May 8th, 2006



Some shorties today. Y'all know me by now, you can join up the dots yo'selves.

* A couple of weeks back I visited Supereveryday superstar Yuki Okumura in his basement studio at Location One, Greene Street, SoHo. Together with Wang Yahui, we ate lunch at Sunrise Mart. It was a rather flying visit, but we're going to hang out again when Koki Tanaka arrives from Japan next week.

* I'm still wondering where all the New York Japanese have gone, though. I think there's been a radical decline in the numbers of Japanese art students studying in New York. When I did my SVA studio visit I noticed that there wasn't one Japanese student at SVA. All the Asian students there were Koreans or Taiwanese. Huge numbers of Koreans! Why is this?

* You know how you hear that a recording artist is "putting the finishing touches to his album"? You always wonder what that entails, right? Are they like painters, putting just one touch of red in a landscape and realising it's finished, or a highlight in the portrait's eye that suddenly captures the sitter's soul? Well, I can tell you that yesterday I put one note into my Ocky Milk album and knew that it was finally completely finished, and ready to be sent off to the labels. It was a single guitar note, the first note Rusty Santos recorded me playing in Berlin last November. I added it right at the end of the last track, and more or less shouted "Eureka! It's finished!"

* Aren't American liquor stores weirdly grim and generic? I suppose bald take-it-or-leave-it signage is an American staple: there isn't much ambivalence about a big red sign just saying "DRUGS" or "HARDWARE", is there? But when it comes to "LIQUOR", we can't help feeling the breath of Prohibition on our necks, the time when, in America, you had to go to your doctor to get a prescription for whiskey. I still find it silly that you can't take your gallery opening wine out onto the sidewalk here, or that when I buy a beer to sip with my bento at Sunrise Mart I'm given a paper bag and told to drink it from that. It's difficult to drink from a small can of beer when it's hidden inside a paper bag. And why exactly am I doing this? In case children see me?

* Every city has an area -- or just a single street -- marked by the counterculture of the 1960s. In Edinburgh it would be Cockburn Street. In London, Camden Market and Carnaby Street. In New York it's St Mark's Place. What fascinates me about such places is how they weather the transition to other eras. Their 60s values decay slowly, darkening, plastifying, becoming mistaken memories. I walked along St Mark's Place yesterday. There was a Himalayan restaurant (distant memories of the hippy trail), some tacky T-shirt stores, some references to drug addiction, a tattoo parlor, and a lot of cheap sunglasses, pirated DVDs and tacky jewelry being sold off stalls. There was almost no sign of any political counter-culture on the block where Abbie Hoffman once lived, his apartment bugged by the FBI. The whole of St Mark's Place now says, like Hoffman's suicide note, "It's too late. We can't win. They've gotten too powerful."

* The only interesting youth culture trend I've seen this time in New York is a handful of people clearly apeing Jamel Shabazz's photobook about the early days of hip-hoptimism, Back in the Days. I'm talking about guys with big geeky RUN-DMC glasses and funny floppy hats and things. I mean, it's the saggy ass jeans and hipster t-shirts thing, but taken to really geeky early 80s extremes and accessorized with truly eccentric details.

* But what could an old man like me know about youth culture or street style? Some British fellow called Richard Tock ticks me off for being the Cunt of the Week, a "real-life Nathan Barley" and "jet-setting tramp" who "should be watching Match of Day in bed, wondering where his life went wrong and if he should get a conservatory".

And instead I'm... well, messing about in New York, wondering where it all went right!