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Europe, Part 1: Bangor, Northern Ireland

I haven’t posted much about Europe. I was there from Mid September through The end of November 2016. It was amazing. I flew from New York to London, and then to Belfast. The airline lost my guitar at JFK. Not a very auspicious start (I later got it back). My first gig was in Bangor, Northern Ireland. I basically tumbled off the plane and into this gig in a lovely pub called Fealty’s. It’s a series run by a beautiful songwriter named Stephen Macartney. Well, just imagine — my first time in Northern Ireland. I was really jet-lagged but thrilled to be there. It went well, and it was there that I met Rodney and Jennifer Cordner, a wonderful couple who took me under their wings for a few days. They were just lovely. More on them later. The people in the pub were really warm and welcoming. For instance, I left my coat at home in New York. A nice man in the pub, when he found out I didn’t have a coat, went home and got a windbreaker which he then gave me.

After the gig, Stephen and his girlfriend Trish had me over for chili and Guinness but since I don’t drink anymore, I just had chili. And at that point hadn’t had a drink in over two years. And I don’t usually miss it. But that night, there amongst all those wonderful people drinking Guinness and Irish whiskey, I did feel a little bit of that yearning to have some. And that’s the problem right there: wanting a drink always took on the quality of a yearning. Anyway, it was a beautiful night and I got a little bit of an education about the area and about “The Troubles” between Protestants and Catholics. That’s an old story and I didn’t quite get all the nuances. For instance, earlier, during the show, when I brought forth some of the spirituality in my own songs, some of the people in the pub had gotten a bit uncomfortable. Stephen said later that some people get uncomfortable when religion comes up, because it has been so divisive.

The next day Stephen, Trish and I took a walk around Bangor and looked for a coat for me to replace the windbreaker, which was a bit thin. I eventually found one, but not in Bangor.

Didn’t take many pictures in Bangor for some reason.

Here’s Stephen, Trish, and me (in gifted windbreaker).

Me playing in Fealty’s

In Northern Ireland, Top Cat hawks Mortgages. I thought that was noteworthy. I’m guessing most of my readers won’t know who Top Cat is.

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Water Tower in the Flatiron District/Tesla

6th Ave and 27th Street.

This is a picture I took of a water tower on 26th Street, viewed from 27th (Here’s a good article on the ubiquitous NYC water towers, which look like relics of the past but are still very much in use). The church I used to work for had its office on 26th. Directly behind me is the “Radio Wave building,” So named because Nikola Tesla lived and experimented there. There’s a great park nearby, Madison Square Park. Once Kanye West held a free concert there and it was a *mess*. Harried police shut down several blocks and there were tons of people. Apparently Kanye came on super late. Kanye and Jay-Z own a club nearby, called the 40/40 club. I stuck my head in there once, but didn’t sit down.

Speaking of Tesla: There are two Tesla Plaques in NYC (that I know of). One on the aforementioned Radio Wave Building (which used to be called Hotel Gerlach), and one on the Hotel New Yorker Hotel at 34th and 8th, where Tesla died, destitute. This leads me to a question: how come a long time ago living in hotels used to be a thing?

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AAA Avacodos

In Chinatown, on Grand Street, there is a store called AAA Avacados that sells only avacados, at one dollar apiece. It sounds like the brainchild of a Seinfeld character (Jerry: “Really? nothing else? only the avacados?” George: “That’s right! Only avacados baby!”), or the punchline of a Mitch Hedberg Joke. A few doors down there’s a rather stinky store (Durian New York) that sells only Durian. I didn’t get a photo of that one though.

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This is 817 Broadway (at E. 12th) in Manhattan. It used to be known as the Sprague building and was designed by George Post. It sits catty-corner from the splendid Strand bookstore (“18 miles of books”). This site has more photos and some history about the building. (I’d like to learn more about that “Fuller Detective Agency” shown in the 1905 photo).

817 Broadway “The Sprague Building”

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Last Night at the Owl

I played a show last night. Well, a set, at the Owl Music Parlor, a quaint and cute listening room in Brooklyn, lovingly run by Oren Bloedow. Oren’s in a terrific dreamy band called Elysian Fields. I suppose every folk/rock listening room is run as a labor of love, but this one seems particularly love-infused. For instance, while the music’s going on they curtain off the music room and the people in the bar are shushed while the music is playing. They don’t serve drinks in the room where the music is playing. You can go get a drink and bring it back, but they won’t bring it to you. The whole night, Oren’s going back and forth, making drinks, washing dishes, running sound, passing the tip jar, and playing music with the performers. You can tell his soul is in it.

Larry Gallagher, who invited me to share the show with him, played after I did. I love Larry’s music. I’ll post one of his songs at the end. Larry’s as good a songwriter and musician as I have heard. He’s originally from NY but has lived in San Francisco for a long time.

I had a really good time last night and woke up in a haze of gratitude and longing: Gratitude for the warm community I experienced last night, and longing for more of it. I didn’t feel that I necessarily performed that well (although friends say I did), but I just felt. good. Good seeing people, being with people, being part of a community, no matter how tenuous that connection may be. Some college friends came I hadn’t seen in a while. I was part of a really special community of friends in college, and it brought back, good warm feelings seeing some of them again. It was good sitting at a bar talking with good people in a warm, well lit room, walking home in the crunching snow carrying my guitar. Just feeling grateful to be alive. Not because I played so well or wowed the crowd. I didn’t. I mean, I don’t think I did. But my fear and anxiety about how well I performed were subsumed in feelings of gratitude. It’s 10 to midnight and I have to finish this post quickly if I’m to stick to my plan of posting something every day. I’m very tempted to not post this because I like to edit stuff. But I’ll post this unedited. Good night! (whoops it’s 12:06 now because I had to go back and fix a couple of things. ah well. missed it by that much, chief).

Larry Gallagher at the Owl

Here’s a song in which Larry’s mordant wit is on full display. A song called “TV is Your Friend,” written from the perspective of TV.

“TV is Your Friend

Don’t think this I don’t see you eyeing me
After everyone has gone?
Behind that pout I know you’re dying
To cross the room and turn me on
Within an hour you’ll have fallen
Why do you sit there and pretend
That you have found some higher calling?
TV is your friend

It makes me sad to watch you churning
Still you treat me with disdain
Do I not take away the burning
Do I not numb you to the pain?
You know you love the way I flicker
My pull you’ll never comprehend
Not as strong as heroin, but quicker
TV is your friend

You’ve stopped your kicking and your screaming
I knew you’d tire of saying ‘”no”
Settle back into the evening
Settle back into the glow
It’s the gift that keeps on giving
It’s a love that never ends
If you are sick to death of living
TV is your friend”