July 8th, 2005


No Sony for Mai

Yesterday was a strange day, rich in its way. I woke up to hear from London friends about the long-feared terrorist strike against the city. I moved out of Harlem and into the Chelsea gallery, where I'll be crashing in a back room on the concrete floor for the rest of my stay. Conditions are spartan, but it's great not to have long subway rides at either end of the day, or the anxiety of walking through Harlem with my computer in my bag.

We had another good day at the gallery. Mai's buoyant mood continues; her fashion designer boyfriend is arriving soon from Paris. Following the advice of my friend Jorge Colombo, I experimented with Garageband's built-in loops, adding a lot more musical texture to my narratives. Mai liked the results, finding the repetitive backing tracks easier to sing along with. I picked up her song "I Don't Wanna Deal With Those Monsters" and morphed it into an old Toog sketch, "J'ai Vu Des Monstres A La Piscine". Here's an mp3 of the results. This isn't what visitors to the gallery heard, it's just some sound files I made and then played and improvised on top of at certain points when my more coherent tales petered out. You can't really hear Mai on my headset microphone, but she's singing and performing in the background. It's called "No Sony For Mai" because Mai wanted to google prices for a new camcorder when nobody was in the gallery, and I told her she couldn't because someone was sure to arrive. We started throat-singing "No Sony for Mai!"

No Sony For Mai (Stereo mp3 file, 12 minutes, 10.9 MB)

After work I bought a sleeping bag at K-Mart then, for fun, went with Mai to Other Music. I figured they might have forgotten about my bitchy, spiteful attack on the store, but just in case they hadn't I turned up my collar and pulled down my dogtooth cap before entering. Actually, it was really nice to be there again. They were playing a lovely piece of Terry Riley when I entered, and had lots of interesting records, magazines and DVDs on display. I began to regret ever having doubted them when suddenly Josh, the manager, came up. "I don't really care why you wrote what you did," he began, "but I just wanted to let you know that we considered it mean and very disappointing that an artist we felt we'd supported for a number of years would take that attitude." He went on for quite a while, refuting my criticisms that the store has too much advertising, has become a bit yuppyish, and doesn't even stock Momus records any more. I was sheepish, interjecting feeble self-defences. Josh did concede that some of the newsletter blurbs are over-written, but thought my anti-Christian stance on the Born-Again Rockabilly record was closed-minded, to which I could only reply with the words of Howard Devoto: "My mind it ain't so open that anything could crawl right in". I raised my point about the records OM don't stock, like the Active Suspension catalogue, and, checking the catalogue, Josh discovered that, indeed, nothing by O.Lamm, Hypo or Konki Duet had ever been ordered. "See, this is the kind of thing we'd love to know, but you don't have to tell us in the negative way you did." I'm on the verge of crying, and offer to write something nice about the store soon. "Freud was right," I mumble, "it's the small differences that are the most murderous". I'm heading for the door with Mai, feeling like I've just been sentenced to hard labour in a gulag, when suddenly an Other Music employee sidles up. "I just wanted to say thank you for what you wrote. It started a conversation here that we needed to have." I left, somewhat cheered, feeling like the man who invented glasnost.

Dinner at Congee Village with Lord Whimsy and Susan, Jorge Colombo and Amy, Mai, and lots of other people seated round a rotating food tripod (well, a tripod is how Jorge used the turntable, anyway, making 360 degree revolutionary films of us gurning into his video camera). After I got over the shock of Whimsy being an American rather than an English aristocrat, I felt like I'd known him for years. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Matt Jacobson of Le Grand Magistery, the man who engineered my flirtation with America, a flirtation which began in 1996 and continues, I suppose, to this day. Whimsy is wit and charm incarnate, a constant stream of anecdotes, his conversation scattered with arcane knowledge about everything from toads to porpoises, Durban to design. After the meal we went to a party at Gavin Brown's new space on Greenwich Street. While Mai and I hung out on the roof with Jesse and Suroosh from Vice, Whimsy and Susan, the dapper flappers, waltzed to the genteel sounds of a bluegrass band.

(Photos by Jorge Colombo)