Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
There's a whole lot of stuff going on in NYC right now. M'self and my kids just caught the beginning of the "March of Anger" up Fifth Avenue ... a seriously sizable demonstration, to put it mildly. Also odd to spot some wayward SantaCon'rs dimly attempting to continue their annual idiocy around the edges of the rally. Strange dichotomy.
Anyway, while my kids and I were in the West Village, we passed by a certain spot made somewhat-famous by a photo by Ricky Powell. Below is both Ricky's original, and our little homage taken in the same spot.
About twenty years ago, I peered out my living room window on East 12th Street to discover that it was a misty, atmospheric day after an early morning rainfall. As I had the day off, I grabbed my trusty Maxxum 400si…then newly fitted with a wide-angle lens, and set out to take some pictures.
While strolling around foggy SoHo, I found myself on Greene Street, strangely bereft of any cars. I raised my camera, pointed it to the south and snapped. A few days later, I repaired to the Spectra Photo Lab on LaGuardia Place and picked up my film, delighted to discover how certain ones had turned out, notably my Greene Street shot. That shot is below….
At the time, I was still finding my way with photography as an eager novice. I’d taken a crash darkroom course at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine, so I had a vague idea of what I was doing, but being that I didn’t have access to a darkroom myself, I took all my film to Specta, and they always did an amazing job. While I could take credit for the composition, Spectra made my images positively shine. This Greene Street shot remains a particular favorite, so much so that I had the Spectra folks blow up a version and it now hangs on our living room wall. I love how you just make out the hint of the World Trade Center towers behind the street lamp.
As I mentioned in this post from 2008, when my first child was born in 2004, I switched to a digital camera out of sheer convenience, and sadly never went back. Clearly, I wasn’t alone, as the advent of digital photography basically seemed to put photo labs like Spectra out of business. They had to give up that massive space on LaGuardia Place as a result. It sort of broke my heart.
Six years later, however, I recently noticed that Specta has re-appeared at 333 Fifth Avenue just off 33rd Street. I’ve recently been kicking the idea around of shooting film again, so it might be time to go visit.
And just for the Hell of it, I was down on Greene Street again yesterday, and tried to replicate that earlier shot. Suffice to say, SoHo is no longer the same place that it was all those years ago.
The other day, I was prompted to write a post after yet another sighting of Jon Spencer. For those who may not recognize the name, Spencer is the driving force behind the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and formerly the lead singer/guitarist of Pussy Galore. Technically speaking, he also sang and played guitar for Boss Hog (alongside his wife and fellow former Pussy Galore member Cristina Martinez), Heavy Trash and, briefly, a band called Shithaus with future Cop Shoot Cop/Firewater mainstay, Tod [A] — but that’s more for my fellow rock geeks out there.
In any case, after dropping my own kids off at their school, I was walking south on Second Avenue and who should I spot but the man himself, attempting to hail a cab with his teenaged son. My post was ostensibly going to be about how odd it is to see your idols become parents. If you’re familiar with Jon’s work in Pussy Galore and the Blues Explosion, you doubtlessly know him as a tight-trousered, sweary rock hellion. To see that same guy out of character is always striking to me. There he was like everyone else, trying to get through the day, with his son at his side — a seemingly normal kid in a high school varsity jacket, although he’s clearly inherited his folks’ good lookin’ DNA. Knowing better than to bother Jon at this moment (no one wants to be hassled when they’re with their kids), I said nothing and kept walking.
So, yeah, like I said, I was going to post some sort of tenuously insightful entry about how great it is that we’re all in the same boat and blah blah blah, and I wanted to illustrate the point with some images from Jon’s notorious past. Being a long-time, slavish fan of the gloriously rude Pussy Galore, I wanted to capture an image that really summed them up. In searching for same, however, I managed to strike the particular type of oil that really fuels this weblog…. a shot of the band photographed in what is clearly New York City, but not necessarily that immediately obvious. That picture is the one below.
Just as a bit of quick backstory, Pussy Galore originally hailed from Washington D.C., but moved to the grittier pastures of New York City (like Bad Brains around the same era) to make their mark. Alongside similarly inclined acts like Sonic Youth, SWANS, Foetus and my beloved Cop Shoot Cop, they helped carve out New York City’s post-punk, post-No-Wave identity. While ostensibly named after Honor Blackman’s busty Bond girl from “Goldfinger,” make no mistake — Pussy Galore intended to offend you at every turn (select song titles include “Fuck You, Man,” “Adolescent Wet Dream,” “Cunt Tease,” “Pretty Fuck Look,” etc.) Their records (still in print — go get’em) are a giddily profane blitzkrieg of barely contained chaos. In other words, they were brilliant. Here's a quick taste...
Anyway, I’d stumbled across this photo on Tumblr, appended with the legend “Scanned from Away from the Puslebeat fanzine, 1988.” Though quite grainy, it depicts the 1987 line-up of Pussy Galore (from left to right — guitarist Neil Hagerty, guitarist/vocalist Julia Cafritz, vocalist Cristina Martinez...she's on the table, drummer Bob Bert and vocalist/guitarist Jon Spencer — Pussy Galore had no bass player) being characteristically provocative at what looks like a city park’s chess table (note what Julia’s doing with her hand). Here's another look...
I know what you’re thinking: “Alex, this could be taken anywhere in New York City! There’s not enough information to provide an answer.”
Well, maybe so, but from the looks of the photograph and the clothes the band are sporting, it looks to have been taken during the same session that resulted in the back cover photo of the band for the 1987 re-release of Groovy Hate Fuck (Feel Good About Your Body). See that back cover below.
Here’s that photo on its own...
And here’s a further shot from that same session.
Okay, so where does that leave us? From the looks of those photos, it appears that Pussy Galore might have been photographed in the garden on Avenue B at East 6th Street (where Eddie Boros’ Toy Tower used to stand). There used to be a lot more junky metalwork in that particular park. Moreover, they could have also have been photographed a little further down the way on Avenue B at The Gas Station, which had become a mangled garden of scrap metal sculpture circa 1985. In any case, if either is the case, neither spot is particularly far from Tompkins Square Park … the park I suspect my mystery photo was taken.
Given that I’m friends on Facebook with the great Bob Bert (Pussy Galore’s then-drummer, and also a former member of Sonic Youth, Bewitched, Chrome Cranks and Lydia Lunch’s Retro Virus, I thought I’d ask the man to see if he could shed any light. I posted the photo on his timeline and waited. In short order, Mr. Bert wrote back saying the following: “Photo was taken by Monica Dee whose whereabouts I do not know!”
I did a little searching for Monica Dee, but didn’t come up with much, other than she’s taken a huge swathe of great photographs of loads of my favorite bands.
Anyway, I had a little extra time today, so after spending a large portion of my morning doing some work, I decided to take a breather and head to Tompkins Square Park. I printed out the photo for reference and headed east.
Now, granted, I’m sure a lot has changed with the very topography of Tompkins Square Park since 1987, but I figured that some of the specifics would still be there. Given the row of building facades in the back, I figured the picture — if indeed snapped in Tompkins Square — would have found the band seated on the northern edge, believing that to be East 10th Street behind them.
Now, obviously, Tompkins Square Park in 1987 was a WHOLLY different affair than it is here in 2014. Today, it’s a comparatively genteel patch of green in the middle of an increasingly desirable swathe of lucrative real estate, replete with a dog run and a state-of-the-art playground. Back then? Not so much. That all said, there are still some areas of the park that are more hospitable than others.
Suspecting that the chess table and accompanying benches in question might be located in the little courtyard on the north side of the park behind the public restrooms (bookended by basketball courts), I strolled in. Around the edges of that courtyard lurked a gaggle of none-too-subtly dope-smoking high school hip-hoppers, who eyed me with thinly veiled derision (although, to be fair, with my greying hair and in my blazer, I probably looked more like preoccupied high school math teacher in search of truants than any sort of serious threat to their leisure time). I left them alone and tried to stake out the scene, looking for the knobby tree to the right of Jon’s head. Here’s that shot again.
I’d been hoping that it would present itself to me, but I couldn’t find that tree. Here’s a pan shot of the area in question. Click on it to enlarge.
From the looks of it, a tree or two has been taken down, but I didn’t seem to find the exact location. But I feel I’m really close.
People keep sending me the clip below in much the same fashion they follow the instructions to “light fuse and get away,” expecting, I suppose, a massive detonation.
Honestly speaking, up until today, I’ve had absolutely zero to say about Taylor Swift. I mean, I’m not supposed to have anything to say about her. She doesn't matter to me, but then — her music isn’t for me. I don’t wish her ill or anything. She’s just not on my radar. Why she’s on anyone’s radar is another matter. Personally speaking, I don’t think her music’s all that exceptional, but again — it’s not my concern.
In my former place of employment, however, Taylor’s name was routinely invoked. Whenever I expressed my absolute lack of affinity for her or her music, I kept hearing the same incredulous retorts. Evidently, she writes her own stuff. Kudos for that. And wouldn’t I rather my daughter have a role model like Taylor Swift than, say, Ke$ha or Nikki Minaj or Katy Perry or __________ (insert coquettish pop starlet of your choice here)?
I don’t have an answer for that. I mean, honestly, from what I can tell, my kids know who Taylor Swift is, but they don’t express a lot of enthusiasm or familiarity for her music. That’s fine with me. I’m sure there’s a day coming soon wherein my kids will listen to music that they dig, and there’s a huge probability that it’ll be music that I find unfit for human consumption, but that hasn’t happened yet. Normally, here’s the part where I boast that my kids can name songs by Devo and SWANS when they hear them, but that’s simply because they hear me playing that stuff.
At the end of the day, my kids will like and listen to whatever the hell they feel like, and there ultimately will be precious fuck-all I can do to stop or dissuade them from it. My own parents tried to get me to disavow my fandom for KISS back in the day, which backfired on a positively herculean scale.
Regardless of that strenuously dubious (and ultimately meaningless) title, the question remains …. Why Taylor Swift? What does she have to do with New York?
She was born in Pennsylvania, but evidently spent most of her life in Nashville, Tennessee. If I’m not mistaken, she only bought apartments (notice the plural, please) here in April (somewhere down in TriBeCa). Seven months later, that she should represent this fine, storied city in any capacity is beyond laughable, regardless of your taste in music.
That would seem to go without saying, no?
Earlier today, though, I was having a conversation with a friend about the changing face of this city, looping back to our ongoing discussion of how this place has closed and how that place is going out of business. My friend had sent me a photo of the former entrance to Some Records, a once-mighty stronghold of punk rock vinyl that was formerly perched on East 6th Street (don’t bother looking for it now, obviously). As is usually the case in these exchanges, we both came around to the fact that the city that we’d known and loved was really no longer there. Sure, I may wander the streets of the Lower East Side in my vintage Cop Shoot Cop t-shirt, listening to Kraut on my headphones and vainly searching for antiquated Missing Foundation graffiti and ancient Rock Hotel flyers, but that New York City (so often slavishly rhapsodized here on this weblog) is effectively GONE, replaced by avenues peppered with frozen yogurt joints, banks, 7-11’s and Le Pain Quoditiens.
The particular subcultures I was enthralled by are now memories, but so is the diversity and the soul of bygone eras. Apologists will continually cite the maxim that “change is the only constant” in the urban environment, but that’s a shallow cop-out.
But that’s just my tastes and my experience. Folks from all walks of life and all areas of interest express the very same laments that I do. The particulars may be different, but the chorus of the song remains the same — the character of New York City is changing, and not necessarily for the better.
When my wife and I talk about moving out of Manhattan as we periodically do, it used to send me into a a panic. But now, with so much of what I loved about the city I was born and raised in having already vanished or in the process of vanishing … the notion of leaving doesn’t sting quite as bad.
With all that mind, maybe Taylor Swift does accurately represent this city after all.
Okay, just a quick silly one. You may remember a post from summer 2013 wherein I posted a couple of vintage pics of Joe Strummer lookin’ cool around NYC in honor of the fallen Clash leader’s birthday. In one of those pics — repurposed above — we saw Joe standing manfully in front of Carmine Street’s long-standing and endearingly stubborn enclave of vinyl purism, House of Oldies. If I had to wager, I'd suggest that said photograph was taken by long-time Clash pal and storied New Yorker, Bob Gruen, but I cannot be sure.
In any case, in a vain attempt at tiring them out, I took my kids out for another epic march around Manhattan yesterday, and as we were sauntering north on Carmine Street, we passed by House of Oldies, which reminded me of the Strummer pic. As such, here’s our tribute (with my little Charlotte looking suitably fatigued of these sorts of shenanigans)....
I've never really liked this song, but I discovered a new appreciation for "Jukebox" by the Flirts when spied its video, featuring some vintage shots of the Village, Carmine Street and ... yes ... the House of Oldies. I spoke about it at greater length here.
First up, let me just state for the record that I am not — nor have I ever been — a fan of Spandau Ballet. Don’t get me wrong — I have absolutely zero problems with foppish new romantic bands, but in those stakes, Duran Duran beats the Spandaus every damn time. That said, my wife remains an ardent supporter.
In any case, via my pal Tim B’s Stupefaction site, I learned there’s a sprawling documentary on Spandau Ballet in the works (or already completed…see trailer below). Spotting the poster image for same — the Spandaus dressed in typically ridiculous garb while blocking traffic on West 33rd Street in the shadow of Madison Square Garden — I felt an irrepressible urge to replicate it. After ducking and weaving through herds of corpulent Scandiewiegian tourists on the High Line this morning, my kids and I found ourselves in the neighborhood, so we gave it a go. Here are the fruits of our labors. I know this much is true.
Here are the details on the flick...
And, honestly, if pressed to name Spandau Ballet's greatest achievement, I'd say this trumps "True"...
It’s Thursday afternoon, and the pain in my knee that definitively revealed itself on Sunday morning is not only showing no signs of going away, it seems to be intensifying (or maybe that’s just because it’s a grim, rainy day). Either way, it’s still very much with me.
Following conventional wisdom, once the pain started, I immediately stopped running. Consensus suggested that I should “rest.” Well, I haven’t been running, but I’m still walking around, and the nagging ache in my right knee is really starting to worry me. I’d been hoping it’d have dissipated by now, but no dice.
In discussing it further with friends of mine and folks who are more knowledgable than I about running (which is pretty much everybody), most seem to agree that the cause of my pain is probably the increased mileage, coupled with my sloppy form and a likely deficiency in core strength, but my friend Keith pointed a vengeful, accusatory finger at my New Balance running shoes. Being that I initially bought them back in the early 2000’s, or maybe even the late 90’s — who remembers? — they’re probably not as up to the task as they might have once been. I’m planing on investing in a new pair — hopefully ones specially prescribed by some professionals — once my knee feels better.
In the interim, though, I’m feeling deficient. Granted, I’m usually feeling guilty about one thing or another, but after roughly two and a half months of running, this hiatus feels like another failure. How did I manage to botch something that seemed so simple? Maybe it’s just not as simple as I envisioned.
There’s got to be a way to get back on track — literally and figuratively.
"I kinda like the freedom of just wearing sneaks, jogging shorts and a t-shirt.”
I made the above declaration back in July, and while it’s still true — I do like that freedom — it doesn’t really apply anymore, as I’ve started to accrue — *shudder* — “running gear.”
Initially wanting to be able to gauge my progress, I took to bringing my iPhone along with me. The stopwatch function on same let me know how long it was taking me to wearily complete my runs. More recently, after I decided to get a bit more serious and increase my runs to twenty-minute sessions, I decided that music would probably help me, so I started bringing my precious 160 GB iPod Classic. In the wake of revealing that, however, a concerned reader named Greg sagely advised that I might not want to do that, as “the disk inside can get damaged from too much bumping around. Best to use a shuffle or something else with a flash drive."
Being that they’ve since discontinued the iPod Classic (and I’ve been thus far unsuccessful in procuring a sealed back-up for when my current one dies), I thought this was prudent advice. As such, I went ahead and got myself a purple iPod Nano.
Even though it’s a comparatively lightweight device (it’s the width of a Trisket for chrissakes), it still carries a hefty amount of music *AND* comes equipped with specially tailored fitness functionality. I just plug in my height and my weight, set it for a twenty-minute run, and it actually gives me progress reports through my headphones as I’m trudging along.
I was initially skeptical, but it’s pretty great. I loaded it up with a slew of quick-tempo’d tunes and it’s made a world of difference. Set on shuffle, I kicked off the other morning scored by “Aces High” by Iron Maiden, which segued into “Nuclear Boy” by Killing Joke (which matched my stride perfectly) which was followed by “Sleepless” by King Crimson, then into “A Promise” by the Violent Femmes and culminating with the splenetic sprint of “We Bite” by the Misfits. Wrapped up in the music, and always anticipating what song was going to come next, I didn’t find myself worrying about how much time I’d spent or had left. The Nano would tell me in five minute intervals how I was doing. It was all working out perfectly.
Well, it was working out perfectly, I should say, until the pain started.
After only a few days of running in these more intensified sessions, I started to feel a little wobblier in the knees. I hadn’t fallen or banged me my leg into anything, but I was started to feel a dull-but-insistent ache just below my right kneecap. Yesterday morning, even though I wasn’t feeling totally great, I dutifully suited up for my AM run, only to swiftly curtail it a few minutes in. The pain in my knee was too distinct to ignore. As I’ve suggested in the past, I’m not out to punish myself — the moment something feels wrong, I’m wise enough to interpret the signal my body is sending. And this signal was coming through loud and clear.
A term used to describe a number of knee issues, runner's knee often occurs because of an increase in mileage. While some harriers will experience sporadic pain, others have problems nearly every time they add miles. The condition can also be related to poor running form and core strength.
Sounds like someone’s got my number. Being that I am indeed experiencing the pain in the wake of increasing my mileage and that — not to sound too self-deprecating — I'm doubtlessly practicing poor running form and probably boast lamentable core strength, it seems like this is indeed the issue I’m grappling with.
Regretfully, I’ve since decided to take a few days off from running to see if this pain will subside. I also invested in a pair of Future knee support braces. I’m disconcerted and discouraged by the development, but I’m convinced there has to be a way around it. I’m just kind of amazed it’s happening already.
I had lunch with one of my former editors recently, an incredibly smart and refreshingly no-bullshit kinda guy that, for the purposes of this narrative, I’ll call Nick.
Nick has a knack for bursting bubbles with straight talk. It’s not that he means to shoot down fanciful notions, it’s just that he’s gifted at providing a sobering dose of practical logic that usually lands with the explosive, eye-opening force of a scud missile. On more than a few occasions, Nick has unwittingly supplied some stark clarity to my perspective. It’s not that he’s unsympathetic to my seeming multitude of plights, it’s just that Nick — somewhat ironically, for an editor — disregards his own inner editor, and speaks his mind without the filter of what some might call sensitivity.
In any case, I met with Nick initially to talk about my current vocational status, but ended up having a broader discussion about the trajectory of my life at the moment. As such, we touched on the subject of my running. I gave him the whole weepy backstory, appending the details of my incremental progress in terms of laps and distance that — up until that very moment — seemed to be leaving a positive impression on the folks I’d spoken to about it.
In typical fashion, Nick broke it down. “Listen,” he said, “it’s not about laps. And what you’re doing nowisn’t going to make that much of a dent. If you want to get anywhere with this, you’ve got to run for about twenty minutes a day. Don’t worry about laps. Run for ten minutes in one direction, then turn around and run ten minutes back. That’s what I do. Otherwise, you’re really kinda wasting your time."
Like I said, straight talk.
I got the feeling, though, that — characteristic bluntness aside — Nick had a point. While my running was feeling like a step in the right direction, I didn’t really feel like I was genuinely pushing myself. I would do my lap and a half (or whatever) and just wind back down. At the end of my runs, I was sweaty, but I was no longer feeling true exertion, and I certainly wasn’t feeling any endorphin-fueled runner’s high (although I’m not sure I ever really will). I decided that, much like in so many other facets of my life at the moment, I really need to step it up if I’m going to get anything done.
The next morning, after dropping my kids off at school, I sped back home, donned my running gear and set out for Washington Square Park again. After some quick stretches, I started running, thinking about what Nick had said. After making it around the Park twice at a decent pace, I felt something weird. I looked down and noticed one of my running shoes had become untied. Looking at the stopwatch on my iPhone, I then noticed that I’d only really been running for about thirteen minutes. I was tired and suddenly distracted. I wasn’t going to make it to twenty minutes. I wound down into a walk and panted my way home in a brow-furrowing fog of self-disappointment. I’ve got to do better.
This morning, however, I was determined. Again, after dutifully depositing my kids at school, I made it back home, slugged down a cup of coffee (good idea before running? That’s another topic), jumped into my running stuff and off I went.
This time, in the hopes of getting my mind off of laps and whatnot, I decided to leave my iPhone at home and grabbed my iPod. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’d been eschewing music on my runs, but now it seemed like something that could genuinely help get my mind where it needed to be. It was time, again, to do this right.
I should take a moment here to point out that while I’m taking Nick’s words to heart, I don’t necessarily consider those words gospel. While I’m indeed endeavoring to step up my performance, so to speak, I’m fully aware of my own limitations. While I do want to run for twenty minutes at a go, the moment I feel pain of any kind, I’m going to stop. I’m determined, but rest assured — I’m not entirely stupid.
Anyway, I dialed up Fear of Music by Talking Heads on my beloved 160 GB iPod Classic (since criminally discontinued — fuck you, Apple!), correctly assuming that the insistent pulse of tracks like “I Zimbra,” “Life During Wartime” and “Air” would inspire and propel me around Washington Square. Trying hard not to think about the distance and progress I was making, I believe I really hit my stride during “Cities,” pairing David Byrne’s nervous delivery (….SOMETIMES I’M A LITTLE FREAKED OUT indeed) with the rhythmic urgency of my pace. Almost totally absorbed in the music, I actually lost track of how many laps I did, concentrating more on the thwomp of Tina Weymouth’s bass guitar. Before I knew it, I looked at my watch and realized I’d been running for eighteen minutes. By the end of another song, I was done and downshifted into a walk.
Probably not since my first awkward run back in July, I felt that strangely positive springy sensation in my legs. I was tired — and, sorry, a good deal sweatier than usual, but it all felt good.
Okay, that worked, and music totally helped — can I keep it up?