31 March 2006

R.I.P Nelson

There's a ton going on with me right now, but something has trumped an update about jobs and life here in the city. When I was in East Africa, I was traveling alone, but I was never really alone. I found ways to make friends wherever I went, and in Arusha Tanzania I fell in with some hip hop MCs. We only spent a couple months together, but these kids had a major impact on my research and on my life. I spent my 25th birthday staying up all night with my Tanzanian friends around a bonfire in the shadow of an extinct volcano, chewing miraa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat) and listening to music from all over the world.

Although my swahili was meagre at best, we still managed to have deep conversations that covered life and love and music and politics and death. Who knew that death was so close?

Yesterday I received an email that one of my closest friends in Tanzania had been murdered by a psychotic knife-wielding neighbor. Nelson, aka Faza Neli, was an amazing man; humble, gracious and an incredible poet and artist who touched my life and so many others around the world. He was a member of XPlastaz, a internationally touring hip hop group that fused Maasai chants with East Coast style beats and rhymes and included Neli's two brothers and sister as members. I know there are so many people in Arusha and across the globe who miss him tremendously, as you can see from the guestbook at http://www.xplastaz.com (be sure to watch their videos, they're amazing). Tanzania has lost a prophet this week.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

27 March 2006

how to get kicked out of carnegie hall

what a weekend. don't worry folks, i didn't get 86ed from carnegie. but what a crazy time it was.

after the discount ticket debacle (see last week's "i am an idiot"), we ended up having great seats in an intimate performance space. we walked in and sat down to see the kronos quartet perform songs about war. when we opened our programs, we discovered that we'd get much more than that. the host of an alternative radio program based out of colorado was going to be chatting with none other than howard zinn between kronos' performances. howard and the host would chat a bit about the nature of art and its relationship with politics and then kronos would play incredible music from all over the world and then they'd talk some more. there was a bit of an intellectual disconnect -- kronos would play a stunning piece and then the host would ask, so tell me about langston hughes? what? the conversation itself was interesting, there were just some gaps. kronos brought along with them some excellent special guests -- a tanzanian musician who has created a combination turntable and kora that he calls a phonoharp. check out his instruments at http://www.cpcarts.org/kitundu/. incredible sounds, and add to that a totally bizarre inuit throat singer. what a show.

the best slash worst slash best again part of the show started when the radio host introduced howard zinn. someone in the back of the hall shouted HOWARD! HE SHOULD BE READ! we should have known at this point this might be a problem. after every single one of howard's statements, this man in the dark would scream AMEN! the real issue came as kronos finished their first piece and from the back came a thunderous KRONOS! people in the audience started shifting, getting uncomfortable, saying shut up! and shushing him. to no avail. as the stringed vibrations of kronos would fade, the crowd would take the collective sigh that ends all powerful music and right at the apex of the sigh would come KRONOS! YES! ameet later described it as something akin to water torture, holding our breath as the piece wound down, waiting for the inevitable barbaric yawp.

when the lights came up at intermission, the audience demanded that this man leave, and he fought hard, saying he was interacting in a positive way. the alcohol on his breath revealed why he might believe he was working in some sort of creative engagement. the house manager approached him and asked him to leave. he refused. the house manager became more forceful. he got up out of his chair but continued to argue with the frustrated audience. eventually, the house manager wrapped his arms around the drunk man's shoulders and began to carry him out. we could still hear him shouting as he headed towards the exit. I BOUGHT A TICKET! I HAVE A RIGHT TO EXPRESS MYSELF! WEREN'T YOU LISTENING TO HOWARD? WE HAVE FREE SPEECH IN THIS COUNTRY!

in other news, it's been a hell of a first week. i'm continuing to work on job and housing leads, with an interview this afternoon for barbacking in union square and a housing interview on wednesday. we'll see where they go. there's always more leads.

i just took my first yoga class at the studio where i volunteer. it rocked me. i've been practicing for a few years now, but jesus, crow into headstand and back again? no f'ing way that's happening. i was just happy to get into crow. a good workout, no doubt.

other weekend events: walking through the village at 2 in the morning, watching drunk high schoolers from jersey lean on friends, avoiding the vomit on the sidewalk as a pair of mustached medics shake their heads sadly, slowly. free afrobeat in williamsburg, at a bar midnight on a sunday appreciating the fact that there's no monday job on the other side of night. an attempted crossing of the brooklyn bridge thwarted by a not-yet-springtime chill.

the week ahead? highs in the 60s. let it come!

24 March 2006

i am an idiot

it being my first full weekend in this grand metropolis, i thought it'd be nice to splurge and go to carnegie hall to see the kronos quartet. so i took the a train (my first subway ride since moving here) and got tickets for ameet and me to go to the show tonight. they only release a few discounted day-of tickets, and i was so excited to get a pair. so excited that i didn't think to check them out. i took the train all the way back to brooklyn and all the way up to the fourth floor walkup that i call home before i saw that i had bought tickets to the NEW YORK POPS. nothing against the pops, they're fine, but come on, i want to see kronos! so i called the theater and the only thing i could do was to go back to the box office. so i turned around and got back on the train, this time with a copy of starving hysterical naked allen ginsberg to pass the time. tonight's show was already sold out, but they were nice enough to give me tickets to the right show tomorrow night. total travel time: 4 hours. subway cost: 8 dollars. two tickets: 20 dollars. realizing you're an idiot: priceless.

otherwise, things are going well. i've got my first interview on monday as a twice a week barback somewhere near union square. i'm in touch with someone who has lived in town for a while (i.e. has all the stuff i don't want to have to buy to resettle) and is looking to move in with someone come june. we sound compatible, so we'll see where that goes.

my sister didn't get into smith. poor hannah. i hope she figures out a way to get the hell out of minnesota. not that it's a bad place, but han, i'll bet you're reading this and just aching to be somewhere else. getting rejected totally sucks. i'm sorry that you haven't found your place, but a lesson -- if you don't focus at crucial times in your life, it'll come back to bite you in the ass. and i'm afraid spring 2006 is ass-biting season for you. sorry.

for the ride to manhattan today (the first one), i listened to wilco's yankee hotel foxtrot. an amazing album. the first song got me thinking about all that i've left behind. i don't think it's been long enough for it to sink in that i'm not dating elaine any more, but when jeff tweedy sings "i'm hiding out in the big city blinking / what was i thinking when i let go of you?" it starts to feel more real. then again, he also says that distance has a way of making love understandable. things have been so crazy here that i haven't been able to properly process the break-up. even though we both agree it's for the best and are still in touch in positive ways, it's hard to be alone in such a big place and i miss her.

luckily i have a million things to distract me. here comes the weekend!

23 March 2006

running in the shadow of the watchtower

things are looking up today, yes they are. even as dannyrichnet struggled to provide the infotainmentsupernetwork that is my lifeblood, i managed to contact basically everyone i know in new york who's involved with anything slightly related to what i want to do. even though not a single one of them has written back yet, i am optimistic. not that they will necessarily lead to anything, just that a single one of them will be in touch.

meanwhile, a couple good leads. barback in union square and working in a video production house. the second would probably be easier on both my back and my liver, but i'm a little tired of being cooped up with white walls and a computer screen. i think the fast-paced alcohol-fueled environment would be good for me.

my resume continues to develop the satin sheen of professionalism with words like initiatives, strategies, and explanations of how i simultaneously toilet trained ten children. all the parents out there, you can imagine how much shit i cleaned off the floor. folks, i was actually peed on. i apologized though, just like that sweet old man our vice president shot in the face -- i shouldn't have been browsing the lower shelves of the bathroom books. so it was really my fault.

i sat down this evening and read the listings in time out new york. i'm going to have a get a job real quick before i spend all my money on cultural enrichment. corners can be cut, however, and on friday afternoon, i'm heading to carnegie hall to get last minute $10 tix to the kronos quartet playing music about loss. sunday night the lead singer of antibalas afrobeat orchestra is playing for free in williamsburg -- if you live in the city and can go to a 10 pm sunday night show, it will be a danceteria serving up greasy beats and i will see you there. the options are endless, and i'll be keeping a close watch after missing a free appearance yesterday by my favorite san franciscan husband and wife duo mates of state.

this city continues to astound me, as should just about anywhere after only five days. hard to believe it's been such a short time. i went on my first run through brooklyn today, down along columbia through the literal industrial underbelly of brooklyn heights (remember the flying cat? my god that was hilarious). i went down to foot of the brooklyn bridge, which i guess would be called DUBBO for down under the brookyln bridge overpass, as long as we're making up real estate neighborhoods. can we call them falsehoods? oh let's.

so there i was, on the docks in the falsehood of DUBBO, alone on the windswept pier and watching the white chop of the east river. i stood there, marveled at the massive skyline, the tall ships at the piers and the drifting clouds above new jersey. when i headed back home i ran up the hill on the backside of the watchtower building. yes, that watchtower that you find mysteriously under your door or gently placed in your palm as you take a copy not because you're interested but because the person handing them out seems so sweet, so serene and comfortable in their knowledge of the impending apocalypse. or something, i've never read those things, have you?

water taxis crossed the gray expanse at lady liberty's feet. i ran back along the promenade. the forsythia is almost out, and there's this wonderful little and i'm sure multimillion dollar apartment on the promenade that has a yellow roof, and i remember last april when those bright far reaching flowers bloomed they reached up towards the roof as if embracing a family member at a reunion, as if they could extend through the wrought iron fences and climb the brick walls and go up and up and up.

my rhyme for the day: after a two and a half mile run, fourth floor walkups are just no fun!

tomorrow i start my attendant training at the yoga studio. sweet!

21 March 2006

the whiteness, the blackness

i don't think i realized how segregated the twin cities are, how white describes the landscape i've left behind and the pinkish skinned world in which i lived. i live in cobble hill, a pretty, brownstone-filled, mostly white neighborhood. there are old black women rolling bundled white children down the street in strollers. this afternoon i found myself on the other side of things, heading away from the river through the fulton mall to the social security office. and all of a sudden it was like being in africa again, a sea of faces and the feeling of difference. it was incredible, after what seems like forever, to be in the midst of people who wouldn't know the difference between a last name ending in -sen or -son, who don't have blonde hair and blue eyes and people who don't shy away from public activity and interaction. don't get me wrong, i enjoyed myself in new scandinavia, but there's something powerful about seeing the human potential for variety and difference.

i watched the world baseball classic with ariel, my cuban housemate. he was crushed when cuba lost, but that didn't stop him from screaming loud enough to be heard in havana.

there's a yoga studio near my house that will allow me to trade five volunteer hours a week for unlimited free classes -- not too bad a deal, especially since i'm not working yet.

i want to believe it's spring already, but it's a gray day and i'm cold after walking around all day. spring better be here soon.

20 March 2006

be careful when you throw garbage out a third story window

it is a wonderful thing, having a home. the moving is done and the adventures have begun.

the adventures are located here:


our story today is about throwing things out the window. always fun!

i had completed my search for a local bagel shop and was slowly making my way through the industrial warehouses next to the port. the island skyscrapers rose up from the old containers like so many spring flowers reborn. crisscrossing through the neighborhood, i found myself across the street from a pile of trash. a battered poster of an egyptian statue caught my eye, and i do have an apartment to furnish. as i readied to cross the street, someone shouted from a window, are you ready? is it okay? a small crate emerged from the third story window and i noticed someone standing next to the heaped garbage. he shouted, yeah okay go! the old crate made its way the down the three stories onto the sidewalk. there was a crunch and a flash of black. black? a furry black mass bolted from its erstwhile home, terrified but alive. the man on the sidewalk looked up wide-eyed to his partner, DUDE THE CAT WAS IN THERE!

they laughed. i laughed. the flying cat of columbia street, robbed of a quiet crate nap and of one of its nine lives, was not amused.

19 March 2006

welcome, my friends

the sun has smashed its way through my early morning window, and even though the rum-induced haze ended at 4 am, it's time to begin my first day in brooklyn. i'm in my new room. it's oddly shaped, with doors and strange pieces of wall that jut out at various angles. hard to believe that i'm actually here after so much anticipation. did i really spend a year and a half living in minnesota? and now i live in new york? wow.

the empire state building was lit green when we arrived on the evening of st patty's day. this city has a powerful tractor beam -- once we saw that first sign bearing NEW YORK CITY 369 MILES, i don't think we could have changed our destination if we tried. the giddy terror of this new life hit me on the g.w. as coltrane blasted out acknowledgement and we descended into the heaving bosom of city.

so far the city has put on a show for me. it wasn't spring in minnesota, that's for damn sure, but here the crocuses, daffodils and dogwood at the cobble hill park are opening their eyes and reaching out towards the beautiful blue sky. it's a chilly, crisp day. if i stick my head out my window and turn to the right, i can the see beyond the fences of the b.q.e. to the east river. it's a little uncomfortable to sit leaning out the window, so maybe i'll spend some time enjoying the view from the roof.

dannyrich, a neighbor and stranger, has been generous enough to provide me with a wireless connection, although it's not so reliable. props must be relayed nonetheless to dannyrich.

it's good to be here.