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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: New York Stories

Breakfast at Manny’s
(New York City, New York, USA)
John M. Edwards

Anyway I flubbed my audition recently @ Manny’s, the legendary guitar shop on 48th "Avenue" (a bit more famous abroad really than even Sam Ash!)—not that anyone was really listening or watching anyway, except for some black person sitting on an amp directly across from me with a knock-off electric bass, who looked like he was trying to steal some of my original riffs.

But. Then. Again. A sidelong glance, with an ironic arched eyebrow or two, from a staffer resembling Joe Pesci or Manolo with a wig mop on top of his head, might not even count, even if at the same time it seemed to imply, "I know."
Oh, and there is Joe Perry playing backwards and Christopher Guest looking a little snarly whilst I was calling him Woody. And that young Dutch director from NYU Film School looking as indie as Tony Horowitz with his brimstone laughter taking us to account for being Mayflower descendants working freelance for ZDF in American Indochina.
Who rigged USA Direct straight to Young Tom's Oval Office: But of course, one again the Germans are left holding the bag! Thank God for that. The Russian KGB agent pretending to be CIA, who resembled Chris Clarke of Ogilvy, suggested we hightail it and take that plane, train, bus, boat, or automobile back home. I chose the "oil ticket" and arrived with my Bic lighter BTUed at the doorsteps of Manny's, looking like Dennis Schmidt, the Baptist Austrian Puppet of Lubeck, coming home from a hard day's night at the SoHo office of Warner.
I'm a Universal Music Man myself, all labels.

Man oh Manny’shevitz (which only educated The New Yorker readers who talk about the Algonquin Rountable as if it were really something rather than a bunch of talented sadsacks ruthlessly hogging column-inch, with no modern-day self-promoter more evident than my Bermudan beach bum and yachtie friend, the Danish-sounding Henrik Hertzberg, whom I imagine purposely hires catty hairstylists sub-editors with absolutely no literary ambitions who stuff envelopes with rejection slips to avoid "naturals" finding out he may have vaguely filched one or two or three of their ideas, know is "kosher" wine--an impossibly abstract concept for one such as I who has dined alone only exactly twice at Katz’s Deli in LES with a little numbered coupon in my hand:
"Uh, can I have some mayo with my corned-beef sandwich?"
"You know, that has Milch! in it!"
I guess even Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese™ has some milk in it, and I heard a rumor once that Hebrew National frankfurters inexplicably contain trace amounts of yogurt and just a little bit of Spam ™.

But of course, I am also Tom James, Zagat reviewer. Internationally feared only in his own mind. "Sucks." Anyway, let’s just face it, when you are underproof and bored and only a half-hour away from Manhattan-- driving around like Clockwork Orangey maniacs with a bunch of wildass prep-school soccer hooligans on the make, with, "The Volume King" on the knob--the glossy allure of 48th-street guitar shops, filled with "axes" (that’s fancy talk, man, for Stratocaster or Telecaster or Fender, what?)—lined up like Peking Ducks in New York’s "Chinatown"—well worth a visit to when you are just, like, ya know, once again just sort of frigging hanging around, waiting glumly for a bus at Port Authority!

Wow, a greasy corned beef sandwich folded by a heroin addict with ashes on his hands and snot dribbling down his nose, like Aqualung coughing up phlegm balls the size of caramel corns—uh, wait for the late night pizza, chums. War Child, dance the days and dance the nights away.

A definite maybe, turns, into, a, vigorously rotating Roman thumb’s up.
Just a short "Crazy Train" ride away--(der, der, duh, duh, da, da, da, der, der, der, der, da, da, dun dun)—from MSG (The Garden, not the ingredient), the only thing to do is knock about trying more or less unsuccessfully to pick up married chicks, and oh, just form a rock band and make it big.

Or wake up flat on your back with your wallet, keys, and Elf Camera missing at St. Luke's hospital wondering where did I come from, before breaking out after exactly one night in search of a smoko, like dream and desire twisted into a tire and worn over the necks of statues on Father Demo Square, wondering which way is Bleeker Street.

I didn’t know it then, but the biggest mistake I ever made period was turning down the job of lead bassist when I auditioned for STP (The Stone Temple Pilots) back before they were big. They all could read music and seemed out of my league, plus I was headed off to college. (That sad New Orleans Tulane song is about me, I'm afraid.) Lead guitarist Rob Dileo (no relation to Rob De Leo of Pasaic County), who resembled Michael Sarazin grabbed the neck of my bass and said, "I wanna play bass, I wanna play bass!"
Whilst my good friend S. Pool said, "I know what you mean, who does this guy think he is?" Pretending to be rattled I explained that I was certainly a better bass player than him, in a nice way. I asked my Watchung Hills party crony Dean Dileo: "Is this your brother?"
"I’m a little scared man, no relation."
Rob went off to sulk, turned on his amp and wailed. I thought, "Oh no, Juillard-trained or something."
"I don’t know guys," I admitted, I’d have to learn the songs first."

Scott Weiland, wearing a groovy flowered shirt and long blond hair said seriously. "John, all you have to do is this: we meet every day and . . . " Steve Pool, certainly the coolest and bravest of my old Route 22 associates, began playing a few chords which sent a chill up my spine. "Now, that I like. . ." And this, my friends, this is how all good bands begin.
The song, of course, later became "Plush," which, in my peculiar Weltanschaung, is the most romantic anti-rape song in history, which was voted by Rolling Stone Magazine as Best Song of the Century and reminded me of the plush blue carpet of my primordial bedroom.

Still the lead singer Scott Weiland, who went from wearing long blond hair and flowered shirts to sporting a demonic Mephistophelian soul patch, similar to my good Shakespearean actor foil from London Darren Law, who was almost rogered right in the middle of Leicester Square, tried to woo me: "You know, I’m going to be famous some day!"
"I know."

Perhaps he knew that Grandpa Bob (Popeye) was friends with Hoboken native Frank Sinatra and that my own dad, Thomas Robert Edwards Jr., the literary critic and author of "Imagination and Power," who resembled a silver-haired Clint Eastwood stitched with Fred Gwyn, the Welsh crooner who played Herman Munster. And Grandpa Lewis. Hey, "Shakespeare in Love" babe Gwyneth Paltrow was my little girlfriend back in the days of the Adams Family Mansion, Old Man Hatchet, and Mrs. Reader.

Hey, even Susan Sarandon was from my hometown, the old spa town of Plainfield, with its Victorian mansions and Sleepy Hollow days. And Sigourney Weaver once pretended to be my friend with Anita Van Vactor, Katherine Ross's cousin ("Butch Cassiday and the Sundance Kid" and "The Stepford Wives.") Rumor has it that even Dr. Quinn once visited me after I noticed a resemblance to one of King Henry the Eighth's wives after Cubby Broccoli's and Harry Saltzman's "Live and Let Die," starring Roger Moore as James Bond 007.
Even Peter Cushing, of Forry Ackerman's Famous Monster of Filmland's Monster Conventions, lived on Cushing Road ("There's that little hand again!) and Hayley Mills, who was older than me and as omnisciently silent around me as Patricia O'Neal.
Enter Caroline Magee, no wait!

Page McConnell and McKittrick were in the car too much much later as we dared "The Night of the Speedbumps." Unfortunately I think I didn’t make it clear to Page that Scott was not only a nice guy but a powerful Nachtmusicklub singer too, but I don’t know, it takes most people at least 3 times to remember anyone’s name.
Interesting that, Light and Dark magic colliding like flickerflash thunder and lighting with indifference masked by. . . . The irreverent pagan Christian band PHISH versus the friendly Satanist band THE STONE TEMPLE PILOTS—taglines coming years later . . . I guess I just wanted to be a writer.
To quote John Milton, "It’s better to rule in Hell than to Serve in Heaven.
Deal: I’ll do an angel.
By the way, "Angelfuck" is my best poem and song lyrics are forthcoming via EMI.

Again, my best friend back in high school, as all of you might know (even though he went to Gill and I to the accursed WH, where everyone lives long, dies, and leaves behind a waxy corpse), was none other than the very decent Page McConnell, the American Norwegian with a Scottish-sounding surname, one of the world’s most masterful piano players and founding member of PHISH, the sort of psychedelic jam band that fans follow around the country trying to scalp tickets for free, with such lyrical eccentricities as "Washa my Uffizi, drive me to Firenze."

Pic: JE: Almost Famous

I was at best unsurprised when Page, master of the bon mot and almost as good a backgammon player as yours truly (the "doubling dice" matches near The Shark Bar in Little Italy are legendary). I once carefully got into the auto of his father Jack (inventor of the Tine test and a mean banjo player), who lightly concerned, "Been doing a little smoking, son?"
Page said . . . in response.
"Who me? No, I don’t smoke!"
The reason this appealed to my ingrained sense of the absurd is that Page was alone in the car with his Father. Okay, maybe I was there also.

Who else would it have been? I wasn’t just there sitting next to him chainsmoking Kents.
After I gave up music after my college band in New Orleans broke (name moot: I don’t have any tapes of our concerts as "The Dingleberries," then "High Entropy"), I caught the travel bug. Then years later I attended Page’s very first concert in New York at Bleeker Street’s "Kenny’s Castaways" Club.

And as all Salon readers know, this small venue charmer where garage bands either shake like Big Red badass kangaroo Anguses under the klieg lights or, you know, sign a major record deal, no sweat, baby! (Unfortunately, Salon ditched their most interesting column, Don George’s "Wanderlust.")
But I finally got it when I saw PHISH in Paris, where I had expatriated myself for a year or three or seven, off and on, and elsewhere, to learn how to write, period. Hey, my friend was a real rock star. . . . Nice that, catching up alone on the Isle St. Louis at night.

Though my lead guitarist friend in our garage band Static, the supercilious Eric D’Amato, (a.k.a. Damon Villegracias) acted like a pretend dwarf crybaby lampooning them in Psychology Today, I never felt happier for literally my best friend or, more accurately, platonic brother, then, in my life. There have been others.
There is a very steep pricetag for fame.
I’m not blaming anybody, but how stupid could anybody be to have an unlisted phone number. Time to snailmail me your loaded address books so I can call you back.
That’s all it took.
Advice: there is nothing more important than a good address book to keep in touch.
Anyway, it’s fun having famous rock stars as friends. Especially, when you know you could have easily been one yourself.

But just hold on, let’s hop into the new time machine (nuclear car) I’m theoretically testing (I also dabble in speculative fiction) in the hidden "basement" and drive back along Hegel’s timeline apace to see why things sometimes seriously go wrong in alt universes, including Bernards-Lee's World Wide Web and the U.S. Department of Defense's "Internet."
Dudes, I don’t mean to scare you, but there was something before the big bang!
"He KNOWS!" bruited a group of hiphop hipsters as I was off and running down the street, icycles spritzing in my wake, until, I paused like a frozen Thing from Outer Space. Like revery itself outside the entrance of Blue Star Cinema (on the Garden State’s infamous clogged artery Route 22, the second most dangerous highway in the States (the LA Freeway is second), I stared in through the double-glazing, like the freaked-out ghost of burnout Jimmi Hendrix wondering idly if he would have voted for Obama.

Or, the friendly protagonist from H. P. Lovecraft’s "The Outsider" giving himself the high five!
So there I was again like yesterday standing stock-still and nodding my head vaguely like a symbolic British mafia general who means well but can be a little bit of a slavedriver—but only so you too can have a good time. Uh, tired. When during a premature innermission during a reprisal showing of none other than Led Zeppelin’s "The Song Remains the Same" I too was predestined for what? Done-done-duh-did-done, done-done-done-duh-done, ahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-ah, ahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-ah!"

A tall tipsy rocker with Vandenburg-long hair, whom I think later turned out to be one of the lead singers in my various suburban New Jersey garage bands, accosted me:
"Led Zeppelin for breakfast! (finger lick), Led Zeppelin for lunch! (finger lick) . . . " At a loss for words, eyes glazed over like faux glaucoma, while Greg Loomar scooped up my girlfriend Erin Enderlin and Carl Cochrane (of Thor) reminded me he lived only seven or so blocks down the street picked up all the stayalones, Dennis Beam finally alit upon an alt verse for the usual suspects lined up like young hopefuls at Westfield High, burning with revenge for nothing in particular and vowing pent-up rage and fury only for effect at the so-called staple of angst and defiance: the so-called Battle of the Bands!!!
Lightning strike!
"Led Zeppelin, for, T-BONE STEAK!"

© John M. Edwards September 15th 2009

Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely (five continents plus), with adventures ranging from surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Thailand to getting caught up in a military coup in Fiji. His summer jobs have ranged from book editor at Simon and Schuster Inc to copyeditor at Emerging Markets, which covers world devolment bank meetings as they develop (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, African Development Development Bank, and Asian Development. His writing has appeared in, CNN Traveller, DVD Express, Missouri Review,, Grand Tour, Islands, Escape, Endless Vacation, Adventure Journey, Condé Nast Traveler, International Living, Emerging Markets, Coffee Journal, Literal Latté, Lilliput Review, Lonely Planet, TFAS, Poetry Motel, Dark Horizons, Space & Time, Mango, BootsnAll, Verge, Slab, Zagat, Glimpse, Verge, Stellar, Poetry Motel, Hack Writers, Road Junky, Trav Monkey, Richmond Review, Vagabondish, Adventure Journey, Go Nomad, World Hum, ForeWord, North Dakota Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review. He recently won a NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) Award, a TANEC (Transitions Abroad Narrative Essay Contest) Award, a Road Junky Hell Trips Award, a Literal Latté Travel Writing Award, a Bradt Travel Guide Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition, and a Solas Award (sponsored by Travelers’ Tales). He lives in NYC’s "Hell’s Kitchen." His future bestsellers, Essays Over the Edge ™ and Move: History of the Royal World remain unpublished. His new work-in-progress, "Dubya Dubya Deux," is about a time traveler. His new upcoming literary annual, ROTTEN VACATIONS, with coeditors Bruce Northam and Tony Perottet, promises to reintroduce the Great Game into travel writing and welcomes submissions from anybody on the planet.

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rogue ancestor, Aaron Burr, shot Alexander Hamilton with a Hoss-pistol from a mere ten paces away—and got away with it. Happening upon Hamilton’s gaudy mausoleum in New York City, Edwards says our foppish former Treasury Secretary deserved it!

Hubbard's Cupboard
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I decided to enter the forbidden zone. Whence I was immediately greeted by a stunning woman with long black hair and wide friendly eyes who acted like a member of an evangelical church welcoming a walk-in with a rhubarb pie.

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