How I Ended Up at Ivy’s Birthday Party (The Night I Should’ve Stayed Home)

Let me set the stage here. I received an album from a guy named Mike Kinsella a little over a month ago. The album I received was called ‘I Do Perceive,’ and I spent quite some time getting to know the words, thoughts and emotions of the song writer. Kinsella was in a band called American Football a few years ago; he wrote all of their music, broke the band up after one album and, to the outsider, didn’t really seem to be up to much. He actually was quite busy within the past four years though. He was in countless bands backing his brother Tim up as a multi-instrumentalist (including Owls, Joan of Arc, also helping out Aloha and Maritime on his own) and was also busy writing and recording his own music, under the guise ‘Owen.’ The sound and feel of Mike’s music is important here, but describing it would do little to aid in the actual unfolding of the story. For storytelling’s sake, I will say that Mike’s music as Owen is amazing to me, and that would explain why I scribbled in a date to catch him live when I knew he would be in the area. The date was December 19, 2004, and Mike as Owen was going to be playing at a club called Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ.
Let me now also set the tone of late December weather in New Jersey, which can basically be whatever the fuck December feels like doing. Sometimes, New Jersey December wants you to enjoy the outside in jeans and a t-shirt. Other times, NJ December doesn’t want you to know that the outside exists. It would rather you suffer innumerable days inside your home, warmed by artificial heat that dries your body out, both inside and out. This particular year, late NJ December opted for the latter. It had been formerly bearable, but December 19 was a Sunday, and by dusk, the temperature was steadily dropping. This normally happens to a certain degree, but the combination of wind and precipitation prompted the night to freeze beyond anything 2004 in NJ had seen thus far. It was the first night of the new winter which truly allowed all that were suffering through it to say, “It’s too cold. I’m staying home.” By 7PM, the temperature was in the low 20’s, snow was coming down and the late day’s rain was quickly freezing on the roadways.
I was half-heartedly expecting myself to back out of leaving the house, but often times when I do, something will happen that makes me kick myself for not going, so I’ve always tried to wage decisions on my first instincts- If I first wanted to go do something, but then have second thoughts against the first thought, I go with the first thought. This rule also applies to picking lines in supermarkets- Stick with something and follow through with it. It’s part of the persistent nature that’s gotten me this far, and I usually don’t let petty things like snow, ice and freezing temperatures keep me from doing anything.
I’ve also given up driving to see live music for the most part, with a few reasons backing up my decision. One, is that live music is usually accompanied by alcohol, and since I go to a lot of shows on my own, I often rely on alcohol to ease the nervous tension of standing in a room full of people dressed more hip than myself. So driving after the fact is usually a bad decision, one that would put me into more debt that I already am in, so I take the train. My second reason is my truck, and it’s un-trustworthy-ness, coupled with the fact that the exhaust system has now become a dirty smoke manufacturing machine. It’s not Earth-friendly at all, and as of lately, has become a local-only mode of transportation. Thirdly is, the train. I’ve taken a liking to traveling on the train because it offers me the chance to interact with a broad range of people, possibly broader than that of the Division of Motor Vehicles. I don’t feel unusual on the train. Everyone on the train is an outcast of society, and I like to think that we all pick this mode of transportation because, when outcasts mix it up so fervently, something fucked up is going to happen, and we all want to see what in fact it is that’s going to happen (and usually does). Perhaps we all know this? And perhaps, this is why so many strangers silently nod to each other upon entry and exit of the train? I’m not here to speculate on our secret society, but I will say this, if you have to give up drinking but love the strange scenarios that bingeing on alcohol produces, get a cup of coffee, ride the train for an hour and be glad that you remember your dreams when you wake up the next morning hangover free. I digress yet again though.
I liked an album from Mike Kinsella, he was scheduled to play not too far from me, it was cold outside and I like trains; there was only option for me. So I broke out my winter coat, my gloves, a hat, my backpack and my bike lock, trudged out to my garage, got on my bike and started pedaling full bore into 20 MPH wind gusts. My hands immediately froze underneath the thin layer of protective stretch cotton, but I continued onwards. By the time I reached the station, a mile or so from my house, I was frozen, as was my bike. I grabbed the frame and carried it up the stairs to the platform, and noticed that ice had frozen onto the tube where water had been beating off of it while riding up the street. I waited about 5 minutes, then received a call from April. She would be in the area around 11PM, and wanted to pick me up. This was the catch though- her phone only worked when when her car was on and plugged into the car lighter, so there was no way I could contact her until she was in her car on her way to get me.
Shortly after, the train arrived. A man got on a stop after me, made a big deal of missing the ticket station on the platform, then argued with the conductor over not paying the $5 surcharge for buying tickets on the train. It wasn’t fucked up, but it did provide a distraction for everyone in that particular car. He also needed a cigarette, which no one had, and informed everyone that he was driving to Buffalo after picking up his car in Newark. He really just wanted to talk to anyone that would listen, and I entertained his story for a few minutes before our last stop in Newark. He was going to endure an all-night drive, needed some smokes and needed to break a few $50 bills. I offered him no answers to any of his problems, but he still remained content in simply communicating his grievances, which you don’t get when you drive on your own in a car. We arrived in Newark and I customarily ran through the station to the PATH train, destined for Hoboken. Down one set of stairs, across the station mall, past the popcorn stand where everyone gets sucked in by the aroma of freshly popped popcorn, and up another flight of stairs to the PATH entrance. I paid my way and entered the train, seeking the handicapped location where i usually stow my bike, then grabbed a seat. A young woman entered, asking me if this train was going to the 33rd St. Station in New York. I never realized it before, but I’ve become a connoiseur of PATH train lore. And it wasn’t even a chore. (I’ll stop rhyming now.) It was Sunday after 7:30PM, which meant that only one line ran from Journal Square to the 33rd St. Station. I explained the awkward loop to the woman, though she didn’t ask about it, then informed her that it would eventually arrive where she wanted to go, and that because it was a Sunday night, it just took longer. Most people don’t talk on the train, but once you get them started, they don’t stop, and I was now the man driving to Buffalo, seeking cigarettes and smaller bills in exchange for his $50 notes. I did quiet down after my nights, weekends and holidays spiel, then exited the train without saying another word to the woman when my train arrived in Hoboken.
The weather was now much colder, and as Hoboken is surrounded by water, off-shore wind was now added to the equation. I bundled up yet again, stopped at an ATM, then rode the two miles to the club. I was frozen when I arrived, and quickly locked my bike up outside the exit.
My first thought, when I entered the door, was to peruse the show schedule, which displayed no mention of the word ‘Owen’ for the night of December 19. Instead, it said ‘Ivy’s Birthday Party w/ Bern, Fly Me Courageous, The Misery Loves, 7PM, $5.’ I thought “What?” to myself and ventured further in, hoping that might be in the restaurant section of the club. It was not though. The door guy politely said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” when I asked him, and I then went outside to see if I could call someone and see what happened. No one that would have any knowledge of the purported mixup was near a phone, and no one that could cull some knowledge from the Internet was also not near a phone. The time was 8:30PM, which is important to remember, because if you might recall, I had a scheduled pickup for 11PM, with no way of reaching that pickup person in the time between then and now.
I was basically left with no option other that to wait it out, and as it was too cold to actually be outside at this point, I was also going to be relegated to waiting this ordeal out through Ivy’s Birthday Party w/ Bern, Fly Me Courageous, The Misery Loves at 7PM for $5. So I marched back inside and paid the $5 to stand in a dark club by myself for 2.5 hours.
I grabbed a beer first and foremost and found a corner to lean against. Bern was now playing, which translated into one young woman singing while playing acoustic guitar. It actually wasn’t half bad and reminded me slightly of PJ Harvey. Then she played a PJ Harvey song and I felt better about making the comparison to myself. By the end of her set, I had moved from Bass to Yuengling and on my way to beer number 3. And things were already improving as a result.
The following band, as best I could describe them, was a 3-way split between Living Color, Lenny Kravitz and Parliament Funkadelic. The Living Color segment of the band was the guitarist. He wore his hair in dreadlocks underneath a winter beanie and played nonstop metal riffs not far from ‘Cult of Personality.’ The Lennzy Kravitz segment of the band was the lead vocalist. He also wore his hair in dreadlocks, except he also wore a ruffled poet’s shirt that was unbuttoned halfway down his chest and tight jeans. And then there was the P-Funk bassist, who put on sunglasses when the band played, then took them off when they were done. He was wearing plaid pants that were tucked into suede knee-high boots, with a leather vest and a medium-sized but well managed afro. He was also thoroughly bored with the music unless allowed one of his many funk-based solos, which prompted him to cut loose on the stage. They were called ‘Reese,’ and each song began with the lead vocalist screaming “Maxwells, I can’t hear you!” I could be a wise ass and say that he might’ve been deaf, but it was simply one of those miserable attempts that willing rock stars concoct to connect with audience members, and it was actually working here, as the whole of the club began twisting and contorting with the metal-riffed, funk-fortified rock of Reese, The Band. Reese, The Band also encouraged the entire audience to feed birthday girl Ivy as many shots as she could manage, which no one actually did.
The highlight of the band, aside from the band itself, was one choice audience member in his late 40s to early 50s. He wore his hair in a ponytail, with a beret over top of that, and had a unique style of dancing to funk metal. What he did was, he would take each foot and make the shape of an x on the floor with that foot, and then follow through with the remainder of his body. 40 minutes of this dancing on soil could’ve shaped a 6-foot deep x in the ground, but this was Ivy’s birthday party, and the dance floor wasn’t collapsible in the least bit. The audience carved out an x-shaped parabola around the dancer and let him get his creative and drunken dance fix in. This was the moment I realized that I enjoy throwing myself into awkward situations. Reese, The Lead Vocalist shouted “Happy Birthday Ivy!” between another song, the bass player slapped a few funk chords out, the beret-ed dancer marked his spot on the floor and I sat in the corner, wondering how the hell I ended up in the current scenario, but somewhat glad that I did.
I exited the club and walked into the lounge area. It was now 10:30PM. I caught the last few minutes of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the tale of a web programmer that’s supposed to go without any type of sex for the duration of the movie title, then got a call from April a few minutes earlier than expected. She picked me up outside the club and we drove home while the rest of New Jersey fell under a cold and thunderous period of frost.
The next morning, I emailed Seth from the record label that puts out Owen records. He had no idea what happened, asking me if I was sure that I’d actually gone to the right club. I informed him that I’ve been visiting said club for upwards of ten years and unless someone slipped me some really good acid, that the show didn’t happen and no one in the club knew anything about it.
The first instinct thought process I mentioned earlier isn’t fool proof, as evidenced by the unfolding of this night’s events, but it does allow me to explain away some of the unusual circumstances I’ve entered myself into. I guess I really don’t need an explanation of this night though. I had either been the victim of a scheduling error or some erroneously placed acid that worked wonders on my brain. I think I can safely rule out being slipped acid, and although I’m waiting on a reply from Mike Kinsella (of Owen who may have started this whole mess), I’m blaming scheduling for the time being. Life has a way of taking you where it goes, which is, often times, not the most direct route to where you want to be.

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