Thirty five years ago, I moved to New York City, into a friend’s apartment at 4 Saint Mark’s Place. On September 22, I will be performing a show at the Kraine Theater, four blocks away from that first apartment. I’ll be playing songs that I wrote during the years I lived in Greenwich Village, songs I wrote when I lived on the Upper West Side, and ones written in my current home in the Bronx.
The city has changed a lot since my first days here, hanging out in clubs like the Ritz, the Limelight, Danceteria, and CBGBs, finding new experiences that seeped into my songs. In music I found the power of melody and poetry to inspire and soothe and reveal and heal. I would love to share some of these experiences with you in the city that always will be home to me.
Here is a recording from the mid-nineties, by an early incarnation of Late Model Humans, of one of the songs I’ll be performing: New York City.
We live in societies that have lost the ability to clearly communicate across the divides we have created for ourselves. Or so I thought yesterday. Today, laid up with a bum back, I got to watch the American soccer team’s celebration in my home town, and I heard one of its captains, Megan Rapinoe, say this:
“We have to be better. We have to love more. Hate less. We got to listen more and talk less. We got to know that this is everybody’s responsibility. Every single person here. Every single person’s who’s not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It’s our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we have divided our nation into conservatives and liberals, with a ferocity you can feel by just looking at the labels. In truth, I think both sides want the same basic thing – to make this world a better place.
Conservatives main impulse is to preserve what they see as good in society. Liberals main impulse is to change what they see is bad in society. These are not antagonistic impulses. Good people of any political persuasion should aspire to both of those things. We can disagree about what is good and bad in society and we should honestly and constructively talk about those disagreements, but we should be careful not to demonize people and create straw creatures to argue with and set on fire.
One of the things that is seen as good and bad in society is religion. The number of horrors that have been committed in its name are beyond counting. The number of lives that have been saved, or fulfilled, or made kinder in its name are equally incalculable.
In the 19th Century, Victor Hugo said this:
Religion is undergoing a crisis. We are unlearning certain things, and that is good, provided that while unlearning one thing we are learning another. No vacuum in the human heart! Certain forms are torn down, and so they should be, but on condition that they are followed by reconstructions.
In the meantime let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them, if only to avoid them. The counterfeits of the past take assumed names, and are fond of calling themselves the future. That eternally returning specter, the past, not infrequently falsifies its passport. Let us be ready for the snare. Let us beware. The past has a face, superstition, and a mask, hypocrisy. Let us denounce the face and tear off the mask.
Across the drops of streetlights
faces shine and fade with time and other
forces of destruction and deterioration
Blankets that we pull across our
sore and frozen memories that
cry out so pathetically
for comfort and for warmth
The hour has already passed
for final judgments falling down
for making up excuses that
not even we believed
Centuries, like dominoes,
teeter, waver, slip and fall
until none are left who can remember
any other life at all
Millennia of mystery
centuries of confusion
decades of disaster
become years of empty long and
those days we lost to dreams
Vagabonds in stolen clothes
will try to rewrite history
because the lessons that we learned
are not the ones they taught
Birds and flowers try to tell us
stories buried in the earth with
bones and swords and walls that fell,
and rose, and fell again
We are crushed beneath the heels
of soldiers left on battlefields
to cry, and die, and rot and mark
our histories with their curse
On summer evenings, after rain
when clouds hold back but can’t stop light
we will sit and read our books
and listen to the aching trees
telling us the only stories that we need to hear
Please note that this post will remain at the top of my blog until the show. Scroll down for more recent posts.
For one night only – Sunday, September 22 – you (yes, you) can experience a show that is a little different from other shows you’ve seen. I hope you will come to the Kraine Theater at 85 East 4th Street in Manhattan and witness Mr. Mike’s Mostly Musical Mashup.
I will be performing original songs written from the 1980s to this year, including ones originally recorded with Late Model Humans, and performed at CBGBs, the Bitter End, and Kenny’s Castaways. In addition to the songs there will be instrumental pieces, original poetry, visual art, and a few surprises.
I hope you can join me on September 22, as we find out together just what Mr. Mike’s Mostly Musical Mashup is all about.
Maybe not all who wander are lost,
but most of us are.
And most of us are willing to risk everything for a glimpse of a heaven
we don’t even believe in.
What could be more lost than that?
If you know the way home, I would be grateful to hear it.
Every leaf on every branch of every tree in the forest
dances to a different tune
Every star that twinkles with a million-year-old light
looks all the way into you
Every bit of foam on every wave in every sea
likes to know that you are here
And every moment of a lifetime in eternity
offers up its own opportunity
Every brick in every wall we build to keep us apart
cries to be taken down
every lie we ever told and all that we believed
hide from us now
we’re stalking something wild and empty
without a penny, or a gun
we’re following the trail of something free, and
we never will be done
we never will be done