Monthly Archives: July 2009

Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat

2 am, 8 years old, Milford Massachusetts visiting family friends my Mother and Father had known since high school. Long after the children went to sleep I walked up the stairs and was invited to a rare event, my parents enjoying themselves in the company of other parents. Old Folks Boogie played loud in the foreground while they discussed what it was like to age. I had no idea what they were speaking about but was happy to be a part of the fun time they were having. This was not the first time I was exposed to this Little Feat album, but it was my first distinct memory. As the oldest child I was allowed to stay up with them, have soda (while they had their drinks—Budweiser for the hosts and Dewars and water for the guests) and watch them dance and enjoy the music. This was my first introduction to my parents as the people they were before children, the persona parents usually expose post high school graduation. I noticed two things this evening, one, getting older does not necessarily mean getting bored, and two, my father was a lot more into the music then anyone else.

My aunt had a framed picture that my father drew of his favorite musician; this was a mainstay in every house she ever owned. From the time it hung above a piano I played on when I was five to my cousin’s 18th birthday party when it was a fixture in her dining room. This portrait was of Lowell George, the founder and front man of the band Little Feat. Lowell George’s death in 1979 affected my father much like Elliott Smith’s affected me. There are few musicians I can pay attention to for their full careers and Elliott was one of them. My life wasn’t affected by the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Brad Nowell, or any of the modern day rock and roll casualties (with the exception of Joe Strummer), and my father was the same way, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, they were all givens. With the exception of Keith Moon and John Bonham, my father was only really devastated by the death of Lowell George…hence the name of my brother, Kyle Lowell George. Little feat reformed in 1988 and continues to play today, but the songs of the original founder are still the most soulful and skillfully crafted.

5/15/2003—Three days after my high school graduation (thank you, internet): My father bought tickets for myself, my mother and his friend to see Little Feat at Lupo’s in Providence. I drove while the elders passed a bottle of booze around the car on the 40 minute drive to Rhode Island’s corrupt capitol city. I was able to see my father enjoy his favorite band at the same venue I had watched NOFX, Boy Sets Fire, Goldfinger, H20, Madball, Foo Fighters, Ignite and all the other bands that made my high school years what they were. He made sure I had seen Duke Robillard, Little Richard, Percy Sledge, Bob Dylan, and a ton of other musicians before it was too late, but it wasn’t until he had me see his favorite band did I truly realize what it was like to love music. I wanted to say about 700 different things about this album, but I’ve decided just to leave you with the lyrics to Willin.

I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I’m drunk and dirty don’t ya know, and I’m still…willin’
Out on the road late at night, Seen my pretty Alice in every head light
Alice…Dallas Alice

I’ve been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin’

I’ve been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stoved in, but I’m still on my feet and I’m still… willin’
Now I smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico, and I’m still

And I been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin

Jackie O No

I was an elegant baby, born three
short months before the crash, but never did
I beg or want, or keep my horses from
their oats, or sell their gleaming coats for cash.

I was an elegant toddler, but cried
when the Bonus Army was dispelled. They
fled from Hoover as he sucked away their
last hopes and sent them back to the Dust Bowl.

I was an elegant child, sure, but at
13, 227 forced the Russians
to fire on their own, and I couldn’t
have been a red blocking patrol, oh no.

I was an elegant teen girl, so my
step-siblings and I were mortified by
the bombs dropping on Germany, but that
was war, unlike the Empire State crash.

I was an elegant lady, with my
blood-stained pink Chanel suit and its matching
pink pillbox hat. That was the year of my
last good birthday, or maybe my only.

I was an elegant woman, and though
I was widowed not once, but twice, and the
earthquakes and the mudslides tossed up dirt passed
my knees, I died that way, too, elegant.

I was an elegant figure, icon
and royalty to a country that had
none of their own, editor in life and
in love, cursed by a name of my choosing.

The beginning is the dividend is the beginning

Small, pale napkin with beer
stained edges soaking up the spill
from a three dollar can of Pabst
Blue Ribbon on a brown-black wood
grain bar top in lower Allston:

followed by

SOLVE THIS EQUATION AND I’LL SLEEP WITH YOU

But the hand behind that pen is out of sight,
left and gone home all alone for the night.

That was the summer job that was

Hello. My name is Friday, and I’m an NYU Press intern.

Now, before you get all excited – before you start google-stalking me, offering me your facebook friendship, or attempting to buy your way into my head and heart by offering me delicious chocolate confections by Max Brenner – let me tell you this: I cannot get you my luxe job.

Sorry. It just doesn’t work that way.

That aside, what I can do is tell you all about what it’s been like working at NYU Press all summer. I have the opportunity to reflect on what it’s been like to dampen my feet in the rooftop pool of the academic publishing world – the deep end – and that’s what I plan to do.

NYU Press is interesting to me in that it’s a commercial enterprise with a decidedly non-commercial bent. We’re not looking to put out the next Harry Potter; what we strive to do is put forth first-rate scholarship, a world of the written word that is not generally at the top of casual readers’ lists. That said, the Press needs to be cognizant of dollars and sense; this leads to an interesting juggling game: how do we focus on mission A, introducing to the world the best academic work we can, while not losing side of somewhat opposing (OK, nearly diametrically opposing) mission B: making enough money that we don’t need to focus on mission B at all, allowing us to keep our focused the books?

The answer? It’s tough. I worked in Washington, D.C. for a number of years, and I always marveled at the similar mental and financial gymnastics undergone as a matter of course by the myriad non-profits in that city on a hill. Now I’ve had the chance to see how it plays out, and I’m starting to understand: it requires savvy and a very, very steady hand.

But far more interesting than the balance sheets – no, wait. I shouldn’t say that. I love the balance sheets. In fact, that’s been one of the best things about working here. I’ve gotten to do everything. I’ve worked on marketing projects, book proofing, and research both external and internal. I’ve gotten to do very artsy, bookish, right-brain work – like considering news hooks for stories based aspects of the outstanding text of our upcoming book by Guantanamo Lawyers s – as well as hard-core left-brain stuff, like Excel modeling of our authorship community over the last decade.

As a current and future writer, learning how a press functions was crucial to me. I knew that there would be proofing involved, and publicity, and someone to work with the printer. What I did not consider – or, I should say, among the many things I failed to anticipate – were: jacket design (we’ve got a guy for that), the difference between marketing and publicity (two related but very different fields), how to sell books (amazing that never came to mind, no?), how books are sourced and bought, getting rights permissions, accounting and budgeting… the list goes on and on. And while I certainly wouldn’t say I am ready for the life of the publishing magnate, now, by any stretch, I do think I have a much better idea of how the whole business works. Which was, of course, the point.

High points on the summer? Meeting Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz while we discussed their upcoming book, and talking with a friend whose interests lie in a related field. Getting to learn more about the field, and meet all the great people who work here. Boning up on my criminology.

Low points? Unsure.

Herostratus

You could deputize yourself, take the cold, stoney
hand of law as your own. Walk tall through dusty streets,
west of the Mississippi, immortalize your
name in local papers and dime novels. Maybe

shoot down big game instead—lions, zebras, German
soldiers—and write about it from across a great
expanse, wire in your manuscripts, your typed up
articles on the simple travesties of man.

Or if the cafés in Spain and Paris are still
too near, there lies a windless plain, basked in constant
siesta, untiring in its bold reflection
of your dirt-mouthed and fly-ridden Pamplona sun.

Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon.
Big as Ernest Hemingway, walking on the moon.
No air for the temple fire, walking on the moon.
Fame can be its own desire, walking on, walking on the moon.

Ghosts of Talentless Celebrity Hacks Past

I know it wasn’t the nicest thing to do — like making fun of the retarded kid who lives down the street — but when Matthew McConaughey told me that he was from the future, I couldn’t help but laugh in his stupid face. I mean, if Matthew McConaughey was really the swashbuckling romantic anti-hero time traveler that he claimed to be, it would mean that he was privy to all kinds of crazy knowledge and technology that the rest of us had only dreamed of, and if had access to that kind information, wouldn’t you think he’d use it to make less crappy films? I have trouble believing that history will be kind to someone as dreadfully lame as Matthew McConaughey; the dude doesn’t even use deodorant (FACT)! No one wonder he gets into stupid, uninteresting romantic entaglements in all those stupid, boring romantic comdies — dude smells awful. Seriously. If we weren’t drinking on his tab right now, I probably would’ve puked before he get within ten feet of me. Fucking putrid, ugh.

When Matthew — we’re clearly on a first name basis, though he won’t let me call him Matt (he reserves ‘Matty’ for the ladies, he says) — when Matthew returns with the next round of drinks, I ask him why. Why, if he’s really a time traveler like he claims to be, would he waste it on being a lousy RomCom stupid star, rather than, I don’t know, a galactic dictator or super hero or something. He leans in really close—his breathe smells as bad as his underarms at this point in the night— and whispers, “For the pussy, brah. Pus-sy. Yeaaaah.”

Just like the line between a genius and a fool, the line between cool and vapidly dull is remarkably thin. Hang out with a big name Hollywood actor on his dime? Awesome. That actor being Matthew McConaughey, the fucking time traveler? I should’ve stayed home and masturbated into my sister’s socks again.

“But Matthew,” I tell him, “if you were a galactic dictator or a super hero or something, you’d still get all the chicks you want. And ya know, if you’re a time traveler, the entire space-time continuum of female orgasms is at your command. So why do you make such crappy movies?”

“How do you know that’s all I do?” he countered cryptically. Note that he doesn’t argue with my career assessment.
“I’ve seen all your movies, man. They’re crap. Fucking dreadful. Except for Dazed and Confused, but that had nothing to do with you.”

“Aw come on, what about U-571?” I don’t even have to respond that. “Okay, fine, but what do you think I do when I’m not shooting movies? That’s when I’m cruisin’ through the timestream, brah, picking up chicks of all kinds, any time. I wanna try something a little kinky? I’m into aliens? Cavewomen? I can do that. Those fuckin’ movies, they’re just training. It’s how I keep my chops up, for the ladies.”

I rolled my eyes, slammed the drink to my domepiece, and told him I was leaving and going back to Hugh’s place. That guy was a true, genuine, bonafide timepimp, and I didn’t have the time for McConaughey’s crap. “C’mon! What’s Grant got over me?” he whined.

“He’s British,” I shrugged.

Hot Rats – Frank Zappa

I woke up hungover. Saturday night spilled into Sunday morning with no sign of the snow that had been previously predicted. My apartment was so empty it echoed; boxes were still packed and I probably would have been lonely if it wasn’t for the security of youth and the constant inner dialogue. “It didn’t snow, weather said it won’t until tomorrow, I guess I have to drive to the island.” I usually try to make nights out of my trips–6 hours of visiting barely makes three hours of driving enticing–but it was my father’s birthday and I had already told him I wasn’t coming because of the weather. I woke up, showered and decided to head to Rhode Island.

I walked up to the front stairs and saw a familiar sight: my father sitting on the couch watching TV, tapping his fingers and occasionally taking a drag on his cigarette. After casual conversation my father got off the couch, walked into the dining room and returned with a worn crumpled paper bag. He pulled out a Portable CD player, a pair of large studio headphones and a Frank Zappa album, Hot Rats. We had a sound system, but he wanted me to listen to the guitar solo the way he did in the Army. No, not on drugs, but with headphones. We bought a microwave for my new apartment and ate cake to celebrate his birthday, but really we spent most of the day listening to music. I drove back to Boston right around the time it started snowing. I saw three accidents on the expressway and got drunk to celebrate the snowstorm that was going to allow me to sleep in Monday.

********************************

The phone woke me up that morning. I shoveled through a foot of snow and followed plows like a funeral procession down Route 24.

A week later I was at a bar my parents frequented and one of the patrons walked up to me and said, “You know, the last time I saw your father he had a crumpled paper-bag full of music he was showing everyone”

I thought for a second, and said “Me too.”