Ah, New York! CCLaP just got back from a big four-day tour there recently, which is why this blog has been so quiet as of late; and now that I'm back and rested up a little, I thought I would finally get a write-up done of how everything went, and post approximately fifty of the best photos I shot as well. (That's why only this first paragraph appears on the front page of the website and in many RSS feeds; click through to the standalone archive version of the post for all the dozens of images.) You can see a whole lot more photos, including shots of all the various sightseeing-type things I in particular did while there, over at the multiple photosets at my Flickr account (here's day one, day two, day three, day four, and soon a special day five, in which Katherine Scott Nelson and I stuck around for one extra day to attend the Lambda Literary Awards); all those photosets will also eventually include everyone else's photos from the trip, as they slowly get them emailed to me over the next couple of weeks.
The tour got off to a bang a week ago today, with an early performance last Thursday at the cool live-music venue Le Poisson Rouge, just a few blocks due south of Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan. (Individually from top down: John Reed, David David Katzman, Katherine Scott Nelson, Lauryn Allison Lewis, yours truly.) We had been warned that we needed to be done at a very precise time, to make way for a musical guest taking the main stage right after us; little did we know (until that night, anyway) that said musical guest was Regina Spektor, in a show being sponsored by NPR, that also had Diane Sawyer and a newsmagazine crew in tow as well, doing a feature on her and using this concert as the centerpiece. So needless to say, things at Le Poisson Rouge were kind of chaotic that night, and we ended up having a pretty small but still happy show there, a good, intimate, low-pressure way to start the tour in general. Then after that, about eight of us or so found ourselves in a sushi restaurant over near Astor and 3rd; but for the most part, in what came as a surprise to me while there, since nearly everyone on the tour was staying with a different old friend or relative in the area, our group tended to disperse almost immediately after shows were over, and not coalesce again until minutes before our show the next evening was ready to begin. So that was kind of interesting, to get together with everyone once a day and hear what everyone had been doing while spread thinly throughout Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, upper Manhattan and Harlem, although unfortunately you're not going to see many photos today featuring everyone on the tour all grouped together somewhere.
So after a Friday of individual adventures (for example, I myself ended up at the Museum of Modern Art during most of my free time that day, then met up for a drink with John Reed in Midtown), it was back together again on Friday night for our show at the fantastically cozy and esoteric Book Thug Nation in the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, in this case done in conjunction with the great Brooklyn litmag Moonshot. (Individually from top down: CCLaP blogger and Brooklyn event organizer Oriana Leckert, Moonshot's Joshua Boardman, CCLaP's Traci Kim [that night's emcee], CCLaP's Lauryn Allison Lewis, Moonshot's Rohin Guha, CCLaP's Katherine Scott Nelson, Moonshot's Niina Pollari, CCLaP's David David Katzman, Moonshot's JD Scott, CCLaP's Sally Weigel.) This was a wonderful little show, with lots of friendly and enthusiastic Brooklynites packed into a tight little warm space, and many new friendships were made between the two groups before the night was over. Then a bunch of us ended up at a Japanese vegan restaurant just around the corner, although in typical fashion a bunch of others ended up having to split soon afterwards in order to make it back to Manhattan at a decent hour.
On Saturday I got to spend the day with CCLaP blogger and Brooklyn local Oriana Leckert, who took me all around the Bushwick neighborhood for the annual "Bushwick Open Spaces" arts festival; and in fact that evening's show was in that neighborhood as well, at the fantastic experimental performance space Vaudeville Park. (Individually from top down: David David Katzman, Traci Kim [once again serving as emcee], Lauryn Allison Lewis, Katherine Scott Nelson, John Reed, Oriana Leckert and Sally Weigel.) Our show that night was in conjunction with the local band Battle Of The Camel, this great quirky pop group that reminded me a lot of the '80s band fIREHOSE, and who agreed to play instrumental music behind some of the writers as well; of particular note was local writer John Reed, who kept yelling out ridiculously specific examples of the kind of music he wanted played behind him. ("Can you do, like, a bicyclist on meth?") The show was packed with cute drunken local hipsters, like a wet dream of what you hope your shows will be like when you're from out of town and about to perform in New York, and I want to thank again Ian and everyone else there at Vaudeville Park for working so hard that evening to make our crowded show such a big success.
On Sunday it was another day of Brooklyn sightseeing for me, this time to the now almost completely gentrified Williamsburg neighborhood (Chicagoans, think of Bushwick as Wicker Park circa 1992, and Williamsburg as Wicker Park ten years later); then that evening it was off to lower Manhattan again, for our show at the revered lit venue KGB Bar near the East Village. This was an actual secret meeting place for American Communist leaders in the 1920s, which is how the bar got its name; and there's been an infamous reading series going on there for at least 25 years now, featuring nearly every famous writer in America you can possibly mention, so it was a real thrill and honor for us to have KGB give us the entire evening just for a CCLaP showcase. (Individually from top to bottom: Sally Weigel, Kevin Haworth, Katherine Scott Nelson, David David Katzman, Traci Kim, Ben Tanzer, Lauryn Allison Lewis.) This show was a real blast, with a crazily passionate audience that bought a lot of books, so many many thanks again to Suzanne Dottino for having all of us.
And then although most of the rest of the CCLaP crew headed back home the next morning, Katherine Scott Nelson and I stuck around for one more day and night, to attend the big Lambda Literary Awards ceremony over at the CUNY Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan. So since I had an extra day on my hands, I made my way over to the famous Strand Bookstore just below Union Square for the very first time in my life, on recommendation from Moonshot's Joshua Boardman who works in their rare-book room; and since the tour had ended up going just so well, I decided I deserved to splurge for the one and only time of the trip, so ended up buying a First American Edition copy of Wilkie Collins' 1866 Armadale, which I'll be getting listed to CCLaP's own rare book service later this summer. (Absolutely hit the Strand's rare-book floor if you're ever in Manhattan; it alone is the size of most other bookstores in their entirety, the walls lined on every inch with rough shelves bulging with rare, unique and antique books [including an entire section of Greek and Latin texts thousands of years old], the rest of the room filled with Victorian leather chairs and little reading tables, locked glass cabinets with the most expensive stuff, and a lot more. Most of it's free to just walk up and handle with your own two hands, and I can't tell you what the experience was like of standing in front of a good thirty bookshelves full of rare Victorian manuscripts, and getting to spend a morning casually thumbing through first editions of Twain, Longfellow, Swinburne, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a whole lot more.) Unfortunately, Katherine ended up going 0 for 2 at the "Lammys" later that night; but I gotta say, it was a real thrill to be there, in this giant room filled with the best gay and lesbian writers in the entire United States, along with celebrities like Olympia Dukakis and Ally Sheedy. CCLaP's titles usually fly so under the radar most of the time when it comes to things like this, so it was a real honor simply to be held in the same company as all these other amazing books.
And then finally six days after I started out, back home again! And that means that we will finally be getting back into a regular schedule around here again starting on Monday, after two months of constant disruption from the usual book and movie reviews posted here daily, photos of the day, news about other local events and the like. I was lucky enough to get to record all four New York shows, by the way, so those will be going up at the CCLaP Podcast here every Monday over the next month (or actually over the next five weeks, because in the middle there we're going to have a special interview with local legend Joe Meno); but mostly it's going to be back to normal around here starting Monday, and I look forward to getting all my delayed old book and movie reviews finally out to all of you quickly over the next several weeks. Thanks again to the over two dozen people who helped in one way or another to make this New York tour happen, and my gratitude once again for all of it coming out as fantastically as it did.