Three New York Sketches: I Never Knew

I joined a Brazilian samba bateria a while ago, bought myself a snare (caixa) and have been trying to get my chops back.  The bateria I had been playing with cancelled weekly rehearsals until later this month, and since it’s just started to get really fun for me I thought, like hell am I going to go three weeks without playing.  So I dropped into another bateria’s rehearsal, which was being held in the loading dock of a meat packing plant next to the West Side Highway in the Meat Packing District of Manhattan.  The Meat Packing District is an extremely fashionable nightlife destination nowadays, so occasionally folks would walk by, and invariably start dancing.  Two women found spots behind a parked car and danced to our beats during the whole rehearsal.  When the mestre would stop us to yell at us about our mistakes, the dancing women would woo and applaud.  Then a drunk Brazilian dude in a brown suit and lit cigar came out and started gesturing enthusiastically in front of us, faux directing us and telling us “I’m brasileiro!”  His Mexican lady friend put her arms in the air and started shaking it.

I never knew a loading dock next to a highway could be such a fun place to practice.

The mestre told me after rehearsal that I should play more snare, he likes the way I play and thinks I could be good.  I tried to save all my screw ups and crapouts for when he wasn’t looking.  He likes the way I play?  I have a robotic, very controlled technique that comes from playing in american marching band in high school.  I didn’t think the Brazilians liked that.

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The Bulgarian doorman E saw me walking in with my drum, so I took it out and showed him.  He asked how I practice, and I told him I have a rubber practice pad, and that I’d show him later.  When I got down there, Polaco was hanging out too, so I showed them my practice pad, showed them how to grip the sticks.  Polaco had to run, but E  says “I’ll show you my guitar.”  So he pulls out this traveling electric guitar, said he got it 2nd hand for $250.  So apparently between 2am and 6am he hangs out in the lobby practicing his guitar!  I always wondered.  He played some Pink Floyd song, which I last heard a year ago on a long drive up the center of Taiwan from Kenting to Taipei.

Anyway, I had never known how the guys in the lobby spend their time down there.

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I was walking in Tribeca the other night, past two dudes sitting on a stoop outside of a bar smoking.  One of them looks straight at me and asks me something, which I didn’t hear the first time, so I looked around and said, are you talking to me?

Yah, he says, did you see the bear?

Did you just ask me if I saw a bear?

Yah, he says, there’s a bear running around lower Manhattan, it was just around the corner, a lot of people saw it, I was just wondering if maybe you saw it…  Be careful.

No, I say, but I’ll keep my eyes open.

Interesting.  A couple of weeks earlier, I had heard of a coyote roaming the West Village.  I never knew there was so much wildlife in Manhattan.

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