CMJ Weekend – Sept 14 – 18 2005

New York City

By Grant Lawrence

This is the first actual “diary” I’ve written that hasn’t been about a Smugglers tour, so while I’m striking off into new territory, the weekend at CMJ 2005 feels worth it because it was so much fun. For those unaware, CMJ stands for “College Music Journal”, which is a national trade magazine that lists campus and college radio charts and reviews new records. This event, in its fifteen year, is fully titled the College Music Journal Music Marathon, but is known throughout the “industry” as simply CMJ. The convention is primarily for all those outrageously geeky music directors from all those thousands of university stations, and all the bands on those charts. But the festival now obviously caters to all sorts of general fans, media types like me, and many major label bloodhounds.

Pretty much any band that is anywhere near the top 200 on CMJ’s national chart, from #1 on down, or even has a new record out, can usually be counted on to be at CMJ. And unlike SxSW, which generally has the same content but completely overwhelms every nook and cranny of Austin Texas, if you weren’t actually in attendance at the CMJ conference or CMJ gigs, the average New Yorker or tourist would never know it was going on, as New York itself seems to be much larger than any of the sum of it parts.


Wed Sep 14 – Vancouver to Kennedy to “Off Soho”

Ah, if only I kept a diary a year ago. Just like last year’s fortunate flight, I managed to get myself upgraded to first class minutes before the plane boarded. Unlike last year’s flight, I didn’t sit beside a married Hollywood producer who offered me a blow job and tickets to his Broadway show. I’ll let you guess which one I took him up on… and I’ll give this hint: Ben Stiller was intimately involved.

So, no, none of those mile-high sexscapades on this flight, just a shitty delay and a late landing into Kennedy to arrive at the Off Soho Suites hours later than I should have. I love the NYC spin. “Off Soho”? Soho is a neighbourhood… how can you be “off” a neighbourhood? The “Off Soho Suites” is actually in a warehouse district in the Lower East Side. Not that I’m complaining; for us, the Off Soho Suites is perfectly situated between the restaurants and shopping of Soho and Little Italy, and the CMJ clubs and bars of the LES.

After dropping off my gear at the hotel I bolted over to pathetically dumpy burrito place at Stanton and Ludlow to meet with the Mint Records gang (Yvette, Beez, Randy, and the newest employee, the ultra-sexy Jenn Barker), along with members of Mint’s latest signing, Immaculate Machine, and one of the festival’s major attractions, the New Pornographers.

Several of the NPs were jet-lagged due to the flight schedule their American label Matador booked them on -Vancouver to HOUSTON to New York- so they bailed early, but somehow the rest of us managed to party the first night away until 5:00AM. It’s too easy in New York. We even called up a friend who lives in Manhattan, ringing him at about 2:00AM. He immediately agreed to come down and meet us. I said to Beez “imagine if some asshole got into Vancouver and called us up at 2AM to go party?” Beez agreed. “I’d think he was completely fucked”.


Thur Sep 15, Brooklyn, Central Park and the Bowery

Every year a somewhat dear friend of mine named Helen “Spitzy” Spitzer holds a “Canadian Brunch” on a rooftop in Brooklyn. Every year I miss it, but as it happens, this year I could actually attend.

Spitzy is a somewhat dear friend because of an event a couple of years ago at CMJ. Spitzy was erratically driving Yvette and I out of New York in her little shitbox car, and was utterly flummoxed by certain one way streets and traffic signals in Manhattan. At one point she even careened wildly into Central Park on the trail where all the handsome cabs clip-clop along. Once we got back onto the street, I politely stated that Helen Keller would actually be a better driver than Helen Spitzer, and, without looking at me, she gave me a round-house right to face!! It was a long drive back to Canada that day.

Nonetheless, we’re still friends and here I was on the subway to Brooklyn on Thursday morning for her famed brunch. Somehow, she’s hooked up with an American guy who allows the Spitz to take over his incredible loft apartment, essentially waterfront property if you look past the industrial port across the street. There’s both a full rooftop deck and a fire escape, and the view of Manhattan is incredible. In attendance were all sorts of music industry types, mostly Canadian, including Jenn Whyte from Halifax’s CKDU, a few writers from Exclaim, Trevor from Paper Bag Records, good ol’ Michael Barclay from Exclaim/ Brave New Waves, and lots of people from all sorts of labels and radio stations. Brunch was good, though I had to demand to be served, after sitting at the table patiently for 15 minutes waiting, while some jerk named “Crazy Tony” arrived, sat down and was immediately served. Outrageous!

Back in the city later that afternoon, we headed over to Central Park to take in the Dakota hotel. It was on the sidewalk outside the Dakota where John Lennon was shot and killed twenty five years ago this December (I think that’s right, anyway). I don’t know if we were expecting a chalk outline or a plaque or what, but there was really nothing besides a very ornate hotel, so we made our way across the street to Central Park to visit Strawberry Fields, so named by Yoko and the city in John’s memory after his death (Yoko still lives in the Dakota).

Strawberry Fields is about 100 feet into the western middle section of Central Park; a large meadow framed by a canopy of trees, split down the middle by a paved trail and little square. In the middle of the plaza is a mosaic built into the pavement that says “IMAGINE”. Surrounding the mosaic are benches where people from around the world sit in silence to remember the life of Lennon. Strawberry Fields is in fact one of New York’s designated “quiet zones”… no loud music, talking, yelling, or anything else that may disturb visitors, as a sign dictates upon entering the area.

And so there we all were, imagining what could still be, in a moment of sad serenity away from the city. And then Beez’ cell phone rang. It loudly bleeped out the tune to the Cardigans’ “Love Me, Love Me”. I glared at him, but with a guilty glance he took the call anyway. “Hello? Hello? HELLO? HELLLLOOOOOO???” The collection of international Lennon admirers shifted uncomfortably on their benches, their meditation temporarily disturbed. Suddenly Beez lept to his feet, screaming. “WHAT THE FUCK??? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?? FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!!! JESUS MOTHERFUCKING CHRIST! I WANNA TALK TO THE FUCKING CUNT IN CHARGE OF THIS FUCKING MESS!!” The throng of Beatles fans were aghast. Soon Beez was on his feet, stomping back and forth right across the mosaic, waving his arms in rage. “MOTHERFUCKER, MOTHERFUCKER, MOTHERFUCKER!!! I’M GONNA RIP THE CUNT RIGHT OFF THAT ASSHOLE’S FACE!!!” Eventually we were able to drag Beez away from Strawberry Fields, as several outraged tourists looked on at the angry Canadian man in glasses.

In case your wondering, the spark that lit Beez’ fuse was that Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine, also the new keyboardist in the New Pornographers, would not be allowed to perform on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” the next night because she didn’t have the correct work visa

After Beez swallowed a handful of pills and regained a regular breathing pattern, we made our way back downtown to the sold-out Bowery Ballroom to see our pride, the New Pornographers. They made every Canadian in the room beam, cranking out hit after hit after hit, and no one seemed to mind that Neko Case couldn’t make the gig. Kathryn managed to hit most if not all of Neko’s regular vocal parts. At one point, realizing they had a lot of time to still fill, they pulled off a spot-on cover of the Cars’ “Best Friend’s Girl”, and then lead singer Carl had some fun with the audience, explaining that rock bands only ask rhetorical questions (“are you ready to rock?”). The only tune missing was “Letter From An Occupant”, my all-time favourite Canadian song, which was for some reason left off the set list, possibly due to Neko’s absence.

After the show we regrouped back at the Off Soho Suites, all except for sexy Jenn Barker and Trevor from Paper Bag Records, who, much to the chagrin of horny New Pornographers drummer Kurt Dahle, disappeared together into the New York night.

The rest of us shared stories and swilled beer, welcoming the late arrival of the rest of Immaculate Machine, Luke and Brooke. It was the first time in New York City for the both of them, and the very second they stepped into the visitor arrival area of JFK, they were hustled. Up came a dude that looked like 50 Cent’s uglier cousin, saying “yo, yo, yo, need a taxi motherfuckers?” Brooke and Luke did indeed need a taxi, so they answered “yes”.

Their “driver” grabbed their bags and led them to a waiting black SUV. He then instructed them to “get in the motherfuckin’ car, I just gotta get one more motherfucker and then we ride”. After about ten minutes, the driver returned with a tall, regal-looking black woman. She climbed into the back seat with Luke and Brooke. Turns out the hustler caught a major fish: the woman was the fucking UN ambassador for UGANDA, as there was a massive UN convention in New York that weekend.

The driver took off with a jolt, but was immediately on side streets, driving through small neighbourhoods instead of the freeway. “Yo, motherfuckers back there! We just gotta make a couple two-three stops before I drop you motherfuckers off”. Sure enough, he suddenly pulled over and strided into a corner store to buy himself a snack. Getting back in the SUV, he said “just a couple mo’ here and there and we done”. Next stop, a seemingly random house where he emerged with what Luke and Brooke could only assume was… drugs. “Whoo! Now we good to go!”

Then the driver began to converse with the Ugandan ambassador.

“Where the fuck you from, lady”?


“Whoo! You know what the fuck we gotta do? We gotta take back motherfuckin’ Africa, that’s what we gotta do”.

“Pardon me? What do you mean?”

“I mean kick all the motherfuckin’ honkies OUT and TAKE THE MOTHERFUCKER BACK!!”

“Well, it’s not quite that simple, Africa is of course made up of many, many different sovereign nations. There are varying degrees of wealth and poverty and social systems. In some countries little social welfare exists at all. Each country has its own government, some democratic, some not”.

There was a long pause, and then the driver blurted out “Hey yo, Uganda, where the fuck you staying, anyway?”

“At the Waldorf Astoria, Park Place”.

“Whoo! Tell you what, bitch. I’m gonna hook you up! I’m gonna get you a better deal than the Waldorf!”

“Thank you, but I don’t want a better deal”.

“Bitch, you gonna save a whack o’ motherfuckin’ cash thanks to me!”

“The Waldorf is where all the UN Ambassadors are staying. Please take me to my hotel as quickly as possible”.

He begrudgingly complied, taking them on a wild ride through the side streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan continuing to make stops and run errands, eventually arriving at Park Place two hours after they left Kennedy, which is usually a thirty minute drives, tops. After dropping off the Ugandan lady, the driver finally took Luke and Brooke downtown to the Off Soho Suites and unloaded them.

“Hundred bucks, yo”.

Luke and Brooke looked at each other, completely freaked out.

“What?!? We were told it was a $50 cab ride from the airport”.

“It IS $50, motherfucker! 50 EACH. Plus the motherfuckin’ tip”.

“Oh my god, I don’t think so!”


And so Brooke and Luke got taken, forking out $100 US for a two and a half hour cab ride from Kennedy.

“What about the tip?”

“Sorry, that’s all the money we have”.

“Yo, tip from the bottom of your motherfuckin’ hearts, please”.

“Sorry, that is all we have! We have nothing more!”

“Tip me. NOW”.

And so Brooke and Luke were forced to hand over another $5 each to the cab driver, who finally left them alone, allowing them to exhaustingly enter the hotel and tell us the story.


Fri Sep 16, Conan O’Brien, Little Italy, CBGBs

With the all-night action raging, mornings tend to start at around 1:00PM or so on CMJ weekends. That’s tough when there are actually things to do during the day. Mint had arranged a booth at the convention, so Yvette, Beez and the very sexy but extremely hung over Jenn Barker all took off early for the Lincoln Centre. The very sexy Jenn Barker spent the rest of the day puking into a bucket amidst the Mint merch, interspersed with George Constanza-like naps under the table.

The rest of us headed to the NBC Studios at Rockefeller Centre to be part of the studio audience for “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” as the New Pornographers were the musical guests.

There were plenty of rumours swirling around about the guests. At one point it was an ultimate line up: Elijah Wood, Ali G, and the NPs! Then we heard Ali G was moved to Thursday night, then at the last minute for whatever reason Elijah Wood was no longer listed as the guest… instead we were served up a last-minute b-list, including an incredibly bitchy, verging on psychotic Lara-Flynn Boyle (still unclear as to why she’s famous) who basically fought with a hilarious Conan the entire time, then “Bobby”, the big guy from the Sopranos who looks after Uncle Junior, who was relatively entertaining, and finally, the New Pornographers. Sure enough, Kathryn still wasn’t able to perform, but Neko Case blew into New York that afternoon and proceeded to blow the roof off the studio when she and Carl belted out the NPs’ latest single “Use It”. I personally feel their single should be the epic “The Bleeding Hearts Show” but nobody listens to me. I’m only a fucking professional music fucking journalist.

No matter how many times I’m lucky enough to go to one of these tapings, it’s always exciting. The television history that exists inside of Conan’s studio is staggering… it was the original “Tonight Show” studio where the legendary Johnny Carson held his nightly booze party until they moved the show to Los Angeles. The studio stood dark for awhile until David Letterman took it over and changed late night TV history with his show in the mid-eighties, until he left for the Ed Sullivan theatre and CBS in the early nineties. That’s when Conan took over the little NBC studio and has never looked back, becoming one of the most manic and endearing hosts on TV.

As we piled out of the studio and into the muggy New York afternoon, I took Immaculate Machine on a quick walking tour of midtown, visiting the always ridiculous and jam-packed Times Square (Brooke: “where’s the square?”) to see the theatres, billboards, buildings and people. Then it was back east to Carnegie Hall, up the street to Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building, before descending into the subway to get back to the hotel.

New York is an easy city to get around on the cheap via subway. Taking the taxi is the way to see all the different neighbourhoods and squares whizzing by, but on the subway, you never really know what you are going to walk up and into. We disembarked at Spring Street in Little Italy and climbed the stairs right into a weekend Italian street festival on Mulberry. There were brass bands, food stands and carnival games, one of which immediately caught my eye: CROSSBOW SHOOT. I abhor guns but I fucking love to shoot things. Instantly I was smacking down my cash for three stubby arrows loaded into a big, heavy, Dukes of Hazzard-style crossbow, for a chance to win a massive stuffed dog. As are the odds, neither I nor Kathryn won a thing. We should have shot either one of the stuffed dogs or the carnie himself. At least there would have been some satisfaction for the money.

That night it was the Mint Records Showcase at CBGBs gallery, the room built on to the side of the legendary birthplace of punk. The show did extremely well, packed out from front to back, so much so that the aforementioned Elijah Wood was turned away at the door! Elijah!

I was drafted to MC the event (a gig that seems to be my lot in life in the afterglow of the Smugglers’ fading glories). Winnipeg’s Novillero was up first with their patented soul shakers. Stuffed onto the tiny stage, they put on an amazing show almost despite the fact that CBs unfortunately had chairs and tables set up right to the edge of the stage, allowing no dance floor whatsoever. What the fuck is that???

Next up were Immaculate Machine, whose debut performance in New York City was a solid set of their very good songs from their new album “The Ones and Zeros” played to a full house. They scored extra points by dedicating the brilliant “Phone No.” to me, which is the song that should be their single… a melancholic mix of the Magnetic Fields and Blondie, apropos for the setting. But what do I know?

Young and Sexy were the final band of the night, and left me hanging with my metaphoric cock out when it came to the MC introduction. Please don’t think for a minute that I consider my MC duties above that of the actual music, but c’mon!! They told me they were ready, so I began my introduction, turning around just as I was leading in to “and so ladies and gentlemen, here they are… Young and--“ and had the guitarist’s fat ass in my face as he continued to tune his axe! Forced to “stretch”, I panicked. I had used up all my ‘gold’ material when intro-ing Immaculate Machine, I had to resort to pathetically doubling back on my red-hot text-messaging gags from early in the night, then got really desperate by trying to “riff” on the recent New Orleans tragedy. Silence.

Finally Young and Sexy got into their set. OK. There are songs by this band that I LOVE; incredible, uplifting music. For whatever reason, Young and Sexy chose not to play those songs, instead gambling on an entire set of whisper-quiet ballads and twenty-beats per minute softies that had me perplexed and sweaty. Where was “Herculean Bellboy”? What about the clear-and-away crowd favourite “The City You Live In Is Ugly”?? What about the one about the car? Whatever. What do I know? I’m only a professional fucking music fucking journalist.

After the gig, I’m pretty sure we partied for several more hours at various gigs and back at the hotel… it’s a bit fuzzy, but I remember two or three major label dudes in the room trying to pry the New Pornographers out of Mint’s grip. I also remember a female New Yorker using the pick up line “let’s populate the world” on me, then getting angry when I talked to another girl that had “enquired” about me. The World Populator suggested the other girl was “cock-blocking” her. In the middle of all of this, a girl from Vancouver who was in New York text-messaged me saying “I’m horny, let’s fuck”. Beez considers this moment to be my absolute sexual apex.

Kurt Dahle hung around our hotel room again, doodling into the wee, wee hours, waiting for the very sexy Jenn Barker to return, but she was once again partying all night long with Trevor from Paper Bag Records.


Sat Sep 17, Pussycat Lounge, Ground Zero, Mint All-Star Karaoke

We all met for “breakfast” (at 2PM) at the Essex, a chi-chi eatery over on Essex and Rivington in the LES. Originally some sort of factory, it has gone through a hipster makeover like many storefronts and buildings in the area. The place maintains its original signage, but is completely transformed and “reimagined” for New York’s hipster elite on the inside. The LES is full of them… Arlene’s Grocery, Pianos and the Essex are all successful examples.

About twenty of us piled in… Immaculate Machine, Novillero, the New Pornographers and the Mint staff, all lined up at a long table for the wedding-like brunch special. For a fixed price, you get any breakfast entrée on the menu, plus three glasses of champagne ‘n’ orange juice. The sultry and sweet waitress conveniently forgot about the three drinks cut off and kept refilling our glasses with the juice-booze for the duration of the meal. Amazing.

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in Soho (I found a Tintin shop and almost jizzed all over everything) and returning to the Italian street fair, where Kathryn finally won something, a disgusting purple monkey, after she proved to be the quickest in a squirt gun race, speaking of timely jizzing.

By the time we got back to the LES it was already showtime, so we popped in to the Bowery Ballroom to catch Sub Pop’s latest Canadian signing, Calgary’s Chad Van Gayman. He was the first act on one of the most talked about shows of Saturday night, headlined by the Constantines and Wolf Parade. We pretty much knew that if we left after the Gayman’s set, we weren’t going to get back inside. The towering Albertan’s set was earnest and entertaining by the way, especially his Bruce Springsteen cover and the songs from his most recent album.

I took the gamble and left the club, needing to eat and wanting to see another show way downtown near Wall Street, where the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were opening for a hip hop / doo wop send-up called the Dicks, and the legendary dirty rapper Blowfly. I met up with a lovely female New Yorker friend and after a couple of quick subways, we were making our way inside the sweaty Pussycat Lounge, just in time to see the Blues Explosion. While it was a treat to see JSBX in a tiny, weird little strip club, it was disappointing to me that he stuck to his dirgy earlier stuff as opposed to his ultra-rockin’, high-on-melody material from his last three albums. He opened with “Bell Bottoms”, if you care. But hey, I ran into an old friend from Saskatoon named “Bingo Stu” so it wasn’t all bad. In fact Bingo Stu loved it, so what do I know?

The Dicks were up next and they were a major let down. I had high hopes for a funny, slamming doo wop show (I had envisioned a hip hop version of Me First and the Gimme Gimmies) but what I got was a disorganized mess. Drunk dudes attempting to move in time with each other but not, singing stupid songs about eating pussy and wanting to eat more pussy. Some guys were dressed up, some weren’t, some knew the lyrics, some didn’t have a clue, and failed miserably at faking it. If the songs or beats were even remotely catchy or distantly funny, I would have stuck around, but the Dicks can suck mine. I didn’t even stick it out for Blowfly, instead deciding to try and make the Constantines / Wolf Parade show.

The Pussycat Lounge is located just a couple of blocks away from “Ground Zero”, the big hole in the ground that used to be the World Trade Centre. My New Yorker gal-pal insisted on showing the site to me, as it has become a major beacon for both New Yorkers and visitors to the city. Before hitting the site, I complained of mild hunger, so we stopped by a market so I could grab a banana. We came upon the massive site within minutes, now surrounded by a tall steel and plexiglass fence, billboards and memorials. Munching on the banana I realized that it was a tad “off”. I glanced around for a rubbish bin and, seeing none, nonchalantly tossed the banana over the WTC fence and into the pit.

My friend stared at me incredulously.

“What?” I asked.

“What the fuck did you just do?”

“It was off, I was done with it”.

“So you throw it into the World Trade Centre? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“What?? There’s no garbage cans around here! What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that this is a national site of MOURNING that you just desecrated by throwing your GARBAGE into it, you son of a bitch!”

“It’s biodegradable!”

“Fuck you!”

And with that, she stormed off to the cab stand. I wasn’t really sure what to do, but she yelled out from the cab door “are you coming or what?” so I ran over and we headed back up town in a cold silence.

After a flurry of text messages, it turned out that our gang was pretty much shut out of most of the big shows due to choosing dinner over getting to a club early to stand around all night waiting for the headliners. Everyone met up at the little soul food kitchen called Great Jones Bar, and from there we decided to cap the night at an absolute shithole karaoke bar in the East Village.

It was one of those places that shuffle you into your own private room, this one with a thoroughly soiled couch and a few broken chairs. Members of the New Pornographers, Novillero, Immaculate Machine, the Mint gang and several others all piled in, filling the table with dozens of cans of beer imported from the corner store.

Kurt Dahle MC’ed, welcoming everyone to “the first annual non-recoupable Mint Records CMJ karaoke party!” Beez started things off with a nice rendition of the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”, I then sang a nice flat version of “Surrender”, the usually reserved Randy from Mint belted out “Pretty In Pink”, Novillero’s Rod Slaughter brought the house down with Madness’s “Our House”, Kurt and Todd Fancey did a beautiful Bee Gees duet that had Jenn Whyte from Halifax crying, I dueted with John Collins on the Doors “Light My Fire”, Luke from Immaculate Machine screamed out some perfect Primus, revealing a little too much of his musical leanings, and Kathryn and Brooke surprisingly brought down the house with Avril’s “Complicated”!

The lone security guard kept poking his head through the little window on the door, yelling at us to get off the furniture. In response, Kurt hung a plastic bag over the window to maintain a modicum of privacy, which the security guard immediately tore down. Much to the security guard’s confusion, Kurt smiled at him and gave him a big thumbs up, while everyone else was belting out Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock n Roll To Me”.

Once Mint’s non-recoupable karaoke fund ran out, we had only managed to chug through about half of the beer we bought, so we took it with us, starting the long stagger back to the hotel. Halfway there, Kurt was explaining to Beez that his new lace-less slip on Converse sneakers doubled as weapons. “Watch me!” shrieked Kurt, as he kicked one foot forward, sending his shoe flying high into the air, flipping right over a plywood fence of a construction site. Kurt freaked out while the rest of us killed ourselves. He shimmied up the fence like a drunk ape in an attempt to get into the construction site to retrieve his shoe, but the space he had to climb down into was too narrow. From the top of the fence, with his legs through the gap up to his hips, he screamed out “I can’t fit down here, my cock is too big!!!”

At the behest of his bandmates and everyone else, he eventually climbed down and raced around the block in shoe and sock, trying to find an entrance. He eventually found a door and with the help of Randy, began trying to pry it open by yanking and kicking at it. Suddenly a pit-bull like security guard stormed out.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing??”

“I lost my shoe! I ran into some bullies and they threw my shoe over the fence! Look!” said Kurt, holding up his shoeless foot. “Please, please, can you help me get my shoe? It’s brand new! I’ll pay you!”

Luckily Kurt’s quick-thinking bully story, as opposed to the shoe as a weapon version, worked on the security guard. He went and retrieved the shoe

“Thank you so much! Randy, pay him”.

The New Pornographers were flying back to Vancouver early on Sunday morning so once we were all safely back at the hotel, they decided to just keep partying, pounding back every beer in site. Their cab would be arriving in two hours. My last vision of Kurt was him wedged between the upper cupboards of the kitchenette and the ceiling, trying to drink a tall boy King Cobra from a horizontal position.

The NPs eventually made it out of the Off Soho Suites to their waiting “cab” that Kurt had ordered, a massive, lowered white, stretch-limo SUV with a fully stocked bar that they drained like camels at an oasis all the way to Kennedy. Somehow they made it onto the plane, somehow they made it safely back to Vancouver.


Sun Sep 18, the Secret Garden and Goodbyes

With almost everyone already gone home, it was just Beez, Yvette, the very sexy Jenn Barker, Luke and Brooke from Immaculate Machine and myself left over on Sunday morning. We strolled into the Lower East Side one last time for breakfast, this time choosing a little health food place I had discovered a couple years back on Ludlow Street.

After ordering at the counter, my little secret was to climb the back stairs and walk through the internet café area, up another flight of stairs, through a door and into a beautiful little Shangri la of multi layered patios, and plants. Every time I’ve eaten here I’ve had it completely to myself. This Sunday morning was no different. There was a piano back there, so I convinced Brooke to tinkle out the tune of “Phone No”, my aforementioned fave from their new record, with me singing my “version” at the top of my lungs… as we sat singing and playing, a man suddenly emerged from a side door, looking like he had just woken up. We kept playing. A few minutes later a woman appeared from a different door glaring at us, again looking groggy and disgruntled.

Suddenly Brooke realized that maybe this little secret garden wasn’t actually part of the health food restaurant at all; that we were in fact sitting on someone’s private deck, using their piano and singing a song at the top of our lungs with lyrics like “There’s a phone in my pants that’s set to vibrate / what are you going to do? / There’s a fist in my ass why don’t you call me? / We still got lots to do”.

Nonetheless I was determined to eat there whether it was private property or not, so when the food eventually made the three stories climb, we had a lovely final (vegan) meal together, said our sad goodbyes and all departed on our separate ways to airports, trains, subways, and planes.

Next to Vancouver, there’s no greater city than New York. Thanks for the good times!

Until next year,

Grant Lawrence