E/E

NY/NJ/PA!

Presently soaring along the New Jersey interstate with beautiful changing leaves to Philly. Son just fell asleep after an energetic morning at Great-Grandma’s. Fund drive on the radio. It’s raining in a million pin drop specks. After a week in New York City, it feels good to be on the road again, to watch trees go past and see the dog’s head bop up and to stop and get coffee.

This is home to me. This is where I was born. The leaves and trees are my leaves and trees, the dips in the earth are carved from the same knife as my body. And Hawk loves New Jersey, can never believe how nice people are, how they’re down to earth and real and present and not aimed to impress. We fall into step and love the food and I breathe a sigh of relief, this is why I am the way I am, these are my tics and mannerisms. Sometimes we think about living here.

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My Grandma makes a huge dinner for the whole family on the night we arrive, fresh off a recording session at WFMU – Jersey City, a community radio station Rolling Stone named the Best for years running. My aunts and uncles and cousins all come over, and the kiddos play and we all talk for hours around the dinner table. Lio, who did not take a nap, has drooping eyes and sagging expressions as the night wears on. A little after 9, we tuck him in, and after a few minutes of puny wails, he’s out, and sawing logs.

That morning we’d left Brooklyn for Hoboken, and in a happy, short journey landed outside the stately building where Bar/None Records is housed. We parked down a narrow street, let Chamero run around, then carried our napless child up to the second floor, where the magic lives. But really, the whole building is magic – once a furniture warehouse and manufacturing center, the building was purchased with the intent of turning it into a musical haven. So there’s an entertainment lawyer, several recording studios, storage space for artists not on the road, a huge rehearsal space where the greats come to learn dance moves and set up their super-stage shows without entering the hustle of the city. The lawyer is a super cool dude who has a daughter slightly older than Lio, who more than happily invites us into his ground floor office (after Lio catches sight of a life-size stuffed tiger in there) to have a meeting instead of the toyless upstairs. So Lio entertains himself while we chat with the label. Chamero the road dog stretches out and falls asleep on the wood floor, and we settle in and chat about this tour and the next tour, and this album and the the next, and these plans and those plans and this and that. The longer we talk, the more I realize how lucky we are, and the more I love these people that we get to work with, who are, basically, the coolest people I will ever know.

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We root around in the office for awhile afterward. Every time a band comes up or a story surfaces about some Bar/None history, Mark or Glenn reach into a certain cabinet or flip-down box or stack and pull out the corresponding band’s album, and hand it to us to take along. There are mounds of demos and outgoing mail and I can’t even imagine how many metric tons of vinyl and albums prepared and ready for their new homes. The art on the walls is enviable. Chamero takes a certain liking to one of the pictures on the wall, jumping up to look at it again and again and whining as if it’s a portal he could somehow jump through.

The Hoboken/Weehawken border is kind to us as the great epic Music Hall spits us out into the light of day. The sun isn’t harsh, it’s inviting; the streets aren’t narrow, they’re gentle and quaint; the construction worker taking a break on the back of his truck grins with great admiration and without inhibition at the cute beast at the end of my ragged leash. The transition is fluid, though without a time limitation they might have had to drag me away. But as it is, we’re headed to WFMU to record a taped in-studio session.

14 minutes later we’re nabbing the last metered parking space in front of the 4-story radio building. A couple minutes after that, we’re buzzing in. A cheery woman replies, “Come on up!” But we don’t really know how far “up” to go, and we stop one floor too soon and disembark at the massive listening library. I poke my head into the library, and the back of a man is facing me, his posture articulating the awareness he’s creating between himself and whatever record he’s got spinning before him. “Um,” I say, but he doesn’t turn. I wait a few awkward minutes for him to notice I’m there, caught between not wanting to interrupt his “moment” and knowing damn well that I’m about to interrupt it anyway. By the time he realizes I’m there, Hawk has already gotten the green light from another staff member, and we’re trudging the 50-odd stairs to the next floor. “I see why you took the elevator,” the kind gentleman says, as Lio hip-hops each stair individually in tiny bursts of accentuated energies with one hand firmly adhered to the railing. We all laugh.

WFMU rules, and they rule hard. They rule in an unencumbered way that says they’ve long been in the lead, but you get the feeling that they don’t give one crap about things like being in the “lead.” So though they far surpass the status quo, they make it look easy, like they’re somehow kicking back and letting the waves of goodness just roll on in. But the stacks of pledge premiums sitting in the staff room say otherwise. The volume of volunteers and supporters are veins to the central nervous system of an intelligent being of its own force, and that’s WFMU.

“Does the elevator here go sideways?” Hawk asks our host Julie. “Why would it go sideways?” she says. “I don’t know,” Hawk says. “It just felt like it was going sideways!” There’s some Willy Wonka shit going on in our bones these days. The millions and billions of trips up and down elevators, and seven weeks in a van traveling down interstates, and standing on top of subway lines and riding trains and lack of sleep and poor nutrition and all that – our knees are wobbly. The elevator may as well have been moving sideways.

The session room is awesome. The drums are solid and sound great. We realize we could really use a new cymbal. They have my same Fender twin reverb amp, but the mondo-sized one, the one that’s 50 times louder than I’d ever need it to be. The one that I probably could not move by myself, even with casters. There was always this unspoken rule of travel, of hiking, of touring, whatever, that you don’t pack more shit than you alone can carry. But today, I’ll use this studio amp. I might even lust a little after its extra dials. But when I plug my little twin reverb into the wall at our next show, and it gives me that slight tang and echoey melt, and I know what it does without fiddling too much, and I can can carry it and something else at the same time – well, thar’s a good amp for me.

Irene engineers. She’s magnificent and sweet and mellow and taking it all in stride. We play a bunch of songs and say some goofy things in between some of them, and start one of them over three times because of various personal mistakes. It’s all good, it’s taped. Still-napless Lio eats host-provided veggie sticks and half a bag of mint Milano cookies from his nest in his play pen in the studio while watching “Cars” on mute on Netflix. Right when I think I’m going to get him to lay his head down, like he’ll finally crash out (he often falls asleep when we’re playing or practicing), he instead bursts awake with a newfound Milano chocolate resolve. Julie and Irene invite Lio into the control room, which he decides he’d love. After the next song, he asks into the mic for his stuffed fox Woo Woo. Lio and Woo Woo hang in the engineer’s booth. I don’t know how they got him to keep his little twiddly fingers away from the 3,000 knobs on their studio board. WFMU, I’m tellin’ ya!

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Glenn from Bar/None shows up. Lio and Glenn are instant pals. Julie interviews us, and I talk too much. We finish out the session and begin to pack up. Lio’s gone wild, he’s in a Milano and no-nap craze, he’s doing the thing he does right before he inevitably naps indefinitely which is to run as fast as he can in circles of varying circumferences. He’s doing his circle-run thing and his mad-dash-finish-line-run thing back and forth across the floor, whipping past Glenn, who’s like, hopping out at him and making Lio swirl with laughter. When Lio starts to wail from the sheer problem of exhaustion, Glenn expertly diverts his attention to the next thing, and again, they’re off. I mean one minute they’re coloring, then they’ve got plastic fish reenacting Shakespeare, then Glenn somehow finds a nerf toy that makes wild sounds. Meanwhile we’re packing up and trying to shove all our stuff in the elevator in one pass. What kind of record label owner performs ninja parenting on your two-year-old for an abnormally long time, as if hiking the Himalayas, then helps you load out? Glenn f’ing Morrow, y’all.

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The next day we head to Philly to play a show. We stop off to have lunch with our good buddy Dom from DRGN King. Lio eats most of a PB&J and Hawk and I swap bites like Bridge players, left and right, reaching over and under each other’s arms to steal fries and dips. I wonder if this means we’re cute cos we’re a couple, or we’re like, gross because we’ve been on the road for two months and we just don’t fucking care that we smell bad and like to unabashedly eat each other’s food. I think our social graces have evaporated. It’s kind of awesome to start from zero.

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I’m beginning to think that 7 weeks on the road is the magic crux, the secret door, the critical mass for everyone you’ve ever met and every place you’ll ever be being inextricably and extricably tied together in past, present, and future. At the restaurant in Philly, when we’re walking up, I’m like, holy shit, there in the window, it’s Keith! Of all the places & people. “Hey,” I walk up immediately, “Kate!” he says. Woah! It’s my old pal from the southwest, and Food Not Bombs co-founder, Keith McHenry.

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Anyone who knows this man knows that he oozes coincidence and magic. When I look in his eyes, I wonder how he can even be human. He’s done so much, been so many places. And here he is now, in Philly, after speaking at a convention. I met Keith working for a NPR affiliate in Colorado. He had moved to New Mexico and his activism preceded him. In his initial stint in Taos, Keith re-invigorated the town’s FNB chapter, organized marches for peace, and began a community center, all while facing ongoing charges in other states for non-violent sit-ins and for feeding homeless people free food, which, surprisingly, some people find perversely threatening. As a reporter, I interviewed him several times. Once we were doing a live interview in the studio, talking about FNB and upcoming events. Keith was waxing on FNB, talking about all these great new chapters opening up all over the world. “There’s even a new branch in Germany,” he said on-air. “I got an email from a girl in Frankfurt yesterday.” “Was her name Nikki?” I asked. And it was. Naturally, my lifetime BFF who had recently relocated to Germany had also been talking to Keith, unbeknownst to either of us. That is so Keith. I wished I had a button or a t-shirt or an album or something to give him, but we’d walked to the cafe, and I couldn’t even scrounge up anything. Keith showed me pictures of his abundant vegetable harvest, and we commiserated over the fact that once New Mexico is in your blood and in your heart, it’s just damn well there for good and for always.

After lunch, Dom walked us back to our van and said he’d see us at the show. We crawled into the van and immediately, Lio said, “Where’s Dom?”

There’s something in the air. As we were setting up at Red Hook Coffee, a man walked up to me with a sheet of paper. It was my long-lost second cousin (as in, twenty years since we last met up, as in, I was a little kid), who handed me a family tree, and watched as a I slowly put it together with my dulled 7-weeks-on-the-road brain before giving me a giant hug and sticking around for the show.

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Then you find out that the owners of the shop in Philly are great friends with the sister of the woman who once put you up in DC through a mutual friend, and your kids played together, and they wore the same socks.

And on and on and on.

Next up, we’re back to NYC!

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1 Comment»

  gamma wrote @

You are amazing, dear daughter.


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