Crate Digging

There are a few among you who probably know the long, tortured history of how a ‘zine I did back in the 1980s and ’90s morphed into Teleport City which, subsequently, gave rise to Mezzanotte. If you don’t know that history, well then, I guess now You have the gist of things. Anyway, back in the early days, Teleport City was a pretty free-form project. The web was relatively new back then, and what you could and should do with it was still forming. Teleport City was, as Mezzanotte is now, largely about movies in one form or another. But I wandered off into a lot of other avenues as well. In some ways, the fact that I was worse at what I do then than I am now made it easier. I didn’t mind dashing off a review of jumble fo thoughts and calling it an article, without research or historical context (or subtitles), where as I would not do such a thing today (and which is why so much old Teleport City material is available only via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine).

I don’t want to return to that place of ill-advised ignorance, but I admit some degree of freewheeling fun has been sacrificed in my quest to make what I post a little more thorough and reliable. What’s more, there was also a blog aspect to the site back then (before “blog” was even a word) that afforded me a chance to waste a little time here and there posting about whatever, which was more in keeping with the way the zine had been. A little more stream-of-conscious, or a way to write about stuff that interested me but maybe I wasn’t able to work into a complete article. This became especially important to me (if not to anyone else) when I moved to New York and was opened up to a mind-bending amount of new stuff: new movies, new music, new books, food, and culture. I was young, broke, and ready for anything and everything the city offered. As I got older, like many I tended to lapse first into habit, and then into laziness, especially once I locked myself into a job that provided me with the financial foundation to more effectively enjoy New York while at the same time sapping me of much of the drive to pursue that enjoyment.

Well, call it a mid-life crisis or what have you, but lately I’ve been more cognizant of my stagnation and patterns and determined to rekindle a little of the fire that made my early years in New York such a bizarre blast. True, the city has traded in a lot of what used to entertain me: no more double features at the Music Palace; no more searching for weird Japanese and Italian records at Mondo Kim’s and Other Music. But sacrificing the city to the same sort of middle-age lethargy and predictability that set in on me is a weak hand. Sure, we have more chopped salad chain restaurants than ever, but there’s still a weird New York lurking in the shadows. You just have to put a little more effort into seeking it out.

Among the things I wanted to do in pursuit of more pursuits is strike up the ol’ stream-of-consciousness blog again. Considering that I still have Teleport City online, and Mezzanotte, and Bond Vivant, it seemed best to do this on one of those, however much fun it may be to come up with a new site name and design (I do own the domain ashrewdnessofapes.com, after all, just sitting around waiting for the right time to reveal itself to the world). And since last year i committed, to myself if no one else, to making Mezzanotte my website of record, here we are. Besides, just as rambling thoughts and experiences and opinions fit in with the underlying philosophy behind Teleport City (that people who tell you to “get a life” rarely have one themselves, and that the people being told to “get a life” usually do have one, and one that’s pretty interesting), so too do they mesh pretty well with the emerging, not-fully-communicated philosophy behind Mezzanotte (something about celebrating the people who live by night, on the edges, so on and so forth).

As for subject matter, as I said — stream of consciousness to some degree. The thing that most got my blood all fizzy was writing about all the time I used to spend crate-digging for music, movies, and books. And I would include picking through the ads in zines as a form of crate-digging. So there will be that. A lot of the performers I got into back then remain enigmas to me, even with the resources of the Internet at my disposal. While I can’t work up a feature article or full review, I still want to drops me names and dig through it all. Someone needs to know how I feel about Omoide Hatoba without me researching a full article about Omoide Hatoba.

Additionally, I used to spend a lot of time picking through the city’s many neighborhoods. This is something I do less these days than before, but I still do it. Considering how often I stand on the sidewalk and try to remember what used to be there, I figure I should get back into chronicling some of these dérives. That way, I won’t be stuck animatedly telling someone, “No, it was this record store…somewhere I think on the west side…you went down a couple of stairs, and the soundtracks were in bins at the front. Come on, man! I bought the soundtrack to Barbarella there, and Bruce is Again soundtrack set. The store was carpeted….”

If this sort of self-indulgent endeavor is a musty thing of the past, or a smug exercise in self-gratification unbecoming of a man of a certain age, well it turns out I’m relatively unconcerned. I’ve let myself sink into a sort of mundane middle-of-the-roadness against which younger me would have raged. And while younger me was dumb about a lot of things, he at least got that part correct. So…recollections, sure, but also new experiences, or at least new twists on old experiences. I’m not interested in becoming overly maudlin or lapsing into “things have changed, man!” mode or immersing myself entirely in nostalgia, even if a bit creeps in. We’ll see what degree of nothing it can amount to.