February 2009

Muscling through the back streets of the hilly suburban landscape of Taconic Heights, NY in Mom and Dad’s station wagon on the way to pick up a friend or six and pack them in the back for the night’s frivolous unfettered funmaking.  Gossiping idly, looking for that golden, as yet undiscovered, coveted nugget with which to regale the girl of choice and in the telling would get to see her head thrown back in private laughter or ear-to-mouth whispering incredulous intimacy huddled against the blare of the electrified din.

No beer yet, or maybe a couple of strays left over from last weekend when the curfews cut short the drinking.  Looking for others in the same speculation situation.  Looking for something to do, not just something, but something else, and being not only the discoverer of such a scene – not too crowded, just the right mix of maidens to match the squires arriving through the fallen leaves of the powerful autumn chill, “Yeah, we checked out that other place – not much goin’ on there.  Where are her parents?” – not just a discoverer, but being recognized as a co-creator as well.

And so the nights go and go and go and go on in this petty pace and the exhibitionist gossip producers will perform for the community – performing each weekend for the adolescent gossip mill to reproduce into the halls and classrooms of the stillness stilted standing week.  The viscereality of it all is fragmentary, almost totally hidden from view.  Seconds, minutes, sometimes hours of real human interaction under a cloak of darkness; actual caring conversations are snatched from the jaws of the repressed gossiping values police.  In between the posturing and flirting there appears a genuine feeling – briefly acknowledged but then quickly stashed away.

During the week, all is back to normal.  Some truths which shone so brightly over the weekend disappear like the gray Manhattan snow.  These truths which appeared so fleetingly late in the beer smell Saturday night have no place in the fluorescent school-day hallway.

(San Francisco, March 1990)


To the Tune of Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys
or Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry

Well if you work in the city, you’d wanna live up here.
Westchester County NY, instead of LA gear.
In all the forests and the meadows, we sit there drinkin beer.
The future is meaningless, we might as well be deer.

Mt Kisco and Bedford
Chappaqua and Rye
Lewisboro and Pound Ridge
Pleasantville School High
Hartsdale and Scarsdale
White Plains New York
Take the train to midtown
Every day to work.

Then you go to college – upstate New York
Oneonta and Cortland, and all the Great Lake ports
Albany and Binghamton – Saratoga Springs
Then its back to the county from which it all begins.

Irvington and Ardsley
Yonkers and Tarrytown
Tuckahoe and Bronxville
from Peekskill on down
Pocantico and Briarcliff
Larchmont and New Rochelle
Beats livin in the city
Some kind of living hell.

So you live with your parents, hang out with high school friends
Get a job in the city and follow all the trends
Move into a studio on the upper east side
You commute by subway and never go outside

But you dream of Croton
Shrub Oak and Yorktown Heights
Somers and Verplank
and quiet starry nights
Golden’s Bridge and Purdy’s
Connecticut state line
Go out to visit
Get a DUI …

Mt. Kisco and Bedford (etc)

(Oklahoma City, July 1991)

The Colonial Tavern appears as a minor character in this tale at various points…

Message from Gordo’s
“Reserving unto us our heirs & successors free egress of all our and their forces, horse or foot of our and their coaches, wagons horse of war ammunition.”

Not sticklers for spelling, but perhaps foreseeing the rebellion of the colonies, so reads the-lease of the land that is now home to Gordo’s Restaurant. The lease as between the King & Queen of England (Bill & Mary) and Fredrick Philipse of “Mannour” fame. The document was witnessed by Benjamin Fletcher, “our Captain General & Governor in Chief or our Province of New York, Province of Pennsylvania and Country of New Cassellâ?¦â?¦â?¦ “dated the 12th of March, 1694.

A spat with mum some eighty years later freed the property for a long succession of owners who built and operated a hotel, stagecoach stop and most likely, a house of ill-repute. The only building to survive the 200+ years was the hotel which forms the center section of today’s restaurant.

Frank Winzig, a powerfully built truck driver for a local bootlegger “Dutch” Frank, opened the Colonial Tavern at the repeal of prohibition. Mr. Winzig, a big man with a gruff exterior and a heart of gold, operated a hugely successful neighborhood tavern, restaurant for 37 years.

Current proprietors, Art Greason and Gordon Krueger, have been tinkering around Gordo’s since 1971.

It was in the winter of 1981, during my sophomore year in high school that I ended up with my brother and his friends going to see Altered States on mescaline.

So, yah, I agree, I believe I could hang out witchoo guys.  It was my brother Hamish and his friends Jim Costa and Ed Hopp. All three were Taconic High class of ’81 and graduating in a few months.  So we’ll drive on down to Movieland (Central Ave. in Yonkers) to see the movie….I get in the car and right away my brother’s friend Hopper is like, Mitchie we’re tripping!!!

…..and I had heard of this and knew that it meant something but wasn’t sure what – so I looked to big bro and was like “Is this ok?” and he gave me the thumbs up so we each put a microdot in our Budweiser and drove on down to see the movie.

Everything was copacetic until we got to the theater and sat down, then the movie started and OHMYGOD this was something different, this was something else altogether

….as it went on we were there for each other and we all kept our shit together and when the movie ended we all stood up and looked at each other and just started to laugh because it was ALL TOO MUCH…we managed to make it out to the parking lot and I must credit my brother for driving because somehow we ended up on the highway driving home…

We stopped off at the Colonial Tavern in Hawthorne but didn’t stay all that long so then we made it on home and watched the original Alien on cable. I remember eating Swiss cheese and thinking scrumdeleeishess before I went to bed.

Later that spring, we read Rimbaud’s Bateau Ivre in French class…I still remember the procession of colors he describes throughout the poem seemed to me to match what I had experienced that night we went to see Altered States

Milky whites, blues, reds, “yellow-blue awakenings of singing phosphorus,” (l’éveil jaune et bleu des phosphores chanteurs), oceans and rainbows, then “Glaciers, suns of silver, waves of pearl, skies of red-hot coals,” blues, golds, flowers, violet, red electricity, ultrmarine…

But towards the end, he starts mixing in browns, blacks, the atrocious moon and bitter sun and cold black pools.

And somehow, when I read the poem, it reminded me of that piece of swiss cheese I had eaten that night, a little sliver of phosphorous in the black pool of 4am suburbia…

Also during the first six months of 1981, I was assigned a research paper in English class and I chose the topic of DRUGS…I closed my oral presentation with a quote from Margaret Mead that said “In a culture that has created in its people the need for mind expanding drugs there must be a place for these substances in the culture….” or words to that effect…This was the late winter of 1981…

Now Altered States is a one of a kind Ken Russell/Padddy Chayefsky tour de force. William Hurt plays a character that is some kind of amalgamation of John Lilly, Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna. There has never been a movie like it before or since. It can be a little overwrought and Chayefsky disavowed the film when it was released. But – the only movies I can think of that have a feel even close to Altered States are Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Oliver Stone’s The Doors.

We all felt it coming through the garage that night, or at least me and Dudley did.

There were about seven of us that had taken mushrooms that night and a few of us were standing by the keg there in Don Debitetto’s garage talking about who knows what.

But I’ll never forget that feeling, when suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt, and saw, a ripple in time.

It was more like a swell than a breaking wave, and it just moved through everything and was gone.

Dudley and I had stopped our conversation as it passed through, and afterwards we just looked at each other.

“Did you feel that?” I asked him.


In the song Dion sings about “cocaine lies,” but I saw an interview with him when the album came out.

He had stopped using drugs by then and mostly what he talked about was his heroin problem…and how hard it was to get off the smack.

I was wise in my own eyes

Woke one day to realize

The junkie in the mirror with the pinprick eyes

He’s the King of the New York Streets

Yah, but qu’est-ce que c’est que the raison d’etrishness of the whole fucking thing?

What does it mean? What does it matter?
– most of this world is just a lot of chatter.

Eternal recurrence – where nothing seems to matter – everything is subsumed and consumed as soon as it’s created – a generation, a nation of critics. Nothing of value is ever recognized, nothing is truly innovative unless it’s willfully obscure – with the proviso that you have the connections necessary to promote it.

So – just give up and give in – work your ass off at something that means absolutely nothing to you and you can make a living – but only if you give up your life.

But how is it different this time? – how are these times different?

– Is this world approaching some sort of critical mass? do you feel trapped? – penned in?

– like everything you could ever want has a price tag and barbed wire around it?

– trade in your life for some material comfort.

But now I listen to Mr. Coltrane blow –
So who the hell am I to ruminate on all this shit anyway?

Life is beautiful! – And it really is too.

David Foster Wallace says television

“can train viewers to laugh at characters’ unending put-downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art-form…: the most frightening prospect, for the well-conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others’ ridicule by betraying passe expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability. Other people become the judges; the crime is naivete.”

Musical taste and the music industry have become a political tyranny handed down without regard for the actual music. As the nation becomes more and more obsessed with the pixellated visual image, how things appear has become more and more important and their essential nature becomes obscured behind a curtain of hype and promotion.

My own musical biases will become clear once they realize what it is – a hippie manque – classic rock freak before they started programming that shit onto four hour rotations and selling spaghetti sauce and sneakers and beer and cars and software and fast food and overnight mail and stock brokers and light bulbs and dishwashers to it.

In 1980-81, it was rare on the radio, still a mystery and a challenge to catch those great old songs. And now they can’t even do it justice. I only heard Hendrix right after they put him in the “Hall of Fame.” And the most sickening words ever, the most twisted form of shameless marketing taken to the extreme, has got to be – “It doesn’t have to be old to be a classic”

Well anyway, I’m a London Mod (’63 & ’77)/a Bunnymen New Waver (circa ’82) before New Wave got thrown in the machine and re-emerged as Kajagoogoo and Haircut 100 and Thomas Dolby and the Human League and Duran Duran and the Thompson Twins and Our Daughter’s Wedding and Flock of Seagulls and various other forms of “synthy-pop.”

And the Boston rock for a New York suburban boy – The Neighborhoods, La Peste, Human Sexual Response, The Nervous Eaters, The Lyres, who knows who else. But then, of course, the kings of it all – the Missions – Mission of Burma –

And so what the hell do I remember of the music in relation to that ever-present glow on the southern horizon known as The City? Weell, I remember the late ’70’s Who Are You? tour and not going to see them at the Garden although my brother Hamish did go and see Keith Moon before he died.

My first real concert being the Police and the Go-Go’s at Madison Square Garden in January ’82 (Me, Bobby Devlin, Jim Costa, and Hopper).  This was the Ghost in the Machine tour before they graduated to the outdoor spectacle of Shea Stadium and the Synchronicity tour which was ostentatious sycophanticy, though the Garden show with the Go-Go’s was typically new-wave right on the turning point where it went all sour and heavily serio-commercialized and then disappeared.

And it was freezing cold that night on the way home, as we convinced the Harlem Line Conrail conductor to take our Hudson Line round-trip stubs (come on, Hawthorne’s the same as Taconic Heights) being that we had no ride from the Taconic Heights station and figured someone we knew would be at the old Colonial, the bar that used to be right there next to the Hawthorne station.

Then the springtime end of May, and The Clash are supposed to come to our shores – Asbury Park to be specific, so me, Hamish and Hopper get the tickets and plan to drive on down…

but Joe Strummer – he’s disappeared! Where is he?!

Well, when he came back it turned out he had been in France. The Clash – I realize that it was late for them then, this being of course the Combat Rock tour, but anyway, Should I Stay or Should I Go? was reduced to dim simplicity live where Straight to Hell Boy was just eerily hypnotic. But then right at the end of that song someone threw an M-80 at Joe Strummer and hit his leg. He finished the song and limped off and that was it – one hour into the show. Ah, yes – New York.

And then for the Summertime ’82 – King Crimson of the early eighties starring Robert Fripp with Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford and Tony Levin. What a collection of musicians! This after Discipline and Beat had come out.

Here I was, sitting at the town pool doing nothing when Jeff Wilander (who I had gotten to know during our three week exchange program trip to Paris in Feb of ’82) comes by and suggests going down to the Pier to check them out. We ran into fellow suburbanites (Jim Maddox, Jimmy Meyer, and John Patten) down there at the show – the pier – being the scene of much later fright excesses.

Thela Hun Ghingit, Thela Hun Ghingit

Fraaaame by fraaaaame, death by drowning in your arms in your arms.

And, though they might have played it, I never would have known – The Waiting Man (hoooooome IIIIII am). I only heard it for the first time in Fall ’89 in Binghamton, NY during a truly frightening weekend venture. One of those weekends that makes you weary and heavily cognizant of your mortality and fateful dumb luck for driving around an unknown city after midnight and stoked to the gills with very strong mixed drinks balancing precariously on the dashboard and half-inch deep puddles of the very same spilled very strong mixed drinks seemingly everywhere else. A repeat of previous dumb luck surviving a similar weekend and driving experience in Nashville during Halloween weekend ’83. And I’m still here – its hardtabelieve (say A-men). Feeling like poor Dr. Backwards – laying on the sidewalk screaming “Pleh! Pleh!”

And then first semester senior year in high school, another new-waver, though by the time we caught him, he had moved on into something else, a New York composer phase of some sort. The Night and Day album for Mr. Joe Jackson.  This crew was all from the THS Class of ’83, me, Dan Molinaro, George Schaffer, Andy Mancini, and Jeff “Hank” Greenberg.

Although at that point (’81-’83) we, as juniors and seniors in high school, were still eating up his classic first efforts. Look Sharp/I’m the Man was one of the 90-min. tapes blasting in the locker room before the homecoming game earlier that Fall.

-So give me all your money cause I know you think I’m funny, Can’t you hear me laughin’ Can’t you see me smile

– and Don’t you know that it’s different for girls….. You’re all the same

Geraldine and John, see the happy couple, so inseparable, and the beat goes onon, and for better or for worse, they are married, but of course – not to each other.

But by the time he came to the Meadowlands he had dropped all guitars and was relying on the keyboards and percussion only, which worked o.k., but stuck out toe-like on the opening of “One More Time” which is ruination without electric guitar.

That December ’82, freezing cold again and Bud bottles all the way down into Jersey and ducking into the lower level seats at Brendan Bryne Arena – and got our coats thrown down from the original seats – upper deck – then high-tailed it into oblivion.

Brendan Byrne security has been sued periodically over the years for brutality – well, we escaped unscathed that time, though the true brutality of the culture that would express itself in the security force at that venue was still off in the future.

Then the show I didn’t think I would make – April-Eastertime 1983. So hungover from the night before, hurtin fer certain. Heavily beer drinking Friday night and then scammed 17 years old into Franzl’s bar out by the Kensico Dam in Valhalla to flirt over sloe gin and vk collins among that gang.

Then the next day packing boxes of aquarium supplies at work and struggling not to puke, hearing the repeated supplication of the WLIR dj over and over. “Mission of Burma and PiL at the Paramount Theater on Staten Island – the last Mission of Burma show ever – Roger Miller is losing his hearing – this is their LAST SHOW EVER!” Over and over all day long I heard it. Thinking, “It’d be nice to see them, but I’m sooo hung over and no one’s probably going anyway and so it looks like I won’t make it.”

But then home after work, the older generation (of my brother 1-3 yrs older and out of high school) has decided all to take mushrooms and head out to Staten Island. There were many folks who made that trip.  In our car, it was me, Hamish and Hopper, with Bobby Devlin and various other folks in other rides.  I also ran into Jeff Wilander down there as well.

Being still recovering from the night before, just regaining equilibrium, I am recruited to remain sober so as to drive and be the general butt of trippers’ jollies.

And so down into the bowels of Staten Island we head, maybe the first and last time I’ll ever be there. I drink one beer the whole night and am more or less confused by the whole thing. Everyone else is transfixed by the Missions – they having just come out with Vs.

Myself still digesting Signals, Calls, and Marches and the fact that they had alphabetized their lyric sheet. And I only recognized “Academy Fight Song” and “Revolver,” but had the 6’6” deadhead Hopper to keep me company in ignorance.

And then, and then (to borrow a phrase from the years later appreciated Horrible Truth About Burma) and then not two months later, it was back into the city to see the Return to Forever reunion at the Palladium when it was still just a theater, and not yet a spectacle.

One of the most beautiful spring nights of my teen-age years. Into the city to drop off the Hopper at C-P south for some mysterious rendezvous, maybe with his dad (who was supposed to have worked for Roy Radin, and then was suddenly out of a job). Then, as he directed us, me, Danny  Mol., and  Ethan Adelman over to Broadway and all the way down to 14th.

The concert was good but mostly it was that cruise down Broadway in a gentle Manhattan spring night with the beers to keep us goin’ and the concert at the end of the rainbow. This is what I remember about that night.

The end of my high school days was capped by the Forest Hills Talking Heads show, August ’83 – Speaking in Tongues tour. My knowledge of the Heads, again, limited, but my driving ability and willingness to stay sober carried through. Knew some ’77 and pieces of Speaking in Tongues – but a hell of a show – saw the first set stoned to the bejesus, out in nosebleedland with Hamish, Bobby D. and various other miscreants.

But then, at the break – proof of the strength in numbers maxim – we went to the floor and walked right past security. As they asked for my ticket, five other fellow crashers came walking in, the security then forced to ignore me so as to nail them.

And finding Hopper and Nik down in their floor seats, we boogie our asses off for that second set. The only concert dancing I remember being that much fun was the Echo & the Bunnymen February ’88 Radio City.

And saw Talking Heads again two months later, my first Fall down in old Va. But they didn’t play “Burning Down the House” twice like they had in NY. Also that fall, third day down there, caught King Sunny Ade and his Nigerian juju music and the talking drums thereof.

Then in December ’83 caught the Fleshtones with Amanda, my first love and original Dixieland Delight. The band played fast and rough and the guitarist kept making like he would whip that guitar off his shoulder and smash it down but he wouldn’t.

Then sweltering summer ’84, back in NY, the drive down into the city with Hamish, Bobby D., Jim Maddox, Eddie Alarcon, and John Patten and hang out drinkin in John Patten’s sisters’ studio on 110th st. on the West Side. First experience drinking on a fire-escape-not-your-own on a relentless summer night in the world of Manhattan.

The Fleshtones again, at the Peppermint Lounge. No driving for me that night so it was Becks and Becks and Becks. And Eddie ran away to buy porno magazines and disappear back to the apt. And Bobby dropped out of sight after the show only to awaken in the curbside dawn and forced to find his way home to the suburbs, while we, disoriented and chastened, awoke back on 110th st. to another ruthless Manhattan summer day.

(Oklahoma City, March 1992)

Next Page »