Posts by Erika
Steve and I have been crappy about posting, it’s true. We seemed to hibernate this winter, if that means writing, playing a couple of shows, taking care of family, and for Steve, releasing an album with Hem for the first time in 6 years. But it’s been blog-quiet.
Among that quiet, I read a friend of mine’s memoir through letters: Public Apology, In Which A Man Grapples with a Lifetime of Regret, Once Incident at a Time. Dave Bry and I went to high school together, in Little Silver, NJ. He was a year ahead of me, so I didn’t really know him until we sat next to each other in Physics class my junior year. We spent it just getting by, grade-wise, and writing each other vulgar notes. I don’t remember what we said, but it was an ongoing contest based on out-doing the last response. I remember feeling uber-clever, and I’m now quite confident that this too is worthy of regret. But thank god the evidence is missing.
I re-connected with him through an old high school friend, so we’d seen each other sporadically over the past 4 years. Then I got word that he was doing a few readings from his new book. So of course, I went.
I can’t really think of a better book premise – you mine everything you’ve ever regretted from your life, and then write an apology to the main co-star of each story. And I’ve never understood those who say ‘life’s too short to regret’ or something along those lines, when I am FULL of regret over ways I hurt others over some silly spur-of-the-moment comment or action. Or the worse stuff, those digs that I actually intended. I mean, what are people actually DOING while they’re busy not regretting? I need a tutor. But that’s an aside.
There are hilarious entries, including a letter to Jon Bon Jovi apologizing for tossing beer cans into his yard, while simultaneously demanding an acknowledgement of the weak-as-all-get-out lyrics to “Wanted Dead or Alive”. You can hear Dave’s building hysteria throughout the letter, simply in the punctuation. Brilliant. There are deep, cringing tales, like ruining a Bob Mould concert and getting publically told off by Bob himself before the encore. There are of course the cruel love apologies. There are the letters that open wide Dave’s teen-aged periods of self destruction and drug use, a result in some ways of the anxiety that accompanies the tragic desire to be accepted (as we all want in high school – hell, maybe forever -), and a diversion to avoid coping with his father’s terminal cancer.
I told Steve I couldn’t read Dave’s book before bed, as I’m vulnerable to stories of violence and the horrific things people seem to do to one another with regularity. I am basically a weakling. So I rationed myself to daytime subway rides. When I’d crack it open at night, Steve would gently ask me, “Do you really want to read that now? I mean, you said…” Right.
Would this book would punch the average reader in the gut the way it did me? I think so indeed. Dave writes with such honesty that you feel all the complications and messiness of being alive – how life is chopped up and uneven and there are some things you really never resolve. You just keep going. And maybe purge it all in a memoir. Then read it to everyone you know on your book tour, egad! Oh, and if I haven’t said as much, buy this book. Not because he’s my friend, though that does count. But because it holds the promise of side-splitting laughter. And it’s got its share of the dark side, as any self-respecting read should. I mean, I might have been able to write something like it. Except I’m pretty sure my letters would have closed with something like this:
So I’m sorry.
But you have to admit you were a total dick, too.
We were in Austin and environs for the Thanksgiving holiday this year — seeing family, playing a few shows, and washing ourselves in wond’rous Texan goodness. Here are a few photos from the trip.
Steve and I trundled off the plane in Austin two days ago with a few suitcases full of clothes, pedals, cords and merch, our computers, a toddler and one guitar. Yes, only one guitar. I made the executive decision that I would rent an electric guitar down here from a local store because we had so much to bring with us, what with the kid and all. So last night my brother in law, Bruce, drove me across town to make my selection. I walked in, and a guy at the front desk asked what he could help me with. I told him that I was here to rent a guitar for the week. Here’s how that conversation went….
Steve and I trundled off the plane in Austin two days ago with a few suitcases full of clothes, pedals, cords and merch, our computers, a toddler and one guitar. Yes, only one guitar. I made the executive decision that I would rent an electric guitar down here from a local store because we had so much to bring with us, what with the kid and all. So last night my brother in law, Bruce, drove me across town to make my selection. I walked in, and a guy at the front desk asked what he could help me with. I told him that I was here to rent a guitar for the week. Here’s how that conversation went:
Me: I’m here to rent an electric guitar for the week.
Him: Ok, sure. For you?
Him: (Looking over my shoulder) Ok. (Pause.) Not for the guy in the Jeep?
Me: (I look over my shoulder to see Bruce reading The Onion in the front seat, his door open, one leg casually hanging out on the car’s edge. Longer Pause.) Uh, no. Still for me.
Him: Ok. How about you go pick one out?
He points to wall of guitars, so I proceed over there for a few minutes and choose a Fender Mustang. Mostly because Liz Phair plays one and secondly because it’s a gorgeous baby blue, and I haven’t played this color of guitar before. I’m excited. I return with it, they put it in a case, etc. and meanwhile, I’m asked to fill out their rental agreement. Name, address, band name, email, etc. Then… three personal references. Bruce is one of them, our friend Elizabeth, and I leave the third one blank since I don’t know anyone else who lives here. I mean, I know Patty Griffin lives here, but will she vouch for me if they call her? That’s the big question.
Him: Ok, we need three references, and one of them needs to be a relative. (By now Bruce has come in to hang out.)
Bruce: I’m a relative, her brother-in-law.
Him: (Ignoring Bruce, who, by the way is 6’8″ so it takes a practiced and professional eye to ignore him.) How about you put your mom down there?
Me: My mom? But she doesn’t live here.
Him: That’s okay. Put your mom down. That’ll be fine.
I really don’t remember the last time I had to list my mom as a reference for anything, but I guess the rental guy figures if I don’t get a decent reference from my mom, it’s pretty bad. Now I’m imagining him calling her:
Hello? Erika rented a what? Oh, I see. So why are you calling me? Mmm hmmm. Well, I’m sure she’s good for it. (Click.)
“Hello? What? Why are you calling me? AGAIN?!!? THAT LITTLE… you know, she’s been this way for years and at some point I just had to cut her off…. Yeah, good luck! She’s probably in Mexico by now… hey, throw her in jail for all I care! If you can catch her, that is. She has to learn but that’ll never happen if I keep bailing her out!! I’VE HAD IT!!!!! (click.)
Regardless, I put down my mother’s New Jersey address and phone number. As he’s running my card ($1100 deposit, $18.40 for the actual rental for 1 week) – he makes conversation:
Him: So, you here for the holidays and just want a guitar to kick around on at home for the week?
Me: Kind of. I’m here for the holidays and we have two shows this week in Austin and Johnson City.
Him: (Look of utter incredulity.) Oh! You have shows?
At this point I’m wondering if I look like an alien or a werewolf and nobody who loves me has had the heart to tell me. Though actually, aliens and werewolves are pretty rock-n-roll. Maybe I just look like a totally boring mom? Who rents guitars to play on the couch with her girlfriends? (Which sounds fun, by the way, and I’m not above it.) Is it so confounding to imagine that I might actually need a piece of musical equipment to play music, maybe even in public?
(Radio silence). Guy gets up, walks toward back of store, out of sight. New guy shows up, hands me the receipt and guitar. I thank him and leave.
Our friend, Julie – (and the partner of Little Silver’s bass and keyboard player, David), wrote a stark and beautiful depiction of her volunteer effort this weekend in Coney Island. It’s been living under my skin ever since I read it, so I’m linking it here.
So I had that last night, too much joy. Steve and I went with our friends Sean and Eric to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Meadowlands (if that’s still what it’s called) last night. It was an emotional roller coaster of a show, and we rode it. Along with 60,000 others, I suppose.
A few things, quick-like. Yes, I’m from New Jersey. It wasn’t cool when I was growing up to like this man’s music. Or at least, boys I found very difficult to relate to in high school,who grunted out one-word sentences, etc., liked Bruce Springsteen’s music. Girls thought he was cute. It was all lost on me. Then I heard Nebraska as an early 20 something. I think this story is many people’s story. So it goes, I loved the man, the songwriting, the depth, all of it. I met him a few times, which solidified my love. Plus he’s gotten even better looking with age, which has solidified that further. We’re solid, me and Bruce.
Do I think it’s cheesy? Sure. Do I love it for its pure abandon? Indeed I do. Do I dance and scream? Guess. As he’s getting older, he’s diving deeper into the spiritual side of things, as if the man’s spirit throughout his career hasn’t been bigger than life, bigger than the man himself, all along. But it’s almost like feeling that much joy, for me… well, it hurts. I think it’s in the same family of love I feel for our daughter. Just so much love, it makes me ache. It’s not just pure joy, it’s knowing that pure joy is transient, I guess. I found myself wishing I knew them personally, the Springsteens, so I could have this feeling again and again (read = totally unrealistic, not to mention ridiculous to imagine that their everyday is like that show). Mostly my ache came from the fact that at some point, Bruce Springsteen will die and there will not be this opportunity to be part of his congregation anymore. Because there is nothing like it.
Today was grey and cloudy. I’m overtired from getting home at 2am and spending my day on a toddler’s schedule. I mean, overtired is a joke. I’m long-term sleep deprived and all I want is more, more … and more music.
Be sure to honk and wave when you spot us out there on Route 1 in early June! Little Silver hits LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Bellingham. Check back as we’ll be adding dates throughout the month.
Nina Frenkel and Peter Hamlin‘s brand-spankin’ new animation for “Stolen Souvenir” is up on the Independent Film Channel’s site this week! Next week we’ll have it available on our site as well, so stay tuned :)
In 1995, I went to look at an apartment on the far west side of Hoboken, which at that time was a sketchy area. I had just landed a job at NBA Entertainment as a transcriber of sports interviews, and I needed a place to live that was close to (but Lord, not in) Secaucus, NJ. My salary was meager, and I had to work with it.
I walked into the railroad apartment and waited for my roommate to show up. For the very imaginative, it was a 2 bedroom place – and cost $700/month. And though I did not expect this, it was absolutely beautiful. Exposed brick, rich, grainy, wide planked dark wood floors, clean, updated kitchen. A woman and man, both older than me by about 5 years, sat at a kitchen table. I said I wanted the apt., and they said okay. I don’t remember the guy at all, but the woman’s name was Pam. She was kind and easy, yet not ingratiating – the sort of person you’d feel good about about. I signed the lease that sat on her table and moved in a month later.
About two months into living there, a letter arrived in the mailbox, addressed to her. An oblong envelope with green stamped designs on the back, it bore the mark of a writer who had taken the time for herself to really craft something. Not an obligatory letter; this writer had made it an evening’s activity to write this letter to her friend Pam.
I put it aside and the next morning, went downstairs to ask the landlord, a kindly, older Egyptian man who owned the building and manned his convenience store on the first floor – if he had a forwarding address for Pam. He didn’t. I looked her up in the phone book, and she was unlisted. Short of hiring a private investigator, I didn’t know how to find her.
I held onto the letter, unopened for three months, wondering if she’d get in touch with me – maybe her friend would tell her about the letter, and she’d come back to claim it. She didn’t. Finally, one night, I sat in my room on the floor and opened the letter and read the sometimes uneven, and always enigmatic, hammered type.
Pam’s friend was hanging out in her room the night of the letter. I had a perfect image; she’d lit a candle and set up her typewriter. Among her news bits, she reported that she’d finally ended a relationship with “xxxx” – she didn’t know what she’d been thinking to be with him – and she was seeing someone new, for the “nooky”. It was nice. She had a way with words, Pam’s friend. And the letter was decorated with various stamps and drawings, some with dialogue bubbles. I really liked Pam’s friend, and of course, Pam – for effortlessly earning such a friend just by being her cool-ass self.
I loved this letter, and simultaneously harbored some sadness over it as well. It had really been a divine evening, as you could read, that had provided the opening to create it. Had I written that letter, I would’ve lamented its having been lost in the mail or otherwise not received by my friend. It was un-recreate-able. It was a mood, a vibe, a misty life between the cracks of work, family and social life, etc. I still have that letter to this day, and though it was never meant for me, it’s one of the best I’ve ever received.
I was witness to life being lived, and this completely voyeuristic approach to letter reading was new to me. Everyone who knows me knows I LOVE writing and receiving letters. In the age of email and immediate immediateness, it’s a lost art form that I’m desperate not to lose. I’ve written and received many letters in my lifetime, and none gave me the feeling that I got from reading Pam’s letter from her friend. And it got me thinking… what if I were to write some letters, to whomever I wanted, and from me, but sent to someone else? That reading-once-removed, that feeling, was so delicious that I want to pass it on.
If you’re reading this and interested, send your address (or someone else’s) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send a letter – crafted by me and meant for someone else – to that person. Like the local radio station, I’ll take the first three callers. I’m only committing to three, because let’s face it – I have a baby now and and frankly, you’ve got to have a divine night for this kind of creation. I’m being optimistic to think there are three of those in my near future, but I’m giving myself to the end of this year to send out the three. So write me.
I have struggled to write something about this town that won’t sound indulgent and precious. It’s hard.
We have a baby now, and she is brand-new. The littlest silver. And if I didn’t romanticize my hometown before – the nature and the nights, full with sea-air, mist, exploration and imagination – I do now.
I called a friend the other night that I’ve been out of touch with for four years. He and I spent hours as kids driving through the lush, still roads to the ocean, through farmland, to each others’ houses – listening to the same cassette tapes over and over again, drinking coffees we hadn’t yet developed the palate for, me singing, and him listening or playing guitar. And for all of this clichéd teenage-dom, we lived like the world wanted us, like we were part of it.
I asked him if he felt, as I have expressed now in my loony post-partum state, that where we grew up was extra-special. After a slightly terrifying-to-me pause, he said quietly, “Yes. I’ve found it difficult to explain to people.”
Here’s the thing: everything was innocent, as it is when you are young, forming an identity that you aren’t even aware you’re forming. Even the most debaucherous, most hurtful, or most shameful things you can do at that age are fueled by an innocence that is of a time, and by default, a place. I’ve wondered if anything sets my town apart from any other small town in America – and I’m not sure. I recall it for the ocean and the country roads, and though environment is huge and evocative, ultimately I suspect that this is just how one feels about where they grew up. It is that innocence that I romanticize, and that I associate with Little Silver.
Here is a pic that our friend Mauricio snapped from the train as he was passing through only last week.