I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Thursday, May 12, 2011

hike 9.5: the high line nyc, emmylou harris, dylan, and desire

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We went to New York to hike the High Line and hear Emmylou Harris. This hike doesn't count toward our year of hikes as it isn't from The Book of 50 Local Hikes We Are Sworn to Complete Before 2012. So I'm calling it, hike 9.5.

My camerado read an article about the High Line Park last fall and has wanted to hike it ever since. The High Line was an abandoned elevated train spur in Chelsea. Some parts of it were demolished as trucks became the main means of transporting goods; what was left was colonized by drought-hardy grasses and trees (I'd love to look at a species survey). Some inspired locals fought to save the remaining sections and make them into a public park. It's a great story--a couple of people with an idea saved a wild (feral?) place and made it into something that's used by everyone--locals, tourists--we saw school kids eating their lunches in one area when we visited, and even a fashion photo shoot:

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The High Line was originally designed to get hazardous trains off streets, and threaded through the center of blocks so it wouldn't block light to the streets. I loved the way its route took us in and out of buildings, so we could feel light and temperature change as we walked. There are art installations in the tunnels, some of which could only be appreciated if you read the explanatory labels. In theory, I'm not sure how I feel about that, but, we did like the art.

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We got the sense that the High Line was good for the neighborhood, because we could look over the side of the park and see outdoor cafes sprouting in its shadow. Our hike ended in an enchanted grove of birches.

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Birches are a theme of this post, as a courtyard of birches in moody light was the backdrop for the live interview we saw at the New York Times building with Emmylou Harris (our bus was late; we were relieved to get good seats!). I've seen EH more than any other artist: with my camerado at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, by myself at the Tower (with Elvis Costello), with my Dad at the Keswick (Concert for a Landmine Free World), and at the Keswick again with both of my folks (the only concert I saw with them both). An Emmylou Harris album was the last my mother listened to--she enjoyed it with astonishing vigor; it was great to see someone so ill and facing such dire prospects still able to enjoy good music so fully.

Emmylou Harris, as always, looked amazing--I like her retro-country goth aesthetic. The interviewer kept bringing up the supposed hymnlike quality of her music, a comparison she didn't quite know what to do with--though she was polite and a pro. She talked a lot about her dog rescue, and about various collaborators, some I hadn't heard of. The most interesting topic for me was EH's discussion of making the Desire album with Dylan--my favorite Dylan album. I love all the exotic adventuring of Desire --it's very colorful and Byronic--and I love the spontaneous quality of EH's singing. She reverses a lyric in One More Cup of Coffee, and there are times when she and Dylan come in at different times; it's very fresh and immediate. I wondered if Dylan recorded a rehearsal and used it so the album would not sound perfected and sterile--but the effect may be less contrived than I imagined. EH described how the music was thrust at her when she entered the studio, she was directed to a stool, and was expected to start singing immediately. Dylan elbowed her when it was time for her to come in! which explains the unrehearsed quality!
I always imagined Dylan deliberately chose EH for the way her voice can sound ethereal one moment and harsh the next, as Desire is both an earthy and otherworldly album. But according to EH, it was Dylan's producer who selected her, based on Dylan's asking him to "get me a girl singer."
That a brilliant album came from such a haphazard process EH attributed to Dylan's genius, which is as good an explanation as any.

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