Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Arbitrary Stupid Goal" by Tamara Shopsin (MCD/FSG)

ISBN: 978-0-374-10586-0

A hard book to put down.  Each page is a bite size narrative that is so well written and often profound, that you just want to take another page in, and then after that, another, and so forth.  Tamara Shopsin, besides being a wonderful prose artist, is also an illustrator and designer.   Some of the text is only a few paragraphs long on a page, to full page - but this is an epic history of her family, their friends, and the main star of the book, New York City, specifically Greenwich Village.   

Every page is a reflection of the classic New York landscape. One that I often imagined in fiction, films, and music.  Reading this memoir, I have The Lovin' Spoonful as a soundtrack in my brain.   No mention of the band within its pages, but that is what I bring to the text as a reader.  The Shopsin family are well-known in the Village and beyond, due that they had a food market, which turned into a legendary diner.  I've been there twice, and the food was incredible, but beyond that one goes there for the spectacle; the theater that comes with the restaurant.   I can't think of another diner that is so enjoyable, as well as entertaining.  The chances of being insulted by the owner (the author's father) are in the 70% bracket.  Of course, it's worth taking a chance, because it's an amazing show.   And again the food is great.

Tamara Shopsin's book captures the flavor of her family which in turn means classic New York City.   Every page has a wisdom or philosophy either made by Tamara, or by the mom Eve, or dad Kenny.   This is the book to have when one is feeling down or depressed.  The life that comes off these pages is rich, brilliant, and hysterical.  The sad thing is Manhattan has changed into a huge shopping mall mentality.  Shopsin captures the moments why one would want to visit NYC in the first place, as well as a focused snapshot of life being lived at its intense pleasure.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Evening Series: Wednesday, August 16, 2017


The Evening Series: August 16, 2017

I need a pre-amp for my stereo hi-fi, and at the moment, my right channel, or speaker is not working.  It’s OK if the album is in Mono, but most of my vinyl is in Stereo.  So, in my living room, I have to stay close to the left speaker, which is awkward, because our dining table is closer to the right speaker.  That is where I like to sit and stare at the album cover or read the liner notes while listening to music. 



I had a record listening party, and that too was odd because all seven of us had to sit around the left channel speaker.   I had to get chairs from another room, and what was worse, we were listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and I can be wrong, but I feel we’re missing some of the sonic aspects of this specific album, by listening only to the left channel.  We often look at the right speaker, and all of us, shake our heads. 

Since we’re on the second floor, and due to the weight of our bodies by the left speaker, we noticed that the floor was squeaking more.  And when we had our dance party the night of the listening party, close to the left speaker, the floor collapsed.  Of the seven, four died.  I was saved due that the left speaker fell and got stuck between the hole, and therefore by holding on the speaker I survived this ordeal.  Sadly we had to cancel the dance party that night.  

For me, it was touch and go.  I had to decide to save my life or spear the speaker being damaged in the fall.  Luck had it, we managed (the speaker and me) to get ourselves stuck between the wooden beam and ceiling.  Due to the kindness of our neighbor downstairs, he brought the speaker successfully down from the wooden beam, and my wife pulled me up from above.   After checking to see if the Hi-Fi was OK, I then checked on our guests.  Like I reported before, four died.  It’s a tragedy.  The scratch on the left speaker will always remind me of that evening. 



After fixing the floor (thanks to the landlord Mr. Kushner) it looked new.  When I look at my left speaker, I’m reminded of the tragedy.   Four people lost their lives by dancing to Gary Glitter’s “Rock n’ Roll Part Two”  In one of the ‘yeah’s” in the chorus they went down like a Led Zeppelin.   My wife was spared, if not by God, then by the natural urge to have a drink and to eat some dip on a chip on the other side of the room.   I often think how fate comes in and enhances the scene.  No, I mean life. 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Evening Series: Tuesday, August 1, 2017



The Evening Series: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

As the darkness takes over the sky, I notice the music changes as well.  Michael Nyman’s music works in daylight.  His album of 1990 “The Kiss and Other Movements” is very much a morning piece of music.  It has rhythm and a direction which is onward and doesn't look back.  Which is ironic, because Nyman always has a glance toward the past concerning his music.  Chamber music made for minimalist rooms with a large window.  Birds outside seem to respond to this album in a lively manner.  I like to play music loud, and I usually open the windows up in the room so the sound can travel beyond the four walls.  It maybe my imagination or my fantasy coming to life, but it seems birds come over to our window sill to listen to Nyman’s music.  I have to make sure that they don’t fly inside the room because we don’t have screens on our windows.  Once, a bird did fly in, and it took me the whole afternoon to get it out of our home.  The bird that flew in was a California towhee.  They tend to knock on windows because they are reacting to their reflection.  Once inside the house, they are bewildered. I first, used a broom to try to push it to an open window.  But the bird panics, and eventually goes to even a higher location.  So unable to reach the bird, I just open all the windows, and within time, it finally sees its reflection, and once that happens, they leave through the window.



The late afternoon becomes a horror show.  Particularly in the living room, because by 4 to 6 pm the sun directly hits the space, and although the temperature is not high, it’s very uncomfortable to sit in the room.  I tend to play Serge Gainsbourg in the late afternoon, and especially music he recorded in the early 1960s.  The album of that time of day is Gainsbourg’s “Confidential” which is breezy, swings, but has strong melodies.  Electric guitar, stand-up bass, and Gainsbourg’s voice.  What can be better in a hot, bright room?   The living room is large enough in that I can move around the room to avoid the direct sunlight that comes through the windows.  We have wooden shutters, but they’re original (house built in 1937) and quite beaten up through its years blocking the sun.  Some of them are utterly useless, and the sun comes in invited as well as uninvited.  What’s interesting about Los Angeles weather is very much the same every day, so one can directly predict when the sun will hit the room.  I’m usually dancing with the direct sunlight.  More of a waltz as I move five feet here or there to find shade.  “Scenic Railway” one of the outstanding songs from “Confidential” drifts from the speakers as if it is having a sun stroke.   I like to take naps in the afternoon.  The coolest and most shady is under the table.  So I often lay down on the wooden floor, facing the ceiling, and take a nap for fifteen-minutes.




Around 7:15 P.M., darkness takes over the room.  It’s time for wine.  We have no direct electric lighting in the living room, so light comes from an old lamp in the corner as well as street lighting outside our window. It is a crime light, so it gives out a yellow tint.  My favorite drinking music, and in the evening (mind you) is the NASA Voyager Space Sounds.  These are sounds that come from outer space.  It’s the sound of ionized gas or plasma that is heard outside the Voyager.  The sound is ghostly, even haunting in its intensity.  One can think of it as ambient music, but while listening to it in the darkened room, I find myself being thrown into the sound as if someone throws catnip to a kitten.  I’m drawn to the music as I stick my head out the window to see the stars.



From a distance, walking from house to house to driveway I can see a pair of coyotes strolling down my street.  These two Flâneurs or as I like to call them, boulevardier, and I imagine looking for food.  I don’t have any pets, so I’m not alarmed, but still, I find them sinister.   There is nothing beautiful about them, and their habit of staying in the shadows during the daytime hours, or brazenly walk down an urban street in the nighttime always gave me a sense of dread.  Ever since the drought, coyotes have been getting closer to human’s houses, and of course, the attraction to smaller pets is a magnet for these dogs of the night.  Still, I can’t keep my eyes off them  One of them comes up to my staircase.  I have seen these animals run into people’s yards or entrances, but I have always dreaded the thought that they will come to my property.   I put the music of the Voyager loud, in hopes that the coyotes will realize that humans are living in these homes.  What’s alarming is I hear a sound of a coyote digging outside my front door.  Then the sound of sniffing. After a few minutes of silence, besides the music, of course, I hear a knock on the door.

I  didn’t answer it.  I then heard a yelp.  I stood by and kept an eye on the door. I also went over to the window to close them.  Although we are far above the street level, I had this sudden fear of a coyote jumping from the road to our window pane.  Impossible, but the imagination doesn’t always take logic.  I was slightly tipsy when I went to bed.   As I laid on the bed, and top of the bed sheets and blankets, I kept hearing sounds outside the house.  I got up, and I saw the two coyotes staring at me through the window.



I have read that Freud had a dog that stayed with him during his sessions with patients.  His dog was also aware of time in that the animal would head toward the door when the session was coming to a close.    I now wonder if the two coyotes out there are perhaps waiting for me to leave the house.  Or to guard me in the case of imminent danger?  The truth is I don’t want to think.   I want to live.  I want to think what the night brings to me.  The two coyotes are the answer.

- Tosh Berman

ADULT. - Uncomfortable Positions (feat. Lun*na Menoh) (Official Video)





Lun*na Menoh with the band ADULT.