There is a place in the north Bronx. A warm welcoming place, where people will sit down on a Sunday night in one of the coziest bar spaces I’ve ever seen, and listen to guy with a guitar stand and sing a bunch of songs he wrote. That’s a rare kind of thing. And it feels good. Real good. You can find it just down 238th Street from the 1 Train. It’s called An Beal Bocht Cafe. The talented Mr. Marc Campbell (aka Marc CK) hosts, tends the bar, and puts the whole thing together.
The Sunday before last, I got a chance to stand there, in the Bronx, in the middle of the bar room, and play a bunch of songs I wrote. For a group of people who were just tremendously nice about the whole thing. They listened closely, but not too closely, drank heavily, but not sloppily. These were my kind of folks.
Just before I started playing I had this overwhelming feeling of Deja Vu. As Marc Campbell asked me if I was ready to go and turned off the iPod, I had an intense feeling that I had done exactly this before. Sitting here today, I am 100% certain I had never been to An Beal Bocht Cafe before Sunday. I’ve met Marc a handful of times, but this was definitely the first time he’d ever needed to turn off an iPod before I started to play. But in that moment I was convinced that I had been in exactly that position before. It gets stranger. In my memory, the show did not go well. It started just like Beal Bocht started, but somewhere near the top, this show from a shadow reality went off the rails. I mean it was bad. The only people paying attention were openly heckling me. It was so loud I couldn’t hear myself, and the things that the handful of hecklers were saying were really pretty mean. And vaguely threatening.
So as I’m standing there, in this spot, in the north Bronx, where I’ve never been before, where I know no one but Marc, who I’ve only met a few times, having this memory/premonition of intense failure, you can understand that deep down I was a little nervous. Irrationally scared of the group of people coming in from the outside area, gathering around me, sizing me up.
Luckily, things went far better on Sunday than in the strangely sharp memory of the shadow reality. If the folks at the Beal Bocht hated me, they did a good job hiding it. That’s really all I ask.
After having several extensive conversations, concerning most things existing in the universe, with the guy who does the bookings, a Councilmember’s aid, an Attorney, and of course Marc, I made my way back towards Brooklyn. Only I fell asleep on the train and it took me until about 6 am to get home. But it was worth it. I had a really good time.
There was a really shaky moment when I couldn’t find the opposite entrance after I woke up in crown heights. That resulted in me walking around in circles at 4 oclock in the morning in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Then I got to witness the exact moment that the previous night turns into the following morning. This is not, despite the common understanding, at sunrise. It is the moment you go from being the only one on the platform, to the only one on the (now crowded) platform who’s still trying to make it home. This generally occurs sometime before sunrise.
One last thing – I am very close to being done with the next installment of iPad recording. It is far more involved than anything I’ve done yet, and contains a fair amount of noise and dissonance. I promised long ago that this project would get weird, and now I seem to be heading squarely in that direction. The weird direction. South-West? I think that’s right.