A Most Brooklyn Saturday (with some Manhattan thrown in)

Here at Unsolicited Vibe Assessment, we strive to give the people what they want. (That is what we strive to do, isn’t it? And by “we,” I mean “the royal we,” aka me.)

The Dude Lebowski

The Dude knows all about “the royal we”

When I emailed a former New Yorker friend the other day about Arthur’s and my Very Brooklyn Saturday, she replied:

“Enjoyed reading about your epic day in Brooklyn! Are you going to blog about that?? What an unforgettable mix of all things BK and happy life there. So very excited to visit you across the bridge and hang with all of you there soon. I can feel that Brooklyn happiness in me already. If I ever return to NYC, it will definitely be either BK or Upper-Upper West Side. After your e-mail, BK is winning by a few points : )”

I’m nothing if not a Brooklyn booster, so yes, friend, I shall blog about it! Perhaps we’ll be able to make a few more fans for our beloved borough.

Arthur and I bought our wedding rings today!! They’re recycled gold, because we’re giant hippies.

Wedding bands

Rangs

Actually, today was such a nice day that I want to tell you more about it.

Arturo went to hot yoga at 10:00 am and I repotted some plants that were overgrowing their bounds. I also listened to a radio program about the genocide in Syria, which is so horrific, of course. That kind of stayed with me all day—perhaps not the best audio choice for this moment… But gotta stay informed.

00 Pizza

00+Co (photo from Yelp; those are not my beautiful hands)

Then we met up and biked into Manhattan to try a new vegan pizza place in the East Village, went to SoHo to get our rings, bought a few books at the Strand, and met up with our friend Andy at The Lot Radio, possibly the most Brooklyn thing ever: a streaming radio station located in a shipping container in a vacant lot that also sells cold brew coffee and vegan cookies.

The Lot Radio via Hyperallergic

Courtesy DJ Haram

Top: The Lot Radio (photo from Hyperallergic) Bottom: A DJ sesh live from their webcam! (photo from, and quite possibly of, DJ Haram: djharam.tumblr.com)

Then Arthur went to meet some friends for dinner, and I came back here to write to you :)

I’m always glad to be in NYC, but particularly on the first hella-sunny Saturday of the springtime, with the best of friends and most delicious of itineraries, I’m even more keenly aware that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Readers! Where’s your happy place?

Scholes Street Studio: Making my day in all kinds of ways

I did an interview a few weeks ago with the lovely human beings Anita Mercier and René Pierre Allain, long-time Williamsburg residents, accomplished parents, and co-owners of Scholes Street Studio, a gem of a music space in our fair neighborhood.

The fascinating couple took more time than was necessary to show me around their beautiful and impressive live/work/performance space, and we enjoyed talking about their collection of African masks, the benefits of a metalworking background in the context of a major building renovation, and the ever-changing arts landscape of NYC.

Artists By Any Other Name performance

Artists By Any Other Name perform in 2015 (photo courtesy of Scholes Street Studio)

I felt the story I wrote about it for Bushwick Daily basically did the conversation, and Scholes Street Studio itself, justice. Plus it came together pretty easily once the interview was done, which always feels good from the ol’ craftsmanship perspective. But I was totally and wonderfully shocked when Bushwick Daily’s managing editor Emilie Ruscoe sent me the following feedback a couple of weeks after it was published:

“This is way overdue, but I have been meaning to email you back regarding your amazing work on the Scholes Street Studio piece! It was outstanding! Seriously beautiful, thoughtful, elegant features writing that, in my estimation, made up a story that seems like something the most discriminating news outlets I read would have been proud to run. I feel so lucky that you wrote it for us and so proud to have something so great among the stories I’ve edited for this site. Thank you so much!!”

Jeez, Emilie—you made me blush! You also made my day. Heck, my week! While trying to write well is its own reward, it’s a huge, huge help to get thoughtful pats on the back like this from time to time (as well as thoughtful critiques, which Emilie is also good at!). Helps make all the time spent staring at the screen totally worth it.

So this is pretty much a win-win, right? Memorable conversation, solid story, and morale-boosting accolade. (Well, if my math is right, that actually constitutes a win-win-win.) Just had to share.

Fellow writers (or anyone else): Tell me about a notable compliment you’ve received!

“We just met on the Internet. … Wait, that’s not what it sounds like!”

Nothing wrong with meeting on the Internet, of course! But the phrase sounded funny when I used it to describe my relationship to musician and writer Mariel Beaumont as I blew in to Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory a few nights ago in search of her and not sure I’d recognize her.

Mariel wrote to me last week to say she enjoyed this interview about vinyl record collectors I wrote for Medium and asked if I had any tips for promoting work on the site. While I was super-stoked to get a shout from someone I didn’t know, I had to be super-disappointing and let Mariel know that all the strokes that article’s gotten have been courtesy of the Dust & Grooves publicity machine; no marketing genius of mine.

Church Girls

Mariel (female) with her band. One of these guys is her twin brother!

We got to talking just the same and I learned her band Church Girls was going to be up from Philly in just a few days to play a show. I told her I’d try to make it, she told me she’d put me on the list, and—this outcome is far too infrequent—we both did what we said!

After I made a few wrong guesses, she spotted me in the crowd, we chatted for a bit, I heard Church Girls’ très bon indie/post-punk/folk-type set (with a few ripping guitar solos and a little Sam Cooke thrown in), and she was even nice enough to procure me a secret beer from backstage. (Pro-tip for making friends: this effort never fails to impress.)

In addition to getting lots of love for her music from the persnickety press, Mariel has written some great stuff, including this story, on Medium, about some of the real-life lessons she took from an adolescence spent at DIY shows and basement clubs. (See, this is the extent of my marketing strategy: “Hey, blog readers—check this other article out!”)

Despite its inherent identity as a connector, we all know the Internet has a Jekyll and Hyde personality that can work to isolate us (and deluge us with crap) as well as it can bring us closer together. As something of a luddite, it’s nice for me to occasionally be reminded of the ability of tools like web publishing and email to allow us to meet new, actual people in real, physical places. So much the better when those people are genuinely cool, and offer you beer.

“If he were alive today, he’d probably subvert social media…”

“…in the same way he helped to reinvent western culture in his own time.”

Right on!

Thus spake my friend Lily Wen: DJ, Lindy Hop champion, and now record label entrepreneur, regarding the late great Alan Watts.

Alan Watts. Image via Ingienous Designs.

The old codger himself (image via Ingienous Designs)

I feel like I’ve always been vaguely aware of this British philosopher-hippie who helped bring Eastern provocations to the West, but I felt a spike of connection with his work last week, at the pre-release party for the vinyl EP Face the Facts, out today on Lily’s Figure & Ground label.

The record takes the occasion of what would have been Watts’ 100th birthday to present four “spoken word” tracks taken from hundreds of hours of his seminar recordings, set to music by New York woodwind musician Jas Walton.

Figure & Ground’s website describes the original material as “psychedelic Californian ruminations, intriguing incantations, and compelling thoughts on existence.” When I heard some of them at the party (held at the wonderful and cozy Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in the West Village), I did feel as though I were sitting in Watts’ houseboat living room, awash in mind-stretching inducements to alternate ways of viewing the world.

It was very cool.

Lily’s gotten some great press for her efforts, including write-ups in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wax Poetics, and Elephant (which I suggested she pitch to—yay!).

The record goes on sale in stores worldwide starting today, via Fat Beats distribution. If you’d prefer to stay in the living room, you can order a copy in digital or vinyl format from the Figure & Ground website instead.

Cheers, Lily! And cheers, Mr. Watts.

Find a job you love and…

Back in November, I interviewed my friend Eilon Paz about his photography book Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting for Medium.

Dust and Grooves shout out

I’m reminded of it every few weeks, when Medium (thanks, guys!) sends me an email letting me know that more people have read and shared it.

The article was a ton of fun to “research” (on a bench in Red Hook on a sunny autumn day, with bags of candy), and to write, and it’s become probably the most-read thing I’ve ever published.

Maybe there’s a lesson in that?