Fellow KK staff member Dan Peck and I have what is now an annual tradition. I actually first met Dan years ago when he was working at John Hatton’s CD booth at Fiddle Tunes up in Port Townsend. Under a very friendly administration there, I had been invited to teach and perform four years in a row. I suspect that he had something to do with my coming on board at Klez Kamp as well, but at both events we hardly see each other during the week due to the working commitments involved.
I know Dan to be a fine old time banjoist and guitarist on top of being a swell guy. Rather than take the chartered bus back to the Workmen’s Circle Building in Manhattan after KK, Dan will drive me back to his place in Jersey City. This year he treated me to a trip to his ancestral home, am old Scots-Irish enclave called Kearny. There he took me to the most fabulous Fish and Chips shop I’ve been to on this side of the pond. Then a walk through the parks he used to play in as a kid in the brisk Jersey cold and then back to his place to eat the home made short bread we got from the restaurant. It was almost a date I tell you.
Having slept little if at all during the week, we both collapsed after a beer and didn’t wake till nearly 2pm the following day. Dan bravely loaded me back into his SUV and made the treacherous trip into midtown this New Years Eve Day, just to deliver me to my job site. I take lunch at the Stage Deli with a Texas Ex-Pat friend of mine who concurs that these Yankee Jewish men are generally weak and pathetic; nobody knows how to two-step up here and thus how hard it is to find a date. We catch up but she’s got a hot date with a nice Goyische boy in Hoboken ( a veteran no less) and I have a sound check to make.
If you ever wondered if you were out of shape, strap 40 pounds of luggage to your back and drag 100 pounds of tuba and electric bass behind you in a driving snow 15 blocks through midtown Manhattan. You will ‘feel the burn” I guarantee you. I get to the joint early, a very odd place in my estimation, called Makor. I was here on Christmas Eve checking out my friend Alex Kontorovich’s band when it was packed to the gills with wild eyed, desperate Jewish singles. I can safely say that in all my life I have never encountered that particular energy. I had up to that point never been in a “Jewish” bar for that matter, much less a “Jewish singles bar.” It was more than a little off putting I’ll tell ya. The word stereotypical comes to mind but I will try not to dwell too much on it.
(No really, it was really spooky. I don’t mean to fixate, but it bears mention. You had all these nice ladies, mostly in teams of three for some reason, all dolled up and out in the prowl, just as cute and accessable as could be. Then you had these creepy dudes in suits paying no attention to them at all instead hitting on the goyische waitresses. It was in a word, gross. I guess all that "Sex in the City" crap is for real. These poor people have no way decent way of being introduced properly. Thank the good Lord I was raised up in a place where couples dancing to a hot C&W band is an accepted form of courtship, and gentlemanly manners and Southern Graces aren’t considered quaint nor provincial. It ain't for nothng I married a Texas gal. And I’ll admit I used to carry great enmity for the Yankee; just a wee bit for the War of Northern Aggression, but mostly for my Yankee Jewish kin for being so stereotypically, well damnit, Yankee. Now I only carry pity for them. Bless their poor, lonely hearts.)
The gig goes splendidly, with Aaron Alexander’s Midrash Mish Mosh rocking way harder than you’d think a NY downtown art ensemble could muster. Then magically with a very few personnel changes and me setting down the electric bass for the tuba, Frank London’s traveling circus act of Chaos Incarnate oft titled the “Klezmer Brass All Stars” played right up to the cusp of 2006. It’s all a haze after that, but I do remember getting in a good hang backstage with Micheal Wex and Frank and his lovely wife Tine, a cheeseburger at the West Side Grill and waking up well rested on Aaron’s couch.
Here’s a prayer for the New Year. A healthy and prosperous year to all.