michael's communiqué #3|
It was a 95-degree day in Queens. For our European Celsius users, that is really hot. I wandered away from my apartment in a daze. I dragged my camouflage flip-flops down Ditmars Boulevard, with no real destination in mind. People were arguing in the street. Abusive amounts of bass emitted from the trunks of tricked up Honda Civics. A man with a back-brace begrudgingly unloaded cases of Coca-cola into the corner bodega. Coca-cola everywhere but not a drop to drink.
I thought for a moment about this theorist I had heard talking on public radio the night before. She was discussing her thoughts on what she dubbed "ecstatic capitalism". She described this as a state of total "careerist" immersion where one's job supplies identity, social structure, friends, leisure activities, style, goals and something resembling "a philosophy": in most cases "get ahead at any cost" or "whoever dies with the most toys wins." She was reflecting upon how different this was on the some previous concepts of labor, where work was seen as a necessary, dignified evil, which allowed people the security to engage in their "real" lives. That being time spent with family, friends, celebrating, playing, creating, storytelling, philosophizing, wandering. I thought of Coca-cola as its "ecstatically" marketed. A slickly stylish, sexy, refreshing world of signs inferring potency and pleasure and fun. Then I looked at the Coca-cola delivery guy...looking anything but ecstatic.
I was comforted by the notion that perhaps he remains open to a more sublime form of ecstasy after he clocks out & leaves the warehouse. Maybe he will drink cold lagers in the park with his friends and talk about myths and baseball. Maybe he'll make love to his girlfriend beside a half-functioning air-conditioner, to a salsa record too obscure to ever be used to sell anything. Or maybe he'll just go home and watch Coca-cola commercials and dream of being Aston Kutcher. I don't know. It was really hot, I could not think straight.
I continued walking towards the subway station, though there was nowhere I planned to go. In Long Island City/Astoria Queens, the subway is not so "sub". It lurks above us on elevated tracks, like some grimy exo-skeleton. My stop is the end of the line for the N/W train. It has a certain end of the world ambiance. It is home to a distinctive gang of homeless-ish Greek peddlers who sell second hand books on rickety card tables, while humming along to the mandolins of their youth. I buy a book of critical essays on Thomas Hardy for a buck from a sunburned old woman with swollen hands. It has a black cover with a picture of a lonely tree. Far from the madding crowd indeed. Despite my best intentions, I am more likely to read the Betty & Veronica Summer Annual then I am to complete the book on Hardy.
I walk up the stairs to the subway, and pause. The Ditmars station has a bizarre elevated "subway strip-mall" attached to it, that I am normally in too much of a rush to even notice. I spot a small comic book shop and stop in. It is icy cold inside and totally devoid of customers. The one employee is having a crass, vaguely sex related conversation with a buddy on the phone. It is completely quiet, aside from his mumbling, and the hum of the air conditioner. It is like a weird extra-dimensional experience to go from heat & chaos & music and garbage to ice-cold quiet comic book cemetery. Nothing seemed organized, or really for sale. I rummaged around, coming upon so many comics I owned in my youth. The covers evoking so many summers I spent reading in my room, or sitting on my grandmother stoop. I remember how far away and scary the world seemed as a kid on Long Island, how I craved to know more than my devoutly protective mother would ever let me see. My world was comic books, detective stories, a bicycle ride around the neighborhood & The New York Yankees. I laughed at the lame unpopular Marvel comic titles I collected in my youth. "Ghost Rider", a gloomy biker dude who occasionally channels this flaming skulled demon who "protects the innocent" and fries just about everybody else with his soul-sucking grip. "Moon Knight", a low rent "Bat Man" wanna-be who is a master of disguise and gets info from "the underworld" by driving a cab. Oh and he has a French butler named...um...Frenchy. "Cloak & Dagger" a junkie and a prostitute who channel weird bright and dark energy, respectively. Their mission is to help runaways and other misfits get off the streets...but they are totally co-dependent, sort of unstable and listen to a lot of Lou Reed (okay I made that Lou Reed bit up.) I am able to resist the temptation to psychoanalyze myself based on these comic books. Do so at your own risk.
As I turn to leave the comic shop, all the lights go out and there is a low rumbling. I split down the stairs and hit the street. Big plumes of black smoke and flames are billowing out of a gaping hole in the street about 50 feet away. An SUV parked beside the hole is on fire (so much for ecstatic capitalism) as is the building closest to the hole. I know people a block or two away are thinking "terrorism", but I have always been pretty certain that the strong Muslim presence in my neighborhood will probably prevent lower Ditmars from being blown to bits. It's just an underground electrical transformer that melted and blew up. Cops and fireman show up, sirens and children crying, chaos...but the book peddlers keep singing. And I walk back towards my apartment, humming along to mandolins and drinking Diet Pepsi. I had not really gotten anywhere.
"The Happiest Days of Our Lives" (The Complete Joan of Arc Tapes) is released Oct 21st on Double Agent Records. A tour is in the works. We apologize for the delay, but as this record is really meant as an introduction to our art for the 99.9 percent of the world who do not know we exist, securing good distribution and promotion was important. For our hardcore fans (the only people who truly matter) the record features four brand new songs, new versions of "Badge" & "John Dark", and a bonus remix disc full of interesting interpretations of all your Fave favorites. Another new track, a preview of our next "monster" record is available on "NY:THE NEXT WAVE" on Kanine Records. It's called "My Life With The Living Dead". A video for the song "The Happiest Days Of My Life" is also planned for August. We will make this available. Plus check out cartoonist Dave Kiersh's "My Favorite" comic book, which is now online (click here to download the PDF). We start recording our next record this fall, though god only knows who will be putting it out. Write Rough Trade New York and let them know that they have much to karmacally answer for, and the signing of My Favorite would go a long way towards putting it right. Until we meet again.
Michael Grace Jr.