Category: music

williamsburg

IT’S A PITY that I shaved because Williamsburg is for the unshaven. Not that I ever set out in my life to match myself up to some kind of image {Like those three fellas over there, the ones with the wire mustaches and wispy beards and Where’s Waldo? hats, standing outside that vintage clothing boutique} but I had taken to keeping it hairy when I lived in Estonia because it was cold and I had children, and I’d get about half of the fuzz off before I had to go intervene in some domestic unrest, leaving me with half a beard, so it made sense to just buzz the fuzz. Which is what I had set out to do the night before my daughter’s birthday, except I forgot the attachable comb on the groomer and took a chunk off the beard, leaving me with no choice but to …

Yet it was not enough to undo the fact that I was listening to the 13th Floor Elevators when I was 16 {Thank you very much} and the MC5 before that. You can take the facial hair off the hipster, but he will ooze and reek hipness nevertheless. “It’s so weird,” says Epp eyeing lanky thirtyish men with tormented expressions and facial hair. “All of these guys. They all look like you.” “What’s that, honey? Hey, could you move out of the way? I want to take a picture of the Konditori Swedish Espresso Bar.” “Why?” “So that I can show it to my Swedish friends.” “What Swedish friends are you talking about?” “Um, Elias.”

Epp loves Williamsburg. She cherishes it, relishes it, the same way she beholds the steam off her coffee. Oooh. Ah … I don’t think she ventured within a few blocks of the vaunted yellow Mini-Mall on Bedford Avenue. {“Three dollar books?!”} And then there were the two mandala traps — the Tibetan shops. Uh oh. She didn’t stand a chance. There was also the matter of the banana and peanut butter and brown bread sandwiches {“See, Estonian bread is becoming really popular. We should import that …”} Ah, is this our future? The Hipster Estonian Bread Merchants? {Or is that just the name of my new band?}

Ah, yes, graffiti. Ah, sigh, yes, stinked up toilets and funked up telephone booths {“And I bought some ginger elixir at the grocery — organic ginger, organic turmeric, organic this and organic that, oh, and organic carrot and organic garlic juice”}  Ah, yes! Stunning Brooklyn Fox Lingerie models in the frosted windows with the sparkling What Does The Fox Say? foxy masks. “Hmph, I wanted to go to New York City,” says the ten year old, thinking Toys ‘R’ Us amusement park or Wizards of Waverly Place. “But Brooklyn is New York City,” comes the paternal-hipster-parental reply. “It is?” “It is.” And, yes it is a gathering point mecca for poseurs. But I am a poseur {“Hey, I didn’t mean to shave, guys, it was an accident“} and I am just fine with that now.

proud of you, lou

I WAS PROUD OF LOU REED. Some Jewish kid from Freeport redefines rock ‘n’ roll. A real, “What the?”  Because, believe me, Freeport, Long Island, isn’t the most rock ‘n’ roll place. None of Long Island is very rock ‘n’ roll. Rock ‘n’ roll came up from the south via the Mississippi, hit Chicago and then somehow meandered over to the industrial cities of Great Britain after the war, before it began expanding into the soulless suburbs of the country’s largest metropolis. And that’s where it entangled Lou Reed.

Later, it entangled me. I bought The Best of the Velvet Underground: Words and Music of Lou Reed on cassette when I was 15 years old. At first, I struggled to understand it. I had always loved psychedelia  and so expected the same kind of thing from a “Sixties Band.” But this was a different kind of sound, the sound of New York City. There were no rolling California hills and foggy harbors and fantastic trips here. There were dirty subways and old stone churches blackened with soot and generations of Bowery Bums.

In The Atlantic, they say that Lou Reed’s devil-may-care attitude  toward the music business and embrace of realism made him a godfather for our generation, that the torch was passed to us, or that we are all the sons of Lou. This is only partly accurate. Lou was but one of many inspirational thinkers who forged the way we see things. A few others I can rattle off in an instant include Mel Brooks, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor.

What tied them together? They were all social critics who made entertainment seem important, and whose disregard for social convention made their careers. Mel Brooks is a filmmaker. Carlin and Pryor were comedians. Lou Reed was a rock ‘n’ roll musician. Movies, comedy, music — it was supposed to be harmless stuff. And yet their fresh, candid perspectives bypassed the new politics and new gadgets and went straight into the veins and brains of young people. It stuck.