Tag: patti smith

Subterranean Fallout Shelter Blues

1. Remember last week, when I was excited about getting new glasses and we weren’t living in a constant state of anxiety wondering if our President was gonna livetweet about Crooked Hillary in an attempt to distract us from the coming nuclear apocalypse with North Korea?  Well, my new specs still haven’t shown up, and at this point I’m actually kinda hoping everything goes to shit so that I don’t have to pay off my credit card debt.

Seriously, though, now might be a good time to reach out and say hello to people you haven’t talked to in a while.  Even if we aren’t about to die in a blaze of hellfire, you should touch base with people you might’ve lost contact with.  I’ve been trying to get back into lyric writing, and it occurs to me that an idea I’ve been toying with for years – songs as letters I never got around to sending – might be the key to finishing this goddamned thing sooner rather than later.

2. I’m not as up on current TV as everyone else, but I am happy to report that the wife and I were able to finish the new Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later thing.  And we loved the shit out of it.  It is weird and random and breaks the 4th wall all over the place and Chris Meloni is fucking AMAZING.

3. I’d love to be writing about Tacoma right now, but I appear to be one of the people affected by a nasty bug in which I can’t get past the “Press A to Start” screen.  So instead I’ll offer some very brief first impressions of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which I can load properly.  I am intrigued by it, certainly; I’m a fan of Ninja Theory’s previous work and would give them the benefit of the doubt anyway, and at first glance the game’s presentation is outstanding – both visually and aurally.  The idea of exploring psychosis and mental illness through gameplay is novel, to be sure, and while I’m still only in the game’s opening hour I’ve already seen some subtle yet mind-bending things.  Tonight I hope to get to it while wearing headphones.

4. Hey, whaddya know, Spotify is now available on Xbox One, and it’s about goddamned time.  Now I can feel a little less sad about continuing to play Clicker Heroes, because I no longer have to play it in silence.

5. Kotaku says there is no longer a best time to play a video game, and I agree with most of the points in that link even if my primary concern (Fear of Missing Out / Fear of Being Out of the Loop on Twitter) is still valid.  In any event, ever since I finished Watch Dogs 2 I’ve been in an open-world state of mind, and I’ve been revisiting some older open-world games just to stay with that vibe.  GTA V continues to be the best open world I’ve ever seen, even as the story continues to be repellent and repugnant; Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate continues to be my 2nd or 3rd favorite game in the franchise (while also being a useful refresher for the upcoming Origins) and I’m also finally getting around to giving Mafia III more of a real look.  That game is pretty good, even if all the controls feel backwards.

6. I’ve also had a strange pull towards revisiting Headlander, of all things; I wrote about it briefly last year and while I haven’t gotten far enough to encounter those boss fights, I am still loving the hell out of that game.

7.  I finished Patti Smith’s “M Train”, although I should admit that I kinda skimmed through the back half, as it mostly seemed to be the same as the first half.  I’m happy to read about a real person’s idle hours, watching detective shows and drinking coffee and taking naps, but there wasn’t much more to it than that, and even though her prose remained gorgeous it just lingered on and and on and on, like a very slowly deflating balloon.  Not sure I would recommend it to anyone that isn’t a die-hard Patti Smith fan, though if you’ve got a library card you could do worse than read the first third of it or so.

cigarettes and coffeeshops

Without noticing, I slip into a light yet lingering malaise. Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue.

– Patti Smith, “M Train”

I’m excited this week, for what I’ll admit is kind of a dumb reason:  I’m getting new glasses on Saturday.  I’ve been wearing my current pair since 2009-ish (thank you, Facebook profile picture album), and I’ve been needing a slight change in prescription for at least the last few years, and these new ones are pretty snazzy (they’re progressive lenses and transition lenses, both of which are necessary) – but I’m excited mostly because I’ve been wearing glasses since junior high school, and they’re as much a part of my self-identity as my hair or my physical frame, and so getting new specs means that, in a sense, I’m getting a new version of me.  This is the me that’s going to be photographed in my brother’s wedding in October; and not to be too dramatic about it, but it’s probably true that this is the me that will feature more prominently in my son’s memories of his father.

As noted yesterday, I am now reading Patti Smith’s “M Train” in which, among other things, each chapter takes place in and around various coffeeshops.  I am reminded of my own coffeeshop years, back in my undergrad and post-undergrad years, back when I lived in the East Village and played in bands and, most crucially, hung out with other people in places that were not my own apartment.  The coffeeshop hours were a special part of my day; they were almost always very late at night, and I always had my journal, a good pen, and a new pack of smokes, and it was generally understood (whether in my group or just by myself) that those hours were for serious reflection and conversation.  It sounds awfully pretentious when I describe it that way, and it probably was, but it’s also true; those coffeeshops were where some of the most important and life-changing conversations I ever had took place.

A lot of these places simply don’t exist anymore; Starbucks has more or less taken over the coffeehouse market, and I can’t imagine that any of my old Greenwich Village haunts could ever pay their rent now given that the average check back then was for maybe 2 cups of coffee consumed over 4 hours.  And that’s really the thing – I go to Starbucks every day (and I must say, the Starbucks in my office building is a super-deluxe fancy-pants Starbucks) but I never hang out there.  I order my iced coffee when I’m still on the ferry, crossing the Hudson River; the entire time I spend in the shop itself is between 30-60 seconds, depending on if there’s a line by the milk and sugar.

I must admit that I miss those days, when I actually had 4 hours to do nothing except drink coffee and write down weird poems in my notebook and just think.  Not to sound too much like an old man, but these were the days before smartphones and wi-fi; if I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, I actually could be alone with my thoughts, and I didn’t have to worry about what I was missing on social media or how to properly photograph my cappuccino for Instagram and such.   I could just enjoy being in the moment; and if, in the moment, I felt disquiet, I would open my notebook and try figuring it out, and if I was lucky I had a new set of lyrics for a song I didn’t even know I was writing.  But even if I simply ended up doodling weird shit, I never felt like my time was being wasted.

There are some very nice little coffee shops in my very nice little suburban town, and on Saturday mornings I’ll leave a little early for my therapy session and hit one of them up, and I’ll sit down for a few minutes and reflect on what I might be about to say.  Or else I’ll just stare out the window and allow myself a few minutes to be quiet and not have to think at all.  There’s two places in particular that serve a very nice gluten-free banana bread, actually, and that’s a perfectly fine way to spend a few morning minutes in and of itself.

Of course, there’s going to be a Starbucks opening up there within the next few months and I’m a little bummed, to be honest; I’d hate for these local places to get pushed out.  And yet there’s only so much I can do; I don’t really have the time or the inclination to hang out in these places the way I used to, either.

In any event, I miss those days.  “M Train” is really good and it’s reminding me of the writing project that I was working on back in November of 2015, when I thought I was going to fool around for NaNoWriMo and ended up working on a new album and also having a sort-of mini-nervous breakdown.  That project was also about my own coffeeshop days, and the people I was with, and what we used to talk about in the very late hours.

 

Good Things

Instead of being all sad and mopey and navel-gazing – AND BELIEVE ME YOU DON’T WANT ME TO GET INTO ANY OF THAT RIGHT NOW – I want to shine a light on some good things I’ve recently come across.  Ironically, a lot of the good things I want to share are kinda sad.  But, be that as it may, here goes:

1.  If you haven’t already seen it, Patti Smith’s tribute to Sam Shepard in the New Yorker is one of the best things you’ll read all year.  I’m going to be honest here and admit that I don’t know Patti’s music as well as I feel like I should.  But between this essay and her humbling, heartfelt performance of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the Nobel ceremony last December, I am now compelled to start reading her memoir, M Train, post-haste.

2.  Speaking of books, I just finished reading Killers of the Flower Moon, and while I wasn’t necessarily bowled over by the somewhat dry quality of the prose, the story of the Osage Murders and how they directly formed the foundation of the FBI as we currently know it is staggering.  I can’t believe I never knew about this.  This is a necessary, heartbreaking story and it’s unfathomable that nobody knows about it.  Indeed, if karma is in fact a real thing, then it’s entirely possible that the Trump Presidency is our karmic retribution for our utter annihilation of the Native American way of life.

I…. I think I’m getting woke.

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3.  Today’s song of the day du jour is “itsallwaves” by Enemies.

 

And while I’m at it, here’s a little playlist of some songs that I’ve been enjoying of late – most of them are from Spotify’s Discovery playlists, and others just kinda showed up.  At some point I’m going to write a huge thing about Louis Cole, who’s been blowing my mind ever since “Bank Account” went somewhat viral earlier this year – I’ve been digging into his catalog and I’m continually amazed at how incredibly versatile and restlessly creative he is.  And yes, that is a Coldplay song in there; believe me, nobody is more surprised that I’m recommending a Coldplay song than me.

 

everyone has to start somewhere

As the oldest child and the son of two classical musicians, I didn’t get a lot of exposure to rock music.  My first exposure to Bob Dylan was, in all likelihood, Edie Brickell’s cover of “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, from the Born on the Fourth of July soundtrack – a movie I don’t think I’ve ever seen, actually.  (My second exposure to Dylan was most likely PJ Harvey’s overlooked cover of “Highway 61 Revisited“, and then there was whatever bullshit U2 did on Rattle and Hum, and then Hendrix, and then finally Dylan himself.)

I happened to hear Edie’s cover on the radio, back in those endless teen-aged days when I would carve out weekend afternoons specifically to tape songs onto my boombox, and it floored me.  That waltzing rhythm, that suspended chord with the bass staying on the root, the slow build in the devastating final verse; it all killed me.  Plus, I must admit that I had a bit of a crush on Edie back in the day, and this might’ve been the last “big” song she had before she and the Bohemians parted ways and she shacked up with Paul Simon.

And so anyway, when it emerged that Patti Smith sang the same song at Dylan’s Nobel ceremony, and fucking killed it – even in spite of a hiccup here or there, which, let’s be honest, would happen to anyone in that situation – it made my heart happy in a very specific and meaningful way.

I won’t pretend to know Dylan’s discography as well as I should – I have my favorite albums, and I have my favorite songs from those albums, as well as alternative versions not formally recorded, but there are large gaps that I suspect I’ll never get to – but in any event, this particular song has a special place in my heart if only because it was the first Dylan song that personally affected me, that made me say, holy shit, I get it, I should probably buy some of his albums.

And let me say, again, that Patti’s version is just straight-up astounding.  And the song is arguably even more resonant right now than ever before.