Gary Benchley, Rock Star

Coming to New York

In his first installment for TMN, aspiring rock star and Manhattanite Gary Benchley details his recent move from Albany, his new roommates in the city, and the difficulties of being a drummer in New York.

A month ago we received the following email:

Hey Morning News Bros. I have got a column. My name is Gary Benchley and the pump is primed for me to take on New York. I just got out of school and I’m going to move there. I want to tell the story of a struggling young musician who is going to bring his talent to the metropolis, all the way, fast-forward. I am giving you the opportunity to see New York through some fresh eyes, rather than that tired Central Park shit you guys like to publish.

I have had three bands: Gobbler’s Knob, The Chimps, and The School Board. I’m thinking I want to go for a new sound, Destroy All Monsters sound but with a Postal Service texture.

Can you take it?
Gary Benchley

Indeed, we can—thus follows the first installment from The Letters of Gary Benchley, Rock Star, to be updated as often as we hear from him.


* * *

Before my stepdad dropped me off at Carl’s place in the East Village I was thinking about what brought me here. It has been a tired summer in Albany. How many times can you go stand in the back of Valentine’s and watch Monkey Gone Mad play ‘The Bb Song?’ Or Sirsy rock out with ‘Uncomfortable?’ Not many times if you want to keep your sanity.

I am not only a vocalist, guitarist, and drummer, but also a liberated man, and I am glad that mom has finally found some loin-heat. But all right. It’s three weeks ago, and they’re in there making noises, and the walls in this house are thin. I am glad for her, but I don’t need to hear all that.

So I’m pounding the skins, drowning out the animal noises from the other room. Trying not to think about how my mom gets much, much more than I do, albeit from a man who sells Snap-On Tools. And right as I’m in that part of ‘What Is The Light’ where the shit kicks in, my mom comes to the door, all sweaty, and asks if I could just do something quiet for a little while because Jad and her are trying to have a conversation. Close up that nightgown, zip that zipper, a conversation. It is time to leave Albany.

Consider: every morning Mom wakes me up by stroking my forehead and calling me her baby, and makes me a waffle. One morning two weeks ago this ritual is repeating, and all sit down for breakfast. Jad is joking around and he says that Mom really deserves the best things in life, she’s so beautiful. And my mom is smiling. And I’m happy for her, actually, right then.

Then Jad says ‘I think I’ll go to the jewelry store and get you a real pearl necklace,’ and mom hits him with a dishtowel, open-mouthed and smiling. For some reason they think I don’t know what this is, and then as I put the waffles into my mouth all I can think about is Jad, who has been married to my mother for five months, smashing the pig all over my mom’s admittedly ample and still-firm bosoms.

And I realize, basically, we’re talking Greek tragedy in the waiting if I don’t get the fuck out of Albany. We’re talking a story that is the bastard child of Arthur Miller and Henry Miller if I am not permitted to make my own life where I do not have to think about my mother post-coitus with the Jadster.

After breakfast, Jad drives me to my job at FPL, where I do data entry (I don’t know what FPL even stands for, or what they do), and this is generous of him, except it also invariably involves Tom Petty singalong. Who the fuck owns ‘Traveling Wilburys Volume III?’ This is the album they play on the special bus to calm down the violent retards. I’m not kidding. I did volunteer work one summer.

So given the situation and the inevitable hell if I am not liberated from my mother’s liberation, I was thinking of which direction I should go, and I thought, my life is totally going eastward. In American Lit, the professor kept pointing out how every American story ended up with the main character going West, like the guy in Gatsby. But my life has taken my from the lakeside city of Rochester, to school at Binghamton, and now here, in the capital of the Empire State. So if you’re looking for a logical next step, New York City it is.

Eastward ho.

After the pearl necklace breakfast, I called my friend Carl and explained the situation. He sympathized, and told me I could crash on his couch for a week while I tried to look for an apartment. And the plan was hatched. Jad, who is not a bad guy when he’s not welding my mom’s eyes shut, agreed to drive me down. I quit FPL. I got out of Albany.

During the drive, Jad told me about the time he’d been in New York City and had numerous run-ins with Black people and Jews. I nodded along with him, deciding that this was not the appropriate time for consciousness-raising. We got to the East Village, after a number of confusing turns which nearly took us to Brooklyn, and I began to unload my two bags of clothes and my Pearl Kit. This is how my career as the king of indie rock drummers went:

Carl: Whoa, man, you can’t fit those drums in the apartment.
Gary: What do you mean?
Carl: There isn’t room for that shit, man.

So I had to send the drums back with Jad. And it turns out that I don’t have a couch here after all, but a spot on the floor behind the aquarium.

But Gary Benchley, age 22, 5-10, and brown-haired, is the king of compromise. Carl and I went out to celebrate my arrival. We talked about our plans. We discussed getting a band together. He told me about job leads. And that night, I nestled down behind the aquarium full of hope, and woke up with a pile of dachshund shit next to my head.

The dachshund’s name is Harris Glenn Milstead, Jr. He belongs to Keith, Carl’s roommate. Neither Keith nor Harris Glenn Milstead, Jr. want me here. Keith rarely meets my eyes, but Harris is more direct in his approach.

This is my ninth day spent filling out applications for numerous data entry jobs at places like Tiger Temps, and my millionth conversation like this:

Landlord: I need from you proof of employment.
Me: Bro, I am going to be employed when I get an apartment, okay?
Landlord: You need proof of employment before you live here.
Me: How can I get a job if I am not living here?

But let me tell you: Gary Benchley is going to conquer New York City. I will not leave until the job is done. If I can find a job.