good morning ~
today’s track is a little wobbly piece of sun bleached video game music that never quite resolves
fun thing: just dropped some new merch! I made these very silly “I’d rather be listening to Cicada Waves” bumper stickers:
Also - I’ve mentioned the Unread podcast here before, a beautiful piece of audio storytelling about mental health, friendship, and Britney Spears fandom by my friend Chris Stedman that I contributed some music to. Last week composer Aaron Kaufman, Sadie Dupuis aka Sad13 from Speedy Ortiz, and I put together a compilation of music from the show and threw it up on Bandcamp (with amazing album art by Claudia Bitran). Proceeds are going to benefit the Trans Lifeline and BEAM Collective. It’s a fun comp with a convincing Britney soundalike I made on it - check it out (and check out the show, too).
There plenty of not-so-good memories of the space. Once in winter huddled close under the corrugated metal roof we sat in a circle and sang - our breath hung in the air and the harmonies hovered, a visible cloud in the middle of our circle. I pulled out my electric guitar only to find that the heatless room and the long walk from the train had cold cracked the nut uselessly in half, it fell from the fretboard - the hour plus commute to get to rehearsal more or less for nothing. And I wasn’t there at the worst of it but I did have band practice a few days after the toilet backed up and every single drumstick, amplifier, cable, and guitar pick had to be bleach wiped and left in the sun for disinfection, the roll gate all the way up to let the smell out.
But it was ours. Or more accurately it wasn’t mine exactly - it belonged to a generous community of people I’m lucky to know who were kind enough to let me have some of the most deep and wonderful encounters of my life there.
The first time I went to the neighborhood was within the first three months or so of moving to Brooklyn. I had never heard of Red Hook and somehow my two friends and I had been invited to an older and much cooler musician’s birthday party at a bar we were to understand was old, crusty, and boasted a view of the statue of liberty from the front stoop. We went to the party, nervous, impossibly crammed. I remember panicking because everybody kept asking me “what do you do?” and I hadn’t lived there long enough to have an answer. Our friend got tired around 2am so we did something only 22 year olds would do: we drove her the 30 minutes or so home and then promptly turned right around and went back to the party. We closed the bar down and I finally fell asleep on my mattress on the floor well after the sun rose.
It was a wild part of town, unhinged in a way that felt impossible almost anywhere else. There are stories of people living in bunk beds and antique sailing freighters, throwing parties where the disco balls threw beads of light through the portholes and onto the chugging seawater. There are stories of fucking tugboat operators in their cramped berths and stories of downloading porn at the public library because the RV had no wifi or electricity at night. There are stories about squats and black mold and other surrendered spaces, of old Sicilian men being your landlord and being both kind and wildly sexist. And in the magazines and the newspapers there were stories about bright pink honey, secret weed farms, convict rehabilitation, and self-annihilation. It felt like anything could happen there, any good or terrible outcome. The hurricane coming and flooding everyone’s basements and closing the grocery store with the good baguettes for what felt like years was one possibility that bubbled up. And the extremely fancy art space (okay, really the wedding and corporate event rental space) and the overpriced electric car dealership were other possibilities that came to pass - possibilities that probably killed a lot of other alternate universes.
But then among all the tumult and the rising tides and the coercive commercial real estate forces was this inhospitable industrial space. It went from spartan to surprisingly comfortable nine months out of the year over the period my friends leased it, and in springtime after a morning rehearsal was there anything sweeter than a watered down coffee and a pastry from the bakery around the corner? Never mind that it was a place where most people wouldn’t go, too remote - that simple fact made it belong to anyone who actually made it there. And there were shows - gigs no one but the performers attended and nights when we literally couldn’t fit them all in, I have personally stood atop the upright piano to catch a view of who was singing. And there were parties - the absolute best spot to watch the fireworks on the 4th and the night before new year’s eve, absolutely legendary ragers made of whatever stereo equipment and dance floor material we could cobble together (was new year’s eve eve 2019 really the last time I went there? Hard to believe).
I can’t mourn the space as deeply as those who installed the lofts or the insulation curtains. I was there often but I wasn’t there in the beginning and I wasn’t there in the end. I haven’t lived in the same city as the space for almost a year, but as more possibilities begin to open up in the world I find myself deeply affected by the loss of this particular zone. It felt reliable, reasonably sturdy, as secure of a footing in the world as standing atop an upright piano, maybe just as novel. And things are happening again - I’m receiving invitations to honest-to-goodness parties, and I’m planning on playing some gigs soon. Next week I’ll be seeing members of my family for the first time in a year and a half. But each little tentative step into the light feels wildly brand new, unfamiliar. It’s a little like waking up on the moon. It does not feel like there are many sure things out there - communal bonds have fizzled or crystalized, our physical selves have changed, spaces we used to feel welcome to inhabit are now full of some asshole’s motorcycle collection.
Briscoe was a wonderful if extremely challenging place, a metal box I enjoyed being inside of often. The organizers of that space deserve some kind of medal from the borough president, or a city holiday, or a tugboat to live on in the harbor.
But what about you? What spaces are you free to inhabit? Are you rolling out the dance floor? Are you living in a place where things are possible?