This is my three hundredth "blog post!" I've been writing in this thing for, holy shit, about eight years. This thing has seen me through different jobs, different apartments, different relationships; if you scroll back to the beginning, you can see how the subject matter and style has changed quite a bit over the years. I guess if I've learned anything in my tenure as Navel-Gazer-in-Chief here, it's, in the immortal and cryptic words of that weird old guy on Union St. with the signs in his window, "Take it easy, but take it."
Bel Argosy played three more shows: Monday, January 10th at Otto's Shrunken Head, the tiki bar on 14th St. where I'd seen Direct From Hollywood Cemetery play a glorious if sparsely-attended Halloween show several years ago. Our show was even emptier than theirs, though, due in no small part to the fact that we almost entirely neglected to promote it: I posted a Facebook event the day of, facetiously billing it as a "top-secret VIP concert" with a password required at the door. No one (besides the Argosy Belles, Nina's brother Michael, and the steadfast Eve) was fooled. We took turns complaining about the broken fixtures in the men's bathroom, which had that public park reek of old fermenting urine. The back room at Otto's, recently renovated after a fire last year, is separated from the rest of the bar by a pair of double doors, which we closed and then started our newly expanded set. We were told we sounded good -- it's a small room with low ceilings, a good fit for the simple amplifier setup. At one point one of the drunks from the bar poked his head in through the doors and peered at us severely before disappearing back to his post, evidently deciding we weren't his cup of tea. For the first time on stage I got lost in the middle of one of our songs and had to scramble to find the beat. I felt depressed about it after the set, but with some effort got over it. I'm sure it won't be the last time that happens. After the show the we took some "band" pictures in the photo booth, Chris and Billy and I wedged into the two-seater, Beau diving across our laps at the moment of exposure, a dark blur across our faces.
Emma picked up another job: She's ghostwriting a book for a woman in Detroit, and she flew out there on the 13th on the tail of another dramatic snow storm that began on Tuesday. What may interest you, dear reader, is that she left Pearl with us as a boarder of sorts, all of us crossing our fingers that she and Kitty could get along. This was not without precedent -- we'd had Pearl over for a "play date" a few months before to test the waters. That had gone... reasonably well: Kitty was stand-offish and hissy, taking a deep, territory-asserting drink from the bowl of water we'd set aside for Pearl. And she is not a water-drinking cat. But there was no physical violence, and Pearl, for her part, seemed to be entirely oblivious. And Emma brought Pearl over again a few weeks ago for a Bad Movie Night screening, during which Kitty ignored her entirely in favor of copping a nap in the bedroom. So we figured we were primed for a multi-day, cross-species sleepover. Emma dropped off Pearl the morning of her flight, along with the requisite kibble, cartoon bone-shaped dog treats, and a miniature plush cow that'd absorbed more than its carrying capacity of hair and drool. Kitty was horrified. She never let Pearl out of her sight, would hiss when Pearl approached, and over the course of the four days that Pearl stayed with us, delivered several undeserved whops to Pearl's nose. Pearl tolerated this hostility with stoicism if not aplomb, although she demonstrated a marked reluctance to re-enter the apartment after going on walks. The one time Kitty seemed to be able to tolerate Pearl's presence was, oddly enough, at bedtime, when the two of them heaved their combined bulk into the narrow crevasse between our sleeping bodies. "Welcome to the Animal Bed," I told Nina.
Walking Pearl turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. I tried to craft novel circuits through the snow-lined corridors of the blocks near our apartment: We went to Prospect Park, walked around the Old Stone House, did figure-eights from 4th and 5th to 2nd and 7th. The lingering piles of snow and ice, which held the historical pisses of multiple dogs in a kind of suspension (very evident during daylight hours but effectively invisible under the yellow streetlights after dark) seemed to be an irresistible buffet of smells for Pearl; a lot of the time I was more or less dragging her along, trying to keep her from getting crystallized urine all over her muzzle. I felt a little like Perkus Tooth in Chronic City.
We thought we'd been booked for a Saturday slot at Cake Shop, but there was some kind of mix-up with the schedule, and we ended up getting bumped. Ken South Rock got wind of this (we whined about it to them) and their manager Aron got in touch to let us know we could play at the release party for their CD (Ningen) at a place called Lone Wolf in Bushwick. And, incredibly, she told us all we had to bring were our guitars. Hard to do better than that. And the place was certainly comfy enough and very chic -- tin ceiling, nice big stage with wallpaper on the back wall, faux-crumbling fixtures. Our set went well, I thought, although the monitors didn't give us a lot of help; Chris said he had to watch my hands to follow the beat. The next band after us was called "Love Handle" (not a great name; they seemed amenable to Beau's suggestion that they re-christen themselves as the marginally better "Abraham Lincoln"), and they played a sort of twangy rock and roll. It was good. I stomped my foot to it. Chris and I remarked on the fact that we only pay attention to the instrument we play in our band when we watch other bands play. "Oh, they've got a girl playing bass," said Chris about Love Handle. "That's kind of a cheap move."
Next up was a band called Imaginary Friends, a bunch of guys who dressed like an 80's hardcore band (knit caps, v-neck shirts, beards) but who had a very controlled, droning sound, especially on the vocals -- a lot like Joy Division, several people commented. Someone in charge was actually manning the lighting controls, and the band was lit up in dramatic red light and shadow, which complemented the lead singer's impassive demeanor. I think we'd like to play with them again if they'll have us.
Ken South Rock's valedictory set was suitably chaotic and exuberant, Adam's drumming leaving me with all sorts of resolutions on how I might improve my own playing, and they were mobbed with admirers upon finishing. Billy and I talked to Aron briefly about KSR's next steps: They're embarking on a spring tour of Japan in a few weeks and then coming back to the U.S. for the summer. She promised we get first dibs on them when they return. "You were here from the beginning!" she said. Oh right, I thought: Those guys have only been playing together for three months.
I lugged the drum stuff back to the Slope and ran into Nina on the corner taking Pearl on a late walk. Pearl was apparently glad to see me -- she reared up to put both front paws on my chest -- but wanted to keep Nina in sight as well, and in tilting her head back to do so, she toppled over onto her back in the dirty snow. We were worried for a moment that she'd hurt herself, but she started rolling from side to side, flappity dog lips falling back from her teeth, her eyes tracking our faces in expectation of tummy-rubs.
The following week we'd booked a Tuesday show with the bands Felix & Volcano and Octo/Octa at a place right next door to where we'd played KSR's party, a coffee house / gallery type deal called Goodbye Blue Monday. Billy got notified the day of that the other two bands were dropping out on account of illness (the unafflicted band depending on the other for a van ride), and given that the venue had expressed ambivalence about us making the gig, we weren't sure whether we should brave the steady drizzle to play. I was feeling pretty crappy myself -- light-headed, fatigued -- but assured Bill that I'd "pull one out" and voted that we do the show in an impromptu band quorum. I felt worse during the day, and was having misgivings by the time I met up with Chris at his girlfriend Lauren's lavishly appointed apartment in Bushwick. She and her roommates revived me with a cup of peppermint tea and some cookies, though, and Chris and I put his bass and the collected drum hardware into the back of a livery cab and headed off to the club. Goodbye Blue Monday really is like a cafe in Portland or something: There's, you know, flair all over the walls: Dioramas, doll parts, road signs. It's like the hoarder younger sister of Glasslands.
We showed up a few minutes late, but the open mic that preceded the bill we were on was still going on. Some of the performers were actually kind of good, but a lot of them were, you know, standard open mic types: Girls singing about themselves in high, operatic voices, dudes strumming guitars noisily with looks of consternation on their faces. The emcee was a big guy in overalls who called himself "Joe Crow," and who looked like a cross between Steve Earle and Mick Foley.
By the time we were cleared to go on, the place was still pretty packed with people who'd come for the open mic and were finishing their drinks. We signaled our readiness, and Billy got up to the mic. He apologized for the absence of the other acts, and then he said, "That's okay, though. We don't really sound very much like them. We sound like this," launching seamlessly into a fast rendition of the rousing song that is our opener, "Into The Distance." I liked that a lot. And despite my lingering feelings of sickness, I was able to keep things together on the drums. We sounded great! But the open mic audience didn't agree -- I couldn't see from where I was, but Bill told me later that people were racing to put their coats on. And by the second song I could tell that the space was empty besides the staff and the small table of wives and girlfriends. That's okay, though. That's even kind of cool.
The next morning I felt like shit. I managed to drag myself into work, but by the end of the day my nose was running like a faucet and I was shaking with chills. I had to bow out of a promised game of Settlers of Catan at Eve's house, sending Tom in my stead. When Nina got home with a bottle of NyQuil I'd been too stupid to get for myself, she found me shivering on the couch in front of a Star Trek: The Next Generation marathon on Spike TV, wrapped up in a blanket I'd fished out from under the bed. She took my temperature (102!) and put me to bed. I didn't feel any better the next morning and stayed home from work, but we also had a show -- a "big" one: We actually promoted it a little -- booked that night at Trash Bar, and I had to let Billy know that I wasn't going to make it. I felt rotten about it, and could've kicked myself for pushing us to play the show on Tuesday, but I was still running a high fever by the evening was pretty sure I'd only embarrass us on stage. Luckily Billy and Beau were able to perform a quickly-rehearsed set for one of Beau's other bands, a trio (with Doug from MiniBoone on drums) called Robot Princess.
As far as I can perceive it, I don't often get sick. Or maybe I'm just a little sick -- sniffles, phlegm-spitting -- a lot of the time. But every so often I get a flu or something that kind of stops me cold, makes me feel weak and helpless; a real memento morii type deal. And this was one of those. I guzzled over-the-counter remedies and took it about as easy as I know how, but I was still pretty much out of commission mentally and physically for the better part of a week. I'd like to think there's some secret benefit to getting a dose of mortality like this, like maybe it helps you savor the quotidian pleasures more readily, but I don't think there is. At the very least, I'm hoping that'll do me for the rest of the year, because I got some shit to do.