Whooping through the Wetlands

Dear readers! Been a little while since I got in touch here, the endless road has been repetitive and the cities tend to blend, but I’ve been gathering some rough gems on the path for you to look at.

New York

Welcomed by thick raindrops, we hurried straight to the Trash Bar in Hispterdom/Brooklyn. Not much to mention there, except for the unexpected visit of the mighty Peter “Fantastico” Nevins, back from an inspiring staycation in Europe. The rather uneventful show was followed by lively talks in the massive and gorgeous Radegast Tavern, accompanied by legendary Couchsurfer host David “Awesome” Slone. The usual and infamous Williamsburg street fever was seriously affected by a terribly soaked sky, having me stroll the sidewalks with wet sneakers for two days under never-ending cold showers .

Of course, everything turned into a rush in this city of a thousand moves and I spent a whole day running from one bookstore to the other to check on my poetry books left in consignment this summer. Special mention to Desert Island, amazing comic book store in Brooklyn, where Gabe welcomed my Salade de Crudités with rare enthusiasm. This is where I also get to thank McNally & Jackson in Soho for selling out all of the 24643 books I had left there, making me feel rich and famous all at once. How great it is to reminded that there are still people caring for the written word in this wounded world of ours! It was great to check out the famous store Printed Matter, arriving just in time for the launch of a 1500$ pop up book (my poetry chapbook indeed looked like a cheap joke next to it). I discovered great silk-screen printed books there, but astonishingly, all from European publishers, especially Lubok from Germany. It was then quite enjoyable to head to Harlem and play at The Shrine with its quirky African staff generous in long and tight hugs. The great Leslie Graves had offered to do some back-up vocals and she picked up “I Became Who You Thought I Was” in one minute and nailed it on stage half an hour later, quite the pro. It felt great to share the stage with someone after all these lonely performances. Her show was fantastic in dynamics, lyrics and vocals, and was followed by my pal Anthony’s soulful and heartfelt set of folk and blues-inspired tunes. Fun fact from the evening: Mika met a French girl at The Shrine that was born in the same Tarn village as him and in the exact same year. One gross Falafel and two Mexican cokes later, we were out of the maelstrom, pushing down south.

Philadelphia

Philly felt great right from the start. Funded in 1682! Wow, for once, lots of old and precious history to dig our teeth into! The massive city hall with gorgeous and huge outdoor statues (the constructor spent half of his life on this building only!) has a quirky little story: there was an urban legend that there couldn’t be a building higher than the city hall because the bronze statue of William Penn placed at the very top was deemed a hovering protection of some sort, looking after the city with a kind hand gesture. Because of natural progress and necessary estate expansion, the need quickly came in the 1970’s to build higher buildings and the city finally agreed that they had to outgrow the old city hall and therefore overshadow the ancient protective figure. The story goes that all the local sports teams never won a title once the first skyscraper was erected. When the highest of all was built, the workers made a joke and taped a miniature version of the statue on top of the roof when it was done. Of course, that precise year, the local baseball team came home with the championship title…

The city had a lot to offer for the tiny amount of time we had: a great art museum, the “Rocky steps” where Stallone raised his arms in Rocky #8 or something, the broken Liberty Bell, the Independence Hall, aargh! Torn by tricky decision-making, we chose to take the southern route, marching through great neighborhoods, checking out the Magic Gardens – a Facteur Cheval-esque art installation, mostly outdoors, involving beautiful mosaïc including recycled objects in a maze of colours, words and matters. It is apparently considered a unforgiven crime to visit Philadelphia without having a bite of a local Cheesesteak, so we went to Jim’s, one of the two most legit establishments who mastered and fine-tuned the culinary technique (the other half of the city, definitely divided on the delicate subject, was shouting: “Noooo, c’mon, go to Tony Luke’s!”). The large and charismatic cook put together the famed sandwich in 10 seconds in front of us, finding the time in there to fit two outrageous jokes, scratch his knee and yell something incomprehensible at his colleague. To my utter bewilderment, it tasted extra-yummy (for what is really, cheese, steak and bread, come on) and it was fun checking out the faded autographed pictures of the movie and sports stars expressing their love for Jim’s Cheesesteaks. I especially liked the random picture of Larry King freefalling with a sandwich in his mouth and with a written quote saying “Jim’s gets me high!”. I can’t imagine the logistics behind that picture, that’s sandwich-love right there. The show at The Fire was quite uneventful again, except for a giant plush toy dog that conveniently guarded my merch while was I was striving to rock out on stage. More rain and trouble finding the right bus, more musical fellows and good encounters. A much-craved load of laundry later, we were gone down even souther to Maryland…

Soon, Baltimore, Wilmington and Pittsburgh! Stay tuned!

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