Friday, 15 December 2017

Friday, 8 December 2017

Review: Songhoy Blues, 1/12/17; Anson Rooms, Bristol

“As we say in Africa: Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”

I meet J on Stokey and we walk up the big hill towards Clifton.  It’s ruddy cold, but the stomp up the big hill takes our mind off it, as we head to meet O and her friend in a nice wee pub I’ve never been to before (I tell J I think I’ve been there before, with DL, but full disclosure:  I hadn’t.  You don’t get this kind of detail in your average newspaper/website gig reviews, do you?  No.)
It’s in a university, so obviously there’s a maximum amount of time-consuming bureaucracy: have you got a hand stamp?  Then you need to go round to the front entrance; you need a hand-stamp on the way in, please queue round the other side, go to the right, to the right!; no drinks downstairs, sorry; no glass, here’s a plastic cup, etc.
I haven’t been here for a show for years – the last one, I think, was Godspeed, at least five years ago.  I tell O & J that I saw my first ever gig here (Echobelly in 1994, in case you’re interested – I did a crowdsurf, and everything, it was brilliant), and subsequently saw a few of the British Indie bands of the mid-90s.  It was exciting in those days, wasn’t it, do you remember?  Being a teenager, going out to things like this, loud music, crowds, psycho-sexual hormonal adventures, anxiety, melodrama….
Those days are long gone, and good fucking riddance.  It was right for the times, and times were tough.
We wonder if we’re too early: it’s nine, and the tickets said doors at seven, which seems too early.  It doesn’t seem busy in the place.  (You never know when to arrive for these things, do you?  Small gigs are absolutely ALWAYS much later than advertised (except the few times they’re not, and no one’s there), and big gigs don’t tend to advertise a time, but do vary a lot from venue to venue, and depending on the day of the week.)  The room is like a school hall, but bigger.  I tell OJ that some people think the sound here is shit, but I’ve always thought it was very good when I’ve been here. 
J is waiting on a call from R, cos he’s got a ticket for him.  But J’s got no signal in here, so I text R: “Yo, J got no bars, so call me when you rock up. My bars is the sickest bruv, I got bars for days.”  (HahahahaI’mhilaaaarious)
The website where I bought my ticket invites me to review my experience, so here it is.  However, since they insist that they will own the copyright to my post, I’ll just leave it here so that I’m not providing free labour to be used for advertising purposes by a service industry giant.  Because that’s bollocks.  Even if it’s normal that we all review things these days, and make those reviews available for the discernment of our fellow consumers.  So, I’m just providing it for free on a platform where it will be read by seven people, and no one – especially not me – will make any money from it.  Because I’m an Artist, yeah?
Songhoy Blues are from Mali, and play a really interesting mix of rock n roll, R&B and Afrobeat.  Like, the sort of West African style of guitar, but playing rock n roll.  Or vice versa.  You know what I mean?  Well, look them up and check it out, then. 
Just in case you’re interested in this kind of thing, the band use Orange amps.  They’re supposed to be very good, aren’t they?  They look cool, anyway.  The lead guitarist has got a Gibson SG, the singer plays a Telecaster.  And late in the show, a wee white fella sneaks in on a Les Paul.  The singer plays guitar on some songs, but on the others, he dances and is a really energetic frontman.  But really, the wee lad at the back does look like he’s just sneaked on stage and no one has noticed.  Like me at Ashton Court in 1999, remember that?  CE and PM tried to stop me coming on from the back of the stage, they thought I wasn’t supposed to be there.  Great days. 
The singer is talking about all the terrible things happening in the word right now, and he lists a few of them.  To be honest, I find it a little bit tricky to follow what he’s saying, as he has a strong accent.  But his speech ends with something like:  “What can we do?  We are artists.”  But not in a plaintive, shoulder-shrugging way, more like he is answering his own question.  If we are Artists, we can make Art.  That’s what we can do.
My dear friends, we live at a time in which the Christmas adverts of companies who sell tea towels and dinner plates is a news story and some kind of “event”, because that’s how shit our culture is.  It’s hard to think about that without concluding that we are worse than the ancient Romans, more hubristic than the Vietnam war-era USA; but nights like tonight help to redress the balance – and that’s the role of Art, isn’t it?  To remind us that we are also capable of transcendent beauty, of making the darkness of our existence explicable, relatable.  To deal with all the awful things we do to ourselves and each other without simply diverting our attention away from them for a brief period (which is, I would argue, the purpose of Entertainment).  And to dance.  Because we are alive.
Well, it’s part of the reason anyway.  I think.  I’m only thinking that while writing this, I didn’t think about it at the gig.  So, it must have worked.
“We know you have worked hard all week and you need to have a good time on Friday night.”  
Well, exactly. 
We are Entertained.  It is also Art.  They are very good.
After the show, we get a drink in a local pub, which I remember being a bit of a shit pit, but is now quite nice.  Which is ironic, because it’s in the posh part of town.  When the process of gentrification reaches its zenith, maybe every post code from BS1 to BS16 will be posh, and 90% of us will be living in les banlieue.  And then we’ll make great art that dull posh people think is shit until it sells a lot, and then they’ll come and buy our Art and our houses and we’ll swap over and start the whole thing over again. 
In the meantime, we’ll make Art, I suppose.
“As we say in Africa: Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.”

 

 

 

 

Friday, 1 December 2017

All The Blogs I Didn’t Write

Film Review: The Incredible Jessica James

I didn’t write a review of this film because, although I quite enjoyed it, it is like Every Film Ever.  I laughed a couple of times, mostly because I like the stars from other things they have done that are funny.  But every film is the same, isn’t it – there’s not much deviation.  And I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in a previous film review.
Conversations Overheard in Pubs: Estate Agents
“Coal miners were told: “Fuck off, we don’t need you anymore, we’re closing down that whole industry, even though all your towns have been built on it, even though there’s no other jobs in your area and your pit might still be turning a profit. You’re not wanted any more, please fuck off and die – and yet, estate agents!  They do literally nothing – other than lie – and the only reason they still exist is that they always have.” 
All those True Stories from Berlin that time
I asked blog readers which one they would like to read, and then studiously ignored the very (very) few that responded.  Apologies to those.  The one about dancing in a Nazi airport was cool.  And the one about cycling drunk across town was quite good fun, although it had a weird ending.  Because it was true.  And true stories don’t need resolution, because life doesn’t have resolution, because resolution is something invented for Hollywood morality tales.  Which are, of course, mostly shit.  And I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in previous stories.
Film Review: The Act Of Killing
Whenever I mention a film to my loved ones, one of them will inevitably ask: “Is it about war?  Has it got subtitles?” etc., assuming the answer to be affirmative.  (I think they take it in turns – presumably, there’s some sort of rota.)
I had been meaning to see this film for ages, and would’ve written another just-see-it-because-it’s-worth-watching-and-anything-I-tell-you-about-it-will-be-mostly-irrelevant type of reviews. 
And I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in a previous film review.
#LeaveMeAlone
Booking Agents, leave it out, I need a break from playing to thousands of adoring fans every single night, it’s tiring.
High-end music website journos, I’m not trying to boost your dwindling circulation with an in-depth interview.  Go and ask someone else the same tired, banal questions.
Papparazzi, seriously – another peep out of you lot and I’ll have to take out an injunction.  Stop digging about my bins and hassling my friends.  Enough is enough, alright?
Radio DJs, can you please stop bombarding me with emails begging to play my shit to your massive audience.  I don’t need your help, thanks.
TV bookers, I’m really not interested in being on Sunday Brunch or whatever.  Take the hint.
Managers, I’m not your meal ticket, give it a rest.
Pluggers, please plug something else and stop spoiling the selectiveness of my appeal.
Celebrity fans, stop wearing my t-shirt, waving my CD and bandying my name about to look cool.  If you keep it up, I won’t be cool or edgy any more, will I?  Stop gentrifying my brand.
But I didn’t want to write about that, because I already did in previous ironic blogs about the music industry and my (lack of) place in it.  #irony #meta #soverytired
Orange Is Not The Only The Colour
I’ve tried, every July since 2013, to write about the Orange Order marches, and their significance to the conflict in Northern Ireland.  And football in Scotland.  And religion.  People really think the conflict is about religion, don’t they?  Which is perplexing and maddening to me.  So I wrote the following, as the start of a very long rant about all this:
(A lot of people think that conflict is about religion, including world-famous biologist and hectoring bore Richard Dawkins, who glibly repeated this popular misconception (as inarguable fact) in his book The God Delusion, to prove how shit religion is.  I find this highly disappointing; to call this popular misconception ignorant would probably be too generous – and yet there it is, blithely mentioned by the world’s most (annoying) intelligent person.  To repeat a claim this blog has made many times (which is ok, since no one reads it anymore (if they ever did (some people were/are presumably put off by the propensity for self-involved parentheses)), there is a reason British schools do not teach the history of Ireland.  (Or the history of India, Kenya, South Africa, or anywhere else that enjoyed the benevolent attentions of the British Empire.)  And this ignorance plays out in the news media, as well as every conversation about it in England.  (Every time someone plays the “God, what a silly argument over religion, if only they got rid of churches, everything would be great”, I shudder.  (Surely to fuck there cannot be many people who honestly contend that the conflict in Northern Ireland, and between Britain and Ireland historically, was/is really caused by the theological difference between transubstantiation and consubstantiation, or the right of Henry VIII to divorce, or the infallibility of the Pope?  (God, I hope not.))))
But I have over-used parentheses in other blogs, and referred to that, in a self-conscious way.
I Met Stewart Lee In The Street
I have never met The “Comedian” Stewart Lee.  Although I did once pass him on Union Street in Bristol, as he exited the charmingly old-fashioned and dilapidated Odeon cinema, the one I used to go to and where I saw Naked Gun 33 1/3, as well as the re-mastered version of Return Of The Jedi, with a girl from school (obviously a disappointment, as it was just a re-hash of a previous outing where it was more innocent and sweetly enchanting and less concerned with money – and so was the film!).
I’m not sure why I didn’t speak to Stewart Lee, as I am a great admirer of his.  He’s the best “comedian” around – I made sure of this by watching several videos of his performances, for free, online, before paying to go to one.  If I had spoken to him that grey April Sunday a couple of years ago, I imagine it would have gone something like this:
Me:        Stew!  Sorry, Stewart Lee!
SL:          Yeah.
Me:        [Offering hand]
SL:          [Looking at hand]
Me:        Mate, I don’t normally do this – I was once within earshot of Rodney P, in the Artist camping      at Shambala festival, and I didn’t say anything to him.  I stood next to Howard Marks in the   backstage bar at the Jazz stage at Glastonbury.  And I bought a drink off Paul McGann in the           same bar.  So I had to talk to him. I did once speak to Stephen Merchant, mind, on Camden   High Road, but that was sort of a joke that got out of hand.  Thom Yorke was just coming out                 of a tent at Glastonbury just as I was going in, I didn’t even talk to him.
SL:         
Me:        I know all of The (current) Blue Aeroplanes (and some former members), and my mate is in       Emptyset.  Anyway, as I say, I don’t usually speak to people just because they’re famous, but…
SL:
Me:        …oh, and I’ve met Sage Francis and Sole and both the dudes out of Themselves and Propaghandi and Pee-Wee Ellis and I once          met Simon Stainrod at a Scotland Under-21 match at Easter Road.  And I met Andy Crane    at Oldbury Power Station.  And my brother was presented with a trophy by Bobby                 Moore.  My Dad’s still got the picture.
But I didn’t want to write about that, because I already wrote about meeting a comedian in the street, in a previous blog – and that one was true.  And I wrote about buying a drink off Paul McGann, and that was also true.  And I also wrote about meeting Stewart Lee in the street, and that wasn’t true.
What I Did And What I Got On My Birthday
My birthday presents included:
A towel, featuring pictures of me and the person gifting it to me
A viral eye infection
A hair grooming product exactly the same as one given to me by the same person several years ago
A shot of tequila
A pint of beer
A bottle of whisky
A hat
Cash
Dinner
A voucher for a(n independent) clothes shop
Peanut butter-filled chocolate
My birthday treats included:
Drinks and football with The Best Live Performer Ever
A visit to the new Grayson Perry exhibition at The Arnolfini
A visit to the Wellcome Centre
A visit to A&E
Dinner with someone wonderful, at a really good place
Pints with The Lads
An accidental meeting & impromptu Happy Birthday song/drink from several friends
Two hangovers
I Met A Famous Person Who Turned Out To Be Very Strange
Oh, I really wish I could tell you this one.  But I can’t.  Oh, God, it’s a beauty, though.
But I can’t. 
Aw, but I want to, though.  Ooh, it’s a corker!  And it’s true!
But, sorry, I can’t.
No, seriously, I just can’t.



But I have written a lot of blogs, and might be finished with it, for now.
  


Friday, 24 November 2017

Review: Tank & The Bangas

B texts me, first thing.  I wake up about 10.30 with a strong headache.  And then again at 11.15, 11.45, 12.15 and 12.30, each time with a strong headache.  Eventually I get up.  R is asleep on the sofa.

Last night was some beer lairyness done our way, but now we’re back in the light of day…
Ouch.
I look at B’s text again.  “Yo. You good?  Still up for the gig tonight?”
My immediate responses, in chronological order: Y-yy-oooo…no, not really.  Whaaaat?  What gig?  Whatever it is, no I’m bloody not.”
I don’t text him that, obviously.  I just think it.
I recover quickly enough to remember what the gig is.  But it will take all day to recover enough to want to go.
D and B also had it fairly large last night, so we are all in the same boat.  (But I stayed up the latest, so I win, yeah?)
Anyway, here we are.  And Everyone is here.  And not just in that fashionable way that insufferable wannabees mean: everyone is represented, music and poetry in Bristol, most strongly.  There’s people who put on great things, brilliant poets, musicians of all styles, producers, artists of all kinds.  Lovely people, funny people, talented people.  I see lots of faces I recognise.  I’m almost too overwhelmed to talk to everyone, and some of them I haven’t seen for ages.  I do say a quick Hello! To BC and McK, who have put the thing on.  “Why a Sunday?”  B asks.  It was the only night they could book them, says BC.
I tell B & D that if a bomb hits The Trinity Centre tonight, there will be no culture in Bristol.  For a least a few weeks.  On facebook, the day after the gig, I will learn that loads more talented and cool people were there than I saw.  And I saw many.  It seems to have been a huge draw for a lot of the creators in this city – a bit like the Godspeed You! Black Emperor show recently (although that was a bit more muso, a bit more male dominated and not very diverse.)
The person who told me what “piff” means (and then made a very funny race-based joke about it), the person who floored my mate GDog with her poetry (and who has done the same to me once or twice), the person who invited me to guest with his well-known and well-liked band when I was a wee loudmouth teenager starting out, the person who hosts the poetry night where I tried something out (and who was very encouraging to me about it), the person who always does a great job with sound and is so relaxed and welcoming about it, the person who I’ve seen play in a million bands that are all different but all pretty (or very) good, the person who asked me to join him on stage for the biggest gig of our lives, the person who also played there and backed us both up, the person who interviewed me on her radio show many years ago, the person who runs a great pub where I have played many times, the person who fronts that brilliant band with all the lovely people in it, the person who is that well-loved solo artist with all the fun wee instruments, the DJ who played a Public Enemy song I hadn’t heard in that pub that night, the person who produced my friends’ excellent album…
They are all here.  (Some of them are more than one of the above.  That’s what writers do, yeah?  Conflate several people into the same character, or parcel tem out into discrete dramatic units, for their own purposes?)
Art is not made in a vacuum: all these people have inspired and helped me, in innumerable, immeasurable ways.  And they are all here, probably to be immeasurably inspired by what’s happening tonight.  It occurs to me, even during the proceedings, that all of the above have already inspired me more than what is happening on stage, engaging as that is.
I will also learn from facebook that Charlotte Church was apparently there.
Big Ups to all the people there, those I know and those I don’t.  Those I spoke to and those I didn’t.  (Why do I do that?  Why do I see people I know and like and not talk to them?  I’m shy.  No one ever believes me when I tell them, but…)
Who could draw such a crowd?  Tank & The Bangas, that’s who.  What do you mean you don’t know who they are?  They’re from New Orleans.  I would find it tricky to describe them, and I’m not inclined to try.  Which should be alright, since no one has asked me to….I’m tired.  But happy.
Anyway, it’s so easy to just look things up these days, isn’t it?  Remember when we had to go to A Place for A Thing?  How quaint.
B says he hopes I will review the gig.  He also apologises for telling me this blog had gone right downhill, going into some details about the ones I used to do that he preferred.  He was drunk that night, and apologises for his candour, but I appreciated it.  He hopes to get a mention – NO CHANCE, Son!
I tell B that sometimes it’s nice not to review a gig – and to decide that early, because then I’m not making notes, or thinking about what to write about it, which frees me to be more present, to just enjoy it.
For the record, I enjoyed it.
 

 

 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Armistice Day

I walk in to [INSERT NAME OF WELL-KNOWN SUPERMARKET THAT DOES NOT NEED FREE ADVERTISING HERE], barely aware of the time or day.

I’m listening to music on headphones, like everyone does, when an announcement on the Gigantastore’s PA catches my ear.  Usually, I pay no attention to these things: a heartfelt thank you for shopping at [SUPERMARKET], or a helpful rhetorical question inviting us to consider buying some crisps, or something (they always begin with “why not…?” don’t they?  I almost always answer, sometimes out loud: “Because fuck off, that’s why not.”). 
But this one sounds different, somehow.  I pause my music player and remove an earphone.
The sound of the PA has the sombre quality of an important announcement (this is conveyed by the lack of a doorbell “Bing! Bong!” noise, which they use for their more routine announcements.  But also by the tone of the crackle.  I don’t know how to describe, that would need an acoustician, or at least some kind of music producer).  The voice, however, perhaps cracking under the pressure of delivering the Important Message, does not match the gravitas; the message is supposed to speak for itself:
“Ladies and gentlemen, please join us for two minutes’ silence to mark the eleventh hour of Armistice Day.”
Oh, shit.  It’s Armistice Day at eleven o’clock, and here I am looking at razor blades in a big supermarket. 
Plenty of the shop’s patrons remain unmoved by the announcement, with children galloping about the aisles and parents deciding which brand of toilet paper plays best with their image and/or self image.  There is an occasional admonishment of “ssshhh!” but it does not have the desired effect; some have simply not heeded the message, perhaps jaded, or desensitised by the usual low-production-cost advertising and call to the checkouts of all available staff.
Obviously, I have no trouble at all believing the sincerity of [SUPERMARKET]’s commitment to looking after current and former armed forces personnel, and honouring the memory of those who have died, but it does get me thinking.  Again.  As usual.
What I’m supposed to think about is the war dead, their sacrifice, our gratitude for that. 
What I usually think about is how I might have coped in their place, what choices I would have made: would I have fought?  Conscientiously objected?  Would I have supported the contemporary view of The Great War as a shockingly brutal cull of Europe’s working-class males?  Or the surviving narrative of WWII as a fight for survival against fascism?  Or would I see it as partly that, and partly another round of extreme violence and realpolitik in which competing power centres carved up the earth for their own ends, to the cost of millions of lives that could never have access to that kind of power, or its rewards?
In short, would I have felt as conflicted then as I do about it now?

I usually think about the “politicisation” of “Poppy Day”, including the sheer awfulness of calling it Poppy Day.  I often wonder how anyone thinks there could ever be any chance that any of this could ever be apolitical.  As if war is just nature, and as if thinking that it is is not a political position to take. 
When people want us to not politicise something, to “play politics” with an important issue, what they usually mean is “shut up and agree with me”  And they mean that because they think that what they think about it is so obvious it can’t/shouldn’t even be discussed.  Not consciously, deliberately – but at the level of belief, of assumption.  As if those beliefs/assumptions are also beyond/above the dirty business of Politics.
My mind, on this occasion, refers fleetingly to a recent conversation with my Dad about all this, when he asked my feelings on it, and I answered, with uncharacteristic brevity: “Ambivalent.”  (In retrospect, I should have used “conflicted”; perhaps I felt at the time it would have been a cruelly ironic pun.  But it is a better choice of word anyway.)
My Dad respects the Poppy Appeal, despite some reservations, at least partly out of respect for his own Dad, who fought in the second world war.  I have no need and no right and no appetite to challenge him on this.
What I am actually thinking about, however, is razors.  There are a lot of razors from which to choose.  Too many, if anything.  I was dithering over the choice, trying to remember which ones I usually get, and now I am wondering why there are so many from which to choose.  Because of the economics of mass production, is the conclusion toward which I am presumably meandering.
I am also thinking, simultaneously, of course, as ever, as is my wont, about the nature of time; surely it’s been two minutes by now…?
Is this what our grandparents’ generation fought and died for?  My/our right to have a far-too-big  choice of razors in a far-too-big shop?  To be bored by remembering them?  To not remember them?  To feel pressured into remembering them in a way approved of by the class of people who sent them to war?
Well, yes, to an extent, sort of, maybe – for the right of the next generation/s to not have to fight and kill for the basic freedoms like constant disagreement, complexity, ambivalence, consumer-choice-as-freedom and boredom.  And a massive choice of razors in a massive shop.
Of course, I have no idea what motivates one person, now, in the specific time and place in which I exist.  Anything I tell myself about the motivations of large groups of others, in another time and place, or this time and place, for that matter, is a story I tell myself to make some sense of it. Usually based on nothing more than other people’s stories about that, and my own assumptions.  So I/we don’t know why anyone fought or didn’t fight, except those that told us (and even then…..) 
In My Story™, the second world war was fought so that we would all agree on everything, and forget about our own thoughts on things, and put up with the priorities of Power, and just wear whatever we’re supposed to wear in this Order of things, and, once it’s reached critical mass, accept the unquestioned and obvious Best Thing For Everyone, which would lead, inevitably to more violence and abuse. 
It’s just that the side who were fighting for that lost. 
And the “politicisation” of Armistice Day is to add on all the other fighting the British Army has done since 1945, as if it is all the same, as if fighting fascists occupying much of Europe and bombing y/our country, is the same as crushing the rebellions of those fighting for self-determination in their own country; Afghanistan, India, Ireland, Kenya, Ghana or anywhere else – as if fighting off a foreign power bent on dominating the world is morally equivalent to being such a power, and using violence in the same way.  That’s what I mean by politicisation: an attempt to conflate the one “good” war with all the others that we don’t learn about in school, because we know they are unequivocally Not Good.  And to tell us all that questioning this in any way is, at best, disrespectful to the dead.
In My Story™, I am looking for a way to respect the one (with caveats) without indicating any kind of support for the other, and recognising that this is problematic.  Perhaps a white poppy would do that, I don’t know.  I’ve always felt that my thoughts on these things (or anything else, for that matter) cannot really be summed up with a small symbol, and certainly not one so loaded (that’s another horrible pun, isn’t it?).  I have a sort of envy for those who do enjoy that level of certainty, or clarity. 
You’re right, I do think too much.  Yes, I’ve heard that before.
In the end, I keep my mouth shut for two minutes and then buy the same razor blades I always get and then go home.


Friday, 10 November 2017

NYMFC: Tourism Part 1



I’m not much of a tourist, not doing much touring.  But there is a lot to see in some places, isn’t there?
On a Monday in New York, we wake up to rain.  And plenty of it. 
Yesterday, we made plans for today: Empire State Building, followed by Katz’s Deli for lunch.
The rain, almost literally, pisses on that.  By the time we cross the Brooklyn Bridge on the train, the thick mist looks like it’s hanging around half the height of the ESB.
Since we’ve already made the trip, we decide to ask.  The helpfully honest man in the ticket office is cheerfully blunt: “Oh, you can’t see anything.  Not one thing.”
So, we sack it off and decide that we will maybe try to squeeze it in before our flight home tomorrow.
There’s no point in a tower with a view for sight-seeing, if you can’t view or see sights.
We head to Katz’s Deli for lunch.  It’s a confusing place, but they have a system, which they breathlessly explain to diners as they (the diners) join various queues.
I get stuck between two “lines” (that’s what they call queues here, remember) somehow, between two “cutters” (that’s what they call sandwich makers here) and as I realise a young woman has cut in front of me (I daresay she spotted my tourist naivete from a distance), she grins widely at me and offers the meat that the cutter has just handed her from the huge slab he’s working on.  I ask her what it is, and she says Pastrami (that’s good, ‘cos it’s what I’ll order.  Eventually.)  I take a bit and it’s really good. 
“No”, she says, “you have to eat the whole thing!”, and again looks at me like I’m hopelessly, cluelessly (if, perhaps, somewhat charmingly) daft.
(Women have looked at me like this and I’ve never realised what it meant until it was too late – except in this case, when I’m not at all interested in what it means.)
After I get my own taster of the pastrami (it seems to be like trying the wine to make sure it’s not corked, and is acceptable), I get a Reuben with Pastrami (that’s a beef sandwich, if you’re nasty) and fries, and a can of soda (that’s a tin of pop, to you).  When I join E at the table she has been saving she is sitting with a man who is there on his own, and they are chatting.  (He is a wine-maker from Seattle, WA, if you’re interested.)
He comes here once a year, a sort of foody pilgrimage without his wife, who is a fussy eater.  He recommends all sorts of places we don’t have time to try.
Katz’s itself was recommended, and it is great, if a wee bit touristy.  It’s the diner in which Sally went with Harry, the one where she faked an orgasm and then a woman said “I’ll have what she’s having” and then everyone laughed forever and ever.  (That moment was the US “movie” equivalent of when Trigger fell through the bar.  Which you love.)
In fact, as I look around, I notice a sign above our heads.  It reads: “Where Harry met Sally…hope you have what she had!  Enjoy!”
So, it seems we’re sat at the famous table right out of the movie!  And we didn’t even mean to!
We pay on the way out, which is novel.  Back outside, the rain has just got heavier.  There is a man in a wheelchair asking for money, and E stops to talk to him and hands over some notes.  We dive back into the Subway and head for the Museum of The American Indian (I had assumed this was not the real, official name of the place, but it definitely, very disappointingly, is). 
The museum is in one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan, and it’s a state building, so it’s a bag search and airport-style metal detector on the way in.  Go figure.  (There is no British translation of this phrase.  It’s basically meaningless, as far as I can tell.)
The first thing I am confused about is How Is It Still Cool To Call Native/Indigenous People Indian When Everyone Knows They Are Not Indian And Were Only Called That, Ever, Because Of The Ignorance Of “Explorers” (Pirates/Genocidal maniacs)?
B says a lot of people still say “Indian”.  That’s a shame, but this is an Official Museum! WTF?  (That’s What The Fuck? to you.)
The museum itself is a disappointment.  There are 3 exhibitions, one on Native Fashion Now, one on ancient art in the Americas (all of the Americas) and another which seems to be about culture of different native groups through pre-annihilation history.  Its more art than history, although there’s a smattering of historical info.  And there’s a guide taking a group round.  I eavesdrop and hear a moving anecdote about the Choctaw Nation, who, after The Trail Of Tears, when they were forcibly removed from their land following a treaty, raised money to send to Ireland during the Potato Famine.  Big Time Solidarity.
The whole thing is a wee bit depressing, and seems to reflect very badly on the current state of denial in America concerning the genocide committed against native people on which this country is built.
I sincerely hope there are other, better museums that deal with this.  Again, the problem is the same as back at home: we are not taught about these things, for fairly obvious reasons…
Upon leaving the disappointing museum, we head to the “oldest pub in Manhattan”, The Frauncis Tavern.  It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the plaque on the wall outside, and is named after Samuel Fraunces, a “West Indian” American patriot, who hosted George Washington at the pub, at the time of the Revolutionary War (the one that kicked Britain out).
Inside, it’s posh and a bit dark.  There are several bars, and B directs us to his favourite, which has loads of beers on tap – most of which are very expensive and some of which are very strong and all of which are new to me.  I select one which is served in a small glass, looks like about half a pint.  It is very tasty though.  E has a cider.  Every bar here seems to have a telly, even classy places that wouldn’t back home.  This one is showing 24-hour news (our era’s most depressing development in media?  Ah, but there are so many to choose from!)), which is confirming/re-affirming something that cannot be considered news by any standards: the current president, among his many other attributes, is entirely self-satirising.  The actual news of it is that he may also have committed some kind of treason, by colluding with Russian agents to influence the 2016 election.  (Hahaha, what a card.)
As we head back to Brooklyn, we discover that there has been a bomb in Manchester at a big pop concert, which has killed people.  It makes us sad and a bit nauseous.  The things happening in the world just now seem, for someone who has been paying attention, like they have always been happening, but now are quicker and worse and in our faces all the time (you know, terrorist atrocities, wars all over the world, massive (mostly unpunished) political corruption, racism, economic turmoil, despair etc.).  Some people seem to think that a lot of this is new, somehow.  As I say, others of us have been paying attention.  What is new, to me, is how quickly we find out about it, and from whom.
We want to buy B & J dinner to thank them for putting us up/putting up with us for a fortnight, so we all go to one of their favourite local restaurants.  It’s very nice, a bit trendy, and the food is, again, very good.  We get another tour of the neighbourhood (the place is on Cortelyou) and walk the gamut of gentrification.  This part of town sure has changed since I was last here, yessirree, Bob.
Back in the immediate vicinity of the flat/apartment, J, E and I stop at Hinterland for a nightcap.  B is on sensibletime, and this being a Monday night, declines.
The bar seems busy, for a Monday night.  J discovers, while getting the drinks in, that the crowd are here for the “season premiere” of The Batchelorette.  (That’s the first in a new series of a long-running dating show, where a woman chooses from 30 or so preening tossers competing for her attention/body/love etc.)
Soon, the screams from the back of the bar (where there is a big screen set up) are making conversation about anything else almost impossible.  The show seems like Definitely The Worst Thing Ever, based on the noises produced by the crowd at the back.  Oh, God, the screaming
Still, it’s probably not that different to the feeling a non-football fan would get in a football pub when there’s a big game on…to each their own.  And, like a non-football fan in a football pub when there’s a big game on, I need to leave swiftly to preserve whatever’s left of my faith in/fondness for humans.  We are agreed on this, although E & J seem to be getting sucked in a wee bit, however reluctantly.
So, we leave after one drink (this is possibly the first time in my/our life/lives that “one more drink” has actually meant one more drink).
Back at the flat, J puts the telly on to watch… The Batchellorette!  So, now I can have an informed opinion on exactly how hideous it is.  It is exactly as hideous as I had assumed without having been fully subjected to it.  (Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover/screaming fans.)  It’s utterly ghastly, obviously.  I write these notes and shake my head a lot.  There is nothing less Real on God’s Green Earth than Reality TV.  That’s the extent of my critique.  Life’s too short to dwell on it.
I tell J that the only thing worse than British TV is American TV and she laughs.
So, that’s everything there is to see in New York City, isn’t it?
Bed time.