Anthony Atlas is an artist’s estate manager and apartment impresario based in Brooklyn. He is the proprietor of The Middler, an apartment gallery in Bushwick that has shown work from Sophy Naess, Morgan Ritter, and more.
Atlas’s Con Rep happens the week of The Middler Art Fair, a multi-gallery event that Atlas threw in his apartment. There is a flurry of activity around the fair, and Atlas diligently records all of his media intake—both intentional and accidental—the whole way through. The end result is a crucial scene report that documents an event that connected together some of the more interesting American project spaces currently running. —John Chiaverina
Tuesday Morning, June 20
I wake up early (6:00 am) to get a head start on the day and send a few emails. I have been preparing for The Middler Art Fair, which opens in two days (Thursday, June 22), in my apartment. I have organized the fair to celebrate similar ventures to The Middler, my apartment gallery, and also to mark The Middler’s one-year anniversary on June 25.
After emails, I watch a Young Thug interview (on YouTube) that my brother Brian sent me. He actually sent me three emails about it while I was asleep. I reply with two emails, the second quoting my favorite line from the interview: “I completed the Thug course, and now I want to be Jeffery, I want people to understand who I really am.”
I go to the coffee shop (Variety), and run into Chris Freeman (of Fusetron Records). I tell him about the fair, which he says he probably can’t make because he’s leaving for tour on Friday (he’s doing sound for Animal Collective).
Later, I drive to work listening to Young Thug’s new album Beautiful Thugger Girls. I think about the irony of having to write a Consumer Report the same week this earworm rap/pop album has been released because I worry it will be all I will listen to.
10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
At work, (William N. Copley Estate). Some e-mails about a restoration project and then I organize some Man Ray material for a visitor to the archive. It’s a fairly uneventful week at work, except I learned the day before, via Instagram, that our exhibition catalogue published by Fondazione Prada had won a 2017 Filaf award for ‘Best Modern Art Book.’
I receive an email from my brother that says he was going to email me the same Young Thug quote I sent him from the interview but decided to keep it general. He remarks, “Goddamn it we are twins in such a nutty way.”
I look up archived Consumer Reports articles and open a tab about a dozen or so, but read none. Amazing how many there are. I notice one by Quintessa Matranga, written before her move to New York while she still lived in San Francisco and ran the gallery Mission Comics with Rafael Delacruz. I’d like to read Quin’s, but I will wait until after work. One of the other tabs has Michael William’s Consumer Report which I remember enjoying. I ‘ctrl F’ the name “Schnabel” to quickly read my favorite passage.
I check Instagram, and like @species_atl’s post about Species including Isabella Rodriguez’s work in The Middler Art Fair.
My brother is sending me a lot of good content today. He DMs me an ESPN clip of the Bulls clinching the 1993 ‘three-peat’ Championship over the Suns with the three-pointer by John Paxson with 4 seconds left on the clock.
I consult H.C. Westermann’s 2003 MCA catalogue for a small work project. Before taking my lunch, I check Instagram and see a lot about John Giorno and also something about a new Martin Parr book that appears to be about the RNC convention. I am intrigued by the Parr book.
Lunch at Osakana, my favorite place to eat in the neighborhood where I work. They’re playing a classic ‘radio’ stream of some kind. Since I am trying to log all intentional as well as incidental media consumption, I note the playlist at Osakana: “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” (War); “You Sexy Thing” (Hot Chocolate); “We Built This City” (Jefferson Starship); “Santeria” (Sublime); “Baba O’Riley” (The Who); and “Sugar Sugar” (The Archies)
Coffee shop (Charterhouse). Run into Gare Canino. Gare is a musician. He is wearing an original Sonic Youth shirt and on his way to Sweetgreen, which is literally the only place I think he eats at. (I’ve seen him at the Sweetgreen near my gym half a dozen times.) We chat for a bit and he suggests we take a selfie together. I am wearing a DJ Quik hat. I realize we are both geeked out in vintage music apparel. I walk back to work and see artist Kohlton Ervin, who was standing with a big van on Graham Ave. I wonder if it’s his van or Karma’s, whom he works for.
Mostly quiet while I work until I start up Spotify and play Bowie’s Lodger, the album from Bowie’s so-called Berlin Trilogy I know the least. (Last night, after installing with Stuart and Emily from Bannerette, I had listened to Low, side one three times, and side two once.)
I look at Twitter, (which I do frequently, along with Instagram) and learn Prodigy from Mobb Deep has died at 42. Insanely young. I listen to Lodger again. Later, I switch from Bowie to Prodigy to listen to “Keep It Thoro,” a song my brother is listening to in his Instagram story about Prodigy.
“I feel that life is very fragile. We’re all just hanging by a thread; it’s very spooky. I can best come to grips with it by doing my work. I guess that’s why I’m an artist.”
I switch back to Lodger and later open Twitter and find a link to Prodigy’s open letter from prison to writer Stephen Marche, which I read. The afternoon takes on a gloomy and existential quality. A lot in front of me seems directly or indirectly about mortality.
I’m about to clock out from work when Brian Piñeyro (who makes music under the names DJ Wey, Luis, DJ Python, and DJ Xanax) sends me a Facebook message proposing he create a background ambient music piece to be played during The Middler Art Fair opening. I am thrilled and surprised—I actually thought about asking him for this, but figured it would be an overreach. Piñeyro is the man, the type of clairvoyant friend who might offer something you want before you even ask for it.
After work I drive to 369 Weirfield St. to pick up up Rafael Delacruz, Quintessa Matrangra, and Marc Matchak. Traffic is bad so I’m reading Twitter and checking Instagram while driving slowly down Wilson Ave. I manage to read an entire tweet thread by Hannah Black about her open letter regarding the Dana Schutz painting.
I pick up Rafael, Quin and Marc and we drive to The Middler to install work. Quin’s gallery Bug is showing an artist named Jessica Friedman.
Rafael’s gallery Exploding Jezebel is showing Marc’s work, along with a slide show by Elsif Crosby. Rafael, Quin, and Marc help me hang everything, which looks great. Quin takes a few pics of Marc posing with The Middler Art Fair mug and posts to Instagram and Instagram stories.
After the install, we get tacos at La Lupe, and discuss Quin, Rafael and Marc’s new movie Lebenswirklichkeit which premiers Friday night at American Medium in a group show curated by Tim Gentles called ‘The Mere Future’. (I have a small part in the movie playing an art lawyer named Anthony Atlas).
I spent the remaining part of the evening installing June Culp’s work in my apartment for her presentation by the gallery Freddy, which is a venture Josh Abelow started in Baltimore, but now operates in the rear room of his studio/home inside a converted church in Harris, New York.
During the install I listened to China Crisis’s second album Working With Fire And Steel – Possible Pop Songs Vol. 2, which, of the first three China Crisis albums, is the one I spend the least time with. I listen to it four times while cleaning the wall behind my couch and hanging June’s paintings, and wonder if it’s at least as good or equal to their debut album, which also has a great pretentious title: Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain. I love everything about China Crisis.
Wednesday Morning (6/21)
It’s the first day of summer, a.k.a the solstice. I wake up early-ish (6:00 a.m.) and browse the platforms in a half-torpid state. I receive an email from Rafael at 6:15 a.m. containing a pic of him holding The Middler Art Fair mug—steam rising from a fresh pour of coffee. Rafael and Quintessa must be up early because they’re flying to London for a group show they’re in at Pilar Corias, curated by Gerasimos Floratos, who has been living in Greece as of late. The show is called “Adult Swim,” and also includes Trevor Shimizu, Amelie von Wulffen, Judith Bernstein, Ida Ekblad, etc.
I listen to WNYC during my shower. Today it’s mostly Kerry Nolan and David Brancaccio reporting. The big news is Travis Kalanick’s resignation as CEO from Uber. Uber’s shareholders have had enough of Travis’s aggressive corporate culture and its bizarrely passive attitude toward sexual harassment. I think about how if one didn’t know better, these “shareholders” would sound like valiant protectors of society against all kinds of abuses. Later during the WNYC broadcast, one of the programs plays audio from the killing of Philando Castile. You can hear his girlfriend and 4-year-old daughter screaming, the policeman shouting. It’s horrifying.
Coffee shop (Variety). I grab a GF muffin, espresso beverage and begin work on today’s to-do list. They’re playing what sounds like a Bowie or a Nick Cave album. I can’t really tell, it’s too quiet to Shazam. I think it must be Nick Cave, whom they love at Variety and who seems to be enjoying never-ending popularity, judging by all the adulatory posts I’ve seen on social media recently. I’m finally able to Shazam it, and it is in fact Bowie not Nick Cave. It’s Blackstar, Bowie’s most recent and final album. I listen closer. It sounds amazing, I realize.
It’s an astoundingly beautiful morning on the first day of summer. I’m walking home down Himrod St. and see Brian Piñeryo and Kate Steve. I have bad eyesight so at first I didn’t recognize them, just thought they were an unusually cute couple. Brief chat with Piñeryo and Kate about the Art Fair, and about Piñeyro’s potential background music contribution. The day is now officially lovely! I am running into friends; the air is Californian. I’m beginning to think today will shape up like something out of Walt Whitman or Kenneth Koch poem.
9 a.m.–1 p.m.
My drive to work was quick—I listened to three songs from a reggae playlist I’m putting together. As it happens all three were nicked from Shazaming WKCR’s Saturday morning reggae show, Footsteps of Reggae Music: Stephen Richie’s “All Night Long” (Featuring U. Brown), Barrington Levy’s “Wedding Ring,” and also Levy’s “In Dis Time.” Levy’s music is one of the universe’s gifts to us that just presents itself in the wide open.
The platforms (Twitter and Instagram) are buzzing today. One highlight is a tweet from Julia Panek (@whateverr_r): “Another day in the dome” which linked to footage of the runaway MTA bus careening backwards down a Bushwick street.
I’m at Sage Thai on Graham, a regular spot I reluctantly eat at when I’ve exhausted other options. They’re always playing 1980s alternative and New Wave classics at Sage Thai, and today is no exception. Playlist: “Tastes Like Honey” (Jesus & Mary Chain), an unidentified later Echo & The Bunnymen song, “Bizarre Love Triangle” (New Order), and then something that sounds like the Cocteau Twins.
Espresso at coffee shop (Charterhouse) on the way back to work and I Shazam a song there. It’s a decent shoegaze-type track by Autolux called “Plantlife.” I vaguely remember Autolux from my college days, I think my friend and former bandmate Sean Paul Presley had their CD in his Subaru.
I get back to my office and have an essentially media-free afternoon.
It’s a whirlwind evening and there’s not much media consumption. I am preparing for the fair and beforehand I feebly try to accommodate artist Chris Millic who wanted to unload an enormous flat-file he got for free from a gallery into my apartment. It was much too big. I move furniture around in my apartment to make space for it and end up cutting my hand on a tight corner. When Chris and Mario finally bring it up I decide it’s much too big. I help them bring it down. Shortly after that, Isabella Rodriguez arrives with her mom Wendy, and her boyfriend Jodi. We install Isabella’s work for the Species presentation, and I make them iced coffee (flash brew method with the Chemex) and talk to Wendy about Washington, D.C. architecture. (Wendy is an architect).
The Rodriguez group leaves, and later Josh Brand, Eric Palgon, and Sadie Laska come over to help install the Shimizu Brand wall in The Middler Art Fair.
Later that Evening
Had to grab a late bite because I missed dinner. The restaurant (Sally Roots) had the volume turned way too loud, and was playing middle-of-the-road (bad) contemporary indie rock. I didn’t bother to log it. I went home and my housemate Bryce Hackford was hanging in the living room and listening to a few excellent 12”s. He offered me a mezcal, so I kicked back with Bryce and enjoyed the living room for a little while. Mezcal with Bryce playlist: Simoncino’s “Dreams” and “Mystic Motion,” Dresvn’s “Woodlandscene,” a song from Marvin Gaye’ Trouble Man and a song from Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns. (Bryce makes music and DJs. He was preparing for a show at Knockdown Center the following night.)
Thursday Morning (June 22)
I wake up early (6:00 am), shower (WNYC is on and mostly on about Russian hacking and election meddling) and I go to Variety shortly after they open (7:15 a.m.). I run into Olivier again, this time we spend a little time on the bench chatting about CLEARING projects, etc. Olivier leaves for a moment to get his dry cleaned suits and I resume working on the day’s to-do-list, for tonight is the reception of The Middler Art Fair.
I drive to Henry’s Wine and Liquor on Central Ave. to buy a case of rosé for the reception. In the car I have Spotify plugged in via aux cord and am listening to more Jazz Butcher, this time I am listening to “Party Time” repeatedly. Wow, what a song. I imagine what it would sound like with third-album VU-era Lou Reed singing it.
I manage to get a small beer sponsorship from Bud Light for the art fair (two 12-packs), from my friend Mark who is Bud Light’s marketing director. The beers are couriered over. I also get my preferred tortilla chips (from Tortilleria Nixtamal, out of Corona, Queens), and go to a local grocery for fresh-made salsa. I get two kinds, a hot verde sauce and a very hot red sauce. They grocers are a little confused why I want so much, and I feel bad for cleaning them out of their salsa, so I leave an extra five bucks.
Once I’m back at my apartment I tend to the last little art fair projects. I print out checklists, I tidy up counters and shelves, and I download the superb ambient music piece Brian made for the reception. It has a title: “We All Make Mistakes, But I Thought About It, And I Believe We Can Be Good.”
Around 5:30 pm, Becca Abbe arrives. Becca is the talented designer I am lucky to work with on Middler projects. She is toting a box of Middler Art Fair brochures, which are fresh from the printer. It looks great. Almost like a CD booklet. The brochure presents my attempt to take something throwaway like an art fair program and make it relishable. It contains an original story by Sam Franklin called “Game,” and the interior pages have a loose association image for each gallery that faces Becca’s very nice Middler Art Fair table graphic.
Artist Joel Dean is the first to arrive, donning his new “PISS” shirt and wearing a suit jacket. “PISS,” Joel says, is an acronym for his new think tank: Passive Income Stream Solutions. He is playing the role of surrogate dealer for the gallery Species, who are based in Atlanta, and who have recently presented an excellent show of Joel’s work called “Powers of 6-8-9,” a sculpture show that explores skyscrapers, arithmetic, and 9/11.
Soon after Joel, Matt Werth arrives with Lyle, his baby son. Lyle is supremely chill and sets off crawling about the apartment, which is now also an art fair.
The Art Fair is rapidly crowded and by 8 or so I am no longer playing the role of art fair director, instead I am on party patrol. Refilling the chip bowl. Slicing watermelon. Pouring rosé. I even had to ask two young drunk 20-somethings to leave. To everyone else I am striving to be hospitable and charming—offering water or watermelon, and chit-chatting.
During the fair, Piñeyro’s piece “We All Make Mistakes, But I Thought About It, And I Believe We Can Be Good” plays quietly in the background. I have to manually play it again from time to time, because Apple’s home-sharing tool is annoying and disconnects when either source in the chain goes into sleep mode. (I am streaming the track over Wifi from my studio computer to my iPad in the living room.)
Meanwhile, it appears everyone is having a good time, congratulating me on a successful event, and pouring into my bedroom which many take to be part of the fair (it is not) but mostly because it has AC. A group of friends are congregating on my bed. Bryce Grates tells me to put on a record but I decline.
Around 9 p.m., I am looking forward to people dispersing. I am still receiving texts from late stragglers: “Is the fair still open?” I make an announcement to everyone that people should leave by 9:30 pm, but are welcome to have post-fair drinks at Honey’s down the street.
At Honey’s. I don’t remember what music they were playing at Honey’s but I remember dancing with friends. It was the evening of Julia Crockett’s 31st birthday, she had stopped by the fair with her birthday entourage and directed everyone to Honey’s after as well. The reverie continued until late…
Friday Morning (June 23)
I am hungover. It is a hot, dreary day. During my shower WNYC airs a crushing segment about cognitive impairments developed by the elderly, and how the city plans to assist people with dementia who become easily lost navigating the city. An interviewee recounts a story about a 67-year-old woman with early onset dementia who was suddenly unable to identify her apartment building (that she had lived in for decades), and so wandered up and down her block in confusion. The authorities found her alone in a schoolroom, and when they returned her to her apartment discovered she had taken all of her belongings and scattered them all around the floors of her apartment. The story is agonizingly sad and, feeling hungover, I wondered if the rest of the day would be more of this type of thing—the sad and depressing reality of life, a rejoinder to the prior two cheerful days.
I make it to the coffee shop (Variety) at 11 a.m., which is much later than my usual 7–8 a.m. window, and begin updating my Consumer Report. A lot of Instagram notifications about The Middler—tagged posts, new likes, new followers, etc. I begin to worry The Middler is now overexposed and the next show I do will be too crowded. Maybe it’s a good time to end The Middler? Meanwhile Variety is playing the classic Feelies album Crazy Rhythms. The Feelies, like me, are from New Jersey. I only have good feelings about The Feelies.
I return home before noon before any Art Fair visitors might arrive, and put on a Spotify playlist of select songs by John Martyn, then reply to unanswered emails. I am late to John Martyn, having only started listening to his music a few months ago. Since I am feeling emotionally depleted and hungover, I think Martyn’s music may make the experience less solitary (maybe). Martyn’s lyrical point of view seems to express an egoistic embrace of solitude and hedonism, perhaps as an antidote to dread and inevitable suffering…
After Diego left, I took a nap and was soon startled by another visitor. I tried to revert into attentive host but I think I may have appeared unkempt. I realize that opening the space to unannounced guests requires a degree of ongoing hospitality, even when you don’t have any guests. The visitor signed the guestbook, took a brochure and seemed pleased they came. My next visitors were acquaintances, Mila and Marievic, both artists, who were scheduled to drop by around 6 p.m. They enjoyed the work in the fair, and we had a tangential tour into the library of my studio, where we started looking at art books, primarily Swiss Institute’s recent publication of David Weiss’s drawings, and the H.C. Westermann catalogue raisonné I purchased recently.
Marievic, Mila, and I leave my apartment for an opening at Fisher Parrish, a new design/art gallery co-owned by Zoe Fisher and Patrick Parrish. The show is called from “From DADA to TA-DA” and is curated by Max Wolf. There are strange hybrid objects in the show, half designed/half readymade type things, which are all interesting, but I am too daunted by the multiple pages of checklists, artist bios, and long press releases to draw more background information out of the show.
I am planning to go to the opening at American Medium afterward (for ‘The Mere Future,” curated by Tim Gentles), but suddenly feel like I should go home. It’s raining and my hangover has returned. After chatting outside the show in my car with Mila, Marievic, Julia Leonard, and a friendly L.A. visitor named Hala Matar, I drive home.
It’s 9 p.m. I’m lying in bed, scrolling the platforms. I recall Brian Piñeyro recently followed me on Twitter, so I start reading his backlog of tweets, which are brilliant. One tweet in particular reminds me of a line by Kenneth Koch. I get out my beloved edition of Koch’s Collected Poems and read the passage with the line similar to Piñeyro’s tweet. I send a pic of the passage (the last page from “Some General Instructions”) to Brian, thinking he may like Kenneth Koch.
Shower. I put Classical WQXR on the radio. Some very nice piano music. I think it’s perhaps Ravel, but it turns out to be Chopin, a piece from Chopin’s Nocturnes. Next is “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which I feel like I am supposed to hate, so I try to enjoy. I can’t. The announcer reminds listeners that Vivaldi’s Spring is also one of iPhone’s default ringtone options.
Saturday Morning (June 24)
Every Saturday morning I listen to WKCR’s reggae program Footsteps of Reggae Music. Today is no exception, except I am awake later than usual, (9:30 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.). The first song I hear in full is “Ain’t No Love” by Jennifer Lara. It’s classic and great.
I stop by the grocery store before going home. At home, I start up Spotify and play the new 2 Chainz album, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, as I take installation shots of the Art Fair. I play the album multiple times, partly out of laziness, but also because I’m trying to sort out my favorite tracks from the long album, which is 18 songs.
2:30-ish. Artist Ryan Kish visits the fair. Ryan is an excellent painter, and a friend of Conor Thompson’s, who has shown at The Middler. Ryan and I catch up for a bit. He seems to be most drawn to Jennifer J. Lee’s paintings in the Bannerette presentation, especially the cactus painting on burlap.
After Ryan leaves, I lie down on the couch, the 2 Chainz album is still playing, and I am startled by an unannounced visitor. The fellow doesn’t seem to want to chat much. I ask if he is an artist, how he found out about the fair, etc, but he doesn’t give me much to work with. I’m also groggy from my nap. Not much more action at the fair after the reticent gentleman leaves.
6 p.m. The fair is closed for the day, so I go to the coffee shop (Variety) for a boost of early evening energy. Jacob, a friendly barista, is listening to Milk Music’s second album, Cruise Your Illusion, from 2013. Jacob and I have already bonded about Milk Music and about the Pacific Northwest (he’s from Seattle and I went to college in Olympia—the Evergreen State College is my alma mater). Milk Music’s bassist is Dave Harris, an old friend whom I used to work with at the Evergreen computer lab, and also someone I partied with a lot. “I’ve Got A Wild Feeling” was the song playing as I arrived.
I go home for a little while and my favorite 2 Chainz song from the new album finally reveals itself to me: “Blue Cheese.”
I listen to “Blue Cheese” on my way to Henry’s to get wine to bring to Julia Crockett’s, where she is playing a Japanese card game called “Hanabi” with Tenaya, Brenna, and her sister Ali. The wine I brought from Henry’s was a big hit with the group. (It’s a great feeling to impress people with a wine selection when you’re basically a wine philistine like me). I take a pic of the bottle so I can remember the name the next time I go to Henry’s.
I notice the tagline on the bottle after taking the pic. It says: Frizzante…. …..naturalmente!!!
Sunday Morning (June 25)
Awake at 7 a.m. Shower. Catch two songs of WKCR’s Morning Profiles show, which focuses on different regional musics from around the world that have language programs at Columbia. Today’s focus is Kora music from West Africa. I hear two songs by an artist whose name I was unable to record, but both were beyond. Amazing Grace, WCKR’s Gospel program, was on next at 8 am. The few songs I heard were predictably incredible.
Coffee shop (Variety). They were listening to Stone Temple Pilots and Bush while I wrote my to-do list for the day.
Home. Some down time. I start reading Whitman’s biography by Gay Wilson Allen again, titled The Solitary Singer. I think I’m ready this time around to actually make some headway on it. It’s long, 544 pages, and dry, published in 1955.
Sunday is the busiest day at the fair, second to the reception. There are people arriving throughout the day. Many entered the apartment in groups so it was difficult to determine who came together and who simply happened to arrive simultaneously. One guest is artist Jibade-Khalil Huffman, who successfully surprises me (I’d lost track if Khalil lives in Los Angeles or New York). It was a pleasure to catch up with Khalil, who I met through my sister Lauren Atlas (they became friends while at Bard together in the early 2000s). Khalil, his companion, and I have a variation on the the L.A. vs N.Y. conversation. I recall describing my relationship with New York City as “consensual.”
My last guests for the day are three old and dear friends: Reid Lee Urban, Yvette Hall, and Mary Jane Dunphe. Reid and Mary Jane are about to continue working on one of Reid’s movies, so Mary Jane comes over to borrow some clothing for her costume. (Though I’m also starring in Reid’s movie, I’m not able join the shoot today. I play a religious man named Luis in Reid’s movie. I lose a bet and have to become a performance artist.) Like Reid and Mary Jane, I know Yvette from Olympia, Washington. Yvette has moved from Olympia to Brooklyn for the summer.
7 p.m. I get dinner with Yvette at Bunna Cafe.
After dinner I return home and I am back on the couch. I read two New York Times articles about the art world, the first ominously titled “Art Gallery Closures for Small and Mid-Sized Dealers.” The Times interviewed Candice Madey, from On Stellar Rays, who recently announced Stellar Projects, and who I had met a few months ago at a dinner held by a supporter of Sophy Naess’s work.
Reading about the slumping art sales, and sitting in an apartment filled entirely with (then) unsold artworks, I am nevertheless optimistic. The next article I read is about the late playwright Edward Albee’s collection of artwork heading to Sotheby’s. The name Albee is one of those immediate positive triggers, just like Albee’s two-syllabic predecessor Beckett. Although I’m not well-versed in Albee’s work, I remember reading The Zoo Story in college and also the writer’s more experimental play Box, both fantastic.
Olivier texts me to see if the fair is still open, so I invite him by for an after-hours visit. He arrives around 8:30 or so, we hang for a bit. I point out that I’ve seen him at the coffee shop three days in a row and he tells me usually doesn’t go to the coffee shop. He says he usually brews his own coffee but the gas in his apartment has been shut off for repair.
Olivier leaves. I browse the platforms and watch some Instagram stories. People are at BBQs and rooftops, or partying at Fire Island, all having great and real fun. Today is also the Pride parade, so people are posting stories from the village area. Elsewhere I see stories about fireflies and stories of people shotgunning beers on Bryce Grate’s rooftop. It’s another lively early summer weekend in our great city but I’m relieved to be finally alone in my apartment, The Middler Art Fair now closed.
Monday Morning (June 26)
7 a.m. Before shower I turn the radio dial to WNYC, but stop at the 89/90 region because I catch a portion of a cover of “Rock Me, Mama.” It must be WFUV again. “Rock Me, Mama” is a Dylan outtake from the Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack sessions, heard widely from bootlegs of the sessions, like Pecos Blues, etc. Dylan probably wrote the song on the spot, or else had the fragment developing for a while before laying it to tape in 1973. Anyway, I love “Rock Me Mama” and would probably enjoy any conceivable version of it, even this one, which I learn is by the terrible Old Crow Medicine Show, and has been re-titled “Wagon Wheel.” I read on Wikipedia that since it’s been given new lyrics, the singer Keith Shecor shares a songwriting credit with Dylan. Wow.
I switch to WNYC after Old Crow Medicine Show and it’s mostly talk of the healthcare bill while I shower.
8 a.m. Coffee shop (Variety). I’m sitting outside updating my Consumer Report before work. When I’m ready to leave I realize I have the urge to listen to the Pat Garrett sessions containing “Rock Me, Mama.” Then an unusual thing happens: a crust punk on a bike pedals by and is listening to Bob Dylan on an external speaker. It’s the harmonica outro from “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” I take a pic of the man at the corner of Stanhope and Wyckoff.
I get in my car and plug in my phone to play the Pat Garrett sessions from a YouTube user who primarily posts Dylan rarities. The name of the user who posted the Pat Garrett sessions I wanted to hear is also named ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.’ Weird!!!
9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Resume listening to the Pat Garrett sessions while at work. Remarkable tracks: “And He’s Killing Me Too (Take 4),” (which I think includes a moment of narration from James Coburn), “Sweet Amarillo,” and of course “Rock Me, Mama.” After that, I am curious about a suggested YouTube clip of Dylan material called “Bob Dylan & Jerry Garcia – Let’s Keep It Between Us,” which is a live set from the Warfield in San Francisco, recorded November 6, 1980. I play that. It’s great. Jerry plays lead on the last five songs, which also include the strongest of the set: “Can We Keep It Between Us” (an incredible Saved-era outtake), “Covenant Woman,” and “Simple Twist of Fate.” Dylan Introduces “Can We Keep It Between Us” by saying, “Here’s a new song… “ [pause] “…I don’t know how old it is…”
After lunch (Nha Minh), I’m back at work, and switch from the Warfield set to studio versions of songs off Saved, perhaps Dylan’s most iconic Gospel album. I am stuck listening to “Covenant Woman” and “What Can I Do For You?” Both are astounding, great songs. Wow.
The Gospel period is one of Dylan’s most human moments. By then Dylan is 39 years old, having spent the previous few years enduring an emotional toll from several heavy duty tours, presumably with lots of drug use and drinking involved. Perhaps Dylan’s new religiosity offered him structure and purpose at a time of increasingly alienating celebrity and personal turmoil following his divorce? Anyway, despite being a Dylan nut, I’m not exceedingly versed in the artist’s biography. In fact, what I know from the Gospel period is mostly gleaned from Wikipedia. There’s a story, for example, recounted by Dylan, about someone throwing a Crucifix on the stage at San Diego show in 1978. Dylan retrieved the cross and kept it as a personal talisman for the remainder of the tour:
Towards the end of the show someone out in the crowd … knew I wasn’t feeling too well. I think they could see that. And they threw a silver cross on the stage. Now usually I don’t pick things up in front of the stage … But I looked down at that cross. I said, ‘I gotta pick that up.’ So I picked up the cross and I put it in my pocket … And I brought it backstage and I brought it with me to the next town, which was out in Arizona … I was feeling even worse than I’d felt when I was in San Diego. I said, ‘Well, I need something tonight.’ I didn’t know what it was. I was used to all kinds of things. I said, ‘I need something tonight that I didn’t have before.’ And I looked in my pocket and I had this cross.
I’m home from work and now listening to my copy of Saved, thinking about Dylan and the Gospel Years. One of Dylan’s best biographers, Clinton Heylin, has a forthcoming book about the period called Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened. (The title is a reference to Paul William’s 1980 book: Dylan – What Happened?, which is always a trip to see at bookstores with its sensationalistic cover.) I am excited for Heylin’s book, which is coinciding with the release of the next Dylan Bootleg series, Vol. 13, covering the Gospel period.
After Saved, I put on Street-Legal, Dylan’s studio album immediately preceding the Gospel era. Street-Legal has the song Vinnie texted me about last Wednesday: “No Time to Think,” which he said was the only song he could listen to at the moment. “No Time to Think” is like a waltz, in 3/3 time (I think), and runs 8 minutes 20 seconds. Great lyrics.
Still listening to Street-Legal when my brother comes over. (My brother just flew in from Munich yesterday, and will be in town for a few days before returning back to Los Angeles where he lives). Did I put this album on purposely for my brother, I wonder? My brother loves Street-Legal, especially the song “True Love Tends to Forget.”
We go to the Good Fellas Diner in the Maspeth but it’s closed, so we decide to just go to regular old Diner (on Broadway and Berry Street in Williamsburg). During the drive from Good Fellas Diner to Diner we listen to Young Thug’s latest and talk about Young Thug. My brother’s favorite song from the album at the moment is “Daddy’s Birthday.”
After Diner, we hop back in my car to go to Joey Scialfa’s apartment, where he and some friends were hanging on a rooftop. I play Brian my favorite song from the 2 Chainz album (“Blue Cheese”) as we drive across the Williamsburg Bridge to Clinton Street. Brian is deeply impressed by “Blue Cheese.”
The music at Joey’s was varied and eclectic. At one point I got in an argument with my brother, (since resolved), during which our friend Zach started playing 90s pop punk to try to distract us out of the argument. He played terrible songs by Pennywise, Melancholin, Unwritten Law, and Guttermouth–– all bands we saw at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in the mid-to-late 1990s, when we were 12 – 14.
Eventually we snapped out of the argument and I suggested Zach put on Green Day’s ‘Kerplunk’, to continue the 90s pop-punk theme. It sounded fantastic. Brian brings up the 2 Chainz album and Zach says “Blue Cheese”. I start talking excessively about “Blue Cheese”, its synth textures, etc, and Zach says dryly, “Yes, I heard it”. I stop talking about it.
I leave early, (I was drinking seltzer the entire night), and drive home stone cold sober listening to 2 Chainz “Blue Cheese”.