*originally posted 3/03/10
6 fucking 45 a.m on a New Years Eve morning. This is the not the time to be lurching about LaGuardia, searching for a bathroom, bowels bubbling, cheeks clenched tight.
We may be seasoned and jaded world travelers now, sure—- but a naive 20 year old kid on his first transcontinental flight does not yet know the combined effects pressurized cabin atmosphere, bloody mary mix beers and unlimited cocktail peanuts have on the lower intestine……
Oh, it was a jolly overnight flight alright-it always starts out that way, eh? There we sat, the four of us, just kids. Last row of an American Airlines jet, smoking, drinking and laughing through the night, even as the rumpled businessmen shot us angry peepers before adjusting their tubular headphones and harrumphing back to sleep.
We were finally on our way to New York City, Goddamnit! Gee, we were having a grand ol time…..Hey you–Monty Hall–what the fuck you lookin at, huh?
See, these were the days when you could still light up in the smoking section of a plane, and hell—-you could go back to the tiny standup bar next to the head, order a whiskey sour and actually stand there and drink it.
Try that next time yer up in the air and you’ll find your face smashed into the soiled carpet, a humorless Air Marshal administering a federally approved headlock. Trust us on this one kids.
Well, they call it a red eye for a reason. As we stumbled through the mysterious terminal, searching for the baggage claim and any porcelain receptacle, we first caught glimpses of the bleak grey winter day that dawned over the East.
And suddenly the bravado that saw us through the night, the casual goodbyes we shrugged to our Moms’—these things vanished as we stepped out of the terminal and breathed in the first icy diesel fumes and absorbed the bleats of a thousand taxi horns.
Welcome to our house, bitches!
Robbie Posh Boy Fields had a NY/UK tour all set up for us, Winter 1982, a trip with Blitz through a lot of English towns we’d never heard of. The No Future release of Got a Gun was quite the sensation over there, it seems, and some people actually wanted to check us out!
But at the last moment, Blitz broke up for the first time of many.
And though we were all packed and passported, set for this strange trip over the sea, I think we were all secretly relieved we didn’t have to go.
Robbie let us keep the New York portion of our tickets (one way!), and a few more East Coast gigs were thrown together.
Off we went.
Young Jack DeBaun had stayed on with the band since the Summer tour when Burton dropped out. Larry was still along for the ride, though this would sadly be his last tour with us.
And Me and Kimm? Hell, we were on semester break with nothing to do but play music and spend our Christmas money on cheap booze, pastrami and pizza!
Curbside now, sleep deprived and shivering against the bitter Atlantic chill, we flagged the Avis shuttle and loaded our gear onboard. We’d brought only guitars and luggage, but for some reason Jack brought out all his drums in 2 cardboard refrigerator boxes.
Avis Terminal, January 31, 1982, 07:55am: Institutional linoleum, harsh fluorescent lighting, wilted Christmas tree leaning on an ashtray.
A grim Jamaican gent with thick glasses took our paperwork and gave us the keys to a ’81 LTD Wagon.
Driving through Queens with the official Automobile Club Trip Tik spread over the dash, we negotiated the odd expressways and kamikaze taxi drivers until we finally made our way to the Lower East Side.
Kimm had made contact with Jack Rabid before the trip, and though you probably know him as the publishing magnate he is today, back then we just knew him as a good guy who graciously let a million bands stay at his flat.
You’d see Jack hovering around outside the club, a stack of BigTakeovers– mimeographed and stapled back then–cradled to his chest. He could talk to any musician about any band, and usually knew about your own band then you did!
And though Jack was still out in LA visiting his girlfriend, he assured us his roommate Doug Holland would be there to greet us and show us around til he came home a couple days later.
We made it to the corner of Eldridge and Houston, parked the wagon, and Kimm made a call from the bodega on the corner.
Larry, Jack and I stood on the corner and shrugged at each other. An ambulance sped past, a dreadlocked ursine bum groaned in the alley. We turned toward the sound and saw he had a brilliant metal flake gold goatee from huffing paint all night.
I’m sure Kimm went over the details of this trip before, but we probably weren’t really listening. And now, as we stood in the grey morning light and took in the city looming above us, we weren’t quite sure just what we were doing there. Kimm pulled another scrap of paper out of his magic daybook and dialed another number into the payphone. We shuffled our feet and tried to not look like tourists.
In a moment a window somewhere above us opened and a rolled up brown sock landed in the gutter in front of us. Kimm walked past us grinning as we squinted up at the building, trying to figure out who was throwing the laundry. Kimm picked up the sock, and pulled a single key out of it.
He opened the front door of the building.
We started climbing stairs.
We finally got to #14, knocked. The door opened and there was Doug, holding the door. We knew Doug was the guitar player from Kraut, but we’d never met before.
“Hey, alright. You guys made it.”
He smiled his smile, though I could tell we woke him up from a short night of sleep.
“You guys wanna smoke a bowl?”
We declined, and Doug let us into the apartment.
Now we’re all So Ca boys, born and bred, and used to the wastefully large suburban tract homes in the Brady Bunch ideal. This was my first time standing in an actual Manhattan apartment, and I kept looking for the rest of it.
We know now that Jack’s place was palatial for that nutty island, 2 bedrooms off of a kitchen with a small bit of day room to the side. A small useful bathroom opened right into the kitchen.
I was suddenly dizzy. The long night of drinking up in the sky, the surreal morning drive and now the radiator heat of the apartment pulled me down, like the warm gravitational comfort of a womb. I went to the sink and put a cupped hand under the faucet, drank deep of that city water, so cold you’d think your teeth would crack. Ah.
“So cool,” Doug said. “You guys are on the Irving Plaza show tonight huh?”
Oh right–we were actually here to play some shows! Seemed Doug was gonna DJ the night, and we sat and chatted for a while about the venue, the bands we knew in common and all the problems the promoters were having pulling things together in time.
Suddenly Doug looked around the apartment and cocked his head.
“So where’s all your guys’ stuff? Didn’t you bring out any gear?”
“Yeah we have some stuff,” Kimm casually said. “It’s all down in the car.”
Doug jumped out of his chair and ran to the window.
“You what? You fuckin crazy?”
“We locked it,” Kimm said. “Didn’t we lock it, Larry?”
Doug opened the window and looked down to the street.
“Hey! Mother Fucker!” He yelled.
We crowded around the window to get a look. Down there on Eldridge, just across from the apartment, the matted bum with the gold face stood next to the station wagon. In his hands, a heavy cracked corner of a cinderblock.
“Yo-Get the fuck out of there!” Doug yelled.
The man looked up to us and dropped his stone, gave a shy shrug and walked away.
Doug made us go down to the street and bring all the luggage, guitars, and drums back up the stairs, all the while shaking his head at us like we were the retard country cousins he never knew.
That wistful little head shake of his, it was a gesture I’d get to know well in the coming days.