XXVII. "A New Year's Rain, A Ryan Adams LP, and a Masquerade"
Beginning: Basement of Generation Records, Thompson Ave. at Bleeker; New Year's Eve, Greenwich Village; the A-section of the vinyl stacks, flaming dollars in jacket pocket
Middle: Corner of MacDougal and Bleeker. seated at a table outside a café with my visiting sister, surrounded by falling heavy cotton snowflakes – like the sky was an exploded goosedown quilt
End: Studio apartment, masquerading east side, Ryan Adams' Jacksonville City Nights side-D plays on the turntable; me, collapsed on bed in a crucified pose
On New Year's Eve, 2005, I finally made it to the Village to buy the Jacksonville… record. I'd been meaning to go since August when it was released, but kept delaying purchasing any new records until I'd bought a new turntable. As it happened, I fell into the habit of never saving more than a hundred dollars towards the new turntable before that extra money would be burning such a hole in my pocket that I'd have to go on an all-night drunk or blow thirty dollars on an early edition of my favorite Canadian poet's rare second book.
My little sister came out from Puyallup to visit me for New Year's. Having turned 21 on Christmas day, there was an anticipatory mood between myself and her, an eager looking-ahead to the first time she'd get drunk with her big brother. Drunken siblings are family traditions all around the world.
I didn't want her to have a boring time in the city, but I was worried she might feel like I was neglecting her; I had to be at work for almost half her trip, and I also wanted to spend New Year's Eve, some portion of it at least, with my girlfriend. But, being the great guest she was, her typical response to my asking, "Well, what do you want to do tonight?" was either an, "I don't care, you're the one living here" or a pre-emptive, "So what are we doing tonight?" before I could even ask what she wanted to do.
Thus we found ourselves trekking down University Place, past Jackson Pollack and Jonathan Franzen's Cedar Tavern, past the corner where we turned to previous day to go browse the stacks at The Strand, and made our way through Washington Square Park to Thompson. Chess store after chess store after chess store passed — "Wow! Look at all the chess stores!" my sister exclaims — and we made a hard (and unexpected, for her) left into Generation Records. "Oh no, are we going to be here all day?" she asks.
My sister thumbed CDs upstairs for the new Jamie Cullum — having seen a giant billboard for him outside the Virgin Megastore in Union Square, we'd talked about the piano-playing gumdrop — while I went down to the basement, feeling that orgasmic pleasure conjured by the sight of thousands upon thousands of LPs and 7-inches. A Christmas bonus from work had manifested itself, earlier that day, into a brand new Sony turntable. "Boo" and "Yah."
NOTE: A lesson to be learned is this: Pearl Jam's "Last Exit" should never be played first thing in the morning. It was the least pleasurable experience listening to Pearl Jam I've ever had.
"Why vinyl?" I still get asked sometimes. (My sister and I are seated at a table outside a café with a faux-French name. It's started snowing, heavy, feathery flakes; people are skittering about speaking various languages and glancing at my sister and I, who are sharing a fifty dollar bottle of merlot at three in the afternoon in the freezing temperature). The reasons for vinyl, in the case of this trip, can here be listed three:
Reason the First: Jacksonville… has a side-D with a demo version of "A Kiss Before I Go" and three not-to-be-found-anywhere-else-until-someone-rips-them-online tracks. Obsessives know the pain this tension brings, that twisted knot in the stomach that forms when you know a track exists, but you don't know what it sounds like. Knowing the titles of the tracks makes it even worse. Like a beautiful woman flashing her navel, and then walking away into an ocean of not-for-you.
Reason the Second: The Velvets should always be listened to on vinyl (period)
Reason the Third: When you listen to Vitalogy in other formats, it's much too easy to skip over some tracks and go directly to others — "Nothingman," "Betterman," "Not for You"…there's no shame in this, but come on, this was a concept record. On vinyl, you're forced to listen to Eddie's unaccomplished accordian playing and all the ambient droning that otherwise would only occur as that strange introduction to the "Betterman" MP3.
NOTE: An extra reason — every Obsessive knows that music, plain and simply, sounds better on vinyl.
3 AM — after having gone to an east village bar with a big group of my girlfriend and her friends, my sister and I get back to my apartment. She goes to bed and I put on the Ryan Adams LP. It's gotten warmer outside and the feathered snow has turned to icy rain. I listen to side-D on the new turntable, and place Vitalogy on the shelf next to it, ready to be played first thing in the morning (The future is a mistake), and, having reached a new level of Pleasure-in-Life after hearing what could easily have been three of the best tracks on Jacksonville City Nights, I head out the door, down the stairs, and around the corner to my local pub, to wish all the regulars a happy new year.
When I get outside, it's raining, and no one carries an umbrella, so that everyone is getting wetter and wetter, and everyone looks like everyone else. It's a masquerade of celebration.