emerald underbelly

Memorial Day, the Sasquatch Music Festival , and a handful of friends were enough reasons to escape to Seattle for six days.

It turns out that the middle of Washington is sorta an arid desert. We camped near a mini-grand canyon of sorts (not seen here). No rattlesnake sightings, only small lizards. Thanks to Maddy for the spare tent. Unfortunately David couldn’t make it out to the festival.

We saw performances by MIA, The Breeders, REM, Modest Mouse, Ozomatli, Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion), the Fleet Foxes, and some others, out in “The Gorge,” in the middle of Washington.

We stopped by North Bend, Washington , the town that inspired Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It’s large falls seemed to attract many tourists, even on rainy days. The local diner advertises having the legendary cherry pie from the cult TV show.

• We ate at a conveyor-belt style sushi restaurant: Blue C, a French place that surprisingly was a scene: Cafe Presse, an amazing Mexican place in Ballard: La Carte de Oaxaca, a greasy spoon in the middle of the farmlands, and drank an underground and Mexican wrestler themed bar: Cha Cha, the clean and somewhat empty Grey Gallery, a super-popular gay bar on Capitol Hill: The Cuff, and a handful of other places.

• We paid a visit to Archie McPhee for some Glen’s Smart Shop-esc trinkets.

David and Chad grilled some excellent sweet potatoes, turkey sausage, and shrimp over at their 1970’s style house in the neighborhood that borders some questionable motels. David’s Mexican-inspired salad dressing made the meal.

• It was explained to me that while Seattle is politically liberal, it is often socially conservative.

• I can’t count the number of times that Warren Buffett‘s name came up in conversation this past weekend. Turns out that Dhruv (Brad’s roommate) is one of his biggest fans, well, aside from Dhruv’s relative that paid $600,000 to have lunch with him. Some fascinating stories.

• We went to a chimposium at Central Washington University, where large chimpanzees have learned sign language and can communicate with humans. It raises more questions than it answers, very interesting.

This little diner was near a complex, functional lock system on the river in Seattle. There were a fair amount of bikes, however there are also some ridiculous San Francisco-esc hills that require a little bike-walking. Thanks to Maddy and Chad for the extra bikes. While there was an absence of bike lanes in most areas, cars seemed pretty chill about bikes all over the place. It must be the general west coast chillness. I was sorta jealous that people could use incredibly small & minimal locks on their bikes, and sometimes leave them without a lock at all. Surprisingly there were a considerable about of brakeless fixies around town as well… those hills are killer.

An early morning breakfast for some local cats in the Ballard neighborhood, a few blocks from Matty’s boutique design studio, Turnstyle.

Recreational horticulture.

Pike Place Market near the downtown area. Many well-stocked seafood stands, with large crowds watching.

Chad, Jenn, myself, and Brad . Shot in the photobooth of Re-bar during the longest-running, monthly house dance party on the west coast.

aquatic rock

Leticia near the Gowanus Canal in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

• Two weeks ago (ouch, it’s been a while), Jenn, Jesse, Jessee (yes, I don’t think there are even that many J’s available in Scrabble) and I caught the Brazilian dance troupe, Grupo Corpo perform two dances back to back over at BAM’s Opera House. Afterwards, we went over to one of the three (and supposedly the first) of the Kiku Restaurants in Park Slope, that are all unrelated, and just want to all be named after the small flower.

• Jenn and I scored a Miyata road bike (well, via paying for the item, but regardless, always good to pick up a new bike) for her to replace her GT Rebound. Shaun, the guy we bought it from, a few blocks from my place here in the Lower, is opening a bike shop on 3rd between 1st and A. He’s going to specialize in older steel bikes, and seemingly isn’t pro-track/fixed (or even BMX) like the rest of the neighborhood. Look out for his opening around May or so.

• Caught a late screening of Contempt (1968) directed by Jean-Luc Godard over at the Film Forum. Luckily it was held over an additional week. Jack Palance (ie: Ripley’s Believe it or Not host) as the typical “stupid American” seemed perfect. Godard goes over the top to show the female body on display, during the collapse of a marriage, set against the beautiful Italian coast. It felt like Godard doing a Fellini film from the beginning: we see that we’re about to enter the world of on-screen filmmaking in Italy, and the main characters are the film’s suave writer, arrogant producer, and oddball-genius director (played by Fritz Lang). Great film.

Jenn and Mr. Lehman in the gallery section of Supreme Trading in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Williamsburg Open Studios happened two weekends ago, to coinside with the Armory Show over at a pier in Manhattan. Will Hall, Chelsea, David Lehman, Jenn, Pam, and I went to a handful of them, occasionally held up at the keg lines, then went over to the afterparty at Supreme Trading, then finally Legion Bar to see Welles spin.

• This past weekend, Jenn and I got in a lot of cycling in preparation for the upcoming Five Borough Bike Tour. We also caught the opening day of Brooklyn Flea over in the Fort Greene area on Sunday. We saw Brian & Rachel, Addie & Brandon, and a few others, before ducking out to prepare some guacamole over in Park Slope. Then, Leticia and I played a few games of pool over in Carroll Gardens over some corona and whiskey, respectively.

• The previous day, we got in a bike ride from the Lower to the Slope to Long Island City, Queens via the less-talked about Pulaski Bridge. Later we rode with Brian & Rachel to a really solid, new Latin American restaurant on Broadway, just south of the Williamsburg Bridge, on the Brooklyn side.

Mos Def was heading into the car service next to where I was eating lunch last week over in Fort Greene, the neighborhood he calls home.  Also, in terms of music celebrities, Paul Simon was walking out of my office when I was leaving the other evening.

• Music-wise, unfortunately the Postelles & Bachelorettes show was moved from Sound Fix (likely due to the underage liquor bust the other weekend) to the inferior, Spike Hill, also on Bedford. Also the crowd was ten to fifteen years younger than we expected. I think I need to do my homework a little better before some shows. A few of the Postelles were in attendance at this show tonight:

Chairlift performed tonight at the wonderfully, aquatically-themed venue, Glasslands, in Williamsburg.

I couldn’t quite see where they were going with the first few songs, but it sounded like there was some potential, and then they finally reached a nice point toward the end of their set, with sparkley keyboard notes and catchier bass lines. Female-fronted, though the other two guys seemed to have decent voices as well. Though, perhaps anything would have sounded great following the tragic band that opened, Aquila. Even covering The Pixies (Break My Body), Aquila felt like they were missing a few instruments (well, and someone who can actually sing). Symbol-heavy drumming and bass guitar with too much distortion is lame. I did run into Ian though, in the crowd, a former college mate from a few years back, who happened to be in town for a few days. But I mean, the venue seemingly projects the Blue Planet series silently each evening on a side wall. I’m sad that I didn’t create an aquatic themed indie rock venue first. Long live David Attenborough!

An Elvis wheat paste on Houston. It’s a Fisher-Price assault rifle.

sixteen knives

OK, it’s been a busy few days. Shot in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Cassettes Won’t Listen performed on Friday night at Sound Fix. He created loops on the fly with a drum machine and keyboard, then sung and played guitar over them, occasionally altering the loops with foot pedals. Next, we hit up an Ad Hoc afterparty at a Marble Factory warehouse space (filled with lots of massive painted canvases) in Bushwick after a botched dinner order at Vera Cruz on Bedford.

Roommates Seth (right) and Johnny (left) have a moment.

• Easter brunch at Marta’s. The kids were calling it “feaster.” Bloody marys and champagne.

Jenn and I caught a performance of this crazy, dark puppet show called “Bride” at PS122 with Kathleen and Redux after a dinner at 7A, this past Thursday. The religious references and motifs were a bit bizarre and perhaps unnecessary, because I think Redux and I simply enjoyed the large puppet body parts that eventually formed a fifteen-foot-tall nude woman, and the giant rats that gnawed at peoples legs. I thought the junk was solid. Not for young children.

Apparently there’s a bed & breakfast at 405 Union in Carroll Gardens. I understand these days it’s more of a bed (minus the breakfast aspect). My cousin, Julia, who happened to be working there this past weekend, gave Jenn and I a grand tour Sunday evening before we made our way over to Bombay Dream on Smith Street for some good but slightly overpriced Indian cuisine.

Weekend brunch at Cafe Mogador is top notch. That’s poached eggs, hummus, pita (with garlic and spices), tabouleh, and some other Mediterranean salad thing. The best pita bread I’ve eaten.

• This evening, Will scored me a ticket to sit with the ranks of This is Pop at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary benefit performance at Gotham Comedy Club called Komedy for Karma. We saw Dave Attell, Janeane Garofalo, Louis CK, the creator of Bizzaro (Dan Piraro), and a handful of other comedians perform for the cause. I was reminded of Jeremy’s hypothesis about the comedic differences between men and women based on the necessities presented within biological evolution (opinions of which I feel may be credible because he’s in a lifelong doctorate program for something like “philosophy of science”), anyway essentially that men need to be (and most likely are) funnier than women, as a whole. It does initially sound sexist, but I believe he had a dozen points of which it’s too late in the evening for me to convey now (but it’s not intended to be a gender superiority comment or argument). Regardless, I bring it up because there was only one woman in a male-dominated list of comedians tonight, and unfortunately she had to follow up the very funny Louis CK. Highlights included Will and Dave Attell joking about eskimos after the show, meeting some of the Pop team, and Louis CK keeping the crowd crying with laughter (his style was aging-related anger mixed with self deprivation and making fun of babies).

• From 1:20 – 3:20 the other night I caught James Dean in East of Eden (1955). It felt sorta like a blend of two of his other films: Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956), though, I suppose that’s no surprise, being that they were all made within a year of each other. Slow by today’s standards, but there’s certainly something cozy about American golden-era cinema late at night.

“My best friend’s a butcher, he’s got sixteen knives. He carries them all over the city, at least he tries. Oh look, it stopped snowing.” This gem is located here in the Lower, and its a pretty close representation to, well, hell.  Check out the skulls on the left side.

Layfayette Station on the C train in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. If you’re waiting at Jay Street in the mornings, you’ll notice there are six F trains for every three A trains and one C train. Just saying.

The sun sets over a closed Lowes Home Improvement in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Let’s do it up right, come election time. Bushwick, Brooklyn.

borderline royalty

Jenn and I made it down to Coney Island last weekend to soak up the bleakness of winter in a decaying Thor-owned wasteland. (Question: is Thor Equities truly a domestic company?)  The clouds ended up bringing snow, but not a lot of it.  In the far left in the shot is the old, abandoned historic building seen near the beginning of Lord of War (2005).

Avenue U, as we approach Coney Island on the train.

• From reading even more Chuck Klosterman as of late (big ups to Welles), it’s becoming pretty apparent that anyone who writes anything (you could almost use the word “writers,” but it’d be in the loosest definition) tends to evolve and work out their initial shortcomings in writing, slowly but surely. I suppose the exceptions may be the raving substance abusers that use their habit/hobby to fuel a lucid written experience from day one (and I’m not saying it’s going to be magical from the beginning in that situation). And yes, I know that writing about writing is somewhat akin to making one of those hideous, unnecessary AIGA posters and mailing it out only to the New York chapter’s most environmentally-conscious members. But back to the point. I’m about 62 pages deep into Klosterman’s first book, having started it the day after finishing his newest complete work (omitting “IV” because it’s just a collection of articles, not a holistic piece), and it’s clear that he is tossing around unverified blanket statements and unqualified opinions, as opposed to his later works, in which become more of an exploration from within, and how pop culture (and “underground” movements) have shaped his view on the world, and his personal relationships.  He’s grown.

I caught a jazz show over at the Williamsburg Music Center two weekends ago.  Gerry Eastman, the director, gave me a history lesson on the jazz scene in Williamsburg, while the art curator and a resident barfly confirmed his information.  I ended up also having quite a long conversation with the barfly about the decay of certain cities directly adjacent to larger cities, the main two being East St. Louis and Gary, Indiana, all while I opened people’s beers for them.  The bar couldn’t locate their bottle opener.  (Afterwards I went over to see Ola Podria at a far-too-packed Pete’s Candy Shop).

This West Village staple, A Salt and Battery, remains one of the top fish and chips restaurants in New York City.

• On Friday, a young cashier was stabbed to death at my grocery store (Key Food at 4th and Avenue A). A butcher knife. Very unfortunate that nobody had a chance to tackle him before he vanished into the streets. I didn’t know the cashier by name or anything, but did see her quite often. Just yesterday afternoon they put up a memorial out front, and a few other cashiers were in tears. Here’s a report on the Times site.

• You might be thinking to yourself right now, “when I’m walking down the street and I hear a random Biggie Smalls song blasting out of a car, like, one that I haven’t even heard because it’s just some random junk that probably isn’t even that great, things just tend to feel right.  It just seems that things are in order, and the street is fine.”  Well, I would tend to agree with your sentiments, but I’d also secretly doubt the grammatic correctness of your sentence structuring.

• Here in the Lower, over the past year, we’ve seen the local dumpy laundromat go first from $1.75 to $2.00 for a wash, now its $2.25.  The dryers used to be $.25 for 7 minutes, now it’s down to 5 minutes per quarter.  I mean, for my standard 2 loads, it only increased from $5.50 to $7.50, which is a 36.5% increase, which does exceed normal inflation predictions… though it may be as good of a marker of devaluing of the dollar as anything else.  One could argue that it’s simply a byproduct of rampant gentrification, but in fact, isn’t that same gentrification somewhat proof of the same national currency embarrassment?  And one could argue that if I’m gonna nickel-and-dime the self serve laundry, that I should get out of the United States’ most expensive metropolis.  But, I may be around for the long haul, we’ll see.

Anyway, it might seem possible that people are priced out of their buildings every day because rich people keep moving to New York.  True.  But, I don’t think it’s as much trust-fund-welding young Americans as raw-resource-backed/borderline-royalty immigrants (ie: oil-backed Middle Eastern investors)… but, I need to qualify that to say that I don’t mean to come across as xenophobic, or anti-immigration, by any means.  Just simply, it is similar to what happens when an upper class US citizen visits a South American country: you bust in there with stronger currency and basically own the place.  But — I have nothing beyond anecdotal evidence to support any hypothesis.  It seems a bit melodramatic to think that it’s international oil barons that are causing the newest Lower eyesore, “The Ludlow,” to cut into virgin skyline.  But I find my thoughts become unproductively cyclical when you start to question whether or not inflation/devaluing/gentrification are even bad things, per se.  Maybe it’s not as simple as a more-and-more universally accepted moral & scientific issue like environmental sustainability.

• Last Friday, Mr. Appalachia, Robin, Jenn, and I met up at the great Sherwood Cafe in Carroll Gardens, before getting turned away from the sold-out show at Union Hall, then hopping from Great Lakes, to Commonwealth, and then to Buttermilk.

• The next night, Marta introduced Jenn and I to Roberta’s — an amazing hidden pizzeria near the Morgan stop on the L train in Bushwick.  The Faro-tagged door opens up to reveal a large, warm room of exposed-brick and young patrons (beards seem required for men, and perfect bangs required for women).  I hesitate to mention this place only because of it’s seeming secrecy.  Regardless, if you’re going on a pizza tour of this fine city, don’t overlook this gem.  And it’s BYOB, naturally.

• Recent catching-up of the film scene has involved: There Will Be Blood (2007), Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), No Country for Old Men (2007), and Spartacus (1960).  Surely it does not seem to pay to receive months and months of hype on Hollywood blockbusters, only leading to varying degrees of mild disappointment.

Around maybe 11th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan.