Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes, a bar isn't just a bar....or nothing lasts forever

So, the "Clubhouse".....known to most as St. Jerome or St. Jerome's...has closed its doors for good.

Now, some people would say, "Jeez, Man....what's the big deal? There are thousands of bars in New York City....go hang out somewhere else! It's just a bar! GROW UP, already!"

Well, it's not that way, exactly.

This is a place where, for over five years, I've made friends, forged alliances, worked, played, relaxed, laughed, screamed, wept, sang, pondered, dreamed, danced, and had a lot of great times, whether I liked or remembered them or not. I also had many, many, many, MANY beers with a lot of great people....some who went on to fame & fortune, and others whom I'll never see again....but I love them all. If you're reading this, you're very likely one of them, and you know damn well that I mean it.

It started, for me, one deep, dark night a little over five years ago.  I'd just gotten out of an "unhealthy (to say the least) relationship", and had just started The Dirty Pearls with my homeboy, Tommy London.  I needed a new home base, a new watering hole....a new CLUBHOUSE! My good friend Luc Carl (the man who started the whole goddamn nightmare) was bartending, and after a couple of "Happy Meals", I asked him if he needed any djs there.  He told me that if I wanted to do Sundays, that they were mine.  "Fuck it," I thought, "I'll do fucking Sundays, then!"  It was a good start.

My first Sunday there, I walked into the bar, and this tall, thin gentleman was behind the bar. "Hey, Man," I said, extending my hand, "I'm the new dj." 

He shook my hand, and very smarmily, answered, "Are you gonna play....anything GOOD?!"

I walked to the booth to set up, wondering who this wise ass thought he was.  I started playing the shit that I play, and got to talking with him.  After two rounds of Budweisers & "Warm-up" shots, I discovered that who he thought he was, was Mr Brian Newman, and we became fast friends after discovering a mutual love for Thin Lizzy and Lynyrd Skynyrd (and it was Newman who brought in the neon Thin Lizzy sign that remains there to this day (?)). We've been friends ever since, and have both grown a lot since those days.

Those Sundays weren't always the most popular or packed night at the bar, but there was always plenty of Rock N' Roll, drinks, and good company to have a great time with.  You could always expect some cool fuckers, or others, to stop by, and when I would arrive at 10:00 pm on Sunday night, I always wondered who it might be.

Sometimes, who it would be was a dude who wound up being, essentially, the "House DJ", and one of the best drinking buddies & all-around stand-up guys you could ever meet, Mr Ian Eldorado. I don't know how we got to be such great friends, but I know that it involved Budweiser and Jameson, and vintage Rock n' Roll t-shirts....and it still does!

Luc, Tommy, Newman, Ian, and I wound up becoming the "Rivington Rebels", a sort-of mobile drinking & hanging out club who often hang out at St. Jerome, and on the Lower East Side in general. We are, maybe, reminiscent of Alice Cooper's Hollywood Vampires in the 70's, that would hang out in the secret loft upstairs at the Rainbow in L.A.  

So...that's the early jist of it. 

The Clubhouse has changed in this way and that way since the early days, as life always does.  That said, there has been a spirit that has remains constant, and that comes from those of us who convene there. Some people have called it, "a scene", which is fine....I know that many scenes have been made there, whatever that means!  Tommy went deeper and called it, "a community", which it most-certainly is.  To me, though, I feel that it's in my blood at this point....so...to me, it's closer to a family.  It certainly means enough to us for the Dirty Pearls to have a song about the place that we play almost every time we take the stage. I, for one, can't get through the 4-count intro on my h-hat without feeling like I'm in the corner stool with a smile on my face.

That isn't something that you can get at just any bar that opens down the street.

That's why it's the end of an era.

All of that being said.....is it the end of the world?  No.  All of us who have been a part of it will likely be bonded by the common experience that we had & shared in the place.  And, surely, we will find other places to listen to Rock N' Roll and watch the night fold and unfold 12 or 13 times.  We will all continue to....do amazing and cool shit in the early part of the evening, and then celebrate later 'til the wee hours....then call each other the next day, and ask what the hell happened. Keep your phone on.

The Clubhouse is closed! LONG LIVE THE CLUBHOUSE!  Or, as I wrote on the bathroom wall, "OUR GHOSTS WILL DRINK HERE FOREVER."

Thanks for all of the good nights, great friends, and many, many drinks!

Marty E.

PS-I write this with all due deference to, besides everyone I've mentioned before, to Jonas, Kelle, Stinks, Carlos, Bryan, Starlight, Dustan, Gigi, David, Ashley, Kelly, Conrad, Niko, Yoshi, Breedlove, Seth, Danae, Josh, Wolf, Necktie, Seth, Christian, Adam, Jess, & everyone else I hung out & had drinks/laughs with.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I go out all the time.  More often than not, I'm out at least 5 nights a week.  There are two reasons for it. 

One reason is simple: I'm addicted to FUN.  Call it a state of perpetual adolescence if you'd like, but that's a lot of what life in the big city is about for a lot of us. 

The other reason is slightly less simple: to promote the band and support what other people have going on.  I call it "productive drinking." (There's a great enabling term for you).  The truth of the matter is that it works. In any kind of entertainment business, being out there and socializing is a key to getting to where you want to be.  A lot of people don't understand that....but then again, perhaps they don't want to be where I want to be.  God Bless.

The ironic truth about it is, when I'm promoting and socializing....I'd much rather be playing & performing.  But the promoting and socializing part is essential, I feel, to get to a position where you're playing every night. Such is the duality of the core of the Big Apple.

What's really funny is that after I've PLAYED a show & sweated my way to the inch of my life...I want
to fucking CELEBRATE with my friends who are experiencing this crazy shit with me, and live it up to a job well done....and that includes ALL of the promoting, socializing, playing, and performing.  For me, that's all part of the job!  But....you already knew that.

To extend upon my point before about "productive drinking", etc....if there isn't either something to promote or celebrate....going out is meaningless. Sure, it's great to hang out with your friends, but....having purpose in your life makes you a better friend in the first place.

This town is made of random acts of kindness....the kind that nobody tells you about.  You know, because you've been the one who did the "acting", or someone else did for you.  Those "acts" come from people who, generally speaking, are happy and enjoy life, which, again, is why most of us are here in the first place.  For me, the hard work, as well as the celebration thereof, are keys to happiness. It's really fucking important, and it is this fact that keeps me from getting too jaded.  Remind me that I said that the next time you see me acting like an asshole out there, hahahahaha.

The bottom line is that I still think that it's a great gig if you can get it.  You just need to maintain some sense of balance.  But that's another story.

Let's have a drink, shall we?

What the hell is that noise?!!! or The Sounds of Summer in the City

(All song clips in this entry are songs that I was listening to at the time I'm ranting about. Coincidentally, most of it came out at that time too. Thank GOD, whoever he/she is. Music marks history, but is above & beyond it at the same time. More importantly, it's a great soundtrack).

"How can you STAND the NOISE?!!!"

"I just couldn't HANDLE it.....NO!"

"WHAT the HELL is GOING ON here?!!"

I hear it all of the time, and, frankly, I suppose I do understand the sentiment....even though sometimes those quotes are about ME.

(Sorry about that).

But, as I've probably told you....I flew into town with five suitcases that literally bruised my shoulders...only to wake up on my friend's floor (where I was very happy to be -- see previous blog for THAT story....it's a good one). I remember waking up, thinking to myself, "Holy shit! I'm here, and I'm alive....and I don't even know what that means!" I was about to grow, because I had no fucking choice!

I showered & scanned the Village Voice for job, apartment, and audition ads, like so many others undoubtedly did that day (there was no Craig's List yet, and certainly nothing resembling Social Networks).

The last thing I heard before I walked out the door ...made me think....."What the FUCK is THIS annoying HORSESHIT playing OVER and OVER again?!!! Sheee-IT, Man!!! Could you SWITCH it UP at least?!!! Play something ELSE that SUCKS, perhaps, but is DIFFERENT!!!"

Yes, it was the Mr. Softee Ice Cream Truck....and yes, I was a newbee.....but holy shit, that spooked me out! 


I walked to the train, and heard some bird call me, "Billy Ray Cyrus", because of my leather cowboy hat that I was wearing at the time.  "Welcome to New York", I was thinking.  I was also wondering why the bird who said that didn't recognize a ROCKER when she saw one...or maybe she did, liked what she saw, & was trying to get me to give her a second look.  I had a much thinner skin then. Looking back, that was a good one!

Soon, I found my way around town, in that relative sense. If you want to know what they mean by, "Do or die," then chuck everything for the big city, like my homeboys and I did....then come talk to me, because I want to hear your take on it! Everyone's experiences and perspectives are different, and totally valid.

But the sounds on the streets, in my speakers, and in my head....never have been lost on me.  They represent a time & place...from the sound of the dude cursing & payphone & slamming the receiver down so hard that he broke the damn phone (if you see a broken payphone, you know what I mean) to the sound of the 8am subway train on my way to my first job in town (This AT THE DRIVE-IN song still sounds like the A train arriving on 44th & 8th) to....the sounds of hookers cat-calling at me on my way home from striking out at Doc Holiday's after drinking a shitloads of Pabst Blue Ribbon & Jim Beam.

I'm in a completely different place now, but these songs, when I hear them, bring me back in different ways. They can make me feel uncertain, or tired, or wistful, or irrationally determined, or melancholy, or scared, or desperate, or clueless, or whathaveyou.  It makes me think of the state I was in back then, when I really didn't know what to expect from one minute to the next.  It was an extremely exciting time, in a lot of ways.  I think that it took a lot of courage to jump head-first into the belly of the beast, as they say. But I did it in such a state of suspended animation, as if I was watching a someone else go through all of this crazy shit.....shit that I don't think is so crazy now, really. 

I mean, think about your life.....and all of the experiences you've had that you can remember.  Wouldn't your life be different if you took away ONE of them?  (I'm not referring to the irreparably shitty ones, of course. We can all do without those). You wouldn't exactly be YOU if you didn't have them all filed upstairs.

What's funny is that, NOW, when I hear the Mr Softee truck & all of it's inane noise, or when I see some half-drunk dude playing air-bongos on the sidewalk along with Salsa Music blaring from his car at 6pm on a Friday, when he presumably just got finished with work, or I hear the sirens going Nowhere North of Nowhere every day.....I don't mind so much.  It reminds me of where I am, and that I'm well on my way with succeeding at what I came here to do.  It's many years and miles away from the deafening silence of the Midwest, which I was scared to leave, and even more terrifed NOT to.


Monday, May 14, 2012

A Crash Course in what you will find in NYC in one afternoon.

When I first moved to NYC, 12 years ago, I used to go an internet cafe on Bleecker Street (it's still there....right across from John's Pizzeria, which is my favorite) to apply for jobs and look for apartments, and find a band....which are very daunting tasks when you're new in the city, to say the least.

On one particular day, I was doing my thing like any other day. I'd put my backpack underneath the table I was sitting at. In this backpack were my resumes, a walkman & a few mix cassette tapes (again, they were very lean times, and it was in 2000), notebooks with lyrics, and a folder with all of my resume copies as well as job/band/apartment leads -- basically, a bunch of shit that I NEEDED, but wouldn't be worth jack shit to anyone else.

As I got up to leave, I reached underneath the table....no backpack. I looked....and it was gone. POOF! Clearly, someone had pulled a fast one, literally, right under my nose, and stolen my backpack. Great. I was SO pissed off, but mostly, I was pissed at myself for allowing that to happen.

I went back to the apartment in Hell's Kitchen that I was renting a room in, and watched tv, still very pissed off. The phone rang. It was some dude who worked at a diner down the street from the internet cafe that I'd been at. He said that he'd found my bag in the bathroom, and asked if I'd like to come down and get it.

I went to the diner, grabbed my bag....and there was NOTHING missing. I ordered up a cheeseburger, and asked the dude at the counter how they'd found my bag. He said that some dude who appeared to be quite shady (probably a junkie) had come into the diner....gone into the bathroom for several minutes....then left. He apparently realized how worthless the items in my bag were (to him) and left it there.

On one hand, some asshole had stolen from me....on the other, someone else was kind enough to return it to me.  I had fallen prey to the anonymous thief by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and been blessed with the kindness of a complete stranger, both in less than two hours.

Welcome to New York!

Monday, February 20, 2012

If I Had Known What I Was Getting Into....or....My First Day In New York

I rolled into town feeling like a cold caller trying to sell beige slacks on June 1, 2000, with about 3 grand (in checks & money orders) rolled up in my sock, over a hundred pounds of luggage on my bruised shoulders, and little the fuck else.

I flew in from Minneapolis after spending one last night with my ex-girlfriend, then leaving her and my group of best friends & life as I knew it...and there was no turning back. (I that believe you CAN "look back" every once in awhile - to reflect, which is what I'm doing here).

On my flight, I remember the pilot saying through the loudspeaker, "Ladies & Gentlemen.....uuuuuuuuummmmmm.....if you look to the left of the aircraft.....uuuuuummmmm.....that's Lake Erie...."

It was then that it occurred to me that I didn't know where the fuck I was going to be in a day, much less a week, a month, or a year!  Sure, it sounds exciting and romantic, and all of that crap....but when it's right in front of your face like a burning jungle, it's more than a little bit daunting and pretty fucking scary!

Well, I arrived at LaGuardia, and grabbed my luggage (consisting of a hockey bag that resembled an overstuffed burrito, a backpack, a case with my snare drum, sticks, and kick drum pedal....and I think I might have had my cymbal bag with me as well), and grabbed a cab to Manhattan.  I was to go to the acting school where my good friend Alfredo worked and attended classes, grab the keys to his apartment in Bay Ridge (in South Brooklyn) and head to his house. So I rolled into this old brick building on Jane Street, with all of my crap....which I left in the stairwell (I figured, if anyone wants to carry this shit, BE MY GUEST).  Looking like the dark shadow of death's understudy, I then walked up to the front desk.

"Hi....my friend Al should have left some keys in the desk for me.....??????"

The hag behind the desk squinted, took a look at me, pulled the desk drawer out, gave it a way-too-quick once-over, and dismissed me with, "I'm sorry....there's nothing here!"

Stunned, I asked, "Are you SURE? Can you please look AGAIN?"

"I JUST DID....there's nothing HERE!"

I began to panic.  I tried to call Al, but he wasn't picking up. Perfect.

I didn't know what the fuck to do....I was beyond exhausted, and I didn't have anywhere to go, really. I was in a strange, ENORMOUS, cold, new place that I didn't know my way around yet, and I was weighed down with everything I owned in the world.

It then occurred to me that another buddy of mine, Lenny, was making the same move that I was, and he had emailed me his new # a week beforehand.

With nothing else to do, I called Lenny....thank CHRIST he was home.

"Hey Man....how are you?  I'm completely SCREWED!"

"Well....that sucks, Man," he said, "....well....do you wanna come hang out for awhile?  I'm in Astoria, but...."

I grabbed another cab, this time to Astoria, in the North-Western part of Queens....with a feeling of suspended animation, and also fucking RELIEF, that I at least could be under a friendly roof with all of my crap for at least the rest of the afternoon.

I rolled up to his apartment (which was either on 30th Ave, 30th Street, or 30th Road) and he was unpacking boxes....so I dropped my extra baggage in front if his front door, and fell into a chair.

Lenny, very nonchalantly asked, "Do you want a beer, Dude?"

It's your friends that pull you through.

I eventually got a hold of Alfredo late that night, and he apologized profusely, and said that I should head to his place. He also told me that his keys were, indeed, at that acting school of his where he said they would be, and that the wench at the acting school felt badly about missing them. Right - I'm sure that she's losing sleep over that to this day.

Anyway, I packed my luggage on my aching back and walked to the Subway for the ride to Al's house.  What's funny about that, is that Lenny lived near Ditmars Ave in Queens, which is where the N Train starts....so, I got on board and rode into Manhattan, then I transferred to the R at Times Square (which was the only way I trusted myself to make such a transfer at that moment) to get to Al's place in Bay Ridge Ave, in Brooklyn, near where the R train ends.  Case in point, I took the yellow line for about 3 hours, from one end to another, through 3 Burroughs, to finally rest my beyond-weary head.

Let's recap....I'd taken a cab from LaGuardia to Greenwich Village.....then got in another cab from there to Astoria, then took the train all the way from there to Bay Ridge Ave.  My route that day basically was in the shape of a gigantic number 4!

It was after 4am when I finally got to Al's house.  Before I crashed out in my sleeping bag on his floor, I called my Mom.

"I thought I'd hear from you a long time before now....where have you BEEN?"

"I'm too exhausted to tell you, but let's just say my shoulders are, literally, black & blue."

"OH MY GOD," she exclaimed, with a worried, almost-disgusted tone that even I had never quite heard at that point.

I told her I would call her the next day, and I proceeded to pass out on the most comfortable floor I've ever laid my head upon.

This was only the beginning....and it still causes explosions in my mind to think about now.  But, if I'd known then what was waiting for me after that, I'd have told you it was all worth it.  And I'm here to tell you that it was!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Sold My Soul For a Song....or at least I should have....

Slim Dunlap, the former guitarist from the Replacements, had (has) a song on his first solo album, The Old New Me, that just might be the best song you've never heard.  It's called "Taken On the Chin".  It carries a lot of meaning for me....and I'll tell you why!

At the end of my college days, I used to see Slim play in a local coffee shop all the time. He showed up with his acoustic guitar, and served his songs straight up with no bullshit, but with a very affable vibe. He had a great rapport with his audience, because he presented himself with a wisdom and good humor that made him come off like Ronnie Wood meets Bob Dylan (for lack of a better way of describing it).  I imagine that Izzy Stradlin' might have pulled up a chair and joined him, had he only been there. He was so cool in a very sincere sort of way. 

Anyway, introduced this song, "Taken On the Chin" by relating a story about how he had once gotten clocked in the face and knocked down right on the street on Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis, by some random dude.  Across the street was a police car, and Slim said that he walked to the car, and told the cop sitting in it that he had been assaulted and demanded that the perpetrator be arrested.  The cop looked him up and down, then looked at the other guy as he was walking away, and said to Slim, "....taken on the chin...."

Then he played this song, and it kind-of floored me because the lyrics described how I felt and where I was at the time.  "You call this a hell hole, 'Cause you can't call this a life, The only forgiveness you'll find here's at the edge of a knife.....and it's taken on the chin..."

And he meant it too, which made it mean even more to me, and I started thinking about my life and what I wanted out of it a little bit more deeply because of it. I was in that limbo faze where I didn't know what the fuck to do, but I knew that I was going to have to do SOMETHING, and was scared shitless.  Scared of staying where I was, and also scared of leaving.

A couple of months later, he played with his band at a Rock N' Roll bar I regularly guzzled beer at with my homeboys.  It was on some holiday weekend and it was raining, and the place was severely lacking in its usual numbers.  I recall that I was in some pissy, whoa-is-me kind of mood that day, and was drowning my sorrows about some most-likely insignificant horseshit of the day.  Then I heard Slim say into the mic, "This song is called 'Taken On the Chin'', so....I grabbed another beer and got my ass in front of the stage. 

Again, there was hardly anyone there, but he still gave everything in his heart and soul to his performance and his songs, especially this one, and it really impressed me.  And I learned a very valuable lesson.  Whatever bullshit I was getting down and out about didn't fucking matter, because....THIS guy was playing his heart out, no matter how many people were there, and no matter who the fuck they were, because he was doing it for HIMSELF.  I realized that I was going to have to do the same damn thing, in my own way and context.

And you know what?  I believe that I always have, and can often recognize when others have too. I appreciate that sort of thing.

Anyway, here's the song.

Does it sound to you the same way it sounds to me?

Marty E.