good morning ~
(click the link / shelves on the move to listen)
today's track, captured on very low quality cassette tape, is the the first recording I've ever made with the piano starring in today's writing
first of all - I apologize for missing last week's newsletter. I sincerely did not mean to alarm anyone (a number of you reached out!). it has been (as you'll read) very hectic.
question: when I have to skip a week, would you prefer no email at all or a short one saying "sorry, too busy"?
also - - I'm playing a really great gig this evening at Opus 40, a wild sculpture park in Saugerties, NY, presented by Notice Recordings. Going for a quieter set that incorporates today's recording. I love Nighttime's songs and Mark Trecka's multimedia chopping, plus I'm so glad I'll get to catch Lake Mary on tour from Missouri. note: it will actually start at 6pm! here are tickets and here's the flyer, hope to see ya:
Last Monday I woke up before my alarm went off and snuck out of my friend's building on the upper west side. I was in the city trying to accomplish a holy task.
At the end of last year a buddy reached out asking if I'd ever have use for a baby grand piano. A family member, recently passed, kept a beautiful instrument for many decades in her little apartment facing the East River - her kids didn't want to sell it, they'd rather see it go to someone who would use it and somehow my name got drawn out of the hat. Wildly generous, it makes me dizzy to think about. And what an amazingly timed offer - we had just started the process of moving to an actual house, one with plenty of room and no downstairs neighbors, soon we would have the space. There's no way the thing could have squeezed into our apartment in Troy - already our new place was opening up unimaginable opportunities.
Stunned, I didn't know how to proceed - the first thing I did when I started considering the offer was to yell FUCK out loud (apologies to Maurice, the cat that lives downstairs in our old place, I imagine him looking up from a newspaper). There's something funny about being offered out-of-the-ordinary kindness or a life-changing opportunity - of course it feels good, it can inflate your heart with hope a bit or grind down the teeth of your cynicism, but it can also show you just how badly you needed some kind of win. I didn't know until that moment quite how rough the patch was. Pretty immediately, too, I felt what a mental health professional would call negative self talk kick in - why should you of all people get to grasp this, you're not even a real piano player, etc. I read the email again and dwelled on the fact that my buddy has been an enthusiastic listener of my music for over a decade - okay, maybe I can let myself have this. "Hello," I said, then "wow!" Yes, I would very much like to take this very beautiful thing off your hands.
We started figuring out the details. First I told them that the piano was probably worth a lot of money, please consider selling it before simply handing it over to me. No, my buddy said, it's all yours if you can move it, the family doesn't want it, here's my dad's email. Moving a heavy, ornate instrument is complicated, turns out, but after a few dozen emails, a handful of rescheduled move-in dates, and a site visit where I instantly burst into tears the moment I played the first chord, everything aligned to everyone's satisfaction. We even painted the corner of the house where the piano would land - it was as if we secured the new place just so this instrument could come join us. The only thing I had to do was show up on Monday, 9am sharp, and make double sure on behalf of the building's worried lawyer that the movers didn't scuff up the walls.
I could have driven in Monday morning and risked the traffic, but my friend lives just across the park and is very generous with offering a place to crash. Oh sure, you can stay, she said, and when I rolled in on Sunday evening she prepared me a plate of Easter dinner leftovers - more dizzying kindness, and my weary bones ground down from moving sang when I laid down to sleep. My drive in had been frictionless, too, almost suspiciously so - both errands I had to run were directly on the way to dinner and added no time whatsoever to my trip, then I found a parking space directly in front of my friend's house. Bing bang boom. For months I had been floating out on a sea of chaos, here was a little buoy of calm, gently clanging. In the morning the piano would come to me.
I noticed first that I had left my wallet in full view on the passenger seat. Hm, that's unusual I thought, I must have been tired. Well, good thing nobody grabbed it - it was stuffed with bartending cash, a tip for the movers. Checked my map for the tenth time - ten minutes to where I needed to be, a short trip, I'd have time to grab breakfast. But then the car made an absolutely horrible noise when it started up, a growl bordering on explosion, then the engine died. I took three deep breaths and tried it again - same thing. I felt a freakout brewing, it crawled all over me like an emptied sack of roaches, and while trying to keep it together with my girlfriend on the phone a guy walked up to the car to tell me yeah I heard noises last night...sounded like they got your car up on a jack...I think they got the catalytic converter...they tried to steal a couple of other cars on the block, too...
Is there a cosmic ledger? A heavenly scoreboard? Is someone out there keeping track of every good thing that happens to you, making sure that in time the other shoe is gonna drop, tallying the fall of every sparrow? I dashed to a crosstown bus and begged my buddy to go run out and put a note on my windshield - CONVERTER STOLEN PLEASE DON'T TICKET PHONE NUMBER. Moving the piano cost less than expected, but my insurance won't cover the theft as they consider it an act of vandalism. I would have to run sound for 35 gigs just to pay for the repair and yes, they still gave me a parking ticket. But let the scoreboard show that the piano made it out unharmed and is already enjoying its retirement upstate. And when it came time to get my CRV up on the tow truck, my friend brought me an espresso and helped me push the car out into the street, still room for kindness. "Oh, you know what?" she said, "I'm actually gonna grab this spot" and as we pulled away with my vandalized auto I could see her reversing her Buick.
But what about you? Are you kind enough to yourself to let others be kind to you? What kind of person steals a catalytic converter from someone who's obviously broke, the car's from 2008 for christ's sake? Who's keeping score?