Sunday, October 30, 2011

Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost Too

We were waiting in the Social Security office in Hudson to arrange for Eric to receive his official card and number, now that he's fully legal to work in the US. There was a poster up on the wall of Patty Duke and the Asian guy from Star Trek in space outfits. I studied their pictures, glad it had their names underneath the photos, or else I might have thought they were just anyone's grandmother and grandfather doing PSA's for Social Security, and wondered why had the man been allowed to dye his hair but not the lady?

When we got up to the desk and there was another poster with two Patty Dukes, this one saying "Even my cousin's applying online", Eric looked questioningly at it and said - cousin? To a foreigner trying to make sense of America, perhaps it had a hillbilly ring to it, and what with gay marriage recently legalized in New York state...

Having gotten the idea from the other poster that Patty Duke was now a spokesperson for Social Security, I was all primed to tell him how she was one of the first American teenagers on television playing not only herself but her British-bred "cousin". How the Patty character had been so kooky and mischievous that a hot dog made her lose control while cousin Kathy had been sophisticated and posh, having lived most everywhere from Brooklyn Heights to Berkeley Square. To help bridge the cultural gap, I even threw in a little tidbit about how Herman's Hermits had been in an episode.

"Ah, Peter No-one," Eric said, getting the idea quickly that for moving the culture forward, Patty Duke Show was a step or two below the Beverly Hillbillies.

In France, it had been Eric explaining how things worked, or didn't. Here, it'll have to be me who provides simple, reassuring answers to questions like:

"I know 'ground beef' is what you call mince, but what or who is Ground Chuck?"

"What exactly will the children do to us if we don't give them treats on Halloween?"


"The snow won't come until late November or around Christmas, right?"

october snow

So - sometimes you have to lie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Front Row Seats

free stuff

We'll soon be laying down the hammers and picking up instruments - can't wait to start playing and singing again! Come on out if we're near your town:

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby on tour

Fri Nov 4 Grey Horse Tavern Bayville, NY, US
Wed Nov 16 Chichester Inn Chichester, UK
Thu Nov 17 The Fleece Bristol, UK
Fri Nov 18 Taylor John's House Coventry, UK
Sat Nov 19 New Adelphi Hull, UK
Wed Nov 23 New Orleans Louth, UK
Thu Nov 24 Mark Riley show BBC 6 Music on the air 7 PM
Thu Nov 24 Castle Hotel Manchester, UK
Sat Nov 26 Union Chapel London, UK (w/Adrian Edmondson)
Sun Nov 27 Trades Club Hebden Bridge, UK
Wed Nov 30 Kitchen Garden Cafe Birmingham, UK
Thu Dec 1 The Musician Leicester, UK
Fri Dec 2 Fibbers York, UK
Sat Dec 3 Rifle Club Whitby, UK
Sun Dec 4 Woodend Tennis Club Glasgow, UK

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn Shades

Better than a shoe dream was a dream gig. Saturday night we went to Tarrytown to see Ian Hunter play.

We drove two hours through blazing fall colors on the Taconic Parkway, one of the loveliest drives on earth, unless it's raining or snowing at which point I think it becomes pretty treacherous. We were taking the road at peak leaf-changing time, so that every bend and dip and rise led to yet another "aaahhh" and "ooohhh" at the golds, oranges and reds. From me, anyway. Eric, being English, confines himself to curt nods.

Tarrytown is a monied version of small town America - lots of strollers and shops and the Music Hall dominating the Main Street. We went into Sweetgrass to say hi to John Wesley Harding who was opening the night's show. I almost gasped when I saw he was dining with Eleanor Friedberger from the Fiery Furnaces. The sweet indie princess said "hey, we have the same hair" to me and I immediately felt cooler than I have in probably ten years. If you feel like an anachronism...just wait it out.

We marveled at how quickly we were served, and how good the food was - in France we'd gotten used to judging the quality of a restaurant on whether we'd get food poisoning or not. I did miss those low-cost pichets of wine though - the price of a simple glass has nudged up to nine or ten dollars.

Tarrytown Music Hall is an antique vaudeville theatre - you can't call it "restored" because it looks like they didn't have enough money to do much more than clean the place up and turn on the lights - it is glorious in its untouched shabbiness. As we were picking up our tickets, a nice man came up and said he knew we'd be there because I'd written about it on my Twitter! A fan of both Eric and I, he made us feel like secret stars. I didn't even feel bad that the ticket envelope misspelled my name.

We were admiring the decorative touches of the theater when we ran into James Mastro - he plays guitar in Ian Hunter's band. Next thing we knew we were whisked backstage to meet the man himself and he is such a sweetheart, such a nice man. I felt like I was in my own version of Rock Dreams, seeing him and Eric chatting. It was good to see the other guys in the band that I knew from back in NY, Andy Burton ace keyboard player and Mark Bosch.

Wes did a great job opening and Eleanor came out and sang a song. When IH and band came out to play I realized we were sitting right in front of his piano - a perfect spot even though I loved when he picked up the acoustic too. Wow, he still has total charisma and one of the greatest voices - the way his melodies fall and then climb is so tied with that voice, to hear him now in person was almost too much for me - how many drives have Eric and I done to "Mott"? Lyrics that contain all the wisdom of the universe, he just tosses out there with a knowing laugh - hell! He is 72. There is hope. It was great to hear all the old favorites but some of the newer songs were just as powerful, Man Overboard especially.

I was so captivated by his performance I was almost able to ignore the texters, talkers and bathroom-goers all around (at least I think that's where they were going - they all looked like they took too good care of themselves to be smokers) - when did people become so constantly busy at concerts? And the dad with his ten year old sitting right behind us, giving a song by song commentary until the poor tyke was practically in a coma. Let the kid have his own experience, if that's possible in this day and age! Still, the band managed to inch the volume up. And in end there was enough devotion and focus in the room to bring about two encores.

We hung out way too late and the two hour drive after was longer without the fall foliage. Eric did the driving while I looked out the window at moonlight on the Catskills, wondering if it was all true, that we were really here in New York, or would I wake up back in France, wishing I could be out in the world?

An orthodox Jew in khaki shorts emerging from a rest area men's room and a crumpled envelope in my coat pocket reading "Rugby, Amy" confirmed that this was real life.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ecstasy & The Agony

The day started off good - at 8 AM I found a shopping bag full of luxury ladies shoes on the sidewalk near my brother's apartment in Greenpoint. Prada, Robert Clergerie, Stephane Kelian; red suede, khaki, calfskin.

For a second I thought I must still be sleeping, dreaming the perfect dream. But I knew immediately they were too small. They always are. Still, I gathered a few choice pairs up - maybe my brother's girlfriend? She can walk anywhere in heels, and they looked closer to her size, seven.

I clutched them to my chest and then remembered: bedbugs, the scourge of New York City. Was the shoe bag a dirty trick, the result of an infestation? Someone's powerlessness turned to anger to a chance to play God? Was the infestee at this very moment up at her window with a morning cup of coffee, cackling at any fool stupid enough to grab herself some soiled high-end bounty?

Or maybe the bag was fallout from a breakup - a jilted lover reaping his revenge, hitting his gal where he knew it would hurt the most?

I took a closer look at the shoes, being careful to hold them away from me, and weighed the possibilities. They were definitely several seasons/years old. Probably a closet purge that took a benevolent turn when selling on eBay or through consignment seemed like too much trouble.

And I was so happy to be back in the city with all its stories, all the possibilities. I'd missed New York.

* * *


Me? I looked up at the garbage truck shuddering to a stop next to me at the light. "Me?" I mouthed to the red-faced driver of the truck.


What had I done? Yes, I'd gotten on the eastbound L.I.E. in error and had just exited and was sitting at a stop light. But where had the garbage truck entered into the equation? What had I done to piss this guy off?

And the word "Bitch" carries the weight of intent and that confused me even more. Whatever wrongs I'd committed had been carried out unconsciously. His use of the word was making me feel doubly bad.

The guy continued to honk and scream and I raised my hands, a question, what did I do?

This only enraged him more. "THAT'S RIGHT - YOU! YOU FUCKING BITCH!!!" He mimed a steering wheel in his hands - I'd been driving. That was my crime.

My look of shock and dismay only set him off more. All that time in France had made me as placid as a Limousin cow. "FUUUCK YOOOOUUU!" he yelled, and raced off as fast as his dilapidated piece of shit garbage truck would take him.

I caught my breath and made my turn.

Yeah, I'd missed New York.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Immigrant Song

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

Just been wearing a pair of rubber cleaning gloves for a month - they make it hard to write.

I loved how Patti Smith was on our flight from England when we arrived in the US. I saw her getting into her seat up in business class. (We were in steerage, in honor of my grandfather who arrived at Ellis Island back in the 20s, all alone at the age of 11). It felt like we were being shepherded into the US by a high echelon Rock Air Marshall. The top would be Chuck Berry.

Then she stood directly in front of us in the line while we waited for Eric to go through US immigration for the first time. I've never met her, always been afraid to, too in awe to. But she seemed cool, standing there two feet away with her guitar on her shoulder, checking her phone. ("Excuse me?" someone says. She turns around, wearily expectant. Oh the price of punk poetess fame. "There's no cell phone use until after baggage claim, ma'am.")

We slipped past as she shut off her phone and the agent jokingly let Eric in to the United States, playing around with Eric's precious MBE, the sealed, US immigration-issued Mysterious Brown Envelope we'd been told to present, unopened, on arrival or risk blowing the whole thing. We'd been manically guarding it for three weeks. It was stunning, how lighthearted they all were in immigration at Newark. Polite, genial even. We almost expected them to offer us coffee and donuts.

I missed that. I missed the stupid fun we have in America. Like the young woman who was selling a stove on Craigslist. She gave us her address, and mentioned how when getting directions off the internet that one of the streets had changed its name. She wasn't specific with the street name.

As we passed Greg Browder Way on the right for the fourth time it finally made sense.

"It says here 'turn right on Cheesecock Road'."

I'm in love with the ease of things in America. You want to rent a car? Buy a bed? Get copies made? Send this, receive that? Building supplies? A $50 stove from Craigslist? A $40 dehumidifier? Easy - any time! Eat, eat, eat - fresh, local food, or unhealthy crap. Just say when. Every night around twenty to seven I find myself getting anxious, wondering if we have enough food, a bottle of wine. Then I remember the 24 hour supermarket a few blocks away.

Choice! Beer World down the road and the Wine Cellar right next to it with stuff from all over the world. Usefully within walking distance for when the snow sets in?

I love our new town. It's across the river from trendy, happening Hudson. Near Saugerties and Woodstock with their rich hippie daytrippers. But this is the land that time forgot. Small town America with enough of a freak quotient that nobody marks you as an outsider. The first time we looked around the place, the only people on the old-fashioned main street were a cop putting a handcuffed biker into a police car. I think they were laughing. Even if you are an outsider, everyone is friendly. The postal workers all came out to shake hands with us when we told them we'd moved in to town. The insurance agent clapped Eric on the back and thanked us for our business, apologizing again for not being able to insure the house during Irene.

"Let's go out for a beer sometime!" Then we saw him across the street in the local attorney's office. "I just need him to help me (cough) clear up a few things," he said sheepishly.

Irene the hurricane is just plain "Irene" here. Everyone was affected by the storm: water in basements, trees down, businesses closed temporarily. The weird weather continued until a few days ago: torrential rain every other day and the Catskill Creek that flows through town and the huge Hudson River just minutes away rising. There's been a swimming pool in the backyard where the Previous Owners had an above ground swimming pool, a circle of water several inches high where for the last year or two a nasty piece of plastic sat collecting moss and dead leaves.

The Previous Owners - we have an ongoing relationship with this shadowy entity. The house needs a lot of work. The Previous Owners didn't intend to sell the place but lost their grip and had to let it go:

"Why, why did you put this outlet at the top of the door frame?"

"Did you have to wood panel that room? And what's with the toilet nook?"

"Nasty vinyl tiles - on the ceiling?"

No stove, no refrigerator. Just a food-encrusted early model microwave cemented into the kitchen cabinets.

At first we gave Previous Owners points for building a bar and having a sound system in the basement. The building inspector said it was all a repository of life-threatening mold and should be removed as quickly as possible.

I walk around in paint-splattered clothes, looking longingly at the purple suede vintage shoes I forced hopefully into my suitcase over two months ago. There are lots of shows and concerts and markets and events happening at this time of the year and we'll get out to see something soon.

Fixing up a neglected house is the price of admission for living in one of the prettiest places in the world that's also conveniently located in the hugely populated Northeastern US. Tall tall trees with leaves changing color, the dark Catskill mountains on one side of the town and the enchanted Hudson River on the other. There's a bird sanctuary around the corner and deer, foxes, even bears have been spotted on our street. We watched a white skunk - weird prehistoric-looking creature - strolling by. I had to explain to Eric what it was, how they spray their distinctive, lingering scent when threatened. My older brother was sitting outside smoking a cigarette and noticed the creature sitting a few feet away. Eric's christened him "Mike". Like the name Dave in England, every other guy up here is Mike. The rest seem to be called Gary.

Ran into an old neighbor from Williamsburg our first day. We're two hours from the city but it feels like being there in some ways: the NY Times, Post and Daily News for sale in the gas stations, the accents of some of our neighbors who moved up from Brooklyn years ago, the Breakstone's butter and bagels and delis and friends coming "up from the city". I love being in New York again, to hear talk of Albany and Governor Cuomo. To see the aisle of pasta and Italian grocery items - I missed it more than I realized.

I just got a call that the contents of the shipping container are being delivered on Tuesday. What was in that thing, anyway? We've been camping in the house for over a month with folding chairs and restaurant table borrowed from the swell guy who owns the local coffee place (who is named neither Gary or Mike but Robert, so there goes that theory.) Once our own stuff arrives I think we can say the moving odyssey is over. There's still a lot more to do on this place, but I look forward to getting back to doing things I have a vague memory of doing before, like music and writing.

I might even wear the purple suede shoes.