from Sunday, May10th of the year2009.
I had a life-changing dish of snails the other day: a piece of toasted bread, with some sautéed nettles atop, with snails nestled next to, topped with alarmingly gooey strips of pork fat. It’s one of those things that tastes way, way, way, way better than it looks:
I am in England, having just played a show at Union Chapel in London and another at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead. Union Chapel is one of these funny flexible church-and-concert-venue spaces. I really like playing in these things because the acoustic is so perfect for what I’m up to:
Photo via LondonConstant
The only sad thing, for me, about the show was that the piano was one of the most insane pianos I have ever heard. This piano exists at the apogee of that whole, like, CocoRosie aesthetic where the piano has been left to rot in a barn in France for six months and then given a coat of paint and a fare-thee-well. The shit was Honky, as they say, Tonk. I always get sad because my initial instinct is to turn into a white princess of rage and then my second instinct is to take a nap in my bed in New York, or in Vermont, or Iceland, or anywhere cold. Then I go through this period of horrible self-doubt where I think that I’m a lousy musician because I don’t know how to play the viola or the oboe or something portable and useful and how if I had just stuck with the baroque recorder I wouldn’t be having these issues. And by the time the adrenaline and despair has left my system (usually through either over- or de-hydration) it’s showtime. Anything you play on a piano like that sounds like the dance break from Shipoopi or something, which is usually how I save myself from hiding like an ostrich in the backstage ladies’ toilets.
Anyway, aside from that she show was Fabulous. Helgi Hrafn sang Wonders, which is a piece I rarely get the chance to do live, and he tore it up. Thrilling, insane, extreme. Valgeir made loud noises and Thomas and I played synth celestes in Unison.
Last night, at ATP, Thomas and I played with Grizzly Bear on their song Two Weeks. They decided to turn it into an “Arpeggio Walkoff” wherein we would duel for favor:
Speaking of Honky Tonk, one of the various venues at ATP (which is held at a Butlins Resort during an off-season. I am hiding this comment in the safety of these parentheses so I can hypothesize for just a moment. This thing appears to be a hold-over from a period in time when England people didn’t have low cost airlines so basically anybody could afford to go to Portugal for, like, $10. So, instead of flying to Portugal and getting crunk on pink wine, they would get in the car and drive to one of these all-inclusive family horror shows at which point the teens would sneak into town, buy white rum and then frot one another in the shrubbery, while their parents drank themselves into a stupor on fruity cocktails in themed bars…?) was a western US themed bar. Now, from where Thomas and I were standing, we could see what we could only assume was the men’s room:
We were like, “Okay. Now. We think that we know what the natural conclusion for the sign above the ladies’ should be, but like, would they really? in this day and age? Would that really happen?” So, we walked around the corner like timid llamas, sort of hoping that we wouldn’t see it, but lo and behold:
Now. The last time I even thought about the word Squaw, aside from as a solfège syllable, was during that insane Anna Nicole Smith Might Have Had A Tohono O’odham Love Child situation, remember that? You also may remember that she wrote her alleged man a note that read:
Oh, my brave Injun-man, how I long to be with you and feel your red manhood. Look after my little paapoosie [sic], and soon I’ll be your squaw again. I love you, kemosabe, Anna.
Awesome. Also, I love the idea of an Icelandic person arriving at that particular crossroads. I wonder which word looks, to a non-native English speaker, like a Menzroom or a Ladiezroom. Icelandic: Karlar and Konur is mildly scary for foreigners, but they helpfully provide diagrams. Thank god nobody happens to be Two-Spirit up in Butlins or who knows what they’d do.
Moving back stateside, I had an amazing experience the other day in the brand new Alice Tully Hall. First of all, before I get into my rant, the Brand New Alice Tully Hall is a Beautiful Space and it sounds amazing and it looks divine and I love it. However. They have installed a café. And this café has a bunch of really quickly identifiable problems. It starts with the Officious Homosexual they have hired to run the door. Y’all. In this day and age, an Officious Homosexual bears the same comedic currency as having a Stuffy French Maitre D’. Nobody does it anymore because it is hopelessly old-school and functionally useless. Even DANIEL BOULUD fired his! Remember Bruno Jamais? Mm. Anyway, Thomas and I walked up in there, dressed, I might add, quite well, and the conversation went like this here:
ME: Hi! So what’s the deal, can we just sit wherever? (gesturing to the sixty empty tables)
HIM: No, you can’t just sit anywhere.
Uh-oh, trouble already!
HIM: Are you going to be eating?
ME: Oh, no we were just hoping to grab a drink.
Mind, it’s 4:00 PM on a Sunday and all that I, and anybody else, wants at that time is a campari and soda. You eat AFTERWARDS. 4 PM on a Sunday talking about, “are you going to be eating.” Anyway moving on:
HIM: Well, you can sit over there [gestures to a weird solarium-like space with a bunch of really high stools and rickety tables] or at the bar. But the tables are just for people who are eating.
This is, like, my Least Favorite Thing In The World Ever. And the fact that it’s happening at Lincoln Center, which is trying so hard to reinvent itself “” it is neither convenient nor fancy to have these nonsensical rules and the fact that the law was being read to me buy some collageny man with linen pants and a boat shoe was almost too much to handle. But, chastised, we wandered over to the tables next to bar. The following exchange then took place:
ME: Hi, could I have two camparis and soda, please?
LADY: Yes, that’ll be $22.
ME: [start getting cash out of my pocket. at this time, I notice that she is starting to pour the campari into plastic cups. I see that there are real glasses just behind her.]
ME: Excuse me, would you mind if I had those in real glasses?
HER: [deadpan] Why?
ME: Because you just charged me $11 for a glass of campari, and because I’m not at a baseball game?
HER: It’s against the rules. Unless you’re sitting at a table, I have to use the plastic cups.
ME: But I am sitting at a table! [gestures to the table where my computer and bag and book are at]
HER: Well, I already poured it. And it’s not my rules.
Ugh, it’s not my rules. I quote this thing all the time, but this little paragraph is, I think, the singlemost fantastic piece of thinking by Gayatri Spivak ever:
“”¦ I was supposed to take the airplane from Heathrow on Sunday. Air Canada says to me: “˜we can’t accept you.’ I said: “˜why?’ and she said: “˜You need a visa to go to Canada.’ I said: “˜look here, I am the same person, the same passport”¦ “˜ Indian cultural identity right? But you become different. When it is from London, Indians can very well want to jump ship to Canada; I need a visa to travel from London to Canada on the same passport, but not from the United States. To cut a long story short,[…] I had to stay another day, and telephone Canada and tell them that I could not give my seminar. I said to the woman finally before I left, in some bitterness: “˜Just let me tell you one small thing: Don’t say “we can’t accept you” that sounds very bad from one human being to another; next time you should say: “The regulations are against it”; then we are both victims.’
Ã”, Svetlana from the Alice Tully Café! Now We Are Both Victims! It’s more just the idea of asking somebody from whom you have just taken $22 “Why.” Between adults, you almost never use that word as a stand-alone, because usually people’s motives are clear enough, or, if they aren’t, one is too polite to interrogate it with a W-word. For instance, if Stephen Petronio called my house up talking about, “Can you give me another minute of music between section 4 and section 5” I would say to him, “yes, absolutely. Can you tell me anything specific about it, is it an extension of this or an extension of that.” I would not say, “Why,” because can you imagine how aggressive?