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NAUSEA ON THE BOWERY
NAUSEA ON THE BOWERY
Walshie gives us all $20 'walking around money' so we walk around, while he runs about like a blue-arsed fly trying to find us a hotel. Johnny, Eddie Real and I head for a diner near the venue. I order a lager called Blue Moon, which is, confusingly, Orange. Our conversation is stilted and this is making me feel paranoid. We're beyond jet lag. That's for people with a bedtime. In our own country, The Alabama 3 are constantly in the wrong Time Zone. Why should today be any different?
I take a bite out of my Mexican Yakatun Catctus Burger with Saffron fries and Crawfish sauce. It's very sweet, and makes me feel sick. I can't help feeling disappointed to be sitting at an ordinary metal table, with mere knives and forks, and glasses and stuff. America's supposed to be such a fantastic, magical place, yet the objects around us seem to be obeying the normal, boring old laws of physics. Where's Superman? Where's Buffy?
When we try to pay the bill I realize we're in another country. It turns out Our $20 'walking around money' doesn't stretch to a meal and a couple of drinks. Red-faced, we plead with the pretty waitress to let us come back and pay the remainder when we've had a chance to hit our tour manager for the balance.
'No problem guys,' she replies, prettily.
This wouldn't happen in Little Chef. Actually, she looks a little like Buffy...same sad eyes. If only she could Karate-chop the demons in my head.
We head out onto 8th street to meet Walshie. Turning a block, there's a huge black woman chewing gum and holding up an enormous cardboard sign: ' Tired of Prostitution. Please Give Generously'
I know how she feels.
Maybe it's distasteful for a slightly weary white middle-class musician to compare his plight to that of a gigantic Afro-American whore, but I'd only been four hours back from Glastonbury, I'd done four gigs in 48 hours before my 9 hour flight to New York, and my feet, my brain and my arse hurts a lot ( though probably not as much as hers). On Union Square there's a group of teenagers holding up signs saying 'Free hugs'. They're being filmed by a camera crew. Is that how the fat black woman started out, I wonder?
Walshie returns and weighs us up. My feet are killing me. Hours of tromping round Glasto looking for Ketamine in inadvisable cuban heels has me totally hobbled, and Ed is having a fashion crisis, so we step into a large franchise called 'SHOEMANIA'.
Disappointingly, the place is not full of florid Bi-Polar nutters in the grip of delusional paranoia screaming 'SHOES! SHOOOOOOES!!! CASUAL FOOTWEAR WILL SAVE THE UNIVERSE!’
The staff seem quite relaxed, not even mildly psychotic. In fact they're so chilled out and reasonable, when I'm three dollars short for a pair of Adidas loafers (is that a footwear oxymoron?), the shop assistant actually lends me the money. After two hours in this country, I'm finding it difficult to hold on to a cynical attitude. America, as we know, is totally Evil. But Americans, on the whole, are rather nice. How does that work?
The sun beams down between the remaining Monoliths. No one hurries or scuttles. A lady cop directs cars in a yeah-whatever way. The body is loose. The mind also.
As night falls on the Lower East Side the Alabama 3 traipse along the Bowerey, looking for an amazing bar that exists only in Larry's imagination. His antennae twitch in the twilight; a worker ant in search of little white eggs... D.Wayne’s on full beam also, scanning for the brown ones. Black bums sit out on the pavement tuning into transistor radios. We pass the Old Mission without a word.
I'm very tired. I should turn back to the hotel and crash, but it's only 7 o’clock, and I can't stand the thought of missing out. They rarely give us a free night on tours like this, and we're in New York, Goddammit. What if that fantastic dive is, as Larry claims, just around the corner? So I follow him, like a Rat into a river.
After walking for an hour we stop off for a preliminary beer in a smart little bar just off the Bowery. It's clean and modern, but there's a patch in the wall where the original brickwork has been left showing through the plaster, like the knees of an off-duty stockbroker in ripped Levi's. Devlin's dirty laugh rings through the bar; a young, talented girl in New York; beautiful and up for it. I, on the other hand, am dying. I open my mouth, I try to speak, make a joke, but no one laughs, or even hears me. A nebulous sense of guilt gnaws at me. I try to signal to the barman for JD and coke but he looks straight through me.
I've had this feeling before. I'm Disappearing. I'm scared to look at my own hands in case they've become transparent. Somewhere, some small child has stopped believing in me...
I go and sit on a doorstep outside the bar and gaze fearfully at collapsing buildings... It's weird; New York is supposed to be the Crystal City, the Zenith of western civilization...but half of it is falling down. The Graffiti on the side of a subsiding brownstone says 'Neckface'. Neckface? Neckface? What does that mean? Can a face be a neck? Can a neck be a face? It's too much for me. I feel like crying. Larry comes out of the bar for a fag. Sensing my distress, he sits beside me. Larry's like a Jedi knight of comedown paranoia. He's become so advanced in the practice that he actually enjoys the feeling. We're Randall and Hopkirk; he's the only one that can see me.
'I'm disappearing, Larry. I. can't ... speak to anyone.'
'Except the Demons in your head', he grins.
(c) Orlando Harrison 2008 .