Friday, December 31, 2010
This time of year always brings reflection. What have I achieved? Where to next? Fond memories and rueful regrets unspool. Highs and lows are weighed against each other, and the impulse to make lists rears its finicky head. One thing you can expect as this blog resumes regular service is my list of favourite albums of the year.
The ultimate for list-makers is new years resolutions. And for we perfectionists, it's a dangerous time. So tempting to set impossible targets, which in turn are hastily abandoned as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong to sully that glorious blank new calendar. It always reminds me of a Cathy cartoon where she's keeping a new journal but on the second day of the new year is forced to give it up. "Ack! I wrote in blue pen instead of black! Everything is ruined!"
Looking back on my resolutions for 2010, I actually did well on every count. "More time with old friends; Less flaking; More bike riding; Less days lost to the hangover void; More photography; Less TV; More road trips; Less unfinished books; More music; Less unfinished sudoku; More writing; More new recipes; More random kissing; More learning." The virtues of realistic goal setting, I guess!
But then again, I am currently homeless, unemployed, and quite a ways financially from meeting my goal of moving back to New York to work. Failures seem more dramatic at this time of year too, and after a few weeks living back with my parents I'm beginning to understand why people say "you can't go home again". Surely I'm too old to be living with my folks, doing seasonal work? There's a ten year highschool reunion approaching after all. My mother is right to ask what I'm doing with my life.
Perhaps it's wrong or just lazy to trust that things will work themselves out - with hard work and good intentions, of course. But surely one's unfettered 20s are the time to revel in the luxury of leaving some things to chance, living on the road and leaving time to have adventures? Having spent my first days back in this house sorting through childhood diaries and schoolbooks, and being confronted with what a shy, confused, lonely kid I was, it feels like something of an achievement to now feel so comfortable and indeed inspired by the chaotic prospect of living on the other side of the world.
One of the things I still have in common with that kid though, along with a mile-wide romantic streak and a tendency to make terrible jokes at inappropriate times, is the urge to write. So this is my resolution for 2011. To write every day. Especially the days when I don't feel like it. Because as that wise man Albus Dumbledore once said, there comes a time when you must choose between what is right and what is easy. Maybe that choice is what separates adults from children. So I'll keep writing. I hope you find something you like, here and there. But right now I just hope you're reading this sometime in January, possibly hungover, having had a blast of a New Year's Eve. I hope 2011 brings you stuff you've been dreaming of - and stuff you didn't even realise you wanted.
And for good measure I'm keen to keep going on all 2010's resolutions - new recipes, oodles of live music, bike adventures, laughs with friends, roadtrips... All except the random kissing. It was fun while it lasted, but I plan to collect on a belated new year's kiss a few weeks from now. And I have no doubt it will be worth the wait.
Happy new year! xx
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Oddly enough even the internet, usually quick to provide any number of definitive answers to indefinable questions, won’t be drawn on the etymological sources of Boxing Day. It seems likely to have something to do with Christmas season charity – possibly the Church of England’s practice of cracking open boxes of alms collected throughout advent, and distributing the contents to the poor on the day after Christmas. Or it could be a reference to the tradition of rich folks giving a little gift (“box”) often of money to their servants after Christmas.
So nothing at all to do with pugilism then. And yet ‘Boxing Day’ always sends me into a reverie soundtracked by my favourite Cat Power song. Soaring and swooning on strings lifted from “Moon River”, the title track from her 2006 album The Greatest is a sweetly crushing song of defeat.
Just those two words, “The Greatest”, are enough to conjure black-and-white newsreel memories of that most famous of boxers, Muhammed Ali. And while Chan Marshall’s song may be more generally about failed dreams, the very arrangement reels in circles like a punch-drunk old prizefighter. What is that brushed snare if not the shuffling of old feet in soft leather on canvas?
Once I wanted to be the greatestA natural companion song is Ben Folds Five’s “Boxing”, from their self-titled debut album over ten years earlier. The songs’ similarities are surely no coincidence, with Folds’ song told directly in Ali’s voice as he considers retiring from the sport. The “Howard” he addresses is, according to Wikipedia, a famous sports announcer known for commentating the era’s boxing matches, Howard Cosell. Weariness seems to come naturally to Folds, and his words need little embellishment:
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars of night turned you to dust...
Once I wanted to be the greatest
Two fists of solid rock
With brains that could explain any feeling
Howard, the strangest things happen lately when IIn both these songs the boxer is a battered metaphor for the toll time takes on us. The knocks taken in stride in youth can send one reeling in old age. Thwarted ambitions puncture youthful invincibility, leaving frail forms shadowboxing at fears. Both songs question whether there’s a loss of dignity in not knowing when to bow out of the fight. Quite the opposite of Mr Thomas’ urging to not go gentle but “rage, rage against the dying of the light”. The age old question of rock & roll, the words Neil Young sang and Kurt Cobain quoted in his suicide note – is it better to burn out or to fade away?
Take a good swing at all my dreams they pivot and slip
I drop my fists and they’re back, laughing
Howard, now my intention’s become
Not to lose what I’ve won
Ambition has given way to desperation and I
I’ve lost the fight from my eyes
But back to the boxer. Inevitably he winds up just past his prime but chasing that one last big win. Whether driven by pride, love, revenge or material need/greed, it’s a trope we all know well. After all the build-up, the trash-talk, the weighing of odds and the warnings of doctors... it all boils down to a man and his opponent on a square of roped-off canvas. Sweating under spotlights, despite the hoopla outside those ropes, all that matters is the two men within. Flesh and bone and skin. Who can deliver – and who can take – the most punishment?
Not that the talk surrounding the fight, and particularly the fighters, isn’t important. More than most sports, boxing embraces narrative, elevates characters and thrives on invention and reinvention. In any other arena, could Cassius Clay have floated fully formed from his chrysalis to become Muhammed Ali? Ben Folds cleverly considers how Ali might feel about all his machismo many years later, even working in a pun on his original name:
Howard, now I confessThat centrality of narrative – both organic and manipulated – explains why boxing movies work so well. From Rocky to Million Dollar Baby, the arc never really changes; boxing movies are nearly as formulaic as dance movies. Because here is a skill that transcends class or money or opportunity. The result of a fight is indubitable, and it can’t be purchased. Not in an ideal world, anyway. So this most primal pursuit can be a means for a man, or a woman, to pull himself up from humble origins with little more than some self-belief and hard work.
I’m scared and lonely and tired
They seem to think I’m made of clay
Another day, I’m not cut out for this
I just know what to say, I say
Boxing’s been good to me, Howard
Now I’m told, ‘You’re growing old’
The whole time we knew
A couple of years I’d be through
Has boxing been good to you?
Closer to home, Boxing Day is really just about one thing: the reassuring drone of cricket taking the edge off your Christmas hangover. After today, the Aussies are stunned on their bums on the canvas, with little cartoon Ashes urns circling their punch-drunk heads. Let’s hope they’re not out for the count just yet.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Basically you detach your lens from the camera body and tilt/move it away. It gives you lots of control over how your shot is focused, but also brings into play uncontrollable factors like light leaks. It's a bit of fun anyway, here are a couple of shots I've been playing around with this afternoon....
Definitely need some more practice! There's a good visual tutorial and some explanations here on Luke Roberts' site. And you can see some examples of incredible shots people have created using this technique on Gizmodo, here.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Her virtues have been the subject of previous accolades here, but I really am bursting with pride at the amazing job my sister has landed straight after graduating from uni. It's not luck; she worked really hard to reach this point. Nor should we be suprised - her talents have always been easy to spot.
Case in point, the real reason for the breaking of a blogging silence. I give you, my sister, the poetic prodigy - and one of her finest works, just unearthed from the piles of debris in our shared childhood bedroom in St George. I believe it dates to around 1998.
I’m an expert tree climber
I’ve climbed every tree there is, that is except
The tree in my back yard
That to climb is rather hard.
All my goals lie in that tree
And the ultimate wish for me
Would be to climb that tree!
I’ve wanted to climb it since I was three,
That rotten rascal of a tree.
And though I try with all my might,
It always seems to win the fight!
One day on November 2nd
The tree seemed more and more to beckon me to climb the far apart branches,
Although I didn’t have many chances.
I ventured up in my teddy socks and climbing shoes,
(I’m going to win not lose)
And navy T-shirt and shorts
(This is like climbing the playground fort)
Apart from that I was rather bare
Except of course for my PINK underwear!
Still on the ground I jumped as high as I thought I could,
And to my amazement felt solid wood!
I reached up high for the next branch.
“At last,” I thought, “I’ve got a chance!”
Although that chance was rather slim
I hung on for dear life to that limb
So that’s how i got to the top of the tree
Just the branches, leaves, trunk and me!
When suddenly at the tip top
I thought that I ought to stop
I moved around to find a place to rest,
I thought to myself this is the BEST!
But I felt uncomfortable, I felt stiff,
It got me thinking – what if?
Undoing mum’s knots that are safe as locks,
I pull off my favourite teddy bear socks.
As I lie there longer and longer,
My courage is getting stronger and stronger!
The heat is IMMENSE!
But no offense!
I think what the heck,
I feel the tight collar crawling up my neck
And, oh, I am so cool,
But I feel like a fool.
In my singlet pink,
Oh, I need a DRINK
My toes are curling,
I’m losing my grip,
I’m feeling wobbly,
I’m starting to slip.
My shorts are caught
The denim starts to rip,
A stick catches my zipper,
I’ve been dacked by a tree!!
Yes, you heard correctly, yes, ME!
I climb down that mongrel tree
As fast as my legs can carry me
I run flat across the back yard
I run as hard as hard as hard,
I don’t care about the neighbours staring
I just care about what I’m wearing.
I am practically bare
Except of course for my PINK UNDERWEAR!!
Does anyone else think this would make for an exceptional children's book?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This one was designed by Ben Brown and is called "Ghost Bike". Meanwhile, a group called The Skeleton Key put together this amazing video about the launch night- looks like we missed a corker.
The building's website usually has details decoding what the ever-changing colour scheme stands for, but all it says about the rainbow effect is "private lighting". According to speculation, the rainbow could be a tribute to anything from Transgender Day of Rememberance to the Grateful Dead reunion shows happening at Madison Square Garden...
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Sure, it's impossible to dance to without looking stupid, but it's so fun you can't help attempting to jiggle in time. And that's exactly what I did as I tried not to think about the old days in uni when I'd stridently deride my friends' love of "redneck" music. Though I maintain that both these bluegrass bands were infinitely superior to anything ever recorded by faux "country" singers like Keith Urban or Brad Paisley or (shudder) Big & Rich. Back at the Bowery, the best part of all was when both bands came out together for the encore and carried all their instruments down off the stage into the middle of the crowd, rocking out unplugged and finishing with a huge singalong to "The Weight". It was a moment of complete cosmic atonement for the Levon Helm Incident.
Other highlights from another great week:
Impromptu dinner parties (and a less spectacular reprise of DPD)... Getting paid to do some work for a change... Perhaps the most hilarious Freudian slip ever - referring to social networking site Foursquare as "foreskin"... My first commission as a photographer (that's what I'm calling it, anyway!)... Jukebox gold at the Magician... Accidentally discovering "the pit" - the home of bike polo in New York... Bagels... Still with the T-shirt weather Saturdays in November!
Enormous cashmere sweaters from the thriftshop that clearly once belonged to enormous prepsters... Looking up crazy recipes in the lead up to Thanksgiving next week... This dude across the table from me at Second Stop (it's a freelancer sweatshop in here, you can hardly move for MacBooks and Moleskines), whisper-reading his poetry as he writes... Drunkenly denigrating Paul McCartney... "Band On The Run" vs "Fox On The Run"...
Thursday, November 18, 2010
This is the basic recipe I used, but I'll write it out here with the tweaks I made (metric system, how I miss you):
POZOLE (serves 5/6 people)
3 lbs diced boneless pork
2 brown onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 big teaspoon cumin
1 big teaspoon fresh thyme
a few oregano leaves
1 29 ounce tin of diced tomatoes
1 29 ounce tin of white hominy
1 4 ounce tin of chopped green chilli peppers
Brown the pork and fry the onion until it's translucent, then throw all the ingredients into a crock pot and leave it on low. The recipe said for 5-6 hours, but I think mine cooked for about eight by the time everyone turned up for dinner. By then the pork was flaking apart when poked with a wooden spoon, which is the effect I was hoping for. Now I am the whitest wuss alive when it comes to chilli, but even I felt like this could have used more heat. We threw in a big slug of chipotle sauce, which helped. But my advice would be that if you know and love chillies (I am a novice), go nuts. That said, the pozole still had a lovely flavour and aroma.
The beauty of pozole is it can be a really comforting, warming stew; but you can also change it up with some fresh sides. This is the kind of Mexican food I love, all about colour and sharing and fragrant herbs and sharp citrus lightening the hearty meat dishes. So alongside the red-orange polka dot pozole I served blue corn tortillas; fresh green avocado, lime wedges and chopped cilantro (coriander); and a bright purple slaw.
The slaw was perhaps the big win of the night, one that will definitely be wheeled out again in the future. I ripped it off wholesale from my favourite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. Basically you just finely shred a red cabbage, halve and finely slice a red onion, and toss it all with a green onion dressing. To make the dressing, blend a cup of chopped green onions with some red wine vinegar, a dollop of mayo, a big glug of olive oil and some salt and pepper. The recipe calls for two serrano chillis - I just threw in some jalapenos and it could definitely have handled more heat.
I love this view across the rooftop from my kitchen window to the church down the street...
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It was the first time I'd actually ridden one of these heavyweight bikes, designed to keep the rider sitting upright and also equipped to carry heavy loads on front and back racks. The front rack and basket are attached to the body frame rather than the handlebars and front wheel, so it took a little while to get used to not seeing the basket move when I steered around a corner. But in that mjestic saddle I suddenly understood how all those European riders stay so chic while cycling. The OMA was a dream to ride - posh and ponderous in the best way, prompting posture my mother would be proud of, so weighty and steady I felt really safe on the road. The Rolls Royce of bicycles.
I spent much of the tour seriously considering committing a grand theft velo... Only when we'd ridden all the way back to Brooklyn could I bring myself to ask Christine how much she cost. At $1500 the OMA is an investment, but I daresay you would not regret it. Unless you had to carry her up and down stairs... Personally though, if I were in a position to make a purchase from Rolling Orange, I really love the pared-back classic style of the "Old Dutch" step-through from Batavus.
The Rolling Orange call to arms, emblazoned on the store's wall, is reminiscent of the Cycle Chic manifesto:
the slow revolutionIt's a beautiful store, sun-lit and laid out so that the gorgeous bikes appear almost like artworks in a gallery. Bikes hang from the walls, are suspended from the ceiling; even the accessories are cheeky and chic, from baskets and colourful panniers to these Yakkay helmet hats:
welcome to a different way.
a different way to bike.
a different way to move.
a different way to live.
ask yourself a simple question.
if you love life, why rush it?
fast has no time for charm.
no time for chance.
no time for wonder.
there are no details in fast.
slow is seeing, feeling, loving the life you move through.
fast is a schedule. slow is freedom.
fast fades. slow lasts.
fast rushes life. slow enjoys it.
it's simple, really.
if you love life, you deserve a different way.
a better way.
a slower way.
The bikes may be beautiful, but their design is functional and intelligent as well. The Dutch influence, where bikes are a part of everyday life, is particularly clear in the storage options - racks, baskets and trays for carrying groceries or even children or pets. Rolling Orange is well worth a visit if you're in the neighbourhood (269 Baltic St, Brooklyn). Join the Facebook group to keep up with the many wonderful events they're involved in too - coming up on November 20 the Dutch Days bike tour will incorporate New York's early Dutch history into a laidback Saturday ride...
Once the Brooklyn Bridge spat us out in Manhattan, we wove west through Chinatown to take the Westside Greenway bikepath up the western edge of the island. If you're looking for a scenic bike-trail in New York this is a great place to start - dedicated cycle path, lots of space and great views out to the Hudson and beyond. Then we were eastward bound once more, headed for the Union Square Farmers Market.
These markets are apparently some of the best in the world, and lots of New York's top chefs source their produce here. And it's not just fruit and veg - there are meats, poultry, game, honey, flowers, cheeses, pastries, breads, wines, seafood... anything delicious you can think of, and then a bunch of things you wouldn't believe exist. Cotton candy spun from maple syrup. Wild ginseng from upstate New York so rare they keep it in a locked box and sell it for $500 a pound.
We got a special tour from Vandaag chef Phillip Kirschen-Clark, who guided us through his favourite producers and the seasonal ingredients he would later be serving up for our three-course lunch. This is a bloke who clearly loves his job, and loves the challenge of interpreting produce into unconventional meals. He hammed up his banter with the various stall-holders, begging one to find him some reindeer meat. "The closest I can get is elk, but I want reindeer!" he enthused, perhaps already planning a macabre Christmas menu.
Did I mention it was a stunning day? God I love this city. The restaurant itself is on 2nd Ave in the Lower East Side. We parked out flotilla of bikes on the footpath outside and luxuriated in the sundrenched interior, designed with clean modern lines by architect Eric Mailaender.
Vandaag is Dutch for "today". The cuisine is an odd marriage of Dutch and Danish influences, both countries which share a similar climate to New York and therefore seasonal produce is in sync. They even had a bike as part of the decor! Loaded up with squash that would later become part of a weirdly delicious hot cider cocktail.
The restauranteur talked us through the menu as we nibbled on a range of breads, dips and sausage. We made our selections from the set menu - a kale salad studded with green strawberries, squash served both pickled and battered; gravlax, duck confit or dandelion smorrebrod for mains.
One of my favourite parts were these pickle pots, which included pickled pears and radishes as well as the standard gherkins. So delicious.
I got so caught up in the food and conversation I forgot to take photos of the starters and mains! But I did capture the amazing dessert; a wafer-thin waffle sandwich filled with a concoction of salted molasses and chickory. There are no words.
It was one of those languid, drawn-out lunches you relish for half the afternoon, but the food was light enough that the bike-ride back to Brooklyn wasn't impossible. I cannot deny, however, that a well-earned post-prandial disco nap was taken once the bikes were returned to Rolling Orange.
Seriously. Best birthday ever.
Don't look now (ok, do) but Brooklyn Industries have a whole heap of bike-themed tees, bags etc. After last week's episode of 30 Rock though, I can't help but wonder whether the Halliburton-backed indie outfitters where Liz Lemon found the perfect (albeit exploitative) pair of jeans, Brooklyn Without Limits, bears any more than a passing resemblence to Brooklyn Industries. For mine the best line was when Lemon reeled off BWL's cool locations in "Gaytown, White Harlem, and the Van Beardswick section of Brooklyn."
Friday, November 12, 2010
The Bicycle Film Festival comes to Sydney November 17-21. Check out the program here, kicking off with an opening night party at the Beresford next Wednesday. For the cinematically inclined, films will screen at the Newtown Dendy on Friday-Saturday November 19-20. There’s also a street fair just off of Bourke Street on the Saturday afternoon, and it all winds up beach-side with a ride to Bondi and a wrap party at the Beach Road.
Ugh, it’s like everything I’m missing from Sydney bundled up into a tasty couple of days. And I mean it – you need to soak this one up for me, I’m so sad I won’t be there. Not least for RIDE: Life in the Bike Lane, which is the official exhibition of the festival. The organisers rounded up a talented bunch of artists and designers and let them loose on some life-sized wooden bicycles. The 17 creative types - including the likes of Andrew Quilty and Beci Orpin - will each customise a bike in their own style, and if you head over to the website they have some fun interviews with the artists including memories of their first bikes! Lots of BMX memories but I think this response from photographer James Alcock is my favourite:
Do you have any childhood memories of riding? Now that you’re older, do you still ride?
I've always had pushies since the time I could walk. It's one of the few constants in my life and my dad was always good at repairing them. My grandfather actually had a pushie shop. I remember really clearly my dad letting me go at the top of a hill in Coogee near my house. I was just off my training wheels but didnt quite have a grasp on the back peddle brake thing.
I flew straight across a busy street at the bottom of the hill just missing cars both ways and ended up going over the handlebars when I hit the oncoming gutter. There was plenty of skin off and my nuts were blue and purple for a week! My brother raced BMX at a national level all through the 80s. I am on my pushie every day and I love riding in summer (sans shirt/backpack) super blazed with Roots Manuva (or Skiphop) bumpin throuh my earbuds.
Don't dilly dally! RSVP for the exhibition opening on Thursday November 18 here on Facebook.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
But all good things must come to an end. And so, one of my first accomplishments as a newly-minted 26-year-old was to aid in the jack-o-lantern disposal process. By tiptoeing up to people's front doors, gingerly liberating rotting pumpkins, and smashing them to pulpy smithereens in the street. I don't know what came over me; I thought the flashes of senseless petty vandalism that were the hallmark of my youth were long behind me. But there was something kinda magical about it; sure it was immature, but if I were still in Australia, or if I were in those same streets a week earlier or a week later, there would have been no pumpkin targets for a late-night mercy mission. And just mentally commentating the words I'm smashing pumpkins! was enough to spark memories of the flannel-clad 90s and an infinite looping Beavis & Butthead snigger...
But a word of warning. Should the same frenzy ever overtake you on an early November night in America, be careful as you raise your booty high before its destruction - they collect rainwater and other rancid liquids which are unpleasant when they splash on your head.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Which is why, when my new room mate showed me her latest read, I couldn’t wait for her to leave the house so I could sneak a proper peek. NB I have had to avoid reading synonyms I would usually employ, like "devour" and "immerse myself in" because the book is called What's Your Poo Telling You.
That’s right – medical advice and poo jokes, together at last. This book is hilarious. It’s all I can do not to type the whole thing out here. Instead I will just list the chapter titles, each addressing a different poo experience: Deja Poo (turds that contain clear reminders of past meals, eg corn), Performance Enhancing Poo (aka the Pre-Game Poo), Floaters vs Sinkers, Soft Serve, The Streak, D.A.D.S. (ie Day After Drinking Stool, known as the AGB or After Grog Bog where I hail from), Ring Of Fire, the Clean Sweep and, possibly my favourite, Poophoria.
"This poo can turn an aetheist into a believer and is distinguished by the sense of euphoria and ecstasy that you feel throughout your body when this type of feces departs your system... To some it may feel like a religious experience, to others like an orgasm, and to a lucky handful it may feel like both. This is the type of poo that makes us all look forward to spending time on the toilet."Helpfully, each poo category starts off with synonyms for that specific faecal variety. For example, poophoria is also known as Holy Crap or Mood Enhancer... Synonyms for the Sneak Attack include Ambush Poo, Chocolate Surprise, Deuce is Loose or a Shart.
I think this is another of those posts my mum will be really proud of....
Friday, November 5, 2010
Other stuff that's floating my boat:
My new roommate’s quirky taste in vintage and antique furnishings and decoration – there are so many little curiosities in this apartment. I snuck a peek into her room and she has three pipe-cases mounted on the wall.
Making pea soup with giant slabs of bacon from Model T... Photo booths... Turtle burgers... Delicious tapas (Brussels sprouts and chorizo? Dates wrapped in bacon?? Yes please!) and wine at Boqueria with a bunch of Aussies... Trying to explain the Australian compulsion to shorten all names – Daz, Muzz, etc – to an American friend...
Williamsburg street art... Talking animation, music and ghost stories over beers with the boys at Daddy’s... Three dollar Hendricks martinis and tiny gourmet grilled cheese sangers at the Connectors NYC networking meet-up... Bored to Death... Finally some Waldorf-Bassian sexytime... Little kids in super cute Halloween costumes... Prospect Park... Leather gloves... Markedly different streetlife in my new neighbourhood, forcing me to think for the first time about the origins of the words “ghetto blaster”... Brooklyn Bowl!!
Daz yodelling while performing a Slim Dusty cover at Living Room... Morning coffee and the biscuit (read: scone) with egg, sausage and cheese from Goods... HALLOWEEN!!
Getting up before 9am (shocking, I know)... This taupe nail polish that looks like pearly mushroom soup... Cat stretches... Getting my subway sea legs... Rocking out to ELO... Sam Rockwell’s amazing acting in Moon... Thrift store heaven at Beacon’s Closet and Atlantis Attic... Random smile exchanges with strangers... The “other” Halloween parade – unfortunate souls doing the next morning walk-of-shame home in their costumes (thanks, How I Met Your Mother)... and, finally, Jon Stewart’s speech at the Rally To Restore Sanity &/or Fear:
The lovely Darren Hanlon has been in New York for the last couple of weeks and it’s been great to spend a bit of time with him. Through Daz I was also lucky enough to meet a bunch of great folks, including singer-songwriter David Dondero. Dondero deadpans wry, often sarcastic, fables collected like tumbleweeds from all corners of America. Fitting, as he’s a man of no fixed address; Kerouac with a guitar and a sense of humour. His latest album # Zero With a Bullet is really something, you should check it out.
Daz and Dondero are kindred spirits – both love the road and the adventures it brings. So it was a thrill to cop a back seat in Dondero’s van on a quick Saturday trip upstate. Dondero had to pick up some merch in New Paltz so offered to give Darren and I a ride to a gig in Woodstock. Naturally when travelling with musicians there’s no shortage of options for the stereo, and we had a particularly meta moment when Daz put on a song by Justice Of The Unicorns called “Dondero’s Van”. In vain have I trawled the internet to try to share this slice of musical madness with you, but to no avail. It’s a very simple song, delivered in Rusty's trademark creaky warble. (UPDATE: you can hear the song online here. Thanks Tom!)
Hey there Mr Sound Man
I’d bet you my life
You were in a band
Hey there Peter Fonda
Hey there Sasha Grey
Could you drive Dondero’s van?
From there it gets a little Dr Seuss for the chorus, detailing all the places the van will go.
Through the darkest nightEt cetera. The van we were in wasn’t the actual van of the song though. The eponymous van was a monstous 15 seat Dodge Maxi that rumbled down many a highway, and I think Dondero regrets letting it go. At any rate driving through upstate New York on a gorgeous October day is one of life’s great pleasures, whatever vehicle you’re in. The Catskills rose before us like blue-grey smoke on the horizon, while a blazing patchwork of autumn leaves blurred past us.
Through construction sites
Earlier, after fish tacos we strolled New Paltz’s winding backstreets. Rummaging for CDs and vinyl in the Team Love store room, Dondero found one of his old guitars, so we sat in the yet-to-be-opened store and had an impromptu jam session. The acoustics were kind of amazing in this empty old wooden room, unhung paintings leaning against the walls and curious passersby peeping in the windows. Sitting cross-legged on floorboards always brings out that kindergarten story-time impulse to just sit and listen in wonder, and it doesn’t hurt when you’re in the company of two incredible song-writers making up ballads about each other on the spot.
Hanging around musicians has been a lesson in creativity. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, but observing musicians, while there’s still a lot of writing that is done alone, the process is so much more collaborative. One band/project bleeds into another as all these random interpersonal links come into play – you’re on tour so you’re couch-surfing with guys from a band you met through another musician you’ve toured with, you’re working on songs and videos with people you’ve met through your music... You can meet a girl on the subway who knows your songs and that night she’s performing with you... There’s always something to be made or tweaked, an instrument to try, people to meet, an old record to listen to and learn from. It’s inspiring.
In that spirit it’s my great pleasure to direct you toward a song Dondero recorded with Darren and Rusty from Justice of the Unicorns. At first it seems a pretty straight cover of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun”. Except that the lyrics have been rewritten from the perspective of a vampire. It’s a cute idea, particularly given that they rushed to finish it before Halloween. And it’s pretty clever.
Here comes the sunYou can download the song here (via Largehearted Boy).
I’d must make haste back to my coffin
Here comes the sun
If I stay here my skin will burn
Here comes the sun
I’d better run
It’s all right...