Desolation Town

We Millionaires

Posted in Cave Paintings by Michael Grace, Jr on December 4, 2008

So I have put off writing about the murder that occured in my childhood hometown because, quite frankly, Thanksgiving and a few days off in a row with my girl has put me in an unusually good mood. I know that contemplating this incident (major news in NY for a few days a few weeks back) will instantly sour it, and I’m not even sure I know what I want to say about it…just that I have something to say.

I went to the movies as part of this sprawling post Thanksgiving ‘date’ and saw Slumdog Millionaire by Danny Boyle, the gent who made Trainspotting. Really good flick. If you haven’t read about, it concerns a lower class indian kid (a “slumdog”) who finds himself on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. It had a kind of “feel good movie of year” buzz in the press, but actually has some really brutal moments, with bracing visual honesty about Indian poverty and despair. It wasn’t the easiest movie to get through, but it pays off, and that’s what matters no?

dontwatchslum I like Danny Boyle. Trainspotting was a probably my favorite movie of 1996, the kind of movie you appreciate more for how it speaks to you/about you than on ‘cinematic’ values alone.  In that way it’s kind of like a good pop song. It said something about “the 90s”, and that was a hard decade to understand whilst you were in it…or now. I remember actually being excited about it coming out, buying the soundtrack…talking about certain scenes with my co-workers at the record store where I pissed the days away for $4.85 an hour. I was only excited on 4 seperate occasions that decade, so that’s actually saying a lot. I  haven’t seen his zombie movie 28 Days Later, despite the fact that I really like zombie movies, and particularly british zombie movies (well at least I chuckled through Shaun of The Dead.) I did see The Ocean, a pretty forgettable drama about trustafarian drifters, I think, that came out a couple years after Trainspotting . Leonardo Di Caprio was in it.

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So I would’ve seen it probably just to catch up with Mr. Boyle. But it didn’t hurt that it took place in India, which I’m always interested in. I love the colors associated with India, the Indian flag, painted adverts for old Bollywood films. I really love Indian food. There is something so unique about the cuisine, an originality that comes from a myriad of complex factors. I never look forward to a cold beer quite as much as when it accompanies a spicy curry. I also often find myself poking around the web trying to sort out just what Hinduism is all about, and although that is seemingly an unanswerable question, the search leaves one all the more curious. Heck, I even went to see Darjeeling Express. Oh ok, I went for an equally complex set of factors concerning my aforementioned interest in India, my loathing admiration for the director, a brief conjoined prequel featuring shameful nudity, and the chance to observe a pre-suicidal Owen Wilson being Owen Wilson.

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But ultimately I may have gone to see it even if it took place in Kansas. That’s because in moments of economic hardship (in New York that means basically the 3rd through the 31st of every month) I frequently fantasize about landing myself on some game show, particularly Millionaire. It has often been remarked by friends and family that I am in possession of a frightening amount of diversely useless information. It is true. I read the better part of 3 newspapers a day, for no better reason than I always do, whilst eating lunch alone.

Thus I await the final answer. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

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“Ghost World Breakfast”

Posted in Cave Paintings by Michael Grace, Jr on November 20, 2008

Just a quick post…

So tonight is the release party gig for our new e.p., and i’m actually a bit nervous. Due to last months show at Mondo being moved to December, its been over two months since we played. Now we’ve made good use of that time in the studio, but I’ve got some moths fluttering in my belly…

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…which might have something to do with the 6 cups of coffee I had this morning at the Jackson Hole “Air line” Diner off the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. The waitress coming by to fill the bottomless cup becomes almost hypnotic. I lost all sense of time and space. Maybe it’s the Twin Peaks dvds i’ve been watching for the first time in (gulp) 18 years. It’s the first time for my better half, so it’s interesting to see how she views them in the context of a very different time. Anyway, Agent Cooper basically made coffee into a religion. I blame the rise of Starbucks in the 90s on him. Oh no I don’t. He’s without sin, if any of us are.dalecoffee

I took the day off to practice, fold t-shirts and shoot off some last minute invites. Have you ever read the comic Ghost World by Dan Clowes? The movie is pretty good too actually, but the comic is high art. The characters go to this fake 50s diner in the comic, I can’t remember the name, in a setting that comes to signify the lead character’s pathological relationship with nostalgia. I sometimes think that if a University would just give me a cushy job and an office (Stony Brook or Yale), I could do some really good writing on the subject. I think nostalgia is the persuasive occult force which holds us together during this current era of “progress.” Snarky air quotes.

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I’d probably start smoking a pipe like my grandfather Joe did. He was like the Professor Of The Block (as opposed to The Pope of Greenwich Village) in Glendale Queens when I was a little kid. Violin case, piles of papers, rich pipe tobacco, sitting on a chair on the sidewalk. Oh no not another Morrissey quote (stop yourself Michael)

Drinking Tea with a taste of the Thames, sullenly on a chair on the pavement…..

Nervousness apparently robs me of what little blog narrative discipline I have.

I used to go to this crappy fake 50s diner in Florida before I read Ghost World called…I think…Angie’s. The one I go to in Queens is at least actually a classic old structure, and a pretty good, if not overpriced, joint. But I go for the odd view of the highway and the Formica booth. The little mini jukebox where I play Elvis, Elvis, Elvis and Motown. It’s so busy on weekends, that I only go on these random weekdays I have off, when I need to slow my mind down a bit. Perhaps decaf next time then eh?

After receiving such generous praise for my prose in the comment section, I realize this posting sounds like a  jangling tambourine, and not in a good way.

I’ll write something this weekend after the gig is behind me. There is actually a crime which has occurred in my hometown which has sent my thoughts reeling. I will collect them for you soon.

“Education in Reverse”

Posted in Cave Paintings by Michael Grace, Jr on November 7, 2008

Prologue:

 

So now seems like as good a time as any for a second act in an American life, to quote…and then contradict …F. Scott Fitzgerald. Who if I were to be honest, I have been quoting and then contradicting for a quite a while now.

 

I decided to start this blog, as opposed to continuing the one I began (and then abandoned) when my previous band dissolved, because I’m a sucker for reinvention. That previous blog, along with the  of dj-ing at the Mondo dance party in NYC, were the two things which helped me keep my bearings during those unsettled days. They kept me connected, respectively, to words and to music.

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So on the eve of the first release of my current band, The Secret History…I launch this journal. I have never been of the opinion that knowing when a stranger is brushing his teeth is the stuff of the crucial arts, so I will try to make of this blog what I have tried to make of my songs; a kind of lucid etherea that lies to tell the truth. I will also use it as a way to converse and conspire with anyone who wishes to leave comments, and promise to do so dutifully.

 

The Post proper:

 

So aside from finally releasing songs again with The Secret History— my second act. This whole gloriously damned Nation is beginning it’s second act with President-Elect Obama. As much as the cynical, Billy Bragg listening commie in me knows that profound change is probably impossible in the butcher shop of American Capitalism…where the butcher hath always his thumb on the scale, and we are the sausage…I can’t help but be enchanted by Barack Obama none the less.

 

Maybe it is, as it often is with me, the enchantment of second hand nostalgia. I grew up listening to my mother, god bless her, telling the same two or three stories over and over again whilst doling out steaming plates of pasta. My mother was as a grade school teacher in the 1960s in the povertly stricken borough of The Bronx in New York City. She was a five foot tall, twenty-something young women in a wool overcoat from a clositered enclave of southern Italians in Glendale Queens. She takes great pride in recalling the time she spent teaching there, and the love she put into educating children for whom the odds were stacked against. Aside from the time a black teenage girl poked her with a hairpin on the subway, she recieved nothing but affection in return. Sheepishly she admits that the watchful eyes of the corner mafiosi aided in her sense of security when walking to the subway during the twilight afternoons of December.

 

Her best story is about the surprise visit Robert F. Kennedy made to her school. How all the children and teachers alike…froze in awe. In the closing days of his campaign, Barack Obama began to say he had a “righteous wind” at his back, an expression which…as someone equally suceptible to the charms of poetry and prostilization…doubly moved me. When my mother discusses the atmosphere in the school when RFK, less than a year from his doom, stood amongst them…she often refers to a near climatic change…a magnetic field. She constrasted that with the airless agony caused by the sudden erasures of both Kennedy brothers, and Martin Luther King.


So I’ve had a shameful love affair with the ghosts of the Kennedys since childhood. On the infrequent mornings that I recall my dreams, one recurring alternate universe I visit stars The Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio. In this quorum, I do believe lies the secret to everything.

 

So I went to vote Tuesday morning. I haven’t switched my polling place since I first voted as an 18 year old still living with my parents midway across Long Island. As loathe as I am to admit it, it’s probably just an excuse to return to the inside of my elementary school every couple years. There is a suffocating and addictive sense of unease for me in the old school, and neighborhood alike. To quote Morrissey  (oh for Christ’s sake I couldn’t even make it through one post?)…

 

“I never stole a happy hour around here.”


I actually felt tingly voting for Barack on the hapless “Working Families” line. I am more or less a teenage girl.

 

Oh, if I haven’t circled around properly, President Obama is my JFK…or at least the fractured, fragmented postmodern version which is all one could hope for in a fractured, fragmented postmodern era…where by donating $25 dollars I am able to recieve emails from my hero…asking for another $25.


 

After voting in the gymnasium, and visualizing myself age 10, in a “Miami Vice” t-shirt, shooting free throws admist a white noise of mockery…I veered north on another ill concieved trip down memory lane.

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The day was still awash in the eerie glow of coastal morning when I arrived in Port Jefferson. This town was the insufficient refuge of my college years…spent at The State University of New York at Stonybrook. I took a brisk and lonesome stroll around, pausing to look at some sad antiques in a shop window. Every time I return, the phantoms get fainter, and the melancholia of miseries recalled is replaced ever so surely by the meloncholia of miseries forgotten.

 

The new e.p. is called “Desolation Town.”

 

I’ve lived in a few, though for lack of a fresher expression… it’s  more a state of mind.

 

Holtsville, Long Island; was the first. With its glue sniffing adolecent thugs, and an endless highway lacerating us…ironically we could never see a way out. I eyed a few of those tormentors for the first time in 20 years in line to vote (for McCain.)  The visage proved all theorems behind “The Suburbs Are Killing Us.”

 

Manchester, England was the second.  I’ve never been, but I lived there for years at a time. With my headphones on, it was…to quote Melville…a drizzly November of the soul.

 

Port Jefferson, Long Island was the third. Where I hid from the world on an black reef…while sending out rescue flares in the form of songs about neon lights…it was, in the full blossom of summer…the most desolate of all.

 

Astoria, NYC; was the fourth. A single room occupied by squalor and despair. A deserved state of exile after I had ruined the sea.

 

America is the fifth and the first and the last.

 

God Save Barack Obama.

 

 

 

The “Desolation Town” ep is released officially on the Le Grand Magistery label Tuesday November 11th, but is already available from I-tunes and through the impeccable Darla mailorder (http://www.darla.com) The cd is lovely to look at, but for those who download it, images and lyrics will soon be available at http://www.thesecrethistory.net which is in its final bit of construction and currently forwards you to our myspace page. Please consider picking it up.