The Marriage of Beowulf
with Paintings, Uptown Sinclair
New York City • April 5-7
It’s not every day that you get to attend a Viking wedding.
Well, strictly speaking, this wasn’t a traditional Viking wedding — if you’d like to see what that would have been like, go to http://www.lothene.demon.co.uk/family/vikwedd.html — but it was certainly in keeping with the tradition and mythos of David Lee Beowulf.
But we’ll get to the wedding shortly. After all, I was arriving Friday morning in New York City, for a wedding to be held Sunday afternoon. What could possibly fill the time in between?
NYC Rock Crit and all-around pal Gail Worley offered her East Village apartment as a home base; the Chickpad is a sort of mini-Hard Rock museum of LA glam + punk + beyond, in addition to housing Gail and goldfish. We decided to take in the Metropolitan Museum, specifically to view “Surrealism: Desire Unbound,” a collection spanning the entire surrealist movement. Painting, sculptures, books and what-have-you from the likes of Breton, Dali, Picasso, and other lesser-known-but-just-as-talented names were on display. Surrealism was all about leaking out the dark secret thoughts most people had about sex, using dream-like images. Scandalous, for the early twentieth-century. These days, soft-porn sells sugar water and jeans, which in itself is a bit surrealist if you think about it. Elsewhere in the museum was a fine collection of new stuff (Calder, Lichtenstein, Pollock) and old stuff (Van Gogh, etc.). It’s a gigantic place, and admission is only ten bucks — if you’re ever in the city for a Viking wedding, it’s highly recommended. Remember to turn off your camera’s flash, they don’t like it and aren’t afraid to tell you so.
After the museum, individual dinner plans were made. By the time dinner was done, Tomasz the Unfriendly Pollack had arrived, announcing his intention to make David Lee Beowulf puke. We proceeded on another artistic tour, this time of East Village watering holes. The Lakeside Lounge is a rockabilly bar, and it acts like one. Not the polished, black-shirt-with-white-piping rockabilly you may expect of NYC, but the real raucuous, beer-soaked deal. The Korova Milk Bar is themed like its namesake in A Clockwork Orange, and though you can’t order milk laced with psychedelics, there is an interesting drink menu. The doorman had a titanium Powerbook, and all the TV’s in the place were playing Caro and Jeunet’s “The City of Lost Children.” By the time we left, there were two titanium Powerbooks locked in mortal snobbery at the door. Next was some place whose name I don’t remember, but which was narrow. Then Barmacy, a remodeled old pharmacy which had retained a few counters filled with vintage pharmacopeia. While we were there, the owner showed up to take some of these classic posters and displays home, explaining she had just sold the place. She also showed us some of her tattoos… nice work.
Some time during the night, David Lee Beowulf asked me to be the backup best man (he was best man at my wedding) — the request didn’t make much sense, but I could tell the Unfriendly Pollack’s stated objective was in sight.
Saturday morning: a solid but unremarkable breakfast, where the new objective seemed to be to get the Unfriendly Pollack to speak some pollackish to the Pollackish waitress. After, we split up for the day. The UP and I went to the Museum of Modern Art (aka MoMA), which was featuring a collection of early-century Russian Avant-Garde books and the works of Gerhard Richter, a German painter who was either very innovative or needed a new pair of glasses (and I’ll bet I’m the 1,351th person to say that). A large portion of the museum, including the Sculpure Garden, was closed for renovations, which was a bummer but which created the interesting side effect of a somewhat small gallery stuffed to the gills with MoMA’s most prized possessions. Enter the arch and BOOM, you’re confronted by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Rousseau’s “Sleeping Gypsy.” The four or five rooms stood in contrast to the Metropolitan’s vastness, and it was another skillful use of foreshadowing for a surrealist weekend, as we staggered from famous painting (like Jasper Johns’ “American Flag”) to famous painting (like Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”). There was also the weird energy humming between Pollack and Pollock, you had to be there. Objectively, there was far less art to be had for your $12, but subjectively the effect was impressive.
So now what? How about an Indian dinner with Tomasz and Gail, to be followed by some award-winning rock-and-roll from Cleveland’s Uptown Sinclair. Saturday night, after more than our fill of nan bread and curry, we lurched over to the Mercury Lounge for an inspired set by Dave Hill and company. We made a minimum of chit chat with Mr. Hill before the show; he was nattily dressed in white pants and tie, and a button-down shirt. Uptown Sinclair are professionals. It was strange to see Hill take the stage in fake mustache and satiny smoking jacket to announce the band, after which the disguise was hurriedly (and not too secretly) removed so Hill could thank “the guy” for “the introduction.” Then things took off like a brushfire in a tornado. Playing the type of rock that is often spelled as “rawk,” Uptown Sinclair powered through a set of energetic and melodic music, reminiscent of Cheap Trick and other power-pop acts. Heads were nodded, asses were shook, and at one point, Hill dropped his vocal mic on the floor so we could hear his tap-dancing solo. A class act all the way. They were followed by Sam Bisbee, a fairly competent singer/guitarist who wore a green YMCA shirt (he should take dressing lessons from Hill) and did two covers in the half of the set we stayed for.
Sunday morning. V-day. The wedding was taking place in Tarrytown, a historic part of the Hudson Valley that gave us Washington Irving, Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman. The ceremony, cocktail hour and reception were to take place at the local Hilton. Though we expected fire, police and New York’s finest papparazzi to be mobbing the place, it was actually quite calm and sedate. We sat admiring the two highly unorthodox but completely appropriate wedding figurines, and the clear acrylic contraption to suspend them over the cake. There was an incredibly diverse crowd brought together by this event — David Lee Beowulf’s engineering friends, all sorts of music people, the future Daisy Lee Beowulf’s extensive Puerto Rican family. The weather was bright, clear, and cool, perfect for the ceremony which was scheduled to take place outside.
As all of this was sinking in, the groom took me aside for a special request. Apparently, the original best man had failed in his duties, and now I was being called from the reserves to fulfill that special function. No problem.
The ceremony, presided by a justice of peace who admitted to being mostly a criminal judge, was short, to the point, but highly meaningful. After Mrs. Lee Beowulf got an obligatory snogging, he recited an Apache Wedding Prayer. I’m not much for prayer or poetry, but it was a very nice thing to say, and I’m attaching it to the end of this review. As we drifted through the cocktail hour, fascinating pieces of conversation drifted by. A sumptuous buffet, created by plundering neighboring villages for the finest casks of wine and sweetmeats, was enjoyed by all.
The rest of the evening went by in typical wedding fashion, with the traditional complement of wedding protocol and events. The music was anything but typical, however, with salsa, KISS, sappy ballads and Andrew WK mixed with reckless abandon. Each guest got a compilation CD, and a bottle of Lancer’s Portuguese wine, in case they needed something to remove tenacious stains from walls and carpeting. As we rode the train back into the city, it felt very cinematic, to have witnessed the momentous occasion and be riding back to the City in a ratcheting flickering pencilbox. Hollywood would never buy that ending, but it’s the one in the original script.
Apache Wedding Prayer
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.