Monday, February 15, 2010

Where Have We Been?

It's been a hectic few weeks - working on two book proposals, writing Maybe Baby, campaigning for Mayor of Cooperstown. So what gets the shortest shrift - Katz Komments. Sorry about that, but it's bound to continue at this pace for the rest of the month.

With the rest of the family on their way to Death Valley for a week of dehydration, N. and I ducked down to New York City. We went straight from Cooperstown to Bleecker St. A quick stop into Bleecker Records resulted in a nice find - a Speedy Keen (he of Thunderclap Newman fame) solo album for only $1.99. Then across the street to John's Pizza to meet friend/author/guru Michael D'Antonio for pizza and advice.

From there, we checked into the Hilton, just south of Central Park, and laid around watching cartoons until we headed back down to Murray Hill to meet our cousin J. and his girlfriend B. at Baby Bo's Cantina. Great food, the type so missing from our life upstate. I can tell you, having dinner with a 24 year old makes you feel a bit ancient.

Much to my surprise and delight, Paul Lukas of UniWatch became suddenly available to hang out and quickly made his way across the bridge from Brooklyn to meet us upstairs at Old Town. Paul is a great writer, effortless storyteller and completely revealing. I need to keep that in mind as I work on a book proposal about N.

Next day was the focal point of the trip - the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA. It's a must see. The amount of art work that director Burton has produced is overwhelming. He's a sick fuck, let me tell you. Of course, some well known props were given front and center exposure - Batman cowls, Edward Scissorhands costume, Mars Attacks! posters (my fave).

Searching for a good burger, N. and I returned to the Village to Stand4. Amazingly good food and shakes to die for. Remember the $5 shake from Pulp Fiction? Stand4's regular size is $6. Travolta would've stormed out of the joint.

With time to kill before we headed for our overnight in Staten Island, I asked N. if he would go to a record store in Williamsburg for an hour. He consented and off we went to Academy Records Annex. Thank God for the iPhone! We found Stand4 through its magical powers, as well as Academy Records.

Readers know my idea of heaven is to be surrounded by LPs. To walk into Academy Records and encounter a full house was unreal. Imagine, a crowd of people browsing, listening and buying albums. It was like walking into a time warp. Got some good stuff too - Eddie Cochran, early Roger McGuinn, Sammy Davis and Count Basie together.

The best part of the S.I. trip was plowing through my cousin's collection of 45's. I was impressed that he had so many and, though he is technologically-averse, he actually plugged in his turntable and we listened to his singles. We even put on my new copy of Leapy Lee's "Little Arrows."

Now we're back. Lots to do, again, things to write, doorbells to ring. But I wanted to say hi while I had the chance.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Brief Note on Passing Strange

I've been out on the street lately, going door to door in my campaign for Mayor of Cooperstown. It's fun and informative, and has cut into my posting (which is fine).

A couple of nights ago I watched Spike Lee's latest, a filmed version of the musical Passing Strange. I know nothing about current shows, so had no idea what to expect, but I do make a point of seeing every Spike film. They're usually very good, sometimes failing at the end. He often seems to be lost when it comes to nailing down that final scene. Even Malcolm X, a towering achievement, has a lousy ending with various celebrities chanting "Malcolm," followed by an explanation of his importance. Come on Spike! The story has its own ending - he gets shot!

Passing Strange is the story of Stew, a black rock and roller, who had a band called The Negro Problem. Young Stew leaves a comfortable LA youth for the adventure of Amsterdam and Berlin, deserting his mom. The songs are stirring, the call and response tunes uplifting. It's very funny and the staging is bare. The band and actors constantly interact, adding a surreal and warm feeling to the show.

What I particularly loved is the construct of Stew, on stage the whole time, watching his life laid bare on stage night after night. And believe me, he's not always complimentary of his choices and actions. When actor Stew and real Stew stand face to face at the end, both wearing a red shirt and black jacket, it's striking.

As much as he can, Spike shoots the musical as a movie. I was struck by how fine the acting was. Many scenes are more movie-like than play-like, the leads making those small gestures that translate well on film and get lost on stage. It made for an emotional 2+ hours. By the end, I was a bit weepy, not because I saw myself in Stew, but because we all have our own family issues that make us miserable, in all sorts of ways.

See Passing Strange. It's not on anyone's radar, especially in these Avatar dominated times, but is as fine a film as I've seen recently.