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Notes From New York: The City Encompasses Everything And Puts Us In Mind Of Lost Places We Once Knew

adapted from a paper journal, one of those things you should hunt down when I’m dead.

Smalls. A basement jazz club somewhere down in the really expensive southern artsy part of Manhattan (10th st.) Not for nothing the name. Large photo of a smiling guy at the front of the room onstage, his knees hugged to his chest as if to make room for everyone else. People come in behind me and say, “Is there space behind the bar? Behind the bar?” No, there is no space behind the bar; there is no barkeep, drinks are self-serve, and a handful of people have already taken up residence back there. Place is so crowded it’s like riding on the subway, everyone hip-to-hip.

Amy had promised Smalls had free juice, and I thought, Like the E-Bar back in Pasadena? but there is no blueberry juice on this coast, these are unenlightened people. The place did remind me of the E-Bar, though, with its size and its grubby walls. (Also of any number of other places– the Haymarket and Fire and Water in Northampton, etc.) Of course, Smalls seems somehow to be much more “important.” Yuppie clientele. Adult jazz bands, real polished musicians as opposed to the garage bands trying to make a name at the E.

And yet before it moved because the Vacuum King jacked up neighborhood rents, and closed because its clientele was all underage and wanted a place to smoke, we had something good at the E-Bar. Chuck Z with his surrealist prefab illustrated poetry about people with clam heads married to hippos; the open mic emceed by some humorless successor of Emmett Kelly. Chess with old people. Mismatched chairs. Nostalgic hippie uprisings like Our Nation Earth. (Really I should write more about this later.) Isn’t there something inherently good in giving teenagers a haven outside their home, introducing them to the grand old traditions of arts and radicalism? We cut our bohemian eyeteeth there.

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