My First O.M.E.
The embargo is...lifted.
Saturday night, after 4 years and 8 months of living in New York City, I had my first Out of Manhattan Experience. Yes, gentle readers, I finally went outer borough. Recently, I let slip to you here that I had not yet explored more than the lower half of Manhattan. This revelation, delivered without pretension or embarrassment, resulted in my suffering much incredulity and ridicule from my readers who live here, who used to live here, and who wished they lived here.
Hence, one might presume that I was shamed into making a half-hearted foray into Brooklyn, grudgingly clambering onto the heretofore mysterious "L" train with its logic-defying cross-Manhattan route. But you'd be wrong.
I went to Brooklyn to see Bob Mould in concert.
I was accompanied by Farmboy C, who would act as my trusted guide and wary protector for the trip under the East River to the place called Williamsburg, rumored to be where the concept of wearing trucker hats jauntily askew was first seized upon, an epochal event without which we surely would have no Ashton Kutcher. That eureka moment aside, Williamsburg was utterly unknown to me and I worried that I would endure discomfit from the residents, whose odd manner of dress, curious language and generally queer ways are the stuff of barroom chatter throughout Manhattan.
But Farmboy put me at ease and suggested that if I were to encounter a curious local, I should respond with, "Sup?", a word with the utility and flexibility that "Aloha" has for Hawaiians, only in Williamsburg "Sup?" means "Hello", "Good-bye", "Let's fuck" and "I'd like a hit of that, please."
Our evening got off to an uncertain start as we tried to coordinate our meeting point in Grand Central Station.
"So do you wanna meet me at the top of the bottom escalators or at the bottom of the top escalators?"
Despite that muddy issue, I sailed down the East Side, Farmboy down the West, and we joined up on the downtown 6 with no problem. Minutes later we connected to the Brooklyn-bound L train. Farmboy and I sprawled on the bench of the sparsely populated car and I began to brief him on the Bob Mould catalog, as Farmboy had only a passing awareness of Husker Du and Sugar and only knew of Bob himself from Bob's relatively recent incarnation as Famous Out Rocker / Godfather Of Punk & Grunge.
Then, from the end of the car, this: "You motherfucking faggot! You think I'm some motherfucking homosexual? I'mo pop a cap in yo' faggot ass! I don't play that motherfucking way, you damn punk ass bitch! You ain't gotta sit down all next to me with yo' faggot Chinese ass! You got this whole motherfuckin' train. Why you gotta sit yo' punk ass down right on top of me? Motherfucking faggot!"
Eyes left. Our speaker, playing the well-trod role of Angry Black Subway Man, was standing menacingly over a slender Pacific Islander-looking man, whose less than entirely masculine, legs crossed at the knee, sitting style caused my Gayger-counter needle to leap into the red zone, passing even the Cats, Original Cast Recording reading that I had gotten earlier in the day when I passed by the young man wearing a Carhart jacket and reading Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. This beleagured queen, shrinking before his menacer, registered well into the Barbara Streisand, Back To Broadway portion of the dial.
Glances, uncomfortable and yet supportive, were shared between the other riders. The glances said, "Why is this psycho freaking out?" and "Should we go help the other guy?" and "Aren't you glad we sat down at THIS end?"
Farmboy and I got off the train at the Bedford stop. As we walked past the last door of our car, Angry Black Subway Man was giving his only-moments-ago victim a dumbfoundingly genial seeing off, waving to him and saying, "OK, you pretty cool for a Chinese guy an' all dat. We should hang sometime. You have a good night, a'ight?"
Somebody outta sell tickets. I know I'd buy one.
Five quick blocks through a neighborhood that looks suspiciously like central Jersey City, and we were at the venue, a nightclub called Northsix. Coatcheck, a Brooklyn Lager for Farmboy and a Budweiser for me, and Bob Mould was at our side, lingering with us at the back of the audience for the duration of the opening act.
Bob took the stage to a genuinely warm reception, in contrast to the more traditional rock star "wooo!"ing and screaming that I'd seen when he and his band (including Rich Morel) took their places at Irving Plaza two months ago. The Northsix audience greeted Bob like an old friend, with broad smiles and outstretched clapping.
Immediately, a disappointment. Bob announced that his 12-string was "fucked" and that the show would be all electric. I had been looking forward to hearing Accoustic Bob, but it seemed I was the only one dismayed. And Bob was in great voice, his signature howl/yowl/growl sounding much bigger in this cozy room. Farmboy began recognizing songs he hadn't realized were Bob's, and pulled me close to say, "I hope Eddie Veder is sending this guy checks EVERY MONTH!"
The audience was attentive, almost Children Of The Corn attentive. There wasn't nearly as much of the usual bar traffic and customer chatter that I've come to dread at smaller venues. Bob was gregarious and chatty with the audience, even giving me a cloaked shout-out when he mentioned that he'd served turducken for Christmas dinner last year, "which someone here tonight can actually attest to." I almost let out a whoop so everyone would know that he was talking about me.
After the show, Bob sat on the stage to sign autographs and chat with fans. A tall, bald, handsome, muscular man (Farmboy and I had "noticed" him earlier) was whirled around by a fan who said, "Hey, Rich! I love your stuff, man!" The big guy just smiled broadly and said, "I know I look a lot like him, but I'm not Rich Morel." Exit fan, mortified.
Farmboy and I enjoyed a death-threat free trip back to Manhattan, where he suggested a nightcap at Siberia. Silly not to, and all that. We arrived at 2AM to find the first floor deserted, but a fairly packed and happy crowd in the basement disco. I got us a beer and Farmboy disappeared for a few minutes. When he returned, he handed me a fresh beer and said, "I got you another beer in case I don't see you again, in which case thanks for a great night!" I looked around the small room and wondered what he meant, but only for a moment, until I saw him slip around the black curtain behind the stairs, where shirtless gay men were doubtlessly discussing welfare reform and this pesky outsourcing problem.
A few minutes later and I was up on the street. When my cab rolled up, the first snowflakes of the year had just hit my face. I rode home slumped over on the backseat, thinking about the Rich Morel lookalike back in Brooklyn.