essay archives

october 17, 2006

“Take it on faith,” he said.
On faith? I could talk about faith alright, 
but not associated with Patti Smith, or CBGB’s for that matter. 
My foundations in faith were more aligned  
with Karl Barth than anything akin to this place, 
this beloved yet wretched hole in the East Village. 
But- I had taken myself and a girlfriend there for 9 hours on a Sunday 
only in hopes of getting a ticket, to be a  spectator, hopefully a
participant and even a mourner for the last  concert at CBGB’s. 
The doorman/bouncer knew that many of us were at the door without tickets
and repeated the owner’s mantra that they weren’t selling any when they opened
the doors for the sold-out show. Lucky enough to be within 6 people from the front of the line, we stayed anyway. We had all the sense given to a box of rocks, and of course we delighted ourselves with the camraderie and anticipation . The  street-side gathering became the festival it was meant to be, complete with a  circus act, a day room escapee, panhandlers, celebrities, hipsters young and  old, newscasters, and hundreds of photographers. When Patti Smith came  outside after her sound-checks for a picture of the club using her own antique Polaroid Land camera the scene became its most  lunatic- legions of lenses snapping her, snapping them. At 8 PM, we were happily shocked when the doorman let us in, right into the “list” line (we were on no  such list), we paid our money, we had faith, and we went right up front with the 
faithful,  ready to lose all memory of 9 hours in the fall  chill. 
We danced, and were shoved and sang and danced and sang more songs until 1:30 am
and then hobbled home knowing that we weren’t  owed anything more. 
It’s a scene that must move on, younger people must and will make their own
CBGB’s, it wasn’t a temple, but it was a damn good  time.         

november 2006

The smell of creosote is something you just never forget. I can call it back at any time, like coffee, like acrid coffee. And the creosote soaked wood too, wet with it, but even so, dry at the edges, and splintering underfoot, as though the girders would shred apart if you stomped too hard. I liked to play on the edge of the dock, balancing myself between the dark green below and the gravelly street on the other side of the curb. We waited for my dad’s tugboat to dock in Tompkinsville with a barge that had taken on a load of 2-Oil, the home heating kind I think or maybe jet fuel on its way to La Guardia.

Once the crew transfer was over the very best part began. He helped me on deck, grabbing me in the air, and hoisting me over the great braided bumpers of ropes. What a wonder it was to be an expert on boarding that tug at 10. And then, sitting on the bow, on the edge with the waves below, I was actually allowed to ride this way clean across the bay, from Staten Island to Lower Manhattan where his car was parked.

 In those days, South Street Seaport was still a pipe dream of the city’s maritime historians who picked my dad’s and his friend’s brains lunch after lunch, and more likely over Dewars after Dewars. We would go to the chart store with the rolling mahogany drawers and I could buy whatever I wanted to put up on my wall at home. And then, lunch at the dock-side fish shack…oyster stew, or fish cakes, or fish chowder, my favorite. Rouse and Co. didn’t know my father and his cronies; their loss. 

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