Dread and Fire

Last night a pothole exploded on our street. Or so we think. No one I talked to on the block is positive about what happened. Here’s what we know: Around eleven last night, the lights in our apartment dimmed to brown and there was a massive explosion; our landlady, napping downstairs in front of the television, was launched off the couch. A crowd gathered outside around a parked Honda. Some large rubber-like blocks had appeared under the car. New York’s proudest and bravest showed up immediately. The fire chief pointed his flashlight at the rubber blocks for 20 minutes. Half an hour later, they all left, the Honda was moved and its parking space taped off, and everyone went home to bed.

Around twelve-thirty, two Con Edison trucks appeared labeled EMERGENCY down the sides. Around twelve-thirty-five, we heard one of the workers yell loudly to another, “you fucking moron!” and a second later there was another explosion, louder this time and followed by fire. The power went out. A rectangular opening in the street, previously under the Honda, burst into flames. The Con Edison guys tried several times to douse the fire with extinguishers, but it kept relighting. The chasm roiled orange and red, as though there was a bonfire in the sewer tunnel. Manholes at either end of the block began to smoke. The firemen returned and hosed water down the hole for 30 minutes. This morning the power came back on and now our street smells like someone spent the night streaking tire rubber down the asphalt.

The New York City blackout a few years ago was a night for open parties, communal spirit, and street bonfires. We invited friends over and cooked all the food in the freezer. We turned an iPod and a pair of headphones dropped into a paper grocery bag (to amplify the sound) into a stereo and either of the bands Sleep Out or Pink Mountaintops could have played on the soundtrack. But last night, trying to get work done on my laptop which depended on electricity, I was in a much more self-pitying mood; John Lennon, practicing his pity in a studio, would have been better.

» “It Wasn’t Darkness” by Sleep Out (via Music For Robots)
» “Can You Do That Dance?” by Pink Mountaintops (via gabba)
» “Isn’t It A Pity [Unreleased]” by The Beatles (via Moistworks)

* * *

How many luxury vehicles can you fit in a diner’s parking lot? Does a one-and-a-half bedroom house on a quarter-acre of land really need a privet hedge? Do only some surgically-enhanced men and women resemble fuselage, or do they all, once you get them down to their skiivies on the beach?

It was my third trip to the Hamptons. I always forget, in the intervening periods, how much I want an E-Class Mercedes. Have you been there? Have you seen the lunacy and the magnificent sunsets? Have you seen the free magazines they leave on doorsteps around the Hamptons? Look for the one with Devorah Rose’s column featuring the rose-petal photoshoot—I was permanently altered.

Not Hamptons: “Esoterica of Abyssynia” by Sir Richard Bishop (via Vinyl Mine)
Maybe Hamptons: “Strange Games and Things” by Love Unlimited Orchestra (via Bumrocks)

* * *

Certain performers you want to hear in a church, a New York church where you can walk in right off the sidewalk and be someplace, perhaps one of the 18 places in Manhattan, where envy doesn’t creep. Tenth street has a number of beautiful old churches, one on Broadway and another on Park, and at the right time you can just stroll in, sit down, and be quiet.

I walked into the Park Avenue church Monday morning and enjoyed a few minutes doing nothing. Next time, I’ll leave a request card for St. Vincent.

» “Paris Is Burning” by St. Vincent (via Gorilla vs. Bear)

* * *

Dear Netflix,

You tell me The Wire: Season Three is now available on DVD. The subway ads from HBO say the DVDs have been available for several days. Yet you will not let me rent them. You will not send them to my house. It is the best show on television, leading Deadwood by two lengths, and yet you tease me, saying that I can have the DVDs and also that I can’t.

Please, Netflix, Wire me soon.

Rosecrans Baldwin

P.S. If you’re in touch with David Milch, tell him Erik Friedlander’s “Airstream Envy” would make a great opening song for Deadwood in case he ever revises that ridiculous tits-and-pony reel.

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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