"My God Runs New York"

by “David Shapiro”

after work i walk to the whole foods in tribeca where you can just walk in and go upstairs to the seating area and use two hours of free wifi, even if you don’t buy any food, and i post a blog entry and then mike meets me and we eat dinner and then he brings me to an art party in Nolita, on Prince St. and either Elizabeth St. or Mott St., and when we get there i see some fashion models smoking outside and i try to comb my hair with my hand but it won’t stay in the position i move it into so i put a cap on and then we walk in

the art party is at an elementary school that is no longer in use. inside the school is a lot of art hung up on the walls and sitting on pedestals in the hallways. on the school playground, which is just a big concrete rectangle, a big mural is painted on the walls. in one corner of the schoolyard is a big artificial wall that lists all of the event’s corporate sponsors, in another corner is a one-woman indie rock band playing on a stage and behind her is a big list of the event’s corporate sponsors, and then in another corner is a table set up dispensing beer and wine and i can’t see a list of corporate sponsors near the beverage table but i’m sure there’s one somewhere. i would like to thank the event’s corporate sponsors for one beer and one glass of red wine, they were excellent

so right now i am standing in the schoolyard and there are about 200 fashion and art people standing here also, and they look comfortable and attractive and mostly they are either smiling or listening intently to each other talking, and sometimes when the women laugh they throw their heads back. there are women in their twenties dressed elegantly and running around with headsets and walkie talkies and clipboards and blackberries, passing the walkie-talkie and the blackberry between their hands. i am standing behind my friend mike, who brought me, and he works for a magazine and one of the publicists is telling him all about this event

the publicist does not look at my face or address me even though i am right next to her, which i understand because her job is to get writing about this event into magazines and i do not work for a magazine so i’m not holding her refusal to acknowledge my presence against her. what i glean from listening to her is that this art party is a benefit for something that has to do with children and art that i didn’t fully understand, it’s for like raising money to get children more art supplies or more art appreciation instruction or something. that’s why it’s in a school i think. i can’t imagine that all of the rest of the attendees here have studied the fine print of who this event benefits either but maybe i am being cynical and they are very passionate and well-researched about this whole thing

the publicist leads mike up some stairs and into the school and through the school, and i walk right behind him, and on the way we pass a large bust of Abraham Lincoln with the words DEAD PREZ XVI underneath his head

the publicist leads us into a room and tells us that we are standing in front of a Shepherd Fairey painting. i know who Shepherd Fairey is because two nights ago i watched a documentary about street art called Exit Through The Gift Shop, made by the famous street artist Banksy, so now i know that Shepard Fairey is a famous street artist and a friend of Banksy’s, so his painting of a wave cresting in the middle of the ocean that i am looking at (which maybe has some larger meaning that is going over my head) must be worth a lot of money. a few feet away from the Shepherd Fairey painting is a skateboard hanging up on the wall that has some electronic apparatus attached to the bottom of it and that is a valuable piece of art also

the publicist tells mike that the art in the show was donated, and it took the artists a lot of time and effort and they could have sold this art for a lot of money, but they didn’t, presumably because they are true believers in children getting more art. she tells us some other stuff that sounds like a press release but she is saying it off the top of her head i am wondering if she believes what she is saying or if she is a publicist so she needs to act like she believes it, but again maybe i am being cynical

after a few minutes i try to make eye contact with her because it’s getting a little weird that she is pretending i am not standing right next to my friend who is standing three feet away from her, and also i am listening to her conversation and taking notes on what she is saying. so she finally makes eye contact with me and introduces herself to me and acts very warm and friendly and includes me in her conversation. then i tell her i write a blog about music and ask her, “what’s the name of the band that’s performing outside?” she thinks for a second and can’t remember and she seems embarrassed that she can’t remember, like she has come up short as a publicist, or like if you are at a restaurant and the waiter is reeling off the specials and suddenly he forgets whether the creme fraiche is part of the seared tuna dish or the braised duck dish, and she presses down the button on the headset microphone and asks for the name of the performer and tells me and looks apologetic that she didn’t know it right away

then one of the guys who put the event on (and has been living in the school building for weeks because he was setting up the event) comes over to the publicist and the publicist introduces him to mike and mike asks him a question that i can’t hear and he reels off some buzzwords about the purpose of the event, noting that the artists are “using their voices, coming together, stepping up… generating content, generating energy” and then he pauses and looks contemplative for a second and then says “it’s about generating energy”

eventually mike finishes talking to the event organizer and the publicist has to go back downstairs and so we thank her and she leaves and we start walking around the school and looking at the art. we turn a corner and we see a man who is about 5’5″ and asian and has a shiny shaved head and is wearing an all-white suit with white shoes and white sunglasses and he is flanked by two tall women, and one of the women is holding a clipboard. mike says, “you should talk to him” and i say “who is he?” and mike says “terence koh, the artist. he was in the cover story in new york magazine this week” and i say “oh shit, i think i went to one of his gallery shows one time? is that possible?” and mike says “yeah i guess, and you should definitely talk to him” and i say “okay”

also we notice that terence koh is carrying a tote bag which mike later tells me is actually filled with lavendar, which is quite fragrant, and also his suit is a few sizes too big on him. when he speaks he gestures with his hands and arms but you can’t see his hands because the suit arms go a few inches past his fingertips so when he talks and gestures it looks like he is flapping his arms around like flippers in his suit jacket

anyway so i go up to him and stand near him and wait until his conversation reaches a lull and say “hi my name is david and i write a blog about music, could i ask you two questions for my blog please?”

and he giggles and says “yes” and i say “what music do you listen to when you are working?”

and he giggles again and says “maria callas”, who is an opera singer. he pronounces maria as “mariah”, like mariah carey, and i don’t know if that’s correct but usually i’ve heard people pronounce it like people regularly pronounce maria, but i don’t double check with him. and then i say “who would you say ‘runs new york’”? and i put up air quotes while i say “runs new york”

and he looks at me, and says “my god”

and at first i think that he’s taken aback by the question because he says “my god”, but he isn’t, and he sees that i don’t understand what he’s trying to say so he touches his fingers to his chest to point to himself and he says “MY god runs new york”, and then he giggles again and i can smell the lavendar in his bag

then i thank him and me and mike walk away and go downstairs and then i have to leave so i thank mike and say goodbye to another friend that we ran into, who asks me if i am going to Don Hill’s later, which is a club where bands sometimes perform, and i tell him that i’m not and i ask him who is playing tonight and he says “Robert Plant’s son” and i tell him i can’t go because i have to go uptown, but i would love to see Robert Plant’s son play, and then i leave and get on the subway

and where i am going is to the opening of the Showpaper gallery on 42nd Street. Showpaper is a listing of local DIY shows that comes out as a single-sheet newspaper and the covers are frequently designed by cool artists. part of the reason i am going to this event is that a few months ago i did this reading with the rap group Das Racist and Victor, who is one of the rappers in Das Racist, got there after i had already read the thing i had written, so then today Victor texted me, “Heyo its victor from das racist. Realize the txt i sent u the other day just went 2 pending n never sent. Think u cld snd me the thing u read at that reading?”

and i texted back “I would prefer to print it and have you read it on paper, i don’t really want it floating around on the internet” and i thought about this newspaper story i read today about this girl at Duke University who wrote something embarrassing and sent it to a few people and then it was floating around on the internet and then a lot of people saw it and she got in a lot of trouble and The Today Show said that she “disgraced her school” and other people say that she disgraced herself

and he wrote back “Sure im djing at 217 42nd at around 10 if u want 2 meet me there? Never got 2 hear u read it but folks told me it was good and ive been wanting 2 read it”

so i said “Okay can i hang out and maybe write about it? I might ask you some questions but would try to not bother you”

and he said “Yea sure. Thanks man”

so i get off the subway and walk to the Showpaper gallery and the space is a big room and a long hallway extending back from the big room. there are video game consoles set up in the long hallway area, and some of the video games are games that you can’t really win but they present existential crises or makes you run forever and stuff like that. they are art video games

there is a concert promoter who does not like me who is here, so i keep an eye out for him because i don’t want him to see me because he is running the event and could kick me out, and i talk to a friend who is working at the gallery and then an acquaintance who is filming the video game consoles for a technology website. the people here are young and friendly and awkward and scrappy, some have beards, some of the girls are wearing t-shirts and backpacks. i fit in better here than at fashion or art parties and i am more comfortable. i go to the CVS on the corner of 42nd and 3rd Avenue and buy a 24 oz. Coors light and bring it back into the Showpaper event and open it and then i see Victor from Das Racist

he is about 5’8″ or 5’9″ and wearing a bright 80s track suit top and has a thick beard and long hair and is wearing glasses that look lawyerly. he is crouched over a mixer, DJing off a really old iPod in the corner of the room, and i go up to him and tap him on the shoulder and say “hi” and he says “yo” and goes back to DJing and barely acknowledges me, and then he turns back around after a second and looks at my face and and says “oh shit it’s you!” and gives me one of those handshakes that turns into an embrace, you know what i mean i hope

and we talk about DJing for a little while and then i start asking him questions and i say “okay so has anything changed for you guys since your pitchfork review?” i am asking because Das Racist got an 8.7 out of 10 and a coveted Best New Music designation (i guess the most powerful imprimatur in American independent music) for a mixtape which contains a song that is explicitly about how record labels won’t sign them. when i talked to the other member of Das Racist, on the day after his mixtape got the 8.7 review, he expressed frustration about not being signed to a record label. and then i say, “like have you guys had more label offers since the review?”

and victor smiles and says “yeah, we’re talkin to some more labels now. the main difference is that we can get away with asking for more money to play shows, and also more colleges want us to play. yeah, definitely more colleges”

and i smile too because i am glad to hear that they are getting attention from labels and colleges, and then we look around the room and he picks some more songs and i finish my beer and plan to leave because it is getting late. we talk about how when you are DJing it always seems like a great idea to play the song Genius of Love by Tom Tom Club, which is the Tom Tom Club song that Mariah Carey sampled for her song Fantasy, but it’s not a good idea because about a minute and a half into the song someone starts yelling JAAAAAAMES BROOOOOOWN, JAAAAAAMES BROOOOOOWN over the song in a really guttural way and people stop dancing because the yelling is too abrasive

i ask victor, “does being in das racist get you laid? has it helped you get laid more since you got Best New Music?”

and he looks a little surprised and looks at me and then looks at the Showpapers hanging on the wall and thinks about the question for a while. we look around the room while he thinks and listen to the song that he’s playing, which is a Beenie Man song, and kids are singing along and dancing, there is a photographer standing on a stage by the front of the room taking pictures and there are kids playing video games around us, and then Victor starts saying something about how when you are in a fairly popular indie rap group and girls see you on stage, you sort of have an automatic advantage, but then he stops himself and looks down at my Blackberry screen, where i am taking notes, and realizes that maybe he doesn’t really wanna give away trade secrets or sound like an asshole and he indicates that he doesn’t want to answer anymore and then he smiles and i say “okay i understand”

and then he looks sort of uneasy and says “talking about game kills game, you know?”

and then he thinks again and says “but maybe we owe it to women to talk about game in front of them?”

and then he looks at my Blackberry screen where i have written “maybe we owe it 2 wmn 2 talk abt game in front of them tho” and he points to it and says “yo that sounds corny in print!”

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Photo by C. E. Shore from Flickr.