Monday, October 24, 2005

it was "run into queen esther" night!

stew and the negro problem
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
i got an email from stew inviting me and a guest to see his show at joe's pub last monday. he had a residency there every monday for the month of october with his band "the negro problem" while he was working out the kinks in his "travelogue" show at the public theater. wonderful stuff. i did the workshop for the show at the public last december. that's my thing with everything i do creatively, folks, but especially with theater -- i originate, i don't replicate. preferrably off-broadway, where the action is. that's why i do theater in nyc. when they get stew's show off the ground, it's going to have a successful off-broadway run. i hope to be a part of it. and of course, it came in under george's regime, so there you have it.

so gina b. and i get there in time to rendevous with some of his friends and bogart the big booth in the back that's velvet roped off and always says "reserved" but somehow never really is. there were five of us -- jaime, his cool girlfriend and someone else whose name escapes me, gina and myself. before i settled in, i walked across the room to say congrats to bill b. on his recent nupitals and i ran smack dab into brian tate, greg's brother. how annoying that they don't resemble each other. i hadn't seen him since i did the brooklyn new music festival at frank's lounge in ft. greene. he said the photos and video look great. i'm like, great. can't wait to get my hands on it, hand it over. but it's got to be edited and what not. always, with the editing. then he introduces me to his friend maureen visiting from california who turns out to be the one who wrote "Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race" -- yowza. i'm in that book! she describes with startling accuracy a gig i did years ago with the brc at wetlands where everything onstage fell apart and i improvised something that brought the house down while jack sprat changed his guitar string. i had to do something. i'm the kind of performer that doesn't believe in a dead mic. ever. when i read it, i thought, this is too accurate. how did she know? was she there? did someone make a tape that i didn't know about? the scenario was that accurate and that on point.

we exchanged information. how nice to have met her, finally. i've got to get her up to speed. and then darrell mcneill appeared from the end of the bar. i've been emailing him for years and had no idea what he looked like. really big and intimidating to some, i suppose. but then again he wore glasses and as he spoke to me, he wouldn't stop touching them and it made him look so vulnerable and sweet, i thought, oh, he's just a big geek.

somewhere in the dark, a dark-haired pixie faced woman sat next to me with her boyfriend. at first glance i thought it was ellie covan of dixon place. i made a mental note to say hello to her when the lights came up.

great set. stew did a lot of songs from his show, which i'd never heard from a band set-up. afterwards, i jummped up to speak to bill about a gig at joe's for me sometime this year, maybe -- and when i came back to our magic "reserved" booth, i stumbled and almost fell on the pixie-faced lady's gentleman friend.

"i did that very same thing when i walked over here, too," she said in an unmistakable southern accent. i guessed texas, probably the panhandle.

"what's your name?" i blurted.

"michelle," she smiled.

"you're michelle shocked!" i declared. "i met you at village underground a few years ago. you were living in new orleans then and you gave me some purple mardi-gras beads that you'd caught yourself. we talked for awhile. it was right around soundcheck time. do you remember me?"

and she said a slow "yeeeaaah, i think i do." and then we were off to the races. her "sweetheart" (what a nice way to say it) was a visual artist with a gallery in soho that lives in el-lay, where she is now. funny. she was there to see stew's set because of the show she's developing with the public -- about memphis minnie, the country blues singer/guitarist. hearing her say that took the top of my head clean off. that's me, i thought. that's totally me! later that night when i mention this to bill b. he said that when the idea came up, i was the first person he thought of.

so i hear someone behind me say hello stranger and then tap me on the shoulder and i turn around. guess who? vernon reid. introductions were made all around. interestingly enough, neither of them recognized each other right away. vernon's working on the soundtrack to some movie. we should talk, he said. yeah? i countered. i'm thinking he should take me to dinner at prune. i love their osso bucco. and now's the just right weather for eating something that hearty...

over vernon's shoulder, i saw mark russell, formerly the artistic director of PS 122. he's at the apollo now, scheduling things in their smaller room. we should talk, he said. yes, we should.

as michelle left, she turned to me and said, i know we've met for a reason.

boy howdy, did we.

as vernon's leaving, we run into ken roberson who looks fan-freakin'-tastic. he's sitting with lorna (whom i adore), getting ready to see the next show. every time i see kenny, i'm like, we have to do something, we have to. and he's saying the same thing. with every conversation, we get closer to the explosive moment that's going to make everything come together somehow, the thing that's going to get it off the ground.

i have to talk to him, too.

after the show, stew and his band comes out to say hello and somewhere in there it's decided that everyone is going to swift's to nosh and have drinks. stew is a hoot. somewhere towards the end of our rehearsal process, i told him that he was my ex-husband i'd never have, and from a past life if that kind of thing were actually true, because we are way too much alike. stew remembered that and cracked me up about it, declaring that he'd write a song about it and make it the title of his next record. that's the reason why i don't date songwriters or comedians. eventually, whatever happens between the two of you -- however sordid, intimate, morose or whatever -- will end up somewhere in their material. they'll make a point of saying it's you that they're talking about. and if it's actually good, you'll never live it down.

i wouldn't want to mess with stew. his songwriting is kind of brilliant.

i like stew. we get along like a house on fire. and both of us are always saying these bizarre things that dovetail each other. it's amusing the first time it happens but after the millionth time, it becomes very disturbing. it's like that when i'm with george wolfe. he's like a little roman candle going off in every direction. and i'm so happy to be with him, i'm actually a little spastic.

so then gina and i walked to 14th and 7th and talked about nyc and alternative culture and alternative black folk. to be percieved as an individual and not anyone's stereotype is all that anyone wants, i imagine. why is that so impossible to get when you're black?


reni said...
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Melanie Alamo said...
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piu piu said...

hello! i love those nights out when u end up just walking from person to person you havent seen in ages....