Despite all the planning, effort and lost sleep with came with my single-minded mission to meet Mac DeMarco in New York City this year, I’ve returned to Perth without having even come close to doing so.
Mac’s move and subsequent movements made the possibility of a meet-up improbable, and admittedly there was a point in planning where I subconsciously accepted this fate and turned my focus to other things.
Fortunately there’s no shortage of things to do and see over three weeks as a solo traveller in New York. I learned tonnes about the US, the world and myself from the experience.
For anyone reading or thinking of taking a trip of their own, and to close this chapter off, I’ve put together a list of my favourite things about New York City from my experience travelling there.
A record started this whole ordeal, so it’s only fair that I gave significant time to exploring this realm of New York while I was in town.
New York’s second-hand record scene is packed full of early soul presses, limited new releases and basically anything you could imagine in between. I brought back around 25 LPs gathered from visits to stores across town and lovingly packed into a hard case before being checked in as luggage. They survived, and that’s the main thing.
For those interested, my perspective on this is below:
Best store for digging: A-One Records, East Village
A-One wasn’t the biggest or most visually appealing store I visited, but it was by far the best in terms of digging and very competitive on price. In this store I found a neat original press of Etta James’ first LP, a bunch of Marvin Gaye and my personal favourite – a sealed copy of The Adventures of Ali and his Gang vs Mr Tooth Decay. Commissioned by the American Dental Association in the 1970’s, this record follows the ‘fight of the century’ between Mohammad Ali, close ally Frank Sinatra and the rest of their gang against evil Mr Tooth Decay (seriously). A must have for every collection.
Best for new and limited releases: Turntable Lab, East Village
Turntable Lab killed it for soundtracks and special editions – Stranger Things on smoke coloured vinyl, Drive on fluorescent pink and Twin Peaks on coffee brown.
Best animals: Record Grouch, Williamsburg
Record Grouch was cool but the real highlight was the owner’s Chihuahua, who spent most of the time I was there jumping all over the records and trying to dig at them in his own right. What a champ.
Wildcard: The Thing, Williamsburg
The Thing was too hard for me, but if you knew exactly what you were looking at you could do some real damage down there. A floor to ceiling affair in a basement crammed full of records in no logical order, to go through every one would take three weeks of its own but everything there is US$3. The best thing I found was Shaq’s first album, but I left this one behind.
In three weeks I managed to see Jerry Seinfeld, Bruce Springsteen, Louis CK, Jon Stewart, Jim Gaffigan, Stephen Colbert, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Rangers at work without too much effort at all.
I got caught up in everything from a Halloween parade to presidential protests, stumbled across part of the New York Marathon and snapped pictures with priceless artwork.
There always seems to be something happening in New York on any given night, and as a solo traveller with the time and freedom to make decisions at short notice it was really easy to make the most of these things. One night I caught a train to see 7000 jack-o-lanterns set up about an hour out of the city. I’d strongly recommend taking it this way for those considering a trip over there if that’s what you’re looking for in a trip.
Further to the point, I feel that spending time travelling on your own provides the clarity required to better understand the things you enjoy without distraction or external influence.
While Mac DeMarco provided a catalyst, it was sense of dissatisfaction with the way things were (as touched on in Roaches & Records) which really drove the decision to take this trip. The decision only affected me and wasn’t anything special to anybody else – people holiday all the time – but I have a better understanding now of the things I want to do with my time having had that break to assess and explore. I’ve come back with a lot of ideas and motivation, and I’m really excited to pursue these into 2017.
I count Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou as one of my favourite films, and Seu Jorge’s Life Aquatic themed David Bowie tribute show at Town Hall was the best live gig I’ve ever seen.
It has been 12 years since Life Aquatic was released but the tour is the first time Jorge – decked head to toe in costume from the film – has performed his acclaimed soundtrack of Portuguese Bowie covers.
I can’t really put it in words, except to say Jorge did full justice to the legacy of Bowie and his father recently passed. He was open, honest, funny and talented in equal measures and it was unlike any other show I’ve been to.
Fair to say the election was the biggest thing (globally and in New York) while I was abroad, and I feel lucky to have been on had to see everything go down.
This blog has never been about spouting political ideologies and I don’t have much interest in changing that, but what was clear is that the American people are more divided than perhaps was thought in the lead up.
The result of the election caught a lot of New Yorkers off guard, resulting in protests in the street and quiet contemplation on the subway.
No one (not even Trump) really knows what will happen from here, but it will be fascinating to see.
Thanks to the people who reached out or got in touch during, before and after the trip to talk about it and the blog more generally – especially those I haven’t spoken to in a while or much at all. As I’ve continued to say, it’s been really encouraging to know that support exists.
I’m going to have a week or so off from it now but I have some short and longer term plans for content which I’ll explain as they come to be. But they are on their way.
Thanks for sharing this first journey with me.