Underground Show

Music is the lifeblood for my right-sided brain. David Bowie, Blondie, Velvet Underground, Elvis Costello, the Ramones and Madonna supply stimulation while I work on creative endeavors.

New York rock bands from the early 60’s and the 70’s capture my interest. I was always sad that I never had the chance to visit CBGB’s, while it was still a piece of Downtown Manhattan’s quirky collage. However, the bands that emerged from the legendary venue live in my music collection.

While CBGB’s has been replaced with a pricey, John Varvatos shop, life south of 14th street still has a great music scene. For the longest time, I spent all my time downtown and didn’t walk into any music venues. One faithful Saturday night that changed.

Gino phoned me and asked, “Do you wanna see a show in the Lower East Side tonight?” I replied “I’m already in my pajamas.” With a little laughter, he said ” there are going to be half well off drinks.” I walked to my closet to pick out an outfit. “I’ll see you in 30 minutes.”

I took the subway to the Lower East Side and waited for Gino outside the Cake Shop (a coffee shop with an underground concert space). Waiting outside the venue was a parade of hip people. Black rim glasses, quirky style and a bit of irony were the fabric tied to the scene that night. I looked down at the horse at the left hand side of my shirt. “Oh, I’m definitely bringing preppy back.”

Gino met me and we walked downstairs to the show. It was packed, thanks to the drink specials, but I actually was excited to see the band. I hadn’t gone too many concerts.

After, Gino picked us up drinks, the band played. They had a distinctive New York rock band sound. It was Julian Casablanca meets Vampire Weekend. Thanks to my half off drink, I found myself jamming, even with my little horsey, distinguishing me as the lone prep.

I might have missed CBGB, but wow, this was truly fun entertainment. After the show, I felt excited. Not only did I have a fun time, but also did something out of the ordinary. I haven’t gone to many concerts since, but would be open for more fun.

Today, I have a concert playing in my head almost hourly. My favorite music listening experience revolves around ordering a chai latte, blasting Bjork on my iPOD and freely strolling the Lower East Side. It’s my form of creative therapy. Cheers to more loud music and booze.

The Conservative Lady

Foul languages, drinking, smoking, anything with bread & partying were all things my mother hated. Sure, it’s the stuff that makes life fun, but mom was a strict religious lady. My dad would always say ” don’t listen to your mom, when she was young she listened to David Bowie & drank too.” Oh my dad was always the cool parent.

Sometimes, my mom would unexpectedly break out of her shell. One such time, happened when I was a teenager. My buddy Bryan picked me up from school & we had a lovely afternoon of eating teriyaki bowls & driving around listening to Japanese pop music.

My phone rang. It was mom. I just ignored the call. We drove up to Bryan’s driveway. She relentlessly called. I finally answered. She goes ” I’m in front of your school, where are you?” I’m at Bryan’s house. “Fucking asshole, you fucking asshole,” I had the speakerphone on. Bryan was on the ground laughing. ” My mom’s strict religious views didn’t get in the way of her expressive language.

“You’re in trouble, I’m driving to Bryan’s right now,” she uttered in full furry. I started shaking. While Bryan couldn’t stop laughing, “asshole, asshole, asshole,” he repeated. I had this nervous feeling at the pit of my stomach. ” She’s bat shit crazy & is gonna kill me,” I told Bryan.

“Don’t worry little brother, I have the solution to your problem,” Bryan then walked away. He came back dressed in a full marine’s uniform with this large fake gun. “This will scare your mom,” he said. We waited for her. She must’ve flown on the freeway. Before we knew, we heard this big long honk outside the house. “Oh shit Rambo is here,” is what I told Bryan as we made our way through the front door.

Bryan walked out with his gun, dressed as a marine, attempting to intimidate my mom. She just stared him down with her arms folded. I just stood behind Bryan. “I’m here to protect my friend,” Bryan proudly proclaimed. I took a peek at her. She was struggling not to burst into laughter. “Anthony, get in the fucking car,” she yelled. I got in.

We drove five blocks. ” Who was Bryan, trying to intimidate with that silly getup?” she asked me. She burst into laughter. “I’m sorry for calling you a fucking asshole,” she said to me. Not making eye contact & she looked directly at the road.

After the “asshole” incident, we went to Costco. She bought me a Costco dog & a music compilation of show tunes, which she later regretted (since I played songs from Cabaret in the car for months). Making a very religious lady angry is a funny experience. They may be holier than thou, but make them angry & revel in all the “fucks” & “shits” uttered afterwards.

Pea Coat Wonderland

Pea coat season, also known as “soup season” is the only season that makes me want to moon walk for joy. Technically, it’s winter, but chilly days also occur in the autumn. During this most lovely time period, peacoats come out to play. Whether it’s the tube in London, New York’s Madison Square Park or Tokyo’s neon playground, the peacoat is synonymous with the cold & staying chic.

Of course, observing the different variations is what I adore. Thanks to the art of people watching, I can see the same grey pea coats look bohemian on one person & business like on another. People watching is both a skill & leisure activity. It’s more entertaining than an opera. The characters are more enticing than a book & it rarely gets boring.

I have many fond memories of just enjoying a bench or sidewalk cafe, while being immersed in people watching. I also take much inspiration from this activity. Seeing how other socialize & studying mannerisms sculpts my thinking & perception of the world. Here are some of my favorite memories & places when people watching seemed more interesting than ever.

Madrid’s La Zarzuela is Spain’s very old comedy opera. It’s performed in the lovely Teatro de La Zarzuela. In the Spanish capital, it’s freezing in the wintertime. Outside the opera house, it’s a sea of fur coats. In Madrid, fur coats are not only very fashionable, but highly desired especially for the winter. Castilian accents accentuate the Madrid fashion staple outside the opera house. Also, it’s lovely seeing all the young people intermingling with the old people. Everyone there has a common goal, to see a Spanish operatic tradition.

In New York, I adore taking the 86th street/crosstown during the day. The old people taking the bus are adorable, all dressed up, going to the market & lunch. It’s amazing & shows people can be stylish regardless of age. I love Tompskins Square Park in Alphabet city with its mix of homeless, wannabe hipsters & yuppies. There’s always a crowd gathered to watch a musician or a magician.

However, nothing beats the gay pier also known as Christopher Street pier in the spring. It’s a gathering place for gay guys. Everyone having a great time, lots of speedos & some kitsch added. The gay pier also feels like a small retreat in the middle of Downtown. Hanging out on the deck, watching the Hudson is euphoric. Seeing the New Jersey skyline reminds one that yeah this is nowhere near a vacation spot.

Paris’ cafes, it’s a French institution, which made people watching into an art form. Sure, the most cliché way to watch people is in a Parisian cafe. Even I’ve been guilty of watching people traffic from a cafe in the Champs Elysees (doesn’t say tourist at all). Le Marais, which is an eclectic mix of Jewish families, gays & tourists is my favorite place to people watch in the city.

Palm Springs, this is a special mention. Yes, I go to places, which aren’t covered in fog & clam chowder, sometimes. I love driving into Palm Springs with its very distinctive white windmills & mountains, which rise like skyscrapers from the ground up. Watching the world go by at the pool is entertaining. Poolside is not the catwalks of Paris or New York. It’s interesting to see the body art. Lots of tattoos, body types & loud music blaring, served with Jameson on the rocks & it’s wonderful free entertainment.

The Ginza district & Harajuku both in fashion forward Tokyo. Ginza is moneyed. All the Japanese ladies in their finest black designer outfits sip coffee. Some even stroll around in kimonos. While men in very expensive looking suits & ties play on smart phones.

Harajuku is the youthful funky, fun loving cousin to Ginza. Musically Ginza is Pavarotti, while Velvet Underground & Bowie symbolize Harajuku. Lots of crepe stands & everyone wants to rebel against the system in Harajuku, the fashion is more over the top than anywhere else. Grab a crepe & watch a different kind of neon parade go by.

People are like pea coats. Similar styles, sometimes matching colors, but regardless that exact look is different on people. Six continents & living in two coasts has been a blessing. I’ve been exposed to a social hotchpotch of cultures & best of all amazing opportunities to people watch.

Perpetual Insomnia & the Wall of Sleep

Here in the not so royal kingdom of California lives a boy who hates sleep. Not to be captain obvious, but that boy is yours truly. There are nights I just can’t sleep. If I do attempt sleep, there needs to be noise in the background. I love having the TV on. Only problem are the dreams that arise from falling asleep to CNN. Hello to joining protests in Egypt & being stuck in Syria. Not usually the splendid dreams one would fancy having.

However, my beloved TV was down last night. Therefore, I spent the night tossing & turning. I tried counting sheep then sweaters. Alas, no sleep. Insomnia is a funny thing, its rough going to bed & sometimes I feel like I could run a whole marathon with the amount of energy I have (in the middle of the night). The wall of sleep that follows the next day is brutal. My whole day is a battle against the evil forces of drowsiness, heavy eye lids & restful thinking.

It’s like I am running parallel to this brick wall that keeps following me everywhere I go. Behind the wall is something wonderful, but the wall is perpetual & won’t leave my presence.

Last night, I tried a new approach to falling asleep. I set my Pandora radio to the Maria Callas station & tried listening to some opera. I closed my eyes & imagined myself frolicking through majestic French gardens & admiring the serene English country side.

Ok, that’s what most people would commonly say. What did I really want? I wanted to listen to Madonna & do a magical rendition of Vogue in my head, while breakdancing to Grand Master Flash (also mentally) & imagining myself lost in a Space Oddity via Ziggy Stardust via David Bowie. But no, I opted for the more peaceful & cliche way to fall asleep. Did it work? only for 45 minutes. I didn’t have any significant dreams or serenity. Once the alarm went off on my iPHONE. The operatic voice faded into the screeching rhythms of an early morning alarm.

The not so royal kingdom of California needs more noise. However, listening to opera while attempting sleep makes me a more cultured insomniac ( I really don’t listen to opera outside bedtime). Fear the wall of sleep. It’s not your friend. If you really wanna give it a big “fuck you” draw some graffiti on it & show the wall who’s boss.