Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Party On!

Yesterday was the last day of the Muslim holiday Ramadan. I'm pretty sure yesterday marked the last day of month long fasting and praying. In the morning I heard the call to prayer outside my window. The sun was rising and Muslim men were coming into the Tompkins Square Park to celebrate/pray. On the black top, long rolls of brown paper were unfurled in rows. Men would find a space and kneel down to pray aloud. There were about ten rows formed before I got on the bus to go to work. I've only seen this gathering at the park a few times since I've lived here. It's really a beautiful ritual. They were pointed east towards Mecca. It made me feel proud to be in a country and a city where people could worship and express themselves freely - let's keep it that way.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Remembrance of Things Past

CBGB's closed at the beginning of the week. Sad. Very sad.

My husband Brian estimated that he and his band - the Cavedogs played at least 50 gigs there. As a partner of a rock musician, I put in my own time at a zillion CMJ showcases in the 80's and early 90's. It was hard to get too excited about venturing inside the club after Ben was born - unless it was an early accoustic show. But I guess I always thought it would be there. Like the Statue of Liberty.

After all of Brian's touring he would make me laugh with his countdown of the worst men's rooms he'd encountered as a rock musician. CBGB's did have a solid place in the top ten. I smiled to see that the NYTimes included a shot of the club's graffitti filled, poster plastered, sinklesss bathroom. When I showed it to Brian he said "Are you kidding me? That's the women's room - - a virtual lap of luxury! For starters the men's room never had an actual toilet seat."

He liked CBGB's and was grateful for the exposure it gave his band (which was eventually signed to Capitol Records) and other emerging musicians just like him. You could be a beginner there.

Here is an exerpt from a recent web interview with Patti Smith. She played the last show at CBGB's on Sunday night.

Rolling Stone: Did you ever feel threatened (in CBGB's neighborhood or in the club during the 70's)?

Patti Smith: I never felt threatened. I feel more threatened now. I feel confined by the intense commercialism. The stores, the shopping, these people all night long in their limos, acting like they own our little streets. New York to me was the worker city, the artist city. It was a place to get your shit together. Now it's a place people come to with their shit together. They have a lot of money, and they want condos. They want high life. They come to film here and have fashion shows. You try to walk on your street, and they act like they own it.

Cities should be edgy. They are edgy parts of America. They are not suburbia. They are supposed to be a melting pot of struggles, a collective force of ideas and energy. I watched horrified recently -- NYU students coming in with truckloads of fancy stuff. Magic Chef stoves and boxes with new computers. I mean, these are not struggling college kids. Get a hot plate. Drink some Nescafé.....

You said it Patti. What they don't get is that what makes this city great is what they're destroying.

News flash: money isn't enough. it can't eclipse the art. smart people know that.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Once upon a time in America....

Last week my son Ben and his third grade class went to Ellis Island. It was his first trip there. I wish I was with him. There's so much we could have talked about before the ferry arrived on the other side.

He saw a movie about the immigrant experience and found the name of his maternal Italian great grandmother. I'm pretty sure my Irish great grandfather is listed there as well. You can also find his name in the index of Gangs of New York...a dubious achievement that explains a lot about my family's character.

Ben's gene pool combines almost every country in Europe with a stop in the Ukraine and Cypress. He is a true American mutt and I must say that the results are extraordinary.

Ben complained that on the ferry ride home his class was not allowed to sit up on the top deck with the rowdy public school kids. He was furious and said "Mom, it was hot and smelly down in the lower deck. All because we went to Ellis Island doesn't mean they have to send us back to Manhattan in steerage class!"