In a livery cab on the way home, I had a twinge of memory and called Bill, who searched the van while it was stopped at a gas station and confirmed my fears. At this point I'd gotten all the way back home, and so, with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and a black cloud hovering over my head, I hopped into a Carecibo and had the guy take me back to Williamsburg, hoping beyond hope that the Falls was still open. By some miracle of providence it was, and, although there were only a few stragglers left at the bar, one of them turned out to be Adam, who'd noticed my mistake and had the bartender set our cymbals aside in a locked room. That guy is a saint, and Ken South Rock is the nicest band in the world.
Nina had since returned, and with her, the temperature had taken an up-turn. She was concerned that she'd missed the peak of sledding and snowcraft, so on Wednesday we made an early expedition before Bad Movie Night (Creepozoids) out to Prospect Park to see what adventures could still be had. Quite a few, it turned out: We filched some glossy-looking cardboard boxes from the recycling stash in the basement and fashioned them into makeshift sleds that worked reasonably well in the still-snow-blanketed northern part of Long Meadow. We started on some of the gentler hills and then, emboldened, decided to join some Packer-type girls who were riding a plastic three-seater sled down the steep slopes on the northeastern border of the meadow. Nina's box, having a slicker coating to it, proved to be the more exhilarating ride, and we took turns going alarmingly fast (and often head over heels) with it down the hill.
After it finally disintegrated, we attempted to build a snowman, although the snow was so sticky that we couldn't shape it that well. Here are the results: