Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Artist/ New Album: Paleo

Due to the suggestive sharing of one Christopher Paul Stelling, an incredibly talented songwriter/ musician in his own right whom I will return to at a later date, I came across Paleo, aka David Strackany.

According to good 'ol Wiki, David is notable for writing a song every single day for one year using a "half-size children's guitar" while living out of his car and being essentially homeless.
He did this while touring the United States and driving more than 50,000 miles from April 16, 2006 to April 15, 2007, playing more than 200 concerts along the way. He even received a nod from Dick Cheney for doing so! David plays acoustic and sings all folky-like and has procured a deal with indie music label Partisan Records for his new album...Paste Magazine is featuring Paleo and streaming that record, Fruit of the Spirit, and let me just tell you, I am completely in love! Of course, it doesn't have all 365 songs, but you can download those here.

Wonderful music aside, I'm in love with the notions of a) recording a song every day for a year like keeping a diary in a more abstract and public manner, b) embarking on an artistically inspired expedition and abandoning all conventions of society while doing so, thus living off the grid and subjecting yourself to the whims of your own creativity, as well as the whims of those you encounter, c) having the guts to do b, and d) playing on a children's guitar! David, excuse me Paleo, alludes to this during "Over the Hill and Back Again" where he sings, "We wanna be young when we grow up."

The album does indeed boast a sense of unfettered, haphazard youthfulness, and that colorful cover adds a certain indie charm, but the songs also seethe wisdom --- perhaps a result of such a journey. "Favorite Places," for example, is slower than most and a drop melancholic, though "Holly Would," just following, is uplifting and jovial. Then in "Buddy, Buddy," David lets loose some seemingly painful howls, his already raggedy voice dragging across the width of his words. These songs are sweet and sour, loosely constructed and tightly melodic, and altogether filtered with sunshine and specks of real-world grit like bits of sand between your teeth.

For me, Paleo is a descendent of Daniel Johnston and Darcy Clay with a bit more musical accompaniment. He's got a Beatles sense of melody ("Honey Be Reckless"), a Velvet Underground sense of deconstructing that  melody ("Poet"), and a Bob Dylan aesthetic ("Lighthouse"). But don't take it from me, ya know? Give it a listen and let me know if you're as hooked as I am!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Divorce Party of the Year

You might say it's a little too civil, and a Divorce Duel would be more apt, but I love that Jack White and now ex-wife Karen Elson recently celebrated the end of a six-year marriage with "drinks with alcohol in them." When things go downhill and life suddenly becomes a sharp blade stabbing you in the face, what can you do? Well, throw a bash and let your friends + fam help you lick those bitter wounds! Also, what better way to meet the next spouse? ;) Especially if you don't allow plus-ones. 

In all seriousness, Jack and Karen have the right idea, and they even made a formal statement about their split (two splits in a year for Jack: first The White Stripes --- a band he formed with another ex-wife --- and now this current marriage), which is very mature...they said that they "remain dear and trusted friends and co-parents to our wonderful children Scarlett and Henry Lee....We feel so fortunate for the time we have shared and the time we will continue to spend both separately and together watching our children grow."

Truly an inspiration. 

But who is Jackson A. Rag? A best friend, or an animal, I assume. I hope he had a good time breaking the sacred union of marriage! A plague on neither of your houses. 


Monday, June 20, 2011

Brooklyn Pizazz.

I had a whirlwind day in Brooklyn this favorite kind of day, too. Wandering, park-siting, people-watching, bridge-walking, running into friends and seeing where the wind carried us. It was one of those days where I felt like documenting Williamsburg in all of its zany, young, collaborative, creative messiness. And here are just some of the photographs I took...
 a well scultped mohawk if I ever saw one.
space invader? is it you?
 w-burg bridge.
self, taken by Jeremy.


 I love graffitied bathrooms, you know?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Interview Series #3: John Michael Swartz

John Michael Swartz is a man of many talents. He plays and records and studies music, takes haunting photographs, and can probably talk circles around you about many an obscure thing. Having engineered several albums and EPs, as well as playing cello and keyboard in different arrangements, John has honed his technical skills while experimenting and contributing to the creative visions of many different artists. He is one of those rare people that can remain in the background and shine on stage. And he sure knows how to take a photo! Not only that, but he's always working on some new project, whether it's writing, making quirky video clips, or sneakily recording his friends with a microphone. It was my pleasure to speak with the uber-articulate John, whom I first met at Sarah Lawrence College, about photography, music, his most recent tour, and his life as an artist.
Quick Look
Birthday: February 2, 1984
Living in: Brooklyn, New York
Originally from: San Diego, California
No-Alternative: Let's talk first about your photography. When and how did you get into this? What are some of your recurrent themes, styles, and subjects?

John Michael Swartz: I've been interested in photography for a very long time, since I was using my mom's Minolta point-and-shoot when I was 8 or 9, maybe even younger, since I have distinct, yet very old memories of trying to arrange the strangest awful pictures of foliage --- myriads of them taken from the San Diego Zoo tour bus --- into photo albums. It took me awhile to develop any sense of photography as anything more than "something to do" or as a purely mechanical fascination. Obviously, though, there's something inherently magical and alluring about it, otherwise I wouldn't have kept with it. Nobody would have.

So between the time of trying to take pictures of piles of building blocks falling over, for example, and what I'm doing now, I went to college and studied with Joel Sternfeld. He was among the best teachers of anything I've ever had, a real inspiration. I basically learned about color and about the kind of photography that gets put into art museums, published in monographs, sold in editions. "Fine Art" photography. Fascinating stuff. It broke open my head, so to speak, and vastly increased the number of plausible reasons why and ways in which I would bother to make photographs. Actually, I just recently learned about a respected photographer who made a name for himself in the ’70s by photographing Hawaiian jungles at night with a flash...

Stylistically, I tend to favor serene, static compositions. I prefer a certain cool, sometimes even clinical detachment from my subjects. The Düsseldorf School really fascinates me: I like all the different approaches to the idea of "objectivity" through photography. I'm not a natural when it comes to lyricism, but I'm working on it.

Do you ever see a picture before you snap one? How many are set up and how many are happenstance? And do you feel like you observe the world now as if your eye was always behind a lens?

One thing that has become clear to me in the past couple of months is that I have internalized many of the abstract drawings/diagrams that I make in my journals.  They're generalizations of compositions, metaphysical maps, what- ever. Anyway, I'll snap pictures --- sometimes very spontaneously --- that I'll later realize I have a blueprint for it squirreled away somewhere. 

I think it is very important to remember that we can only see in the world what we know, which is why I take such pains to make sure that whatever I'm immersing myself in at the moment is ethical or good or whatever. You know how you can listen to a record over and over, and it might be a rather depressing record, then you start seeing the world through that lens? It's awful! I can't listen to too much Nirvana or Radiohead for that reason, as good as the music is. So I listen to music very cautiously and critically. I look at other people's pictures very cautiously and critically, and submit my own to the same scrutiny.

I think the best way to describe how most of my photos happen is that I get myself into a situation and, when everybody's comfortable, out comes the camera. Also, this is true even when it's just me sitting out in the middle of a field somewhere. Basically, I'm not in a studio, and I usually feel like a prowler. Also, quite a bit of my older work is constructed out of a combination of photographs and drawings, and I'm set to explore that area again. For the moment, though, I'm concerned with the physical act of taking a photograph, determining what about it is ethical. It's comparable to practicing scales or etudes on a musical instrument.

Do you consider photography (yours or anyone else's) to be art? Is there any criteria for what type of photos (for example: digital vs. film) should be considered art, in your opinion? And who are some of your favorite photographers?

Oddly, for as many ideas I've held forth about what art is, I can't say that I've really ever entertained any or many ideas about what it isn't. Nowadays, I use the word "art" either to refer to the peculiar institutions which buy and sell things like photographs, or to indicate a certain kind of mindfulness of action and experience. I think that if one is paying any attention, the fact that that there are many more useful things to talk about apart from whether or not something is "art" will become excruciatingly clear.

I never had any favorite photographers until I studied with Sternfeld. And I don't know if it's because I have such an intimate knowledge of his photos, but they really are my favorite. Very humane and intelligent.

I know you have a thing for older film cameras --- and you boast quite a collection! Why is this, and do you have any favorites?

I have very pragmatic reasons for using film, and one of them is that you can purchase the best optics in the world for a fraction of the price of a new digital camera of comparable quality. I also just like film. I grew up with it, studied with it, and I can be kind of disorganized, so I like how it's not as easy to misplace or lose as digital files are. I mean, I end up scanning my film in order to print it, but I know that when my computer crashes or whatever, I'll still have all the negatives collecting dust somewhere in my underwear drawer.

I also like that there are all these different kinds of cameras that, by their very physicality, change the way that you take pictures. Right now I really dig my Mamiya 6 because it gives wonderfully large negatives, I can carry it in a small bag, and it's very easy to use while drunk.

Can I ask why exactly you decided to create your Tumblr and publicly share some of your photos? Did you have any specific goals in mind?

Let's just say that I don't use Facebook anymore. It's a slippery slope, because everybody who creates these new sites know that social media is hot right now, they can make money from it somehow, so a site like Tumblr isn't always going to be the relatively muted, anti-social haven that it is now. 

Practically speaking, I really wanted a way to put up my work and selectively tell people to look at specific things that I had been working on. I also like to be able to study my own photos and to jot down notes or put up other people's pictures to look at anywhere I go. I remember wandering around the painter's studios in college, and being fascinated by the traces of their creative process: cans of turpentine and oil and paints everywhere, and just about every possible thing tacked to the walls to look at. Every once in a while, there'd be a canvas or so worth looking at, too! My Tumblr works the same way.

You are a cellist, keyboardist, and recording engineer. What are some of the musical and recording projects you are currently working on, or have been recently involved with? 

I just finished up with Anna Morsett's (Yet Cut Breath) album, Hinges, which is great. It's the result of a long, sometimes tumultuous creative process, and I think it was well worth it. Immediately following that, I tracked Jake Miller's new EP for his band The Kissing Club up at Crum Creek (in Rockland County, NY). I really love that place. So much in fact I'm going to be putting an analog recording setup up there pretty much permanently. 

Let's see...I'm also mixing a live recording from 1999 of the New York Art Quartet for my friend Alan Roth's documentary on them. He has a great film out about free jazz called Inside Out In the Open. I've been touring off and on with Brent Green, playing cello for his film Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then. We were just in Memphis, TN. Yes, we went to Graceland. Yes, it was weird. We're going to Australia and Europe next! I'm super excited.

You've performed in a myriad of arrangements and collaborations --- some multimedia --- and in many different settings. You've also done improvisational music. How do you feel about improvised music (either performing solo or with a group) vs. playing more traditional songs? Have you had a particularly memorable improv experience?

It's been too long since I've done the kind of free improvisation I learned at Sarah Lawrence with John Yannelli. It's actually kind of like my romantic life.... I have had the opportunity to play with some really great improvisers over the past few years, but it's like I didn't know how great it was or how badly I'd miss it when it wasn't around anymore. I certainly don't resent all of the other kinds of music I've done, it's just a totally different focus and energy.

At least 50% of my practice time is spent improvising. And actually, I've also done quite a bit of outrageous experimental composing, so I suppose that I'm going through a very inward solo phase. That, and I'm also just rather bad at organizing other people --- I fear that I'm actually an overbearing asshole if I'm put in charge of anything creative. But perhaps I've mellowed out in my old age. I don't have any particularly memorable improv experiences; the way I play, it's a bit like asking if I have taken a particularly memorable breath. It's not out of the question, but it's extraordinarily rare. I guess that gives me something to look forward to!

Recently, you've married your musical side with your photography in that you've taken pictures while on tour, which has introduced you to new landscapes and people. Can you talk about these recent touring adventures, and how they've inspired your photos?

Touring is interesting. I think everybody does it differently, especially depending on what kind of money is involved. In any case, it has been very fascinating to see so many parts of the country that I hadn't ever encountered before. But then, I think I've pretty much exhausted the visual landscape of the roadside this end of the Mississippi. I recently realized how incredibly homogeneous rest areas and the bits of towns right off of highways are. I think the next step would be to take a road trip of my own, on my own, so that I can stop and explore at my own pace, get myself chased out of town by angry lynch mobs and such.

I think taking pictures of people you spend days with in a car or in a hotel is deceptively reassuring. It's almost too easy after a while! Everybody's so comfortable. But I don't complain. Most of what I do with photography at the moment is exploratory, and actually helps me get a grip on my personal life, insofar as the activity encourages me to try doing things a little differently each time. This is especially true when it comes to relating to people.  

Do you feel as though you are part of any artistic community? And if not, do you wish you were? 

I don't. And I do, but I don't think I actually know what that could possibly mean. But who, besides the traumatized, really wants to be alone? I have the suspicion that "artistic communities" are really manufactured ex post facto for PR purposes, and that everything else is really just a fabulous party.

In 2006, you engineered The Stevedores album, Tamuawok., which has since gained a following. Can you talk a little about the ups and downs of recording this dynamic record?

Just like how my best photos of people come from simply spending a lot of time with them, so too are my best musical collaborations. Tamuawok. was the same. It's the truest portrait I could have made of anything at the time. I love that record, and I love everybody that made it happen. I think the hardest part about making it was trying to find my voice in the creative process: being friends with everybody, having an enormous stake in the final outcome of a lot of the songs, but not actually being in the band. It's sort of a masochistic, melancholic position to be in, especially at that age (22), but it's really the only way I know how to make a truly good record.

A truly good record it is! Thank you, my fellow Aquarian.

Why thank you, Miss Dupcak. I hope your Saturn return is treating you well!

(all photos by John Swartz except for the Yet Cut Breath photo /Tamuawok. cover art by Spencer Bell)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book as Art, the end.

Let's face it...books are going the way of music. Like iPods, Kindles and Nooks are on the rise; like mp3s, eBooks take only a second to buy; and like music stores, bookstores are closing their doors. But, I have faith that unlike music, more people prefer to hold a physical book than they do a CD, and I'd like to believe that both eBooks and book-books can happily least for longer than it took for digital music to become king (also, may I just point out that no one can hold a record or CD or cassette and still use it, while holding the book is the whole point). Either way, there are some things you just cannot do with a fold the pages, scribble notes (in your own handwriting), take a whiff of yellowed pages, display it on a shelf, and perhaps most importantly...make art. 

Yes, art. Well-made books are art, and they've also become the crux of Brian Dettmer's artistic life. Perhaps no artist can better exemplify just how the-book-as-an-object can inspire and live on. Dettmer uses knives and tweezers to dissect encyclopedias, atlases, dictionaries, tapes and other media. Impose Magazine recently ran a feature on Dettmer, where he discussed and showcased his unique art. When asked about the possibility of books becoming obsolete, here's what he had to say:
I don’t think that the book will ever die. Painting never died, punk never died (but it did get old and sad), and books will never die but they will evolve. Certain types of books will certainly be rare if not nonexistent in the future. I think the book is the perfect format for the novel and other fiction, but as a reference tool, it has been passed-up by the Internet. We may not see encyclopedias, dictionaries and textbooks continuing in printed form. The content needs to be updated constantly and the structure of most information is non-linear. This is why the Internet works so well for certain types of information. The structure and nature of constant adaptation of the web is perfect for much of the reference information that used to be delegated to books, but we also need to think about preservation and solidity. If everything is constantly updated we have no way of accessing the personal and cultural records from the past.
Well said, sir! KEEP READING to see what he has to say about the "but it's better for the environment!" argument, and to see more of his fascinating "sculptures"...


Friday, June 10, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Summer Albums

Everyone knows that Beach Boys, Sublime, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Don Henley, Joe Cocker, Blue Cheer, and "Summertime and the living's easy" (no matter who's singing it) are always included on Best Summer Songs lists...and so they should be! But I went my own route in choosing albums I love as soundtracks to my summers. Feel free to still crank up the Sublime...

1. Bob Marley -- Legend
It's an obvious one, but I had to include it. And I do indeed listen to him all throughout the summer. That's because Bob Marley is summer in human form. Makes me wish I was in Jamaica again! Rest in Peace, Bob. 

2. Jimi Hendrix -- any
Okay, so I mostly listened to Jimi by way of posthumous compilation albums... particularly this one cassette I bought as a 14-year-old and played on my Walkman, on the bus to and from camp. I remember listening to "Castles Made of Sand," "Purple Haze," "All Along the Watchtower" (the best version of that song), and "The Wind Cries Mary" oppressed by heat and covered in grass stains, spinning images of the ocean in my head. Then there was his Woodstock performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner"...not only did that song redefine the 1960s, but it completely transfixed me. I was listening to The Fourth of July being shredded, Woodstock being ignited, and my own heart pumping along to rock n' roll that lived and died before my time. And what's more summery than Woodstock, anyway? 

3. Led Zeppelin -- Houses of the Holy
Just that cover is enough: a mystical, surrealistic summer landscape. And the closer, "The Ocean" --- a given! I must say, though, that any Led Zeppelin album creates an ideal soundtrack for sunshine-laden days, and songs like "Ramble On" and "Black Dog" and "Dazed and Confused" are all also perfect for lying, or frolicking, in the grass. 

4. Beatles -- Sergeant Pepper 
All of that hallucinatory glee, those sitars, those quirky lyrics, Lucy flying around in the marmalade sky, a boat in a river, getting high with your friends. Again, other Beatles tunes not on this album --- like "Strawberry Fields," "Across the Universe," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "Here Comes the Sun," etc. --- are also ripe for summertime. But Sergeant Pepper takes the cake. 

5. Blind Melon -- Blind Melon
It boggles my mind why Blind Melon isn't as legendary as some other bands that emerged around the same time...folksy, bluesy, hippie, grungy. I've always thought of Shannon Hoon as the alternative male parallel to Janis Joplin, with just as many addictions. Any Blind Melon album will suit summertime, but this one's got "No Rain," and if you remember that video with the dancing bee girl in the field, that's all you need to set the scene in your head. 

6. Animal Collective -- any
Those wild neo-psychedelic layers of voices and instruments and electronics and tribal beats create an endless stretch of summery bliss. Go for Strawberry Jam, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Water Curses, Sung Tongs, et cetera. 

7. Local Natives -- Gorilla Manor  
For some reason, this album screams summer. Maybe because I saw them in Austin on a truly hot day. Maybe because I listened to it all last summer. Mostly because it soars just like a summery album should. Also, they're from LA! 

8. Modest Mouse -- The Moon in Antarctica
Antarctica...right, you're probably thinking this doesn't sound summery. But I listened to this album every single day and night during my Saint Marks summer of 2004, when I fell in love with it for the first time (I know, I was a little behind date-wise). I dare you to crank up the volume of "Stars are Projectors" on a late summer night (preferably at the ocean!) --- it's absolutely perfect.  

9. Arcade Fire -- The Suburbs 
Suburbs, lawns, car drives with the windows down --- all motifs sprawled throughout this sprawling gem. It starts with an early morning wake up --- the sun all bright and hot in your face --- and ends on a still warm night filled with pricks of light. 

10. Pixies - Surfer Rosa 
Again, this album isn't necessarily designed for summer, but it does have Surfer in the title, and it is one of my very favorite albums. Pixies are perfect for every season, but I declare that Surfer Rosa is especially suited for summer. 

Also, tunes by these bands are sure to compliment the albums above:
Jane's Addiction, Wavves, Best Coast, Red Hot Chilli Peppers (duh!), Of Montreal, The Flaming Lips, Death From Above 1979, Gogol Bordello, The Black Keys, Talking Heads, The Police, The Polyphonic Spree, Broken Social Scene, Electric Light Orchestra, Spoon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dr. Dog, Foals, Yes, Santigold, Friendly Fires, Beach Fossils, Klaxons, MGMT....

Keep 'em coming...what are your favorite albums for summer?  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Now, Ann Patchett?

What's not to admire about Ann Patchett? Among her lyrical novels like Bel Canto, and the brand new State of Wonder, she also penned an illuminating, honest, heart-breaking tribute to her friend Lucy Grealy, who wrote Autobiography of a Face. I love this nonfiction book for its portrayal of a complex friendship between two struggling writer girls with their own sets of problems (though Lucy's were far worse than Ann's, causing Ann to be the motherly, stable, patient one), but also for its portrayal of my beloved alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, where the two women first met. Oh how I will always and forever love and miss Sarah Lawrence, my home for four years ---- a place of immense happiness and sadness all tied together into one glistening, life-altering knot. A place where I found "my people," or as Lidia Yuknavitch would say, "my tribe." 

Ann Patchett was the commencement speaker at my graduation, in May of 2006. She was the perfect speaker for me that day, and for my class...and when I saw that she actually came out with a little book --- called What Now? --- based on that commencement speech, I was thrilled! I read the book in one sitting, nodding my head the whole way through. The Tumblr page affectionately called Sarah Lawrence Girls posted an excerpt from this book, and it happens to be my very favorite excerpt. So, I wanted to share for myself (originally posted here):
If all fairy tales begin “Once upon a time,” then all graduation speeches begin “When I was sitting where you are now.” We may not always say it, at least not in those exact words, but it’s what graduation speakers are thinking. We look out at the sea of you and think, Isn’t there some mistake? I should still be sitting there. I was that young fifteen minutes ago, I was that beautiful and lost. For me this feeling is compounded by the fact that Sarah Lawrence was my own alma mater. I look out at all these chairs lined up across Westlands lawn and I think, I slept on that lawn, I breathed that wisteria. I batted away those very same bees, or at least I batted away their progenitors. Time has a funny way of collapsing when you go back to a place you once loved. You find yourself thinking, I was kissed in that building, I climbed up that tree. This place hasn’t changed so terribly much, and so by an extension of logic I must not have changed much, either.

Thank you, Ann Patchett. You make me feel so much better.

lv, amy.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interview Series #2: Skater Bob

Bob Crawford, aka Skater Bob, aka Shaggy, etc., is a skateboarder and writer who’s been dodging cars, catching shows, crashing parties, and people-watching in New York City for about two decades. Bob has seen it all, and he’s written it all down too. He's always got something to say, whether or not you agree with his point of view. About a hundred or so of his letters to various editors of skateboarding magazines have been published, which earned him recent coverage in the Metropolitan section of The New York Times. He also penned a true tale for BlackBook Magazine before starting up his own zine to share his published letters and other stories, which earned him a write up on Even though I've known Bob personally since 2004, I decided to ask him some questions to get to the bottom of his unique way of life. 

Quick Look
Birthday: February 24, 1972
Living in and originally from: Kearny, New Jersey
Usually Found: Union Square 

No-Alternative: Why and when did you start skateboarding? What was the initial impetus, the thing that got you interested? 

Bob Crawford: I started skating around 1987. This dude gave me a board and introduced me to these surfers that hung out and skated the parking lot of Quick Check (in New Jersey). These guys were so fucking cool, with their surfer shorts, flipped brim hats, Vans sneakers with no socks, the graphics of their boards…even the splattered paint they did themselves. They would jump on cars and jump back onto their boards, and I just thought the whole culture was really cool and looked like fun. They even had groupies sitting on top of the cars while they were skating. Seeing that opened up a new world for me…a world that I would never leave. It’s amazing to be a part of something that you admire, and live it at the same time.             

What is it about skating that feels so right to you? Does it allow you to feel free? Does it keep you young? 

Going super fast though traffic is so much fun. It’s a big fuck you to everyone that sees you and wishes they can live your life. It’s great for the body and it clears your mind from all the problems that are around.

You skateboard every day that doesn't rain and use the board as a method of transportation, a seat, and even a babe magnet (kidding!). Can you explain the ups and downs of living life this way?

Besides the injuries, I really can’t go to bars without someone making the 25 cent remarks…some douchebag always has something smart to say and I even got my fucking ass kicked for just being a skater. So if I need to drink and get fucked up, I take it to the streets; usually a side street in Tribeca where I can see everyone around me but no one sees me. Oh yeah, the pigs suck too, but I laugh at them ‘cause I have the upperhand, since my job has no stress. The hardest thing about work is getting my ass out of bed in the morning. 

You started a zine not too long ago, which you sell for one dollar, and you're already up to the fifth issue. Can you talk about this a little --- what's the idea behind the zine, and why did you decide to create it?

My zine is all letters from the past. I hate the fucking internet. Thrasher Magazine has a zine section and I think it’s so cool because I used to read those in the ’80s. I started ordering zines and I just want to be a part of something that doesn’t really exist anymore, so I started making a zine and I sell them on the street. I love old school art and I just want to relive it so I started doing them, and now everyone is picking up on it and liking my shit, which I did not at all expect. But it’s fun and I am glad that I restarted a trend that people forgot about.

Since you've been in New York for a long time, you've experienced the many changes this city has undergone, especially downtown. What do you make of all this? What parts of the city do you miss? What parts, if any, do you think have improved?

I have a hate/love relationship with NYC. The music scene is dead, night life is dead. The rich took over so it’s all about small pure breed dogs and expensive baby carriages. It fucking sucks. Even the art is just horrible. Everything has been done and people just tend to follow the next person. Even the styles --- they all dress the same. It just seems people don’t have a mind for themselves because they worry about what others think. I tend to hang out with the lowest of low: bums, junkies, gutter-punks. Every building has been upgraded to a glass tower for the yuppies to live in. They need to improve the streets…it’s getting really bad with all the tearing apart Con Edison has been doing. I hate those metal grates and black pebbles…they piss me off! 

You have a tendency to sit back and people-watch, at Union Square or other spots. What are some of the things you love to see; and some of the things you can't stand? 

I love chaos! I love seeing people just lose their minds in the streets…it’s great entertainment to see how people react to it and how they handle it. People are cowards; they usually run away. I laugh and yell and try to push it on others, it’s fun. I don’t like perverts…the way dudes can act towards girls is just fucking gross. I like seeing people eat out of garbage cans while the yuppies sit and eat their food from Whole Foods.

You have about thirty journals filled with personal writings. Why do you document your life (and New York City) this way? Do you have any goals in mind for all of this material?

I just like to write. I live a crazy life and it’s worth the time to write about it and it’s just also healthy to get things out of your system. I tend not to tell people my problems because it just bums people out, so I have my journal and get that shit out of my head. And who knows…when I am dead maybe someone will have the fucking brains and get the shit published and make some money on my name.      

As a skater, a writer, and just as a person, do you ever feel misunderstood? Can you try to explain this, and what you might do to set people straight?

I was misunderstood from day one. I hated school, so they shoved me into special classes. I was just pushed out of the whole system. Fuck, I even stayed back in kindergarten for being a lefty. Everywhere I go people stare at me, cops give me shit, everything is just fucked up because I made a choice not to live my life like everyone else. If you don’t do what everyone else is doing, people just look down at that. But little do they know I found a way to live a stress-free life, without bullshit drama. People have to understand: we make our own choices in life. Stop feeling sorry for the junkies and drunks; they made their choice.  

Do you have any personal mottos --- like something you tell yourself when things get rough, some kind of belief, statement, or idea you live by?

Things do get rough. But I always have it in my mind that tomorrow will be a better day. I live for it day by day.      

Finally, what advice would you give to young skaters, or any young person who comes to New York?

My advice if you come to NYC: hide your fucking cigarettes, otherwise you will be out of a pack before you know it! And don’t come here thinking you’re going to be some hometown hero. Skate, have fun, observe what’s around you, and just enjoy the entertainment. If you get caught up in the bullshit, you are not going to last…this fucking city will eat you up and spit you right back out!  

This interview is dedicated to my true love of 18 years: Anna (my loyal cat). No one will ever get the amount of love I gave you…you will always be a part of me. 

(both photos of Bob by a.dupcak)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Square Patrol

If you've ever been to Austin, you know it's one of those you-kinda-need-a-car cities. You also know about its night life --- bars, clubs, venues, Red River and 6th Street all lit up and spilling out music. There's a damn good reason it's home to SXSW, after all. It ain't just about barbecue over there (thankfully).

If you live in Austin, you have most likely heard of Square Patrol --- a designated driver, not-for-profit service. Say you're drunk, it's late, and there's no mass transit the likes of NYC. Do you try to catch a cab? How much might that cost? What if there aren't any? And what about your car?! What a pain to have to go get that come morning...

Well, what you'd do in such a (familiar) scenario is call Square Patrol, who will come to you, wherever the hell you wind up, and drive you home in your OWN car, for free! It's nice to pay them, but that's up to you. 

It just so happens that one of my very good friends, Shawn Fernando (a musician too, check out The Stevedores), dreamed up this whole thing and started the service a few years back. Originally, the Square Patrol drivers had small motorbikes. Decked out in a cute, nerdy uniform --- since they're squares and all --- the driver would ride to your location, fold up that motorbike (believe it!) and take the reigns of your vehicle --- even if it was stick shift! 

Now Square Patrol has a two-car system rather than motorbikes, but they're still dedicated to keeping drinkers off gas pedals, thus keeping the city of Austin a whole lot safer. However, being a non-profit, they are currently facing financial struggles and could really use your help, whether or not you dwell within the great city of Austin. So do me and everyone who's ever been affected by drunk driving a favor and chip in a little something. Do it, it'll make you feel good.