Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Willie Nelson, So What, and Memories in a Box Reprise

By Pauly
New York City

Kind of Blue is one of those albums that's on my list for desert island selections. It's probably my most listened to album mainly because I love writing to it. Since I try to write everyday, I might listen to it three or four or more times a week. Whenever I put on Kind of Blue, I get all fired up to write mainly because the album kicks off with an inspiring So What. Coltrane was in Miles Davis band in 1959 and he has a wicked tenor sax solo on it that one music writer once described as "arpeggiated nuggets."

Some people need coffee for their morning boost. Other need bumps of blow. I just need the right music to give me the writer's shove. There's something special about mixing the warm California sun and the right amount of Miles and Coltrane.

Sometimes Nicky wakes up at the tail end of my writing sessions with music flowing through the apartment. She announced in an extremely theatrical, yet NPR-ish voice, "You've been listen to the morning jazz hour with your host Dr. Pauly."

Most of the times I listen to Kind of Blue and have flashbacks about living in Park Slope over fifteen years ago. I lived on the top floor of a brownstone just a block away from the park with my friend Ursula, who was an artist. We shared a railroad apartment that was converted into a three-bedroom apartment. She lived in the front part overlooking the street and I lived in the back overlooking the boxed-in backyards to the other brownstones in the neighborhood. Somewhere in the middle of our elongated apartment were two little rooms that opened up into each other. That was the third bedroom. It was perfect for artistic types who could have a bedroom and a small studio/office/practice space. For some reason that middle bedroom constantly changed over tenants.

When I first moved in, a British musician named Simon lived there. He had recently joined a band named Uncle as their replacement drummer. We rarely saw him because he was crashing at the studio, or on the road, or shagging groupies off the premises. After being the phantom roommate for several months, his replacement was another musician, this one a girl from New Mexico named Laura. She played in two different bands including a a stint as the bass player in an all-female punk band called Trixie Belden. She had a mattress on the floor in one room and in the other? An amp and stands with two different basses and an acoustic guitar.

Some of the most inspirational moments for me as a writer included the period of time in lived in Brooklyn with Ursula and Laura. Ursula often sketched in the living room and I could hear Laura strumming on an acoustic guitar in the middle rooms. We were all in our early 20s and living the simple life and were individually creating in our own ways. That fired me up to write at a time when I was taking my first steps towards being a writer.

I loved it when my roommates were at work and I could crank up the tunes and let Kind of Blue echo trough the entire apartment. Those sounds and the energy of the apartment were the driving force for me wanting to be a writer instead of constraining myself to the trenches on Wall Street.

* * * * *

I found a journal that a friend had given me for Christmas in 2002. It was so nice with a Tibetean theme (Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum) that I only wrote one entry in it... on 12-25-02. I thanked Molly for the gift and even said that it was too beautiful to destroy with my rubbish. That's what the internet is for.

In the past, other friends have given gifts that included leather bound journals and other writing books. Most of them are too cool looking and too nice that I don't want to ruin their original beauty either.

What I do need on an every day basis are smaller notebooks that can fit in my pocket. Phish tour swallowed up three Moleskins. I lost one on the lawn at Camden, NJ. The second casualty got soaked through during a storm in Deer Creek, IN. And just the other night, the most recent notebook was drenched during an unexpected pissing in Saratoga, NY.

* * * * *

I discovered an travel journal tucked away inside the pocket of an bag I had not used in almost a year. The front of the Moleskin had a sticker that said WILLIE NELSON. That was the name of an award winning strain of marijuana that blew the socks off of everyone who smoked it. I didn't think it was as good as the G-13, but it was some of the best stuff I had tasted in Holland.

On the inside of my notebook, I had the number for my UK mobile phone. Just in case I got too wasted in Amsterdam and lost my notebook, I hoped that someone would find it and call me up to get it back.

I had one note that I scribbled on the flight to Amsterdam, "Three annoying Hasidics sitting in row in front of me and arguing Talmudic law the entire flight and constantly changing seats while I watched I Am Legend > Jumper > Sarah Marshall."

Apparently, I had been working in Europe extensively covering EPT events. I flew KLM so much that I recognized one of the flight attendants on my flight from JFK. My flight was an hour early and the apartment I rent wasn't ready yet at 7:30am, so I wandered around Amsterdam at a time when most of the locals were waking up. Only on coffeeshop was open and I wandered into Barney's. I drank a green tea and purchased a gram of Willie Nelson for 13 Euros. It was enough for three joints and I smoked one and a half and got crocked. I walked through the Jordaan neighborhood and polished off the second one.

During that trip, I was convinced that I was being followed by someone from an intelligence agency. I had an odd encounter with a British ex-pat living somewhere on the Pacific Rim and working as a journalist for Al-Jazera. He had plenty of wild stories to tell. I suspected that he was MI-6. We hung out at two different coffeeshops. When we left the second one, he said that I was being followed and pointed out the guy. He was right. I was spooked the rest of my time in Amsterdam and kept looking over my shoulder where ever I went. At that point, I decided to eat mushrooms and ride the trams and hide out in museums.

My travel notebook included notes from a work assignment in London. After reading a few pages about the flat I shared with Nicky and Gloria, I remembered how much I loved the samosas from Sainsbury's across the street. I also loved riding the subway to work and listening to Radiohead's In Rainbows while walking around different sections of London and passing the hordes and hordes of people.

Nicky and I went to Amsterdam after London. Inside of a three week period, I had gone to Amsterdam twice and sandwiched around an assignment in London. Nicky had a longer assignment and only got to visit Amsterdam with me on my second pass.

After we picked up the keys to our apartment, the first place we hit up was Barney's so she could try the Willie Nelson. One day during that half-baked holiday, I visited 16 different coffeeshops. I detailed the names of every single one.

And apparently, the free red wine on my KLM flight back to the States? It sucked.

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