Tuesday, June 28, 2011
June 25th of this year, we played in a semi re-done warehouse space in NY. The sort of place that straddles my own fantasy of shadowy neglect, and a future oriented occupation of a modern ruin. Cracks within the cracks. The heat outdoors had finally receded to a tolerable perspiration. People lined up and poured inside with immediate convection of any and all humidity available. You can imagine that the set was equally as damp and airless. Not a suffocating sensation, but more of a race to see who could breathe the first last and only particles of oxygen left in this box of human precipitation. I speak for myself in saying that while performing a physical feat like playing drums at high speeds for an hour in such a challenging climate, the mind slows and lags while limbs move on their own at the appropriate pace. The heat is a laggardly nemesis to any efficiency your body can produce. The only way to suffer with dignity is to simplify and concentrate so that you don't pass out or vomit (ps i threw up the next night in Philly mid song)
After the set, there was a mercifully cool hallway behind the stage to stand in. I rushed out of the gig-room to breath any kind of cooler air, and burst through the door, rudely interrupting two people slyly making out in otherwise off-limits area. The hallway had about four directions to go in and some sharp corners to hide behind. I made myself scarce, not so much out of courtesy but because I needed to change into dry clothes which requires a temporary moment of bare assed-ness.
TOUR TIP: never play drums in your underwear/jeans in summer. They just won't last a full tour and they will stink forever.
I emerged from my own private corner of NY architectural shadow clothed, dryer, and comfortable only to find my only exit blocked! The couple that were sweetly pecking on a summer night were now up to something else. Shoes and socks exposed bare legs. A nude lower half obscured by a crouching partner. I turned around and walked back to my impromptu change room, out of sight. Instead of taking a minute to think on the nature of interstitial space and shady cracks and othering of industrial spaces (more than enough of that), I did my best to figure out a discreet escape. Didn't have the courage to walk through them and say "excuse me" nor did I want to hang around waiting for them to finish or proceed. So I took to my heels and to the halls and dodged out the back door, and left the shadows to cast themselves in the dark on bended knee.
New York City takes on layers and layers of character. With every visit you can see the simultaneous painting over and peeling back of its history. Some relics are architectural, other relics tell you about what it meant to be a 'pioneer' there in the 20th century. I mean pioneering only in an internalized sense, specific to one's own tribe. The first of the evolution of a private history, facing up what's requisite of the research, exploration, and combat of a new place. This of course is speaking to the storied immigration of the first half of the 20th and the hopeful borderless migration of citizens toward another life in the big city.
One visit, while arriving in the city I must have photographed at least a dozen signs that sold the sort of "raw material" for living that in some ways doesn't "belong" in Manhattan any more. Scaffold, rubber, cement, cork, asbestos, bracketing, masonry...The landing party, frontierism of new life in the United States' cities is in an entirely different form now. One inherits the product and has to learn how to use it, rather than gaining the land and being required to create a space to live in. Dirty resourcefulness gets pushed into the orbits around the cities, and 'diy' gets imported for maintenance.
Without sounding nostalgic or like i'm lamenting a by-gone era, there are of course still frontiers left in NY City. The redefinition of the interiors whose facades define the ageless face of Gotham, and the spatial interpretation of all the veins and tissue that help balance such a place remain a challenge and a truly exciting temporary space in one of the most 'permanent' cities in the world.
Fifteen years ago when I first was able to visit New York City, I would stare at some of the abandoned buildings and crenellating public spaces and wonder what they were like when they were first built, when their purpose was fully realized, and their order of things was functioning and established. Now, those same buildings have houses, new factories, theatres, cafes, retail, and a litany of other repurposes ensuring their existence. So much so that, like striving for a sense of frontierism in a finished place, you wonder if any shadows still exist. Any dark corners that haven't been swept up or tidied yet.