I had a busy week around my birthday. Knowing we had a house concert coming up, in our own house, added a feeling of pressure to the proceedings. Not that pressure is bad - it means you’re alive and doing things which is good to remember at the start of another year. I started the week sitting in a local sports bar at 9 AM with a group of other bartenders from Hudson, taking a required course in serving alcohol. The instructor showed us videos of out-of-work actors pretending to be wasted in bars with names like Mangos and Banana Joes. It turns out we are responsible should a person drink too much under our charge! If they commit a crime or harm someone else or themselves, we could find ourselves in court. I resolved to check more IDs and that resolve made me go ahead and schedule an eye appointment because with my worsening eyesight I can barely read the tiny birthdate with my old glasses and every state has a different layout on their license. I also learned (courtesy of the instructor, a sassy older lady from Saranac Lake who was speaking from personal experience) that should you pull over to the side of the road to sleep it off for a while, take your keys out of the ignition, or you could still be accused of operating a vehicle under the influence. Use it, for free.
Next I ran home to do one final check of the Toyota before the Cartalk Vehicle Donation program came to haul it away. I’m so glad I checked the CD player one last time, because one of my favorite ABBA albums was in there, The Visitors. Then I watched through the window as a man loaded our old baby on the back of a truck. I still feel a little wistful when I look out and it isn't there in the drive, though I'm loving the Subaru and having a car where everything works.
I worked late at the bookstore/bar Monday, practicing my training tips and being thankful I work in such a benign place and not at Mangos of Maryland.
Early Tuesday I caught the train to the city. I was looking forward to seeing the snow as we’d had not one flake upstate - weird. I’d booked an eye exam at Warby Parker, desperate to get away from the clutches of Lenscrafters who seem to be the only option up around where we live. They were super-sweet and helpful with none of that “and you can upgrade to this reflection-free coating for another hundred dollars” up-selling that confuses me.
I met my daughter for lunch, she picked the place which was a relief, I never know where to eat in the city anymore and so end up at one of the places I’ve been to dozens of times already. It was Saam on Second Avenue and really good. The sun was out and we walked through narrow troughs between the snow, down around Washington Square park, just talking about stuff - it was great. The volume of people on the streets was way down thanks to the snow maybe, and it was that old magic feeling where the city belongs to you and you alone, not NYU.
My friend Norma found us at a coffee place and Hazel went off to work while Norma and I headed to the Strand. Yes, on my days off from the bookstore I inevitably end up in - another bookstore. The book energy is so high in the Strand, it makes me high. I walked out of there with possibly the worst book in the store, but it was the kind of inspiration I need, like if this mess can end up printed and bound and sold (albeit at a way reduced price), I can finish my book too.
We stopped for a pedicure at my favorite place on 14th Street, Beauty & Cutie, and then propped up the bar in Northern Spy where Hazel works while she poured us drinks and served us lovely small plates. It was a really quiet night in the East Village. Norma and I had hoped to go see Carol but we were having too much fun.
The day of my birthday I worked and I admit I checked Facebook a few times, it was really touching to read all the birthday wishes and I felt lucky to have so many pals out in the real and virtual world. Eric took me to eat at a nice place in Red Hook and then we went to BSP in Kingston to hear Duke McVnnie play. He has Jane Scarpantoni on cello and she’s one of the greats - not in a “look at how talented I am” way (though she is) but in a mad, go for broke sense that I wish I saw more often. Brian Dewan opened - he was my neighbor back in old Williamsburg and we hang out with him a lot but I’m always stunned to hear him sing and play, he’s so good.
The rest of the week was devoted to getting ready for our house show - hanging up fabric and moving chairs and rehearsing together. After years of playing many shows as a duo, we actually had to work at remembering how our old stuff goes, and learn each other’s new songs. I hate to focus on “getting old” but eyesight and memory are the kickers. In days past I could do something once in a song and go yeah, yeah, I’ll remember how that goes but now I need to write things down and not just a vague mark on a page but actual detailed notes. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been playing as much this past year or two, though that’s changing as I book more solo shows. Use it or lose it - though it’s helpful to remember what it is and why it’s worth holding on to…I think I’ve spent the last two years doing just that. Getting philosophical here but hell, it’s my birthday.
The house concert was a blast. We were almost ready when the guests started arriving, which is a change from other Aeroplanes. We had the help of Norma, up from the city (and Canada as she stood up and proudly declared in the middle of the concert!) and Danette who dresses as an air hostess and greets everyone. I’d bought a dress at the same vintage store in Hudson where I found the Penthouse Gallery frock that caused me such torment back in September (I still haven't worn that one in public and may turn it into curtains); I thought I was going to have a similar meltdown and end up wearing jeans and a shirt but I was brave and wore it. We played a lot from Eric’s new album and some new songs from my album in the works. There was food (too much) and drink (just enough) and it felt like everyone had a good night.
We get to do the whole thing again in a few days. I think we’d better rehearse one more time because it will have been a week and now that I’m getting older, I don’t take anything for granted.
I'm pretty sure this photo from the Homemade Aeroplane is by Mark Lerner