Tuesday, November 23, 2010

There and then, here and now

From Williamsburg Bridge (1928) by American realist painter, Edward Hopper.

Looking out my window onto Humboldt Street, Williamsburg.

Coasting in the Bike Lane

Thursday night just gone marked the launch of the Sydney Bicycle Film Festival's art night and the Ride: Life In The Bike Lane exhibition. By all accounts it was a great night at District 01 Gallery, and we have the lovely Andrew Quilty to thank for these pics. Quilts himself had a bike on show but was so modest he didn't even send me a shot of his own work!

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.

BFF - RIDE - LIFE IN THE BIKE LANE from Skeleton Key on Vimeo.

The rainbow connection

Wanna know something embarrassing? For the longest time, I thought the Chrysler Building was the Empire State Building. Sure, the actual ESB is more imposing, but the Chrysler is so much prettier. I still don't understand all the fuss over the ESB, so I'm going to pay it a visit in the interest of further research. But last night, driving back to Brooklyn we copped an amazing view of it lit up in rainbow colours, and I have to admit it was pretty spectacular.

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

In my dreams we're still screaming

So this is the video Spike Jonze directed for Arcade Fire's title track from The Suburbs. Apparenly it was shot in the suburbs of Austin TX, and Win and Regine cameo as cops. Pretty powerful stuff...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things I Love Thursday: November 18

New York is full of surprises. For example, of all the musical genres I expected to be exposed to here, let along won over by, bluegrass was not high on the list. And yet last week the Bowery Ballroom was packed for the Infamous Stringdusters and Trampled By Turtles. Fiddles, mandolins, banjo, upright bass, not a drum kit in sight... A surfeit of facial hair and even the odd pair of ill-advised overalls, and you can amuse yourself by trying to determine which band members are brothers/cousins.

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


My housemate has recently rediscovered her crockpot (not to be confused with the similarly addictive household appliance, the crackpipe) and I couldn't wait to give it a try. I had a go at recreating a dish we had at Back Forty a couple Sundays ago, called pozole. It's basically a Mexican soup/stew made with pork and white hominy (which is a fun word to say). Hominy, also called pozole/posole, gives the dish its name - it's a kind of puffed white corn, in which the kernels are processed to have the bran and germ removed. The Back Forty pozole was made with pork on the bone, which I wanted to use, but all the recipes I found online called for boneless pork rib, and that was what my butcher recommended, and so it goes.

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...

Beatles on bikes

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Going Dutch

As part of my Best Birthday Ever (TM) celebrations, I had a lovely time on the Tour & Taste ride which started at Rolling Orange bike store in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill. Best of all, I was lucky enough that Christine from Rolling Orange let me borrow one of her gorgeous Dutch-style bikes to ride for the day, the arrestingly magenta De Fietsfabriek OMA.

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 revolution
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.
It'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:

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...

Tour & taste

The Tour & Taste bikeride started in Cobble Hill at Rolling Orange. The gods of New York smiled on us with a gorgeous sunny Saturday, and we pedalled Brooklyn's well-appointed bike-paths and over the Brooklyn Bridge. We were a motley group - stylish Dutch bikers alongside beat-up mountain bikes and hybrids, young and old; one couple had even come from San Francisco.

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.

Melbourne sucks

No, not like that! Melbourne is awesome, obviously . As evidenced by the epic Melbourne Bike Fest kicking off with the Once Bitten vampire picnic on Wednesday evening. There will be a free barbeque and films on show from 6pm at the Alexandra Gardens skate park, so saddle up your BMX and get gussied up in your best vampy threads and to join the fun. It's a family event though, so perhaps don't emulate the above Halloween costume...

Handlebar moustache

Stumbled across this great T-shirt design in Brooklyn Industries a week or so ago. Drawn by Bartow, the "Handlebar Moustache" illo was actually a competition winner. Personally it warms the cockles of my heart to see two of my favourite things - bikes and facial hair - united on hipster chests. And there's likely to be double (or quadruple?) the fun when said T-shirt wearers are also rocking wheels and a 'tache.

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

Life in the bike lane

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

Smashing pumpkins

As mentioned previously, some clever souls manage to elevate the simple craft of jack-o-lantern carving into an impressively complex art-form. Like this evil cannibal pumpkin above - I think his victim's terrified facial expression is the icing on the cake. Halloween may be behind us now, but hacked up pumpkins are still hanging out on people's stoops, slowly turning to mush. In the early hours of my birthday morning, in quiet, brownstone-lined Brooklyn backstreets, such surplus squash sat leering and jeering...

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

Toilet humour

LOL is a tired old acronym but it does bear thinking about. How often does something actually make you laugh out loud? It happens less than you think, though there are few better feelings that an unstoppable giggle bubbling up from within. My sense of humour has always been pretty lowbrow... my sister’s and my failsafe gag is substituting the word “poo” for “you” in any saccharine pop love song. Actually, just the word “poo” on its own will usually prompt a snigger.

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

Things I Love Thursday: November 4

These are the dying days of my 25th year so one thing I'm loving at the moment is birthday plans coming together! There’s been a distinct lack of bike action on this blog of late and I’m deeply sorry about that. But it’s my birthday on Saturday and what better way to celebrate than with a bike-riding foodie tour of Brooklyn and Manhattan! Cannot wait to get back in the saddle. Friends, food and lots of photos will just be the icing on the cake.

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:

Dondero's van

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 night
Through construction sites
Et 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.

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 sun
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...
You can download the song here (via Largehearted Boy).

He's with The Band

The whole point of our roadtrip to Woodstock was to attend a Midnight Ramble. About a mile out of Woodstock, off an unsigned driveway through scribbly woods, is a little farm with a pimped out barn – the studio of Levon Helm, best known as the drummer for The Band. Every second Saturday Levon hosts a Ramble, and 200 or so people pay handsomely to hear hours of music from Levon and his amazing band, plus special guests. The night we went, Steve Earle opened proceedings with an unaccompanied acoustic set. The sound quality was phenomenal and I was amazed at how many of Earle’s songs I knew. Of course he closed with "Copperhead Road".

No cameras allowed inside, sadly

While we waited for the main set, we chatted to cashed-up baby boomers from Jersey and Long Island, nibbled free food (everyone has to bring a plate) and browsed Levon’s collection of Band memorabilia. Levon himself looks incredibly old and frail, but the blissed out expression on his face when he’s behind the drum kit is proof enough that he really just loves to perform. He lost his voice after an operation to remove his throat cancer, it has slowly come back. Now his voice is barely a croak, but he still takes the reins on vocals occasionally.

The rest of the band was incredible – piano, organ, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, sousaphone, double bass, a few guitarists and a female vocalist. Some of the horn players are in Conan O’Brien’s house band. From our balcony perch above the band, we could look down and see the set list - epic Band numbers, classic rhythm and blues, a cameo from Steve Earle... And the big closer: "The Weight". Unfortunately we had to leave before the show finished so we'll never know just how amazing that was, but we did see them do "Ophelia", "Long Black Veil", and a bunch of other killer tunes.

In all it was an expensive trip and tragically cut short, but the music was that good that there are no regrets. My Morning Jacket did a ramble recently. This report on the gig from Rolling Stone is killing me.

Halloween: A miner addendum

Can't believe I forgot to include this in my post on Halloween: by far the most common and topical costume choice was mobs of people dressed as Chilean miners...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This is my church

These clear, crisp mornings, fall chilling into winter, the sky so blue it’s painful. Coffee steaming in hand. Fingers jammed in coat pockets. The light is strong and golden and strains through red and orange leaves like so much stained glass; trees reach to each other from opposite sides of the street and I don’t feel like such an atheist. Forget the Sistine Chapel. This is my cathedral. This is what I believe in.

Playing dress-ups

Well, it's only taken me half the week to recover, but I've been hanging to post about my first Halloween. In Australia it's a holiday that's only observed by a handful of candy-greedy kids and uni students looking for yet another excuse to party, particularly in slutty costumes. Here in the States, though, Halloween is a big deal. More than a few people have told me it's their favourite holiday, more precious to them even than Christmas. And now I get it. I'm sure for children it's a magical occasion - the costumes, parties, and forcing strangers to give you treats. But for big kids it's a night where the bars are alive with drunken monsters, historical characters and pop culture icons, all united by a camraderie that is equal parts nostalgia and the chance to pretend to be someone else. A chance to wear your Marvel-comics obsession or ironic sense of humour on your sleeve. And your back. And your head.

It's so hard to pick a favourite costume of the night (and I'm here I mean Saturday night, though Sunday was the actual day of Halloween and the hectic parade through West Village), but I think mine was a merry band of muppets we kept bumping into as we bar crawled through the Lower East Side. There was a Swedish Chef, a chicken, Gonzo, Fozzie, Ralph, Beaker, Kermit and two yip-yip-yip-yip aliens. I'm not sure if all of them made their own costumes, but this lass dressed as Kermit made that amazing headpiece herself from fabric and a bike helmet. Well played.

Inspector Gadget was another well-executed costume that scored extra points for being one of my absolute favourite childhood cartoons. On that note, sadly I didn't see a Danger Mouse. But I did see a number of Kenny Powers (cf newfound Eastbound & Down obsession, get on board people!)... and high-fived every one of them. "You're fuckin out!"

There was a Ron Burgundy (Anchorman), a number of Kim Jong Ils, a very impressive Che Guevara T-shirt (the guy made himself up as Che and put a cardboard shirt around his head), and a heroin addict with a syringe dangling from his arm. He said it made saying no to beggars on the street much more entertaining. There was an awful lot of goose-pimpled female flesh on show in the inevitable slutty-(insert character here) costumes, so it was nice to see the objectification balance redressed occasionally. For example, there was a giant cock-and-balls sighted. And there was this guy (stilts and top hat sadly cropped out):

Everybody on the L train was trying so hard not to look. NB bare bottoms on the subway = not hygienic for anyone

A mini-trend was social media themed costumes. My friend went as the "sad FourSquare mayor" which is something I do not understand but proved a hit for more social-media savvy New Yorkers. At one point she had 10 people "checked in" to her and I believe it was the highlight of her night. For Twitter fans there was a great Fail Whale, and my favourite of all was an ostensibly uncostumed guy who was Mark Zuckerberg. He was even handing out business cards that said "I'm CEO, bitch". (You have seen The Social Network by now, right?)

Then there are those costumes that are just plain cute. Like French Toast here....

I opted for warmth and an excuse to smoke by dressing as Margot Tenenbaum. Unfortunately many people didn't get it because I struggled to maintain the requisite surly expression because I was having too much fun! I wish it could be Halloween every weekend..