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Archive for June, 2008

The Phair-est Of Them All

Posted by evankessler on June 27, 2008

In the April of 1999 I went town to Binghamton University with a few friends from Syracuse to catch that school’s year end Student only concert or block party, or whatever they call that thing down there. While I was certainly not an undergrad at that particular university, I was definitely a fan of the headlining act on the bill. After sitting through a few mediocre bands including some guy named David Mead who sounded like your average white guy Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews hippie crooner the day’s anticipation gave way to satisfaction as Liz Phair took the stage. Before she started into her set I had been filled with skepticism because a friend who had previously seen her play sometime during the run of her first two albums had told me that she wasn’t very good live. Not only was Ms. Phair excellent that day, but she had blown me away with an assorted selection of songs from her first three albums, 1993’s landmark Exile In Guyville, her able 1994 follow up Whip Smart and her more recent, slightly more adult sounding, but still ever so enjoyable whitechocolatespaceegg.

Despite having heard of her tentative stage demeanor and previous disappointing performance, there was a certain confidence that her songs exuded that made up for maybe not the most dynamic stage presence. I wasn’t expecting a KISS show and I didn’t get one. I got a quality rock show from a great artist at the peak of her performing powers.

Fast forward two months later, I was living with that same friend who had raised doubt about Ms. Phair’s performance prowess in April, at an NYU dorm on 10th Street and 3rd Avenue as we were both ensconced in Summer internships for the next few months. One evening my brother called me with the news that the same Liz Phair of whom both my roommate and I were huge fans was playing a show at a Calvin Klein event and we would be able to grace the venue with our attendance despite it being a charity event to which we were not contributing any funds.

Later that evening we witnessed a very intimate set that probably consisted of no more than seven or eight songs. Before the show, my brother was backstage taking photographs for the event and got the artist in question to autograph a bag for me. Being the pathetic fan that I was, I held that bag up to try and show Liz the entire show. I was twenty years old and I was an idiot. Nonetheless, it was a rare experience that I probably didn’t think I could ever duplicate.

Several weeks ago, while looking through a bevy of emails in my Inbox deciding what to trash, I came upon a bulletin which alerted me to a special show at Hiro Ballroom featuring the distinguished Miss Phair, who would be performing her 1993 opus Exile In Guyville in it’s entirety. Thrilled at the prospect I immediately asked my friend if he was interested in going and when the time came around to attempt to purchase tickets, I was on it. Unfortunately, “on it” meant more like cable company on it or electric company on it. I was an hour too late and by the time I placed my order for ticketmaster the two night run was all sold out.

However, yesterday afternoon, as I sat in dispose in a very private area of my house, I received a text message from my friend Marie. In said text message it inquired as to whether I had any interest in attending Liz Phair’s performance the very next day for the show at Hiro Ballroom that I could not get tickets for. Jazzed isn’t a good way to describe how I felt, but I’d like it to suffice for now. I immediately accepted her invitation throwing any other plans I might have had for Thursday evening into the recycling bin of alcoholic indulgence. I’ve had my issues with Ms. Phair’s musical output over the past few years, but this was a one of a kind experience that I was not going to miss.

It was around 7pm this evening when I left my apartment in Park Slope to meet Marie in Manhattan for the show. I was running a little late because I was fumbling with a few personal belongings, deciding if I needed to bring my iPod on the train or something to read. God forbid I had to spend thirty minutes on the 2/3 not listening to music or reading something. What did people do before the advent of electronics? I’m sure they weren’t too concerned about occupying their time in transport when they were sitting in the back of the wagon dying of hay fever or wondering where there next meal came from. In any case, I decided to go it without musical or literary accompaniment and rough it. I did have my camera with me, but that was for the show.

I got out of the Subway at 14th Street and 7th Avenue at exactly 7:29, one minute before I was to meet Marie. Fortunately, Marie is a patient person because I still had a few blocks to walk as Hiro was at the corner of 16th and 9th. When I happened upon Marie she was reading as people are wont to do when they’re waiting, we said our hellos. Marie had gotten the tickets for free from her promoter friend who I met outside the door and who also was generous enough to give us drink tickets. This was the life. When we got inside we found that we had a booth reserved for us and two other people as well. Things were getting better before they got worse. It was certainly a dose of good fortune.

The rest of our night would be a mixture of feast and famine. At around 8:35pm as Marie and I enjoyed our maiden drink, Liz Phair stepped out on stage to a warm applause and a high level of enthusiasm. She alerted the audience that she was wearing heels and made an allusion to a lyric in the first song off of Exile in Guyville saying that tonight she’d be standing 6” 1′ instead of 5” 5 adding three inches to the latter number. And just like that she was off launching into “6’1”, her shaky, nearly monotone timbre filling the room with a palpable excitement. The characterization of her voice isn’t meant to be an insult, it’s what gives her music such rich character. It’s not concerned with being pretty, it’s more along the lines of a bluntly honest conversational tone that’s not being sugar coated with melisma or acrobatics that span the vocal ranges. Conversely, that’s probably the reason her fans have largely ignored her last two albums as they seemed to be efforts to craft pretty pop songs over forthright ones. I guess you can’t blame a girl for trying to make some money.

In the early going, Marie and I noticed a group of girls standing to the right of our booth. In our estimation, they couldn’t have been over the age of 24. We assumed they were in the audience to either hear her more recent pop songs, despite the fact that it was plain by the reason for the show that those songs wouldn’t be played. They were dressed as if they were going to see Sex And The City on opening night, despite the fact it had already occurred. The lot of them had Cosmos in their hand and were blabbing aloud over the music during “Glory” and Marie turned to them and gave them a nice “Shush!” It was then that these kids retreated to the bar in back of our booth where I heard one of them utter, “it’s her 21st birthday! Let’s do shots!” So yes, these girls were six years old when Exile In Guyville was released. As they stood in the back getting their drunk on and loudly cavorting, Liz Phair continued to play her landmark album that these girls probably could’ve taken a lesson or two from.

With the kids relegated to the rear of the venue fading in and out of earshot and probably taking frequent cigarette breaks, a new threat to musical enjoyment emerged. A couple that looked to be on their second or third date who were perpetually at that point in the date where conversation just flows stood nearby datin’ and conversatin’ with little to no regard for the surrounding masses. The girl sitting next to Marie shushed them, and they dropped out for a bit. They along with the girls got repeated scoldings, but were fairly unaffected. New rule: if someone has to tell you more than once at a rock concert to shut up, you’re talking too loud and you’re probably a huge asshole.

All distractions aside, the show itself was really enjoyable. I think the thing that kind of caught me off guard about it was that I had never seen an entire show that was just one album played straight through. There was no mystery about what would come next. I knew that “Canary” would be followed by “Mesmerizing”, “Fuck and Run”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Divorce Song”.

Another positive thing that caught my attention was the amount of maturity in the audience. It wasn’t only that most of the crowd resembled the same late 20’s to late 30’s indie rock fans of yore, but also it was the maturity level. Nobody yelled in celebration when the C word was uttered during “Dance of The Seven Veils” and there was not one morsel of merriment sounded when she alerted the males in the audience she wanted to be their “blow job queen” during “Flower”. It was all very refreshing and quite a delight to experience.

I took measured delight as the album motored along towards the end. I thought back fondly on singing along to both “Stratford On Guy” and “Strange Loop” on my long car rides to and from Syracuse and realized that I hadn’t listened to Guyville straight through in a very long time. By the end of the show I was extremely glad that I was getting the chance to run through the whole thing yet again, but this time with a live flavor.

As the last note in Strange Loop was sounded and Liz thanked everyone, I wondered how much if any of an encore she could come out for. She was only supposed to play one album. Had she planned any more surprises. She was only playing four dates on this tour, I couldn’t imagine she had rehearsed a terrible many songs.

After the tiniest of waits, she came out yet again and sat down at the piano, hammering out a great version of “Chopsticks” off of Whip-Smart, followed by “May Queen” off of that same album, which had been yelled out as a request when she re-took the stage. Her guitar playing was a tad bit tentative but it was understandable. It seemed as though it had been awhile since playing these songs and it’s not always like riding a bike. Take it from me. I’m not a musician.

The show finished up on a positively unique and rather fun note. Liz started off playing her take on the famed classic rock song “Wild Thing” which was part of her Girlysound Demos from before Exile. Obviously rusty, she stopped playing at one point and solicited help from a guy in the front row. She let him come up on stage and help out. At first she thought he was just going to sing the lyrics, but he took over on guitar duties and allowed her to pick up the lyrics of the last verse. Finally, the show ended with a decent rendition of “Polyester Bride” that sent this audience member home plenty happy.

Liz Phair @ Hiro Ballroom NYC 6/26/08

1. 6’1″
2. Help Me Mary
3. Glory
4. Dance of the Seven Veils
5. Never Said
6. Soap Star Joe
7. Explain It to Me
8. Canary
9. Mesmerizing
10. Fuck and Run
11. Girls! Girls! Girls!
12. Divorce Song
13. Shatter
14. Flower
15. Johnny Sunshine
16. Gunshy
17. Stratford-on-Guy
18. Strange Loop


19. Chopsticks

20. May Queen

21. Wild Thing

22. Polyester Bride

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Rocking Out Is The Best Revenge

Posted by evankessler on June 20, 2008

If laughter is the best medicine then rocking out has to be a close second, because the four plus hours spent in the acoustically friendly confines of Madison Square Garden this evening certainly did the trick in terms of lifting me out of any recent doldrums. Several months ago Andrew Morton had done an excellent job in staying abreast of the summer concert happenings and inquired as to whether or not I would want to go with him to see R.E.M. take to the world’s most famous arena to turn it into the world’s most presently rocking one. Without hesitation I accepted his invitation and before I knew it we had arrived at the date of the event in question, June 19, 2008.

I spent most of the day somewhat ignorant to the fact that I was going to a concert in the evening. I was excited about the show but for some reason not filled with the usual anticipation for a show that I’m terribly excited about. Maybe it’s that I’d seen R.E.M. perform somewhere in the neighborhood of seven times before and I pretty much knew what to expect or maybe it’s just because I haven’t felt terribly excited about anything lately. When the clock struck 6pm I made way towards midtown with a ho-hum, I’ll get there when I get there demeanor.

I made better time than I thought I would as I exited the 34th Street BQ station at around 6:45. I was supposed to me Andrew and Renga at 7pm in front of the arena, so I had some time to kill. Rather then shuffle in and out of stores or restaurants, I decided to park myself in front of the Fuse building, but as I crossed the street to make my way to the video screen monstrosity that is housed at the front of that building my phone rang. The voice on the other end was Goody, who was on the side of the street from whence I came. He was waving at me along with our old high school buddy JK and his girlfriend Stephanie. Rather than stand by my lonesome waiting for Andrew and Renga I turned right back around and crossed the street to hang out with Goody and JK for a few minutes and make some small talk before they decided to make for their seats on account of wanting to catch the openers.

It was only a few minutes later that my two fellow concert going pals happened upon me as I stood in front of the Chase Kiosk outside of Madison Square Garden and we happily made for the insides of the arena as I joked about being excited to finally get the opportunity to catch a New York Liberty game. Ah, the WNBA it’s faaaaantastic…on opposite day. Upon entry and finding our way through Tower A towards gate 79 we stopped at the beer stand featuring the imported versions of our favorite frothy beverage from lands as distant as Canada (Labatt’s Blue) and the Czech Republic (Pilsner Urquell). Andrew and I settled on Labatt’s citing that it was a full 50 cents cheaper at $7.75 than Laura’s eurotrash Bass Ale and it still came with a pretzel rod firmly entrenched in the handle. Ah, the pretzel rod, one of life’s simple pleasures.

Andrew and Renga enjoy their brew and pretzel rods

We soon took our seats in section 232 just as opening act, The National was starting into their set, which lasted roughly forty-five minutes to an hour. That’s one of the better things about seeing an established act like R.E.M., they’re big enough to choose any opener they like and don’t have to give into record label pressures to put some crappy band on their bill. This evening certainly boasted a sterling lineup. In addition to Brooklyn Indie-Rock upstarts, The National, the bill also included indie-alternative rock darlings Modest Mouse to complete a more than formidable lineup, as they boasted the presence of the legendary Johnny Marr of Smiths fame on guitar.

After the National’s set ended Andrew and I went up to get hot dogs and were met with the two options of either a “Jumbo Dog” or “Foot long”. The Jumbo was a longer than a normal hot dog and the foot long, well, it was a foot long, but only cost 50 cents more. Despite getting more bang for the buck, I didn’t fall into the trap of the foot long, because frankly, there’s only so much hot dog taste I wanted in my mouth for the next three days.

Jumbo vs. Foot long Hot Dog

We returned to our seats promptly after our purchase and heartily enjoyed Modest Mouse’s set which featured songs like “Satin In A Coffin” , “The Good Times Are Killing Me” and “Florida”. They kept the banter to a minimum but managed to rock properly, though I have to say, while I enjoyed their set, something about their sound or their song selection didn’t seem properly suited to the arena. Their arrangements are more sparse than bombastic, so it didn’t translate into a proper arena rock atmosphere. I wasn’t that disappointed though, I had seen them in a smaller, more proper venue for their sound and knew what it was supposed to sound like. Not a lot of bands can pull off the fanfare necessary for a venue such as MSG.

It was around 9pm when Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, sideman Scott McCaughey, and tour drummer Bill Rieflin took to the Madison Square Garden stage. In a span of several seconds it became apparent that they were there to rock the hell out of the place. Opening with one of Accelerate’s more upbeat numbers, Living Well Is The Best Revenge, the band launched the crowd into a rock ‘n’ roll frenzy and that freight train kept ‘a rolling for what more or less accounted for the entirety of the two plus hour show. The last time I encountered R.E.M. in an arena setting was on my birthday in 2004, two days after the re-election of George W. Bush at MSG. The city of New York, the crowd, and especially the band was in a dour mood following that travesty. Tonight, Michael Stipe took a few opportunities to acknowledge that show, but he and the band seemed full of optimism about the impending election and it reflected in their mood and performance.

This was a show that was not built for fairweather fans who liked “Man on The Moon” and “Losing My Religion”. The band vigorously delved into past gems such as “Disturbance at The Heron House”, “Harborcoat”, “Ignoreland”, “These Days”, and (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” amongst a host of other favorites while mercilessly leaving out slower hits like “Everybody Hurts”. I think the only albums ignored in the setlist were 1983’s Murmur and 2001’s Reveal.
They also dusted off “Leaving New York” which they had not rehearsed all tour and which I think had not been played since the post-election New York show. The new songs captivated just as effectively as the old ones. “Man-Sized Wreath” and “Horse to Water” seemed to be sonic proof that despite their advancing years R.E.M. is not ready to fade away anytime soon.


R.E.M. performing “Pretty Persuasion”

One thing I really enjoyed was that of the Mills-Stipe dynamic. Mike Mills has always been one of the most arresting background vocal talents and his abilities shined through the song selection. Hearing him sing live is always an aural delight when balanced with Stipe’s or even in the lead as was the case with the performance of Rockville.

The only negative part of the show had absolutely nothing to do with R.E.M., rather it was a product of a girl sitting directly one row in front of Laura, Andrew and I who talked straight through the last half hour of the show before the encore. Normally you wouldn’t expect one person’s voice to be so distracting during a loud, bombastic rock show, but when that person is trying her best to talk louder than the music being blared at brain blasting volume…for that long, you’re going to notice it. I don’t think I’ll ever stand people who see fit to pay a large sum of money to go to a show and then persist to ignore the goings on as if they were at a dinner party. Anyway, Andrew gave her the ol’ shush sign entering the encore and she mostly shut up…or she spent time whispering into her friends’ ears how appalled she was that someone signaled her to shut up.

The encore itself was pretty much the only “Greatest Hits” portion, though it led off with eardrum cracking “Supernatural Superserious” which led into radio favorite “Losing My Religion” and three songs later into “Man On The Moon”. When the show came to a close around 11:20pm the feeling was one of exhilaration. We had just witnessed two hours of high spirited arena rock for the ages, affirming the greatness of a band that will stand the test of time.

(currently working on uploading some video…be patient…I may need to edit a clip)

R.E.M. @ Madison Square Garden June 19, 2008
Living Well Is The Best Revenge
These Days
What’s The Frequency Kenneth?
Bad Day
Hollow Man
Man-Sized Wreath
Leaving New York
Disturbance At TheHeron House
(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville
Driver 8
The One I Love
Until The Day Is Done
Let Me In
Horse To Water
Pretty Persuasion
Orange Crush
I’m Gonna DJ
Supernatural Superserious
Losing My Religion
Begin The Begin
Fall On Me
Man on the Moon

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Stakes Is High

Posted by evankessler on June 10, 2008

In all honesty, I had a hard time writing another post and I was considering never posting again after #600 because I was so happy with it. But alas, time rolls on and it’s time for another weekend recap. This weekend the mercury on most of the thermometers in New York City shot well past the 90 degree mark, which can only mean one thing…It’s summer! Gone are the days of dry air with the temperatures lingering somewhere between 70 and 79 degrees fahrenheit. This past weekend we went full swing into the sweating season. As a result, the activity meter registered on low for fear of breaking into excessive perspiration. That’s not to say it was a dull weekend…or really a relaxed one for that matter. There just wasn’t a whole lot of sprinting. Nonetheless a good deal of water was ingested.

With the dog days of summer on the horizon and an all day saturday activity planned, I decided Friday night should be taken easy. Rather than hit the Brooklyn bar scene I settled down with my roommates to take advantage of our large kitchen table and have what equated to a Union Street Family meal. Now, we could’ve gone all out and had a BBQ or prepared a fancy meal, but at the end of a busy work week most of us didn’t have food preparation in our hearts. So with little hesitation Laura B and Matt G ordered up some Thai Food from Song. We were joined by former Union Street resident Andrew M and new temporary resident roommate, the delightful Pippa.

Prior to the arrival of our Thai Food it was decided that we would be making Pina Coladas utilizing a Coconcut and Pineapple that had been sitting on our table for quite a few days now. The most difficult part of this operation was opening said coconut. For some reason we all thought it would be easier than it was…not that I would know how difficult it was from attempting to open it. The two ladies on hand tried their best to crack the solid shell of tropical island treat while we men did our part by sitting around and watching. Pippa and Bassett employed the use of screwdrivers and hammers and plenty of elbow grease. Meanwhile Andrew M, Matt G and sat around marveling at the task at hand.

Eventually the case was cracked by Pippa who then drained the juice only to have Bassett absent mindedly spill it out before the actual construction of said Pina Coladas began. We all took part in the removal of all of the coconut meat or whatever you call it, which was also somewhat of an intensively laborious undertaking. At any given moment someone would pry so hard that a shred of coconut meat would go flying across the room narrowly missing someone else working at the other end of the table.

Once the coconut meat was spearated it went into the blender with pineappe and some rum. Unfortunately, the end product was a little too thick for our liking and the ground up bits of coconut shell taht were still attached made drinking our Pina Colada’s someone unenjoyable due to the fact that they ended up being a fibrous melange of fruit bits in spite of their desired tropical island effect.

Aside from our mini-mixed drink misstep, dinner ended up being a wholly enjoyable affair complete with plenty of laughter, no tears, and plain ol’ good thai food. We called it a night rather early after that as everyone seemed to want to be in bed early. We all had our reasons. Some of us were simply tired and others had to get up early the next day. I was in the latter group as earlier in the evening I had agreed to go with my friend Janet the next morning to the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Racetrack…The Belmont Stakes.

Saturday morning I awoke at around 9am. The plan was to meet Janet at 10:45am at Penn Station as we had been told that it was desirable to get to the racetrack around noon if we wanted to get a good place to stand for the event. I ended up getting to the train station a little bit late thanks to the 2-3 train’s bizarre weekend schedule. All of the effort expended though felt like it would be worth it if I could somehow manage to make it back from the racetrack a few dollars richer.

Janet and The Winning Ticket

When Janet and I arrived at Belmont, it was pretty apparent that the track was not prepared for the onslaught of people that were about to descend on it. For starters there were only three ATM’s for what amounted to probably 15,000 people hungry to lose their cash on multiple bets per race. I counted myself as one of these numbers. Before finding the ATM I decided to place my first bet. I put $5 on a 7-2 favorite in Commandeered on the first race. To tell the truth, I just liked the name. He sounded like a winner and before I knew it I was down $5. And towards the ATM line I went. As I was walking towards the lenghty ATM line with Janet, I ran into Katie F and her boyfriend Scott, who were dressed in their Saturday Best horse racing attire. That’s to say Katie was wearing a bonnet. We said we’d see them later and stood online for a good chunk of time. It was nearly time for the 2nd race and I wasn’t sure if I’d get money in time, so Janet went to bet on race 2. We decided to split the bet rather than both betting. I had a hunch that the #7 horse, Sixthirteen would win this one.

When I finally got to the front of the line the ATM was not reading my card. This was a problem since I pretty much had no more cash. With what must have been an embarrassed look I got off the ATM line and pondered my monetary possibilities. I decided to call my credit card company and make sure I had a pin # set so I could take out money using said card. But first…the 2nd race. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Sixthirteen was the winner. Helluva call if I do say so myself. I thought this would set a nice winning pace for the day and get me on a good luck streak.

After race 2 I went back to the lengthy ATM line where the 2 guys in back of me asked me jokingly to get out of the line because I was “blocking the view” of the two girls in front of me. I laughed it off and semi-befriended them to avoid any awkward obnoxiousness. I think they were a little drunk at this point, but I could see there point because the girls in front of me were very good looking. In fact, there were a lot of good looking girls at Belmont Park that day. A good majority of them looking their best for a day at the races and the potential of seeing a triple crown winner. Everywhere around you it was as if Sex and The City were premiering at the racetrack. Fancy outfits were abound. Anyway, I finally got to the ATM once again and after a little trouble was able to get some cash out, alleviating my monetary worries and allowing me to bet…and wouldn’t you know it…that’s just what I did on the third race.

Picking A Winner?

For that race I think I went with the 3 horse, Imperial Way, who unfortunately came in 10th. My luck did not continue. I placed a $5 wager on every bet leading up to the 11th race which was the actual Belmont Stakes, save for one. The closest I came to winning was in the 7th race where I made a last second decision between the 3 horse, Bit of Whimsy, and the 4 horse, Ventura. I went with Bit of Whimsy and wouldn’t you know it…Ventura won. My luck continued.

Perhaps Not

Aside from my run of bad luck there were some fun coincidences at the racetrack as I ran into my friend John C in the port-o-potty line and I also ran into my friend Mike from the VH1 days who was filming for a History Channel show at the track. Aside from that mostly everyone else I saw at the track was a douchebag fratmeister or sorority girl proudly pretending they were still in college. The type of dude who if you accidentally bumped into them would probably try to start a fight with you. I saw this happen a couple of times. I decided to rename the event the Bromont Stakes.

Apart from all of the idiocy and missed bets, the time for the historic event was drawing near. Janet and I made our way through the picnic area and found our way to a bench relatively close to the action that was being occupied by what seemed like a fraternity reunion, though they were nice enough to let us sit in their seats. They were too busy shotgunning beers and introduces themselves to other people by what college they went to. Janet and I sat with the hot sun beating heavily down on our bodies. The sweat began to trickle from our pores despite a lack of physical motion or activity. We sat in this spot for an hour…eagerly awaiting the prestigious third jewel in the triple crown.


It was around 6:30pm when it finally came. The crowd came to a swell. All of the folks wearing shirts alluding to Big Brown’s imminent victory were psyched to witnessing history. Then it happened…they were off. The #6 horse, the longshot Da’Tara led the entire way. I had put money down on #7, Tales of Ekati at 14-1. He was in 2nd most of the entire way…but in the end it was the long shot that won out and Big Brown had pulled up in last place. So much for history. Just because I was unlucky doesn’t mean everyone else was. Janet bet the longshot and hit on 38-1 odds. There was no reason for me not to have done that.

My Loser Horse

Longshot and Winner, Da’ Tara

Immediately after the race there was a crush of people trying to leave the event. There was no one directing traffic and people crowded the downstairs exits hoping to be able to make it to the trains and/or buses. It was more or less a swarm for the exit, which ws none too ideal in the 97 degree heat. There was little room to move and nowhere to go. Janet and I then fought our way back inside and headed for the upstairs exit where we were met with a much more favorable situation. Even then it took us about an hour until we finally made it to the train. It was apparent that this venue was not suited for the type of crowd they got this one day a year and they didn’t or couldn’t really prepare for it that well.

Luckily, when we got on the train we got the last two available seats and sat next to a lovely couple. I think their names were Marco and Liz, though I don’t think we shared our names. We chatted with them all the way to Jamaica station where we got off. I followed them to the Flatbush train platform and Janet left to get to the JMZ.

It was close to 9pm when I finally made it home to Brooklyn. I had a birthday party in Manhattan that evening at 10pm but I was completely exhausted from standing all day in the heat. Nonetheless, I decided I would venture out into Manhattan to enjoy a get together for my friend Lina’s turning of the age clock. After a shower I changed my clothes and headed for the city. At some point as I walked towards the subway, I began to feel a tad bit ill. However, as I stepped on the F platform at 7th Ave and 9th street I made an agreement with myself that if the train didn’t arrive in 5 minutes I would just go home. The train arrived right away and I took this as a sign that I should head into Manhattan. However, there were other signs that served as constant reminders not to go into the city…and those signs came from my aching tummy. I rode them out all the way to the 2nd avenue-houston stop hoping they’d go away but by the time I got there I just wasn’t feeling up to walking all the way to a bar only to decide that I should go home. I hopped right back on the subway and called it a night.

Sunday morning came easy. I felt better and I had no alcohol in my system, which is always a nice way to wake up. I had plans for brunch with my mom who showed up at 1pm with groceries for my future cooking endeavors. We then went out to Sette and had a nice brunch. It wasn’t necessarily remarkable or interesting. It was just a nice brunch and soon enough she was on her way.

I didn’t really have any other plans for the evening, but after returning home from a lengthy walk around the neighborhood it seemed that my roommates were getting ready to have a BBQ. Despite not being particularly starving , I was game for the event. Before you knew it burgers were on the grill, corn was being boiled and dinner was served. We decided not to roast outside in the heat while eating and went back inside to watch several episodes of Strangers with Candy before bringing the weekend to it’s merciful sweat-drenched conclusion.

Stay tuned for more tales from Sweatville, NY…as there are sure to be plenty more as the summer rolls on.

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#600: The Evan Kessler None on One Interview

Posted by evankessler on June 5, 2008

It’s a grey, drizzly, and quite humid day in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn when I meet up with Evan Kessler for this interview. Our rendezvous is taking place at the Post Mark Café, a Fair Trade Church-run coffee shop as suggested by Mr. Kessler. I find it to be an odd location perhaps as odd as the subject himself. I was a little nervous, unsure if the veteran blogger and aspiring writer who boasts an impressive array of blogs and also writes for a few other ventures not associated with himself, would prove to be as witty in person as he was in his writing. I was afraid that I would have to trade barbs and keep up with a feverish back and forth . Much to my delight, when the subject of this interview arrived wearing a warm green woolen sweater and sporting an effortless smile framed by a scruffy yet fashionable and manly beard, I found him charming and almost thoughtful as his hazel-ish eyes peered across the table; though that pleasant demeanor soon gave way to a slightly combative yet disarmingly wry nature that persisted throughout our time together. I could never quite be sure if he liked me, yet I almost immediately understood his appeal as both a human being and a humorist…not to mention a dominant sexual being.

EvanKessler.com: So what’s up?
Evan Kessler: The sky.

EK.COM: Isn’t that sort of a douchebaggy thing to say?
EK: What isn’t a douchebaggy thing to say?

EK.COM: Touché.
EK: Now that’s a douchebaggy thing to say. You are a douchebag this interview is over.

“I ran out of the castle completely naked…”

EK.COM: That’s it?
EK: Well you have seven seconds to redeem yourself.

EK.COM: I hear you went to Syracuse…I went there myself.
EK: Oh, a fellow Orangeman, now I have eternal respect for you. You have extremely polished interviewing skills and I shall answer any question you put in front of me…and frankly, you have hypnotic eyes.

“When the chips are down…you’d better hope they’re potato chips…”

EK.COM: You’re getting very sleepy
EK: (Yawn)

EK.COM: Are you falling under my spell?
EK: No but this interviewing thing is getting boring.

EK.COM: Alright, I’ll cut to the chase…600 Posts…Any fond memories?
EK: Well, I could tell you a few but you probably couldn’t print them and most of them involve the unmentionables of Ava Gardner…but I don’t like to kiss and tell.

“On a scale from one to ten I’d give her a seven…”

EK.COM: I’d hate to force you into doing something ungentlemanly.
EK: Gentlemen wear ties. Do you see any gentlemen in here?

EK.COM: So then you don’t mind kissing and telling?
EK: Fuck off, next question!

EK.COM: At what point do you look at your site and think, “This stuff is really catching on?”
EK: Well, frankly I knew it was going to be a huge success the moment I first typed the words “Welcome To EvanKessler.com”…which had to be sometime in 1983, which is ironic since I was only four and a half at the time I wrote it, which meant I had a tremendous amount of foresight as to where technology would lead us. Some people say Al Gore invented the internet. I say Al Gore stole the Internet from Evan Kessler…but he’s doing a pretty decent job saving the environment even though the environment almost certainly cannot be saved.

EK.COM: Why do you say that?
EK: Because sometimes it’s the only word that will fit to link two parts of a sentence.

“I’m saying if it’s French, we probably already own it…”

EK.COM: What do you think the biggest problems facing the world today are?
EK: Well, if by “the world”, you mean we’re specifically talking about the problems of the American Nation-State, I’d have to say our two biggest problems are Sickle Cell Anemia and single mothers. Did you know by 2010 100% of Americans will be diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia…though about 76% of those diagnoses will be false, so that highlights an entirely different problem with the healthcare system…and as far as Single Mothers go, I think Dan Quayle said it best when he said, “Murphy Brown needs a man..stat!” That man was a visionary. I still have a hard time understanding how he didn’t eventually end up president. He was always so prescient when stating the issues facing our great land.

EK.COM: You’ve got a lot of blogs, what’s your favorite project you’ve come up with in the last few years?
EK: Well, In the past year I started a program to prevent school children from being eaten by sharks. It’s called Stay In School and Out of Shark’s Mouths or SISOSM…it’s a good acronym. It really flows. I don’t put the little words in my acronyms. Too much letter clutter.

“It didn’t make sense to listen to a Shania Twain album any longer…”

EK.COM: You seem like a highly intelligent being. Is there any moment you’ve doubted your ability to create engaging content?
EK: First of all, thank you for the compliment. You can remove your hands from the inside of my pant leg now. I’d say more nice things about you but I don’t go that far on the first date, sweetie. As for your question, I think we all have moments where we’re forced into the murkiest depths of humanity where the only consolation prize is a cold bowl of oatmeal and a moldy ice cream cone filled with sour cream and frozen urine that everyone says is lemonade. However it’s those things that make us stronger and able to taste the sweetness of the tears of victory as well as the tears that result from the agony of our most hated enemies. So, I guess you could say, yes I have doubted myself at times. Though those moments are few and far between and more on a weekly basis than a daily one.

EK.COM: So who inspires you to create and in turn inspire others?
EK: Well, I don’t really pay attention to other people but I do like the celebrity sightings section at Gawker. Reading that Sienna Miller ate dinner at a restaurant twenty minutes from where I live inspires me to realize that there are places where I could be eating dinner even closer than that.

EK.COM: So no single person inspires you?
EK: Inspiration is the tool of the weak-minded who have never had an original idea in their lives.

“It was probably the darkest day in American History class…”

EK.COM: And you think interviewing yourself for your own website is an original idea?
EK: No comment. Maybe?

EK.COM: Alright, so after over four years and 600 posts do you have any hopes and dreams for the future? Perhaps, 600 more posts?
EK: Are you kidding? If I have to do 600 more posts on this crappy site before striking it rich and becoming a world famous celebrity who gets showered with praise and pussy around every corner, then I’m checking out. I better be living on my own Island by this time in 2012, having Hugh Hefner personally ship playmates in to cater to my every fantastical whim.

Well, I certainly wish your champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true. Best of Luck.
EK: I hate fish eggs…get the hell out of here!

Thanks for your time. This has been a delight.
EK: The pleasure’s all on this side of the table.


p.s…Thanks for sticking around so long…now buy some shirts.

Evan Kessler

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Prime Time Skinemax

Posted by evankessler on June 3, 2008

Recently, I’ve been suffering from Jeff Conaway withdrawal. It seems that the last few weeks the former T-Bird has been curiously absent from the VH1 airwaves thanks to the fact that Celebrity Rehab has been off the air for a couple of weeks and in my regular perusings of the movie channels I haven’t managed to stumble over any opportune airings of Grease. Actually, my yearning for Conaway is neither automatic, systematic, or hydromatic. It is however cinematic.

All of the buzz the ex-Kenickie has been getting from his addictive addiction battling VH1 appearances has left me yearning for one of my favorite JC films…a little known film that just so happens to be a pantheon Skinemax selection. Now I know that Cinemax currently has various incarnations and they probably air more softcore porn than you could shake a stick at. However, I don’t have Cinemax as part of my cable plan and while HBO Zone admirably tries to carry the latenight softcore torch with 2am showings of a variety of films about attractive female detectives who get caught in a web of deception and murder at a prostitution ring or Alabama Jones and The Busty Crusade, I long for a simpler time where recognizable actors and actresses both past and before their prime engaged in the occasional sex farce aimed at late night audiences.

In my mind the Holy Grail of such flicks was Almost Pregnant, an enjoyable romp in the sack starring the likes of Jeff Conaway, Tanya Roberts, and Joan Severance. It was a gift to adolescent male teens and adults alike to be skimming the channels late night and happen across this flick which featured a delightfully irreverent plot involving an impotent husband, a wife swap scheme, and a woman’s need to reproduce. Did I mention there was nudity and the women involved were more or less in their heyday of being drop dead gorgeous? That certainly helped but as ludicrous and not necessarily well-acted it was…the movie was fun and not cheesy in that smooth jazz sex scene way. It also featured a cameo from Dom Deluise as the doctor at the fertility clinic which gave the movie even more bona fide star power.

Oh How That Joan Severance Set My Heart Aflutter

Maybe I’m remembering it way too fondly for a late night Skinemax flick, but I suppose it’s because Almost Pregnant was a “film” that was actually watchable for it’s entire length or most of it. Despite it’s softcore stylings it wasn’t nearly as interchangeable as all of today’s after hours semi- smut. It had heart…soul…and nudity. And so I long for the day when HBO or Cinemax sees fit to air this after midnight masterpiece yet again. Oh hear my desperate cry…or at least send me a DVD copy that I will probably only watch once.

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