“I’ll rise when the sun goes down
Cover every game in town
A world of my own
I’ll make it my home sweet home” *
That’s not all that far off from describing my life as those few who actually know me can attest. “Call me if you’re up during normal hours,” one said to me recently. He’s still waiting for that call. Another calls me by a pet name based on the sound Owls, my Official Bird of the Night, make in Russia. Everyone knows not to make appointments for me in the morning (i.e.“the middle of the night”), or first thing in the afternoon..
How did this happen?
I’ve been this way as far back as I can remember. My folks made me work in the family business weekends and summers when I was a kid, so the only way I could get time to myself was by staying up late. I was one of those kids who used to read leaning over the bed on the side away from the door after light’s out with a flashlight and a book or magazine on the floor. And, I had a radio under my pillow which led me one especially lonely night to discover the late, GREAT Jean Shepherd, but more on him later. On that radio I also heard RFK’s assassination, live. I had seen Lee Harvey Oswald get shot, live too, years earlier, the first murder ever broadcast live.
After High School, and some classes at the Manhattan School of Music, I went on the road with a band for 5 years. Not exactly conducive to a change of schedule. Let’s suffice it to say I gave into peer pressure and my virginity, sobriety and innocence ended soon thereafter while my late lifestyle was perfect for this occupation- our typical gig started around 10pm and ended at 4am, sometimes 5 or 6 nights a week.
“I take one last drag
As I approach the stand
I cried when I wrote this song
Sue me if I play too long
This brother is free
I’ll be what I want to be” *
During my time as a musician, I was lucky enough to play all kinds of music from garage rock to acoustic jazz to classical (with an orchestra) and as a result, I developed an ear for an insanely wide range of music. I also worked with some great musicians including Billy Hart, T. Lavitz, jazz great Thomas Chapin, Twisted Sister, Steppenwolf, Spirit, Mark Ledford, Lonnie Plaxico and met many others including Jaco Pastorius,. Joe Zawinul, Vladimir Horowitz, Alfred Schnittke, Carlos Alomar, Tony Levin, Dave Fields, the guys in Letterman’s & The SNL Band and much of the Steely Dan touring band among many others. Recording my band led to doing concert sound for an RCA Records band, then to an actual job as production manager for what Musician Mag called “one of the biggest music production houses in the country,” then to being an independent record producer, an artist manager, and 4 years as a writer for Jazziz Magazine. After I got fed up with the state of the record business in 1998, I decided to see if I could trust my eye as much as I had been trusting my ear and rededicate myself to my first passion, Art History, which I had been into before discovering music. Along the way, I did more than my share of patronizing every bar, club, dive and den, Museum, gallery and show within crawling distance.
“Sharing the things we know and love
With those of my kind
That stagger the mind.” *
As a result, I think I’ve heard more music and seen more art than most people encounter in two lifetimes. That’s not bragging- that’s only a comment on my feeling that some people need to listen to more, and more wide ranging music, and see more, and more kinds of art. My library currently consists of 20,000 cd’s and 5,000 Lps. I’ve also made 1,200 visits to The Metropolitan Museum of Art since August 1, 2002. And yes, along the way, I’ve developed some ideas and opinions that, buckle your seatbelt, I’m going to share here.
I’ve long identified with Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks at the Diner,” which I’ve seen in person both at it’s home at the Art Institute of Chicago and here in NYC at the “old” Whitney Museum during the “Hopper’s Drawings” show. I’ve always identified with the guy in the front who’s sitting by himself. The guy no one ever mentions in discussing this work which is now seminal to our culture and to the art, film, music and literature that has come after. It’s hard to believe it was painted in 1942. It feels so now. But, I digress, again.
I am that guy.
That guy, with his back to us, sitting by himself, is someone I’ve spent much (too much?) of my life being. He’s sort of the observer- not blatantly looking at what’s going on, but aware of it, and doing his own thing, there for his own reasons. Like everywhere he goes. He sort of fits in, and sorta doesn’t. He’s a Denizen…a Nighthawk.
“That shape is my shade
There, where I used to stand
It seems like only yesterday
I gazed through the glass
That’s all in the past.” *
When I go out, it’s almost always solo. The good side of that is that no one gets to veto my choice of venue. No one has a say. I go where I want, when I want. While I have gone elsewhere (anywhere outside of NYC is elsewhere to me), I haven’t gone there often (One time I was invited to go somewhere, I was called a “Fresh Air Kid.” Remember them? It fit.). After all, it was always my life’s dream to live in Manhattan. And it took a long time for that to finally happen. Living here, there have been times when I’ve decided to go out somewhere at 1230am, even at 2am. How many places can you do that?
For the last 23 years, it’s been my world, my “home sweet home,” * as Steely Dan said in Deacon Blues*, the soundtrack of this post. I’ve lived most of that time in my world at night.
Now? I’m inviting YOU to come along with me. Pull up that open barstool, since there’s now plenty of them to choose from as you can see from this blog’s banner (adopted from you know what, with my apologies. and undying admiration), and let’s see what the night brings.
As a great man once said, “The future is unwritten.” That leaves the present and the past to write about. One thing I’ve learned along the way- the journey is usually the destination.
“You call me a fool
You say it’s a crazy scheme
This one’s for real
I already bought the dream
So useless to ask me why
Throw a kiss and say goodbye
I’ll make it this time
I’m ready to cross that fine line.” *
*- from “Deacon Blues” Words & Music by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. Published by Universal Music Publishing Group. From the classic Lp “Aja,” by Steely Dan.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com