Brooklyn. I walk you.

This was a good one. And it makes a nice skyscraper outline. Which is a complete contrast to the actual walk. Probably takes a couple hours. While there’s no need to stick to this path, there are a lot of dead-end streets on account of subway tracks, so the most direct route doesn’t always make sense.

Start on the south side of the Prospect Park Parade Grounds. There will be no parade, so don’t worry. Back in the 30’s and 40’s, the ballfields were super popular. Fans would come to see the likes of Sandy Koufax (who I think was a very good baseball player during the black-and-white days (and is probably not related to Ernie Kovacs, on account of having different names)).

Walk south on Rugby (I’ll stop with the cardinal directions now). You’ll pass a slightly out-of-place but charming Cambodian Buddhist Temple. And now you’re making your way into Ditmas Park, full of stately mansions and feeling like an odd suburban island within the midst of Brooklyn. You’ll see a lot of interesting choices in such topics as:

  • Materials
  • Colors
  • Columns
  • Maintenance

When you arrive at Church Avenue, take a right. Then a left on Argyle.

More big houses and lawns and life where people need to take out their recycling bins and shovel their driveways. This is a dull observation for many, but that really is a different world for me.

Take a right on Beverley. Left on Westminster.

Sometimes you’ll get a stretch of houses that are less audacious in scale and design, so they really go all in for colors. Those are my favorites.

Take a right on Foster. Left on Coney Island Avenue.

OK – we’ve left the big houses and lovely lawns. This next stretch I love, but personal mileage may vary. I love the fact that this is a main street. It’s not MY main street. And it’s not a main street to anyone I know. But for the local community (I think mostly Pakistani, but some Russian as well), it is where they shop and go out to eat and relax and see a movie. Everything is local. I love it. Especially as someone who loves ridiculous signage.

Don’t hit it into the NYET!

As I said, mileage may vary, but I love that sort of stretch. It’s also an excellent place to get whatever the cheap local snack or dish is. I’ve had good luck just stopping in and asking what they’d recommend.

Schnitzi!

Take a left on Avenue J. You’ll be walking right past the Brooklyn argument-provoking, line-producing institution, DiFara’s Pizza. If you time it right, you might sneak in and out with a slice in just a few minutes. And it is very easy to time it right during the quarantine. Just show up while they’re open. I walked away with a couple slices in a New York minute (WHAT DOES THAT MEAN IN QUARANTINE?!)

Keep walking along Avenue J until Ocean Avenue, and take a left. Gotta stagger the walk up a bit, on account of dead ends. But from here on out it’ll be a mix of more big houses for a few blocks, some traditional smaller Brooklyn houses, and blocks of apartment complexes, often with silly names and old churches on the corner.

Left on Avenue H. Right on East 17th. Some lovely islands along East 17th. Probably not what you’d picture if I said I was going to the Flatbush Malls.

Brooklyn?

Left on Beverley. Right on Marlborough – and you’ll make your way through one last stretch of fancy houses and be back at the Parade Ground in no time.

Quarantine walk one.

I walk a lot. It’s one of my favorite things to do. One time I walked (jogged a bit) to all the zoos (Prospect Park, Queens, Central Park, & Bronx) in a day. I’ve inadvertently wandered to Floyd Bennett Field. These days seem to be inviting a long, solo walk. I was made for these times.

Here’s a walk. I’ll describe it a bit. If you live in Brooklyn, give it a go – it’ll take you between 90 minutes and two hours, depending on how ramble-y your walking style. If you’re looking for a soundtrack, I was listening to the previously posted “Nilssolation” mix. Deviations and distractions are recommended – this is a loose recollection of my path with a couple of notable bits.

My path – starting at the circle on the lower left.

Start at Machate Circle (which I pronounce “machete” in my head and have never spoken aloud), at the southwest tip of Prospect Park.

Briefly walk north along the park, taking a left at Greenwood and follow that to the end. If you’re on the north side of the street, you’ll see one of the saddest attempts at a wall north of the border (zing). Right on Prospect Ave.

Great Wall

Take a left on Vanderbilt Street – which becomes 18th Street. Follow it up until Prospect Park West.

Take a left and that’ll lead you straight to Green-Wood Cemetery, one of the loveliest places in all of Brooklyn; a reliable home to tranquility. Quick note: Green-Wood has a few entrances. I have never looked ahead to see which entrances are open at which times, but I also handle frustration very well, just sayin’…

It can be quite easy to lose yourself in Green-Wood, for better or for worse. As you enter, take a right and roughly stay to the right. Or don’t! Wander about for hours! It really is one of my favorite places.

Green-Wood is home to some of the highest spots in Brooklyn. You know, in case you wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but really, really small.

Eventually escape the graveyard via the 5th Avenue entrance (which is the one that is open most reliably – but I didn’t check that fact either, so…) and take a right on 5th Ave. There are some good murals and such in this area, if that’s your sort of thing.

Upon exiting Green-Wood, you can see the remnants of one of NYC’s last Victorian greenhouses (McGovern Weir Greenhouse, built in 1880). So there’s that.

Take a right on Prospect Ave and keep an eye out for Webster Place.

Take a left on Webster Place and you’ll suddenly find yourself on a charming block of excellent old (Queen Anne style?) houses – almost like you’ve briefly stumbled into San Francisco.

And then in a moment you’re back in Brooklyn. Take a right on 16th and hold steady.

I’ve never entered this bar, but there is a really good Faces bootleg with the same name.

Enter Prospect Park and take a right. Do not go to the main path. There is no reason to go to the main (boring) path. What, are you a runner? Honestly, you can do better than the main path. Trust me. Just stay on the much nicer (and less populated) path between the main path and the road.

Follow the path south and before you know it, you’ll be back at Machate!

Nilssolation

Here is a mix for these weird times! (link will take you to a page to download or listen to the mix)

I’m quite proud of this (and that title!) – it’s all Harry Nilsson (or related) and it’s a reflection on the state of the world and everyone’s mental health. Tried to cover a lot of ground with song selection – some popular, some obscure, some demos, all lovely. 80 minutes. Good for a solo stroll (done responsibly).

Quick Notes:

  • It starts and ends with people who are not Harry Nilsson. Fred Neil is the original artist behind Everybody’s Talkin’, which became one of Nilsson’s biggest hits. Bill Withers wraps it up – he is one of the very few artists that I love as much as Harry Nilsson.
  • Like I said – it’s a bit of a journey:
    • Starts off with a very physical navigation, reflecting on the highs and lows of a solitary walk (or, for tracks 8 & 9, with a canine companion).
    • The mix moves its focus from the external to the internal and I think does a good job of reflecting feelings right now (I think tracks 16 – 18 are particularly inspired)
    • There is hope at the end! Don’t quit during the dark parts – skip it if you have to! Get to Bath!

TRACK LIST

  1. Everybody’s Talkin’ – Fred Neil
  2. Gotta Get Up (Demo)
  3. I Will Take You There
  4. As I Wander Lonely
  5. Marchin’ Down Broadway
  6. City Life
  7. It’s A Jungle Out There
  8. P.O.V. Waltz
  9. The Puppy Song
  10. Me And My Arrow
  11. Blazing Arrow – Blackalicious
  12. Mother Nature’s Son
  13. Postcard
  14. Signs (Demo)
  15. Nobody Cares About the Railroad Anymore
  16. Isolation
  17. Pretty Soon There’ll Be Nothing Left For Everybody
  18. I’d Rather Be Dead
  19. One (Alt. Version)
  20. Won – The Beta Band
  21. Think About Your Troubles
  22. You Are Here
  23. Open Your Window
  24. Spaceman
  25. I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City
  26. The Most Beautiful World In the World
  27. Bath
  28. Everybody’s Talkin’ – Bill Withers

This covers a lot of Nilsson’s range and style. From the sweet (“The Puppy Song”), the silly (“Spaceman”), the darkly funny (“I’d Rather Be Dead”), and the genuinely moving (“I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City”). There is almost certainly a song for everyone.

BONUS:

Here is the video of “I’d Rather Be Dead” – with senior citizen choir included:

Sneaking through the alley…

Cover!

Robert Palmer was a very cool dude. And he was never more fun or cooler than on his very first album. For one thing, he may have managed to get a line-up of musicians who were just as cool if not cooler! Honestly, if you were to list the personnel for the album without including Robert Palmer’s name, I’d jump at the chance to hear it.

The two biggest and most important names in the credits are Allen Toussaint and Lowell George. And as I’m writing this, I am now realizing Palmer, Toussaint, and George are all no longer with us. Whoa. Let’s not dwell. ANYWAY. Allen Toussaint is a New Orleans music god – up there with Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, and Fats Domino. He produced the album (and provided the songs “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” — a hit for Lee Dorsey, a New Orleans music demigod — and “From a Whisper to a Scream”). And the whole album just has a groove about it. 

Honestly, I want to live in this album. 

Lowell George (of Little Feat) is one of the greatest (and occasionally oddest) songwriters. And no slouch on guitar. He helps in both categories. 

OK – cool. That’s a solid start. BUT WAIT – are those the Meters as the backing band?! Hot damn. Well, whatabout when they weren’t around? Oh, some of the best players in New York, including drummer Bernard Purdie, who has a goddamned beat named after him (“The Purdie Shuffle”).

And even with all this talent, Palmer holds his own.

But that’s all just fun background information – would anyone look at the list of players if it was a snooze? I Initially found the album in my dad’s collection… he may have even recommended it. And I was in love with this album for years before I even glanced at who was involved. 

Great. Let’s talk songs. The first three songs blend together beautifully and might be the funkiest 10 minutes of 1974. Or, as the promo puts it – 9:32 of Nifty Dance Time (I mean, they’re not wrong, and that speaks to some of the goofy stuff to come).

Promo!

“Sailin’ Shoes” is a Little Feat song that is definitely about cocaine and I honestly have no idea what any of it means. I love Lowell George songs. I rarely understand what’s going on in Lowell George songs. Drugs, travel, and music, mostly, as best I can tell (“Fat Man in the Bathtub” is probably about drugs? “Willin’” is the greatest truckin’ song ever written. And things like “Tripe Faced Boogie” and “Teenage Nervous Breakdown” are about… not paying too much attention to lyrics?).

1. Sailin’ Shoes
2. Hey Julia
3. Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
Single!

I’ll get back to song two in a moment, but song three is the previously mentioned “Sally”, and lyrically a fantastic contrast to George’s song, at least in the sense that I know exactly what it’s about. Lyrics include such unambiguous statements as The fact is I’ve just been caught and Trying to talk doubletalk, get myself in trouble talk; Catching myself in lies. And while Palmer makes it clear that the situation is less-than-ideal, seems pretty jovial about the whole thing, sleeping in the bed he made and all that.

Now, obviously, these songs should be listened to in the correct order – they flow together very well. But I wanted to contrast “Hey Julia” (written by Palmer) sandwiched between the songs of George and Toussaint. And the lyrics are, well, goofy. How goofy? I’m compelled to just write out all the lyrics here, but I’ll try to keep it to a few highlights:

  • A horn section you resemble and your figure makes me tremble (Oh, to be compared to an entire section of a band or orchestra… I searched around a bit to see if this was a saying I was not aware of, and that doesn’t seem to be the case. Just how Palmer likes his women, I guess.)
  • You’re a strain on my eyeses and you’re full of surprises (this line is perfect)
  • Julia, you’re a danger just like giving sweets to strangers (I think Palmer forgot who is at risk when sweets are proffered (hint: it’s never the person who is giving away sweets))
  • And then there is the line that, while a little perplexing if you think about it too hard, is genuinely sweet: You’re a temptation to a man; I could not resist you, and I won’t if I can

“Hey Julia” was probably what really drew me into the album on my first listen. I still love it so much.

4. Get Outside

So three great and funky and great and fun and funky songs. Solid start. Now let’s cool off and get a little space… “Get Outside” instructs a person to, well, get outside. Over twenty times. As relief from the stress and commotion. Honestly, it’s not deep, but it is solid advice. Sometimes the song comes on when I’m on the subway and I look forward to a summer spent in the woods.

Back!
5. Blackmail

So, he’s done cocaine, said a bunch of goofy stuff to a girl, gotten caught cheating, then went for a hike. What other kinds of adventures remain to be discovered on side two? Well, much like “Get Outside”, it’s pretty easy to gather what song five is about (it’s about being blackmailed). Palmer and George both get writing credits, and that sounds about right. Combining the slightly odd storytelling of George and the catchy simplicity of Palmer, we get lines like Well you told me that you weren’t infectious; So I brought no precautions with me; And you said your old man was in Texas; And anyway he’d forgotten his key. Lady doth protest too much, “I’m clean. Also my husband is far away. And even if he weren’t far away (he is), he can’t get in the place anyway. C’mon!” That backfired. And I think the husband is happy and willing to pay him as this will be grounds for divorce, so it works out? But he does say Rendering you a service; Makes me feel real nervous; Trying to get me into your schemes. The story is unclear. The song is great. 

(note: I contend that all the songs are great; I will still probably make of point of saying each song is great at least once)

6. How Much Fun

“How Much Fun” is exactly what it says on the tin. A very fun song about having as much fun as you can. Oh, presumably by sleeping together:

We got what’s what

Let’s make it work

Feel the beat in your seat

Don’t make it jerk

Settle down, look around, there ain’t no rush

There’s a whole load of possibilities

Just the two of us

You make me feel like I don’t need another

Come on baby let’s pull back the covers

And do our best to help one another

Find out how much fun we can get into life

Robert Palmer

Favorite (most fun) part of the song? A little after the two minute mark a flute (flageolet?) takes the spotlight and just bounces delightfully over everything, provided by the South African jazz musician Mongezi Feza. No idea why he appeared in these sessions, but he joined Palmer for his next album as well. It’s these little things, ya know? Great.

7. From a Whisper to a Scream

And now, maybe feeling some regret from previous adventures, comes a cover of Toussaint’s “From a Whisper to a Scream”. A man who hasn’t been a good partner reflects on the fact that he, undeniably, has not been a good partner. He’s heartbroken. And actually admits it’s all his fault. That’s a nice bit of recovery from the first half of the album.

8. Through It All There’s You

The final song is my favorite song. Over 12 minutes long, it finds such a good groove and everyone shines. The lyrics are irrelevant – Palmer is using his voice more as an instrument than a vehicle, slipping and sliding around the instruments, eliding and slurring his words together, à la John Martyn (whose Solid Air came out a year before).  And the drumming! Purdie! Starts low-key, and he kicks it up every couple minutes, only to bring it back down to a simmer soon after. It’s amazing – constantly shifting and ebbing and flowing, but never less than the most critical part of the song’s structure. Are those TWO pianos? Yes. Richard Tee, who is on half the album, and he continues to shine, all the more impressive because the fella on piano number two is none other than Steve Winwood! What’s he doing here?! Mongezi came back too! This time with horns. In the twelve minutes the instruments bob and weave around each other, occasionally all coalescing for a minute or two of power, before cooling down just a bit. This song is great. Possibly better than great. 

There you have it. My overappreciation for an underappreciated album.

9:32 of “Nifty Dance Time” and another 26 minutes of fun, funky music. GET INTO IT.

Got My HoJo Workin’

The American Sign Museum had multiple Howard Johnson’s signs. This one was the for the former Times Square location. But mostly it just makes me think of NRBQ. And anything that makes me think of NRBQ is good. So the American Sign Museum was good.

One of the very best there is – Terry Adams of the Q back in October, looking and sounding GREAT

I have yet to stay in a HoJo this trip… mostly crashing with friends and occasionally camping. But I sneak in a hotel/motel stay now and then. One of the nice things about traveling alone is I’m able to enjoy the absurdity of a cheap hotel without worrying if my traveling companion is less amused. For example:

This was the set-up at one such motel. A desk with many cords behind it, a microwave atop it, and, thankfully, a ratty old desk chair so I could be comfortable if I wanted to watch my food heat up. My stay was short, so I didn’t get to make the most of this set-up, but figured it was worth preserving in case I ever get into interior design and need some sort of inspiration.

Road trip day one.

I drove from Plantsville, Connecticut to Corning, New York. A pleasure. 300 miles down.

My music for the trip is a random selection of about 2,000 songs from my entire library. So I’m finding some gems I hadn’t heard in a while. I’m already on my way to mixtape of discoveries from the drive.

I also stopped at a Fly Fishing museum (not THE Fly Fishing museum; while this one was great, it isn’t alone).

Like the Coal Mine Tour & Museum in West Virginia or the Devil’s Rope (barbed wire) Museum in Texas, this museum was an impressive amount of material proving that I know even less than I thought about the topic of the museum. I think it is great. And it’s a beautiful thing when people can identify something they love enough for a museum. Now I’m busy thinking about MY future museum.

I also learned that “Jungle Cock” is not (necessarily) a term that you’d use exclusively in pornography. I mean, maybe YOU would, but I’m beyond that.

Unrelated:

Here’s a picture of a halloween witch (?) with a metal detector in Prospect Park last weekend. I wonder what I’m missing this weekend…

You Are Invited. And Old.

Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I is 20 years old. This is one of the most important records of my life. It was the right sound, the sentiment, from the cool place (DC), at the right time (I was 19). And goddammit, it holds up. This band. This album. I have plenty of D-Plan stories – but that’s part of the deal as a fan, we ALL have our special, personal, emotional , and occasionally awkward D-Plan tales to treasure – what more could you ask for in a band.