getting to shows was harder.

One thing we immediately found about living in Boonton was the increase in distance to the clubs we attended. In Lodi, we were fifteen minutes from Hoboken, which was just a quick PATH ride to the Village.  Getting to clubs was easy.  We could go in, catch a band, and be home by midnight or even earlier in some cases.

Boonton was a different story.  We were an hour from Hoboken, all the way out Route 80 West.  Getting into Hoboken or the City required planning, and at least two hours in total driving time.  Getting to Maxwells to see Footstone meant we had to leave early; there were some nights I left right from work instead of driving all the way home.

Sometimes, Sandy wouldn’t go.  She worked in Fair Lawn, and it didn’t make sense for us to take two cars into Hoboken to see a show.  But it also didn’t make sense for her to drive all the way home to Boonton and have me pick her up there, only to turn around and drive all the way back to Hoboken again.  So she’d just go home, and I would go into Hoboken or the City to see whichever band we were going to see.

It also meant that I went to shows less frequently.  Not only was it tough for me to make the trip, but it was also tough for me to go without Sandy.  I enjoyed sitting next to her and being smug and jaded together, and when she wasn’t there I always felt kind of lost.

So I found myself going less frequently.

When we lived in Lodi we’d go see just about anybody; out in Boonton there needed to be an actual reason for us to go.  A good band, or maybe someone from out of town that we knew.

Keith, Paul, and Penny from Silver Girl came out to New York one weekend; Gapeseed was playing at some shithole in Nyack, New York.  I was excited to see our friends from San Diego, but had never been to Nyack before.  The club was pretty ratty, but the band was great – as was the opening band (whose name I can’t recall).  At one point I mentioned to Keith that I had never been to the club before, and he seemed shocked.  I had to explain to him that Nyack was so far away from our universe, this was not a club that was on our list of places to visit.  We almost never ventured outside the Village or Hoboken, with the occasional exception of seeing a show down the shore or in New Brunswick.  And now that we lived further away, it was even tougher for us to get out.

Rich noticed it, too.  One day he told me “You know, we never see you anymore.  Since you moved, you never come out.”

I explained that it was tougher for us to go out when we were so far away.

“I expected this would happen,” he responded.  He said it like it was a bad thing.  I felt guilty, as if we were somehow abandoning our friends.

So we decided to have a party, and invite all our friends.  We checked with our new neighbor Linda (with whom we shared the courtyard), and she was fine with it.  So we planned it out all official-like, with a goal of showing all our friends we still loved them, and showing them that we still wanted them in our lives.

doug offered to show up with cuppa joe and actually play.  We thought it would be cool to have a live band at our party, and doug promised us that they had a simplified setup that enabled them to play, but barely louder than a stereo would be at a party.  “I swear, nobody will even know there’s a live band there,” he said.  “And if someone complains, we can turn it way down.”

We invited a ton of people.  Not just all the Dromedary people, but also friends from both our jobs, friends from college, friends from all over.  And it happened to be one of those parties – you know, when you have a party, you invite ten people, and four can’t make it.  This time, it seemed like we invited 50 – and all of them came.

We asked everyone to park on the street, and not to park in front of the houses.  We didn’t want them to take our neighbors’ parking spaces.  We also cleared it with the other families that shared the house with us – they were all fine with it, and told us to have a great time.

Soon after the party started, the cuppa joe guys showed up.  Sure enough, they had a neat little setup.  The guitar and bass were plugged into these tiny, six-watt amps, and doug sang through a similar amp.  Steve had a snare and a hi-hat.  I don’t recall what he did for a kick drum, but I seem to remember that he played with brushes.  All in all, their entire setup could have fit in the trunk of a regular-sized car, and if I remember, they were able to carry it all into the courtyard in one trip.  In fact, I didn’t even know they had brought the gear with them until it was all set up and they were ready to play.

Once they started playing, it was pretty astounding to me.  I never considered cuppa joe to be a good live band, but at lower volumes they were quite good.  doug was very entertaining, and the people at the party were really enjoying themselves.  Beer was flowing, and as the evening started to evolve, I recall sitting in the courtyard, thinking that it was pretty awesome that we could have so many people over, have such a good time, and be able to do it at a volume that wasn’t tough on our neighbors.  Our Lodi parties were way louder than this, and we had a live band here.

We want to play your next party,” Mark said.  I didn’t think Footstone would be able to pull it off the way cuppa joe did.  Half doug’s songs were played on acoustic guitar.  I didn’t think the guys in Footstone owned an acoustic guitar, and I certainly didn’t think any of them would bother with a little six-watt guitar amp.

“Umm, someone is asking for you,” Rich said to me.  “Some old guy.  Looking for the owner.”

“I’m not the owner,” I said.  But I went with him anyway.

Out in the courtyard, an old man was standing at the gate, trying to get in.  The fence was high enough that I could only see his head.  But I could hear him cursing, and he was pretty pissed.

“Turn that shit down!” he said.  “People are trying to sleep.”

“It’s, like, nine o’clock,” I said.  “You can really hear that?”  I couldn’t even hear the band playing from inside our apartment.  I recognized the old grump; he lived in the house next door, along the road.  Our apartment was all the way in the back, probably half a football field away from his, perhaps more, and his apartment was on the far side of a two-family house.

“Damn right, I can hear it.  And if you don’t turn it off, I’m going to call the police.”

What a nice guy.  Welcome to the neighborhood.

So the band stopped playing.  The guy yelled a little more and then he left.  We turned the stereo back on, and put on cuppa joe’s CD.  I swear, the CD was louder than the band was when they were playing.  

Fifteen minutes later, the old guy was at the fence again.

“Who’s car is parked in front of my house?” he yelled.

“What?!” I asked.

“Somebody’s damn car is parked in front of my house!”

“That’s public parking there, on the street,” I said.  I was getting pretty pissed.

“That’s my house there,” he said.  “I’m an old man.  What if I have a heart attack in the middle of the night?  Where’s the ambulance going to go?  What if I need an ambulance in the middle of the night?  There’s a car parked right in front of my house?”

“Anybody can park on the street,” I said.

“I’m going to call the police,” he said.  “I’m an old man.  What if I get sick?”

Holy fuck, I thought.  This guy is out of control.

I walked out to see who was parked in front of his house.  I didn’t recognize the car.

But it was one of those things that simply deflated the party.  This guy was just going to keep coming back and threatening to call the police for one thing after another, until everyone went home.

And everyone did, seemingly all at once.

“What an asshole,” I said to Sandy, after everyone had gone.

We laughed about it, and made fun of the guy for a long time afterward.  We’d be driving up Main Street, and we’d see him walking along the sidewalk, and one of us would say “What are all these cars doing, parked on Main Street?!  What if I need an ambulance?”

But we never had another party at that apartment.

~ by Al on May 25, 2009.

One Response to “getting to shows was harder.”

  1. I hope when I’m an old man, I never say, “I’m an old man!” It just sounds weird.

    I barely, barely remember this party – but, I think I have a few photos. I know I have (assuming it was from this event) at least two black and white photos – one of Buca, and one blurry one of maybe the Footstone guys sitting or crouching somewhere. I’ll scan them if I can find them.

    We played quite a few shows like this during this period – we played a Borders (a bookstore – they kept telling us to be quieter, too), radio stations, private parties, coffee houses, even fairs. I’d like to think we got better – sorry to say, Al, maybe after the last time you saw us (which may have even been this party).

    I’d love to see an SNL or Kids in the Hall version of the encounter of you and the Old Man.

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