New York Cool

Sometimes what's cool about New York is not what you would think.

Here, briefly, a sampling of events I witnessed or attended in the City this past month, latest thing first:

1) Book Expo America conference. A friend convinced (er.. coerced?) me to attend the Book Expo at the Javitz Center this weekend. Yesterday and today we came home with about as many books as we could uncomfortably handle. Since I've been in the publishing business for 100 years or so, one would think I'd have gone to this event before, but no. I suspect this is because no one I've ever worked for has ever considered me important enough to be sent to such an event.

This morning, we attended a BEA "Breakfast" Round Table event (and the word "breakfast" really needs to be in quotes here, as it turned out to be nothing fancier than muffins and bagels), MC'd by Craig Ferguson. My cohort, M, made a beeline for a table at the front, albeit all the way to the left, as the center ones were reserved for more important people. Sharing the table with us were some folks from Oklahoma. Okay, so I know I tend to be overly cynical, but these people were so completely stereotypical of buttoned up, corn fed , humorless midwesterners that you'd think they were sent by some local casting agency. They sat with their backs to the stage, and although Craig was his usual charming and witty self, our tablemates had these pissy looks on their faces the whole time. Did they come all the way from Oklahoma just to get some fancy New York breakfast, only to be gravely disappointed by the sparse fare? Because they didn't seem any more interested in the three other authors who were speaking, and they left the complimentary copies of the authors' books on their seats. No worries; these books were quickly picked up by book scavengers. One woman came over to our table and scooped up five extra copies of Craig's book. (I'm really thrilled to have an advance copy of Craig's book, too, but I don't need five copies.) I'm sure the other authors' books found homes as well: Except for those folks from Oklahoma, everyone around us seemed to be proper bookophiles.

2) There's a new little restaurant on Avenue B called Fu Sushi. Fu, the 32-year-old who owns the place, was our host, waiter and busboy the evening we were there. The place has innovative concoctions, and super fresh fish. They were even advertizing a fugu night. It's only six months old. I'm hoping it sticks around for a long time.

3) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex. It's a tease, because it's just a sampler of the real thing, but it's a whole lot of fun, nonetheless. It starts with a short multi-screen film reel of the history of rock and rolll, then you are given headphones and MP3 players that are be triggered to play appropriate music as you approach each exhibit. The whole thing ends with the John Lennon in New York exhibit, which is simultaneously fascinating and bone-chilling. If you can look at that paper bag filled with the clothes Lennon was wearing the night he was shot and not shudder just a bit, you have Coca Cola running in your veins.

4) The First Annual Dance Parade. I saw this quite by accident, because it happened to pass right by my door. You might not think so, but it's actually unusual for a bonafide parade to travel down St Marks Place. I've never seen it before, unless you count the time the Hungry March Band followed me home, or any Saturday with the Hare Krishnas. The Dance Parade better as a concept than it was in execution. By the time the various groups of dancers passed by my house, they were so exhausted they barely cared any more. Marching in a parade is one thing; dancing requires a different kind of energy, one that is intensely tasking. Try doing a routine over and over and then try to cover ground while you're doing it. I've done this in both the Halloween Parade and the Mermaid Parade, and let me just say: yikes.

5) The last significant conference at the Javitz Center before the Book Expo was the Furniture Show. This is only significant to me because of the in-store events. Each May my above-mentioned cohort, M, and I hunt down these events to consume whatever hors d'oevres and drink they provide. This year the first few we went to were kind of sparse, your choice of wine or NYC Tap Water and all the pretzels you could eat. But they got better as the month went on, until the last event we went to where the caterers kept offering us more and more food and we had to decline. It seemed this year that the number of tall skinny Italian designers in black leather that attended an event was directly proportional to the lack of food and drink. Maybe that was just a coincidence.



50 Songs for 50 Years

I created this play list for a friend of mine who, like me, was turning 50 this year. Seeing as that's the case for a lot of friends of mine, I thought I'd share this. Besides, everyone loves a list.

This was harder than you might think. I tried to have a mix of the Billboard Hits and the obscure. There are mostly original songs, but there are a few covers. I was trying, for the most part, to choose songs that my friend might not have, and also songs he probably would like. (This list would be a bit different if I were making it, say, for myself,) Some years just sucked, and some years I would have wanted to have chosen ten or more. That's the way it goes.

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park -- Tom Lehrer
1960 Stay -- Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs
1961 One Mint Julep--The Clovers
1962 Bobby's Girl (Demo - Stereo) -- Marcie Blane
1963 So Much In Love -- The Tymes
1964 Tell Me Why -- The Beatles
1965 Just One Look -- Doris Troy
1966 I'm A Believer -- The Monkees
1967 Try a Little Tenderness -- Otis Redding
1968 Punky's Dilemma -- Simon & Garfunkel
1969 Sugar Sugar -- The Archies
1970 I Think I Love You -- The Partridge Family
1971 Groove Me -- King Floyd
1972 I Saw the Light -- Todd Rundgren
1973 Angie -- The Rolling Stones
1974 You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet -- Bachman-Turner Overdrive
1975 Young Americans -- David Bowie
1976 Still the One -- Orleans
1977 American Girl -- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
1978 Surrender -- Cheap Trick
1979 Brass In Pocket -- The Pretenders
1980 (Just Like) Starting Over -- John Lennon & Yoko Ono
1981 See Jungle! (Jungle Boy) -- Bow Wow Wow
1982 The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum) -- Fun Boy Three
1983 Blister in the Sun -- Violent Femmes
1984 It's My Life -- Talk Talk
1985 In Between Days -- The Cure
1986 The Perfect Kiss -- New Order
1987 Sweet Child O' Mine -- Guns N' Roses
1988 A Little Respect (LP Version) -- Erasure
1989 Roam -- The B-52's
1990 Keep On Walking -- Spanic Boys
1991 Losing My Religion -- R.E.M.
1992 If I Had $1,000,000 -- Barenaked Ladies
1993 Mr. Jones -- Counting Crows
1994 Only Wanna Be With You -- Hootie & The Blowfish
1995 Surf the Wild Gowanus -- Simon and the Bar Sinisters
1996 Thirty-Three -- Smashing Pumpkins
1997 Tubthumping -- Chumbawamba
1998 The Boy with the Arab Strap -- Belle and Sebastian
1999 I Need to Know -- Marc Anthony
2000 Mama Told Me Not to Come -- Tom Jones & Stereophonics
2001 Family Affair -- Mary J. Blige
2002 Waitin' On A Sunny Day -- Bruce Springsteen
2003 Belleville Rendez-Vous (Demo) -- Ben Charest
2004 Trouble -- Bonnie McKee
2005 How to Save a Life -- The Fray
2006 See the World -- Gomez
2007 You Can't Always Get What You Want -- Band From TV
2008 Manhattan -- Kings of Leon



Party at Bruce's Place

Last night Bruce Springsteen and 20,000 of his closest friends in New Jersey had a party in the Izod Center in the Meadowlands.

The thing about Bruce is, to anyone who has not ever seen him live, he seems like a cliché. I can say this, because before 1995, I was one of those people. It's probably irritating to folks who have never seen the Springsteen phenomena to hear about people trying to get tickets to every show, putting everything aside in their schedules to get to the shows, traveling across country, trading their first born for tickets. In New Jersey, it's kind of a given that many of the fans will get to most if not all of the shows he does in the area. This is why scalpers can get $2,000 (yes, you read that correctly) for a ticket in the GA standing area.

There are people, of course, who are not fans of any kind of rock, who would sooner leave their new car unlocked on the street with the keys in the ignition than spend $90 and up for a ticket to a stadium concert. Some of those people did see Springsteen play the Super Bowl, and many of those people have started thinking, "I gotta see that guy."

It is the nature of well presented music to be a brain-eraser. No matter how mad you are at your boss, how worried you are about money, how sad you are about your breakup, there comes a point that you cease to be a disembodied spirit and find you have gotten over your sorry self and are connecting with the performers on the stage.

With Springsteen, it happens dramatically: you feel an electrical charge and you're smiling, another one and you can't help but giggle, then you're raising your arms because Bruce has directed you to do so and blowing out your voice singing along to Born to Run, even though you only know about ten words of the lyrics.

Bruce will be back in New Jersey in the Fall to play Giants' Stadium one last time before they tear it down. Now that Ticketmaster has had their hands slapped for last January's ticket debaucle, maybe we'll get to see the show.


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