For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.
ONE WEEK LEFT! This Thanksgiving-Eve, I find I am thankful that I haven’t thrown this laptop across the room in frustration; that I’ve somehow summoned the strength to write every single day, despite all obstacles, like traveling and vacation and not-feeling-like-doing-shit. I’m even more thankful that this nonsense project is almost over. But mostly I’m thankful you guys have come along for the ride. If I can just find seven more stories to tell you, we’ll be done with this thing and you won’t hear from me until 2012!
With that said, today’s story is about reggae. Sorry.
One Woman, One Cry
I have a rule for friends who visit me in New York: you are welcome to crash at my place, but count me out. Count me out of your trips to the Empire State Building, getting tickets to see Wicked, or eating at that restaurant you heard one of the Sex and the City gals likes to frequent. For you, your trip to New York is a fun vacation that you want to cram a million things into (so’s your mom!). For me, it’s Thursday. I want to get Chinese food and eat it in my pajamas. I know that seems boring compared to a harbor lights tour, but trust me, I’m super into my pajama-dinner plans and I’d rather skip whatever non-pajama plans you have in mind.
It started when I first lived in New York in the late 90s. I had an open door policy to all my friends from back home, who could all of a sudden afford to come to New York, as long as they weren’t paying for a hotel. And I loved playing host to them. But by my second year in the city, I spent nine weekends out of ten turning the sofa into a guest room. And my friends thought the perfect way to repay my kindness was to buy an extra ticket to a show or a Yankee game, when all I wanted was some alone time in my own apartment.
So I started giving guests the speech: “You can stay at my place. You can come and go as you please. If I’m going to dinner or a bar, I’ll let you know and I’d love for you to join me. But please don’t ask me to go shopping in Soho or visit the World Trade Center (or, later, Ground Zero), or join you on your walking tour of Seinfeld landmarks. Make yourself at home, and leave me the Hell out of your plans.”
Most of the time, that worked. But once, in the summer of 2003, an an old High School friend flew in with her husband for their first visit to the city. The speech failed, I broke my own rule and I paid dearly.
They planned their trip around a concert in Coney Island. They had a last minute cancellation in their party, so they asked if I wanted the extra ticket. I did not. I already had tickets to a Chinese food pajama party of one. So I made an excuse and did my best to get them on the correct subway in time for the show.
They ended up in Queens. In my defense, they were pretty stoned. My friend’s husband had smuggled a small bag of pot and a pipe underneath his ballsack all the way from Colorado (I guess he had not heard that you can buy it in New York pretty easily. It’s like Beetlejuice-you say it three times and it just appears). As soon as they got to my house from the airport, he retrieved his supply and offered me a hit, which I declined, because pot already smells like balls without actually being enclosed in balls for four hours. He didn’t mind (his balls, I guess), so he toked up early and often, and maybe missed a couple key instructions about which train to take. Anyway, they missed half their concert and I felt a little guilty for leaving them to their own devices after only a few hours in New York.
The next night they had another show to attend, and this time they bought an extra ticket, just for me. The show was at a club in Park Slope, Brooklyn. There was no easy way to get there by train, and to get a cab to take you there, you sort of had to be able to tell the driver how to get there. I knew they would have trouble, and I felt guilty about the previous night’s events, and they bought me a ticket and it was Friday night, what the Hell–I agreed to take them there.
We got to the club and it was packed. I was already miserable. Everyone in the room reeked of pot and patchouli and body odor, but it wasn’t my nose that was horrified. It was my ears. The opening band was playing reggae music. I looked at my friends, dancing and delighted from the moment they walked in.
“IS THIS A REGGAE SHOW?!” I asked in a panic.
The terror on my face was easy to spot. They seemed surprised by my reaction. They confirmed that they had, indeed, bought me a ticket to a reggae show and I started doing the math in my head. Forty minutes for this band, a twenty minute DJ break before the headlining band, another fifty minute set–I was about to be subjected to almost two hours of reggae music! Sorry, Marley-heads, but I didn’t sign up for that!
Ska, maybe. I could do an hour or so of good ska music. But not reggae. My rule of “count me out of your plans” is nothing compared to my rule of “count me out of your reggae shows.” I tried to force a smile, but I wasn’t feeling it.
But I didn’t want to spoil their evening–they were very clearly “feeling it.” So I found a seat on the curb outside the club and spent the evening playing around on my phone and chatting up the revolving door of reggae fans who came outside to smoke a joint.
I’ve since lost touch with that couple, which is sad, because despite their love of reggae music and ballsack marijuana, I thought they were pretty cool. Sometimes when I’m walking home late at night, I’ll pass by a bar that’s blasting reggae so loudly I can hear it from the street. I stop for a second and wonder if maybe they’re inside, dancing in circles with their arms over their heads. I think about stepping in to take a look around, see if I can spot them in the crowd.
Then I come to my senses and hurry the fuck home.