Tue, 18 Jan 2005
When we were walking through Manhattan on our first night in New York, I spotted an arch in the distance that seemed familiar to me. “I feel like I should know that arch,” I said. “I wonder if that’s Washington Square?” Sure enough, it was the arch at the entrance to Washington Square Park. It was weird because I swear I had no idea that the arch existed. But apparently, after seeing god knows how many movies set in New York City, the image was stored in my subconscious.
Strange walking down streets that are so immediately familiar from Seinfeld, Scorsese films, Spider-Man comic books. There’s nothing especially distinctive about Manhattan’s streets – no more distinctive than parts of Toronto or Vancouver or even Saskatoon, I mean. But every time you turn your head in New York City, there’s a view you’ve seen somewhere before. It’s like a constant state of deja vu.
The skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza is tiny, unbelievably small. You could toss a snowball from one end to the other.
You can’t really see much at the World Trade Center. It’s just a big construction site. But you get a sense of the scale of the catastrophe when you look at all the buildings surrounding it – every single one has some kind of structural damage, huge holes ripped in the side, crumbling walls held up by scaffolding.
Granted, many of the stories of our road trip are of the you-had-to-be-there variety. What can I say about the tiny basement jazz club we found in Chicago, where you had to cross the stage and squeeze between the bassist and the saxophone player to reach the men’s room? …Or the French swing guitar band we saw in an obscure bar in Brooklyn, where Olin somehow befriended the bassist’s girlfriend, who introduced us to the bassist himself, who, after the show ended, let Olin play his upright bass?
There was the blizzard in Chicago that emptied the freeways of all traffic except for us and the snowplows, and where the wind was so fierce that it sent me skidding along the icy sidewalk…Olin, drunk and toqueless and dressed in a light jacket, insisting that we wander the streets of downtown Chicago till we found our misplaced car – “If we head northwest and cover the streets in a grid pattern, we’re sure to come across it” – until I forced him to hail a taxi.
John, the Chicago street hustler who extorted about twenty bucks from us and promised to hook us up with anything we wanted: “Party favours, women, guns, hand grenades…” We spent the rest of the trip regretting that we hadn’t taken him up on the grenade. John nevertheless directed us to the coolest bars in town, and told us where to find the good strip clubs…by which he meant the “bad” strip clubs…”These places downtown, they won’t even let you touch the girls. I’ll take you to a place on the south side where you can roll up a twenty and shove it up a girl’s ass.”
Olin hitting on the oldest women in the bar in Chicago, and chastising me for failing to “close the deal” with the 35-year-old bar ladies that I’d invited to play pool with us…
Doctor Dirty inviting us into his home recording studio and playing us some of his newest tunes, then helping Olin & I record a rough version of our song Nerds in Paradise. I came home with a free copy of Dr. Dirty’s Sphincter – Unplugged, a live recording of classic dirty song parodies. Wish I’d remembered to get it signed…
Olin’s cousin Karen Valby, who writes for Entertainment Weekly, and who spent a week on the road with former members of Guns N Roses, including Slash and Duff McKagan, and who is therefore the coolest person I’ve ever met…and who invited us into her office and told each of us to choose a book off her shelf, since they were advance copies that she got for free…then took us to a pompous Italian restaurant where, for unknown reasons, they projected old Fellini movies onto the floor of the men’s room.
The baffling “Vaudeville” show in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, assembled and performed by a bunch of geeky 18-year-olds, in which Olin and I performed two songs (and received a gratifying positive review in the local community newspaper), and where Warren was coerced into demonstrating his favourite science experiment…
THE U.S. DEBUT OF “DR. SCIENCE”
The curtain parts. Warren emerges, carrying a stool and a box with a towel draped over it.
WARREN: It is I, Doctor Science, just arrived from the wilds of central Wisconsin to entertain you with scientific curiosities!
He places the stool in the center of the stage.
WARREN: I present you with…the Apparatus! DoodoodooDOOOO…
He makes a funny sound effect as he lifts the towel, revealing…an empty shoebox with a round hole roughly carved into the side. Fog is swirling around in the hole.
WARREN: But I hear you asking, Doctor Science, what could this amazing Apparatus be? Is it…a shoebox with a hole in it? Or is it in fact…a Vortex Generator? Let us test out the Apparatus and find out!
Winding up, he prepares to thump the plastic membrane on the back of the shoebox.
WARREN: Aaaand a one! Aaaand a two! Aaaand a…THREE!
He thumps the shoebox. A little puff of fog sputters out.
The audience stares, baffled. The briefest of pauses.
WARREN: Shoebox with a hole in it! …Goodnight!
Warren ducks behind the curtain.
In the audience, Michael is laughing so hard he starts to cough uncontrollably.
Alright…I guess you sorta had to be there.*
* – Update, June 13 2008. Not so. Now you can simply watch it on YouTube: