GWB, REM & Me
After the world’s longest and busiest day (I’m planning and prepping for MTV News’ Video Music Awards coverage and 9/11 Remembrance concurrently), I met my buddy Jon Rosenblatt for a bike ride.
The sun had fallen into New Jersey by the time we hit the path along the river. The George Washington Bridge was glistening through the evening’s summer haze. It towered over us as we drew near, illuminated from lights within, shining a brilliant bone white. I love that bridge.
It reminds me of the first time I drove into New York City from Syracuse with Smokey Junglefrog, my college band, to play The Nightengale. I really hadn’t spent any time in the City at that point, so looking down the Hudson at the mighty skyline of Manhattan was so big, so exciting, so frightening. Years later, moving here with my brother, we drove in from Upstate over the GWB and into Hell’s Kitchen. I had the same feelings: so big, so exciting, so frightening.
The first book I read in New York was William Baldwin’s “Another Country,” in which the jazz drummer protagonist leaps from that very bridge. Whenever we go for long bike rides, it’s out and over the GWB, up through the Palisades to Piermont, NY, and back. The Lincoln Tunnel may be the functional gateway to my New York, but the GWB is my spiritual gateway.
Anyway, after catching up over sushi with Jon, I rode home, and immediately headed out to Kinko’s to make mailers for next week’s show. Every time I’m there copying pasting and cutting, I wonder about where the mailers go, who sees them, what they do with them. So much love and labor goes into each one. Each one says something about where I am, or have been, in and around that show. They’re snapshots of a moment. I keep wanting to create and online exibit of them, but there are so many now, and are maybe only interesting to me.
I can also report to you that I’m heading back into the studio with Kevin Sunday night (after the New York City Triathlon) to finish up the “Summer’s Gone” CD single. I’m also buying a guitar this week, a beater to travel with so I don’t break another one (my Martin was the second casualty in three years). And an old friend from high school, Jyl Johnson, found me online, bought my CD, and, by virtue of her connections at the radio station she works for (and a fair dash of kindness) got me a show in Raleigh. Some bands may be big in Japan, but I’m huge in the South. (Clearly, I kid.)
It does seem fitting though: the band I loved in high school when I really began to get fanatical about songs and songwriting and performing — R.E.M. — is (obviously) from the Athens. They turned me on to so much from down there: Dreams So Real, The dBs, Love Tractor, Pylon. In fact, the were my entre into tons of music. If Michael Stipe endorsed ’em, or the band covered ’em, I sought them out: Chris Isaac, Vic Chestnut, Syd Straw, Velvet Underground. And my very first road trip was from Philadelphia to Athen, GA, just to see Wuxtry Records, the 40 Watt, and all of those R.E.M. landmarks. So it’s fitting. And big. And exciting. And a little frightening.