Friday, August 2, 2013

Music is not a metaphor

The sun pours down like honey, except it doesn't, not really, spoiled by poetry we've been, and the island of Manhattan, that heap of concrete blocks massed and backlit, looks like Oz, city of phony wizards, visited by wide-eyed hicks who congregate on its street corners photographing themselves in front of tall buildings, its optimism boundless, its prices high, its days numbered. Remembering Leonard Cohen at Madison Square Garden, a shred of poetry -- leftovers really -- laid on the table of commerce, proffered by the elderly courtly Buddhist Jew. Everything, especially poetry, has its past and its price around here. Sidle up to the fuckin snack bar and order a beer.

A friend of mine said he went to the National concert over at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, crossing the East River took some doing, but it was worth it, that place is so much better than the Garden, even though it lies in hipper-than-thou Brooklyn. The people working there! Nice people, so nice compared. And the seats. Great seats! Yeah the Garden sucks, we all agreed and put our heads down. Then we started drinking again, scotch on rocks, doubles, triples, who knows how much we'd had, and went back to eating our dumplings and noodles slathered with chili paste. All around us tourists took pictures of the wildlife strutting up and down Eighth Avenue, their cell phones jumping in their hands, and we couldn't tell if their beady eyes signaled distress or bliss. How can anyone tell? The Janus face spins too rapidly to say for sure.

This was a few days after Bob Dylan, looking like Vincent Price in his Dr. Phibes guise, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Ryan Bingham played the pier in Hoboken, the city strung out like an off-season Christmas tree behind them, the Hudson as placid as a snoring old mutt. My friend said he digs My Morning Jacket a whole helluva lot but their set that night was off, it wasn't till later, during the Dylan set, when Jim James joined Ryan and Jeff and Bob to turn "The Weight" into an anthem that the show justified itself. Right then, he felt in his bones that he was in the presence of glory, its past affirmed, its price no matter. Hell they were having fun, what a great show it turned out to be. We nodded complicitly and went on eating and drinking. It's all about eating, a more complicated activity than we give it credit for, so much of the body involved, muscles, fluids, nerves, you never think about the way everything works until it stops working correctly. Then you realize. A light goes off. We looked at each other, our guts distended, filled with prawns, with chicken, with noodles, with rice, with spicy brown sauces that would play havoc with our digestive tracts in a few hours, and we laughed because there was nothing else to do except to listen to the gurgling inside us.

It's all fuckin music I thought -- "All Along the Watchtower," sucking an ice pop, taking the B or the D out to Brooklyn, farting arpeggios and calling it art, hearing some unwashed busker singing "Suzanne" down by Washington Square, a thunderclap followed by heavy rain -- those sounds that accompany our dreams, for ill or good, foreboding or hopeful. Attend the rattle in the throat of a dying patient in a hospital room on that Oz-like island where no wizard rules and tell me you've had enough of life. These big-gutted guys sitting around their groaning board, eating and drinking, les trois hommes moyen sensual, unable to let go of those youthful appetites of theirs. If it wasn't music coming out of them, it would be pathetic.

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