Saturday, March 18, 2017

Just Like A Ringing A Bell


Chuck Berry
Rest In Peace

"Of all the early breakthrough rock'n'roll artists, none is more important to the development of the music than Chuck Berry. He is its greatest songwriter, the main shaper of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists, and one of its greatest performers." -Cub Koda

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Burning Down The House


American Pastoral is undoubtably one of the greatest American novels of all-time, and to say this 2016 film does the book an injustice would be an understatement of epic proportions. A horrendous adaptation with terrible casting, acting, and pacing. In a final slap to the face to Philip Roth, they even truncate one of his most brilliant quotes in the voiceover at the end.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Into The Known


"We generally give to our ideas about the unknown the color of our notions about what we do know: If we call death a sleep it's because it has the appearance of sleep; if we call death a new life, it's because it seems different from life. We build our beliefs and hopes out of these small misunderstandings with reality and live off husks of bread we call cakes, the way poor children play at being happy. But that's how all life is; at least that's how the particular way of life generally known as civilization is. Civilization consists in giving an innapropriate name to something and then dreaming what results from that. And in fact the false name and the true dream do create a new reality. The object really does become other, because we have made it so. We manufacture realities. We use the raw materials we always used but the form lent it by art effectively prevents it from remaining the same. A table made out of pinewood is a pinetree but it is also a table. We sit down at the table not at the pinetree."

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2017
Text from The Book of Disquiet, 1920s

Thursday, March 2, 2017

45 Revolutions: Terry Callier



"I've seen a sparrow get high, and waste his time in the sky.
He thinks it's easy to fly. He's just a little bit freer than I."

Terry Callier's music is the first that I can recall me and my pops truly bonding on; I remember him bringing home the Fire On Ice LP when I was a kid, and us listening to it together, entranced. This was the pre-internet days when it was beyond difficult to find out anything about the man and his discography, which it turned out was extensive and stunning. Flash forward to 1998 when Callier played his first New York City show in 25 years: to say it was a magical evening would be an understatement. When Callier performed "Ordinary Joe" there was barely a dry eye in the house, and to this day, every time I spin the 45 I can conjure up that night perfectly.

There are certain songs that no matter how many plays, one never tires of; the ones that reach deep inside your chest and either crush or massage. "Ordinary Joe" is one of those songs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Love Is the Thing


Rudolph "Rudy" Sheriff Lawless
Rest In Peace

"The drums appealed because of the movement that happened when you played them. It was central to all of it. You could move your body as if you were dancing. You see the horns and the other instruments provided the melodies — which I had learned on account of my dancing — and the rhythmic part of it came along almost without my noticing — it was sitting there underneath, but it was there..."

Quote excerpted from an interview by Todd Bryant Weeks

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why We Must Speak Loudly And Often

My father is a Holocaust survivor. He spent the first years of his life in a partisan camp outside of Minsk. One thing everyone that knows us knows is that my dad and I have always disagreed about politics. When I was a teenager, growing up in the affluent suburbs of Boston, I remember driving in the car with my dad and arguing that because I was not religious, I didn’t have to worry about anti-Semitism. And I remember him replying that they didn’t ask if you were religious before they gassed you.

Of course, he was right (There you go, dad, I said it!). And it was a testament to the success of my parents’ bold decision to leave the USSR as political refugees, which landed me in a (more or less) open and pluralistic liberal community in Massachusetts that allowed me not to notice. I was arguing that in the world in which I live, I would not be targeted for being Jewish but for something in my control — like being religious. Now, obviously, that’s an unsustainable argument and as a Lecturer in philosophy at King’s College London, it pains me that my 13-year old self would have made it.

The reason I bring it up, though, is because as a Jew in America, even a Jewish refugee fleeing the anti-Semitism of the USSR, I had privileges and opportunities unhindered. My Jewishness, unlike that of my mother’s, did not preclude me from studying medicine at university, or require me to take classes at night rather than during the day — or at a vocational college instead of a real university. My Jewishness was not an obstacle to my fulfilling my educational goals. But unlike the unfettered opportunities that so many Americans simply take for granted, I was also raised with constant reminders of evil and tyranny, of autocratic regimes and the ways in which governments could murder, isolate, deprive and demean.

My family history is a history of persecution, under the Nazis and under the Communists. My paternal grandmother escaped the Minsk ghetto with my father when he was only a baby. My father’s first memories are of an imprisoned partisan telling him stories, begging him to just sit still so as to avoid knocking dust into the man’s eyes from the grate above. My mother’s childhood memories are of week-long train journeys to, basically, the ends of the earth, to visit her grandfather who was arrested under Stalin and who lived for more than a decade in Gulag. My grandmother was also arrested when my mother was a teenager. Someone didn’t like something she said and reported her to the police. That’s all it took. She was in jail for months. She was a paediatrician and also survived the war. And lived until she was 96.

The point of all of this is not to somehow emphasise that Jews suffer uniquely but to remind my fellow American Jews that we are in a unique epistemic position because we can couple the knowledge that has been imprinted on us by our family histories with the privileges and opportunities that we have enjoyed living in the US. And because of this special epistemic situation, we have an obligation to speak out against what we recognize as familiar forces of tyranny so clearly taking over in America today. Because they are as familiar to us as the stories that we were raised with and we are lucky enough to have benefited from a system where we are allowed to have a voice: we must not stay silent now. We have a clear obligation to call out the racism, the lies, and the fear and to explain how these are the instruments that tyrants, dictators and despots have always used to control populations and wage war.

We are in a position to raise our voices in resistance and we have an obligation to do so — both because such is the nature of justice, but also, because we have benefited from a system that has deprived countless others who, in virtue of their own systematic oppression, can see the hate, the racism, the xenophobia, and the threat to our bodies and minds — but who have been deprived of the epistemic standing to be heard as equals.

It is no accident that Jews have always fought for liberal enlightenment values. It is no accident that we who have often been seen as less than human fight for a system of government that grounds human dignity in our very humanness. And it is no accident that in Trump’s America, the vast majority of minorities are firmly rooted against the regime and rightly scared about the impacts it may have on us. And so, for us, the fight is not a political choice but an existential one. And that makes it not much of a choice at all.

Words by Ellen Friedland

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Empathy Complex


"I loathe the expression 'what makes him tick.' It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

After School Special


In the early '80s there was a ridiculous urban legend that if you collected enough Lee Jeans patches The Wiz on Fulton Street would give you a free boombox. Kids would form "Lee Patrols," putting a Lee patch in a bus-pass holder as a badge of sorts, and go around ripping the patches off of the pants of unsuspecting victims.

I wonder what kids in the city do for fun these days?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Only The End Of The Beginning


"People are talking about immigration, emigration and the rest of the fucking thing. It's all fucking crap. We're all human beings, we're all mammals, we're all rocks, plants, rivers. Fucking borders are just such a pain in the fucking arse."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Walking My Freedom Highway


My family came to America from Eastern Europe back in the day, I work with Mexicans, the coffee I drink is from Puerto Rico, I buy my $5 deli sandwiches from Yemenis and Chinese folks, one of my high school girlfriends was from France, the pizza I eat way too often is made by Italians, my late night local bartender is from Ireland, the most delicious meal I had last week was made by Indians, the best grocery store in my 'hood is owned by a Lebanese family, my childhood crew was like the damn United Nations. Do I have to go on? This city and county was built, and made great, by refugees and immigrants. How is this not totally fucking obvious to everyone?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brooklyn Spleen


"Nothing is as tedious as the limping days,
When snowdrifts yearly cover all the ways,
And ennui, sour fruit of incurious gloom,
Assumes control of fate’s immortal loom"

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2016/17
Poem from Le Spleen De Paris, 1869

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Talkin’ Bowling Green Massacre Blues #45


Now I heard her blab all ‘bout it one day
Her voice a crackling’
On the tee vee con waves

We gotta shut ‘em out
Got t’ shut ‘em down
Can’t have them people
Floodin’ to our town

Don’t ya see? she schemed
As her eyes grew wide
That last guy did it too
We gotta stem the tide

Well, I set down m’ sandwich
On top a’ m’ knee
‘n’ picked up the clicker
Shut off that malarkey

But before I could
She said somethin’ startled me
‘Twas a tale the newsman never told
‘Bout a Bowling Green Massacree

Bowling Green Wha? Where? I thought
Now that don’t seem right
So I clicked up the sound
‘n’ choked down some more vegemite

She prattled ‘n’ chirped
Her platinum doo bobbin’
Then came the talkin’ head melee
‘n’ my head started throbbin’

So I poured myself a whiskey
‘n’ took a stiff nip
Then kicked back the recliner
‘n’ drifted off on a trip

A fairy in sunglasses led me out to a pier
As he flew off he yelled
“It’ll be a riot!”
I said I thought that was queer

To my right was a Tiller’s son
And beside him a black bear
Behind them stood a spy
Who gave a blank stare

A goat lady wore pearls
And read a book upside down
Surveilling all was a fat man
Who clutched beneath his cloak a gold crown

“There must be hundreds here!”
I remarked to a midget in an ill-fitting suit
“There are far more — thousands — millions!” he barked
Then went back to counting his loot

A foghorn’s blow pierced the air
‘n’ my whole body shook
But it wasn’t a ship horn at all
Just that blond TV crook

“It never happened” she croaked
“It was an innocent mistake.”
“Ha,” I smirked, clicking off the tee vee
“That’s one way to prevaricate.”

Well, now I don’t care just what ya do
If you wanna keep watchin’ the news
That’s up t’ you

But don’t tell me about it
I don’t wanna hear it
‘Cause ya see
I just lost all my tee vee spirit

Yep, that’s right
I’ve had enough
No more vegemite ‘n’ hard stuff
From now on it’s all p.b. ‘n’ fluff

Lyrics and illustration by Kate Kaye © 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Statue

Deny your faith until the deathbed, but its stink is all over you and your precious borrowed clothes. Your coal-black hair carries the reek of want, and your saccharine breath betrays your core of loss. Now picture the multitudes — "sheep," you whisper. See them sulking in their lonely rooms, surrounded by meaningless artifacts.

It's comical how you step out briskly from the twilight to present yourself. "I am rational!" you shout, but behind you lurks that same broken-down machine that feeds on such paltry exclamations, emotions dripping like oil from its worn seams.

In front of you your minions sit, their minds thick with the ache of betrayal, and their lips cracked from the ill-wind bite of careless infatuation. Stare in my mirror and see not yourself, past or future, but a sentiment scarecrow, trembling from false declarations, and the disease of your mind's costume.

© 2009-2017 Lee Greenfeld

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Yearning To Breathe Free


"If you don't know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he's just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It's one world, pal. We're all neighbors."

Friday, January 27, 2017

לעולם לא עוד


"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dawning Of A New Error


"At moments like this I envy those who have found a safe haven in which to bestow their hearts; or perhaps I envy them for having a heart to bestow. I often feel that I myself am without one, and possess in its stead merely a heart shaped stone."

Photography by Lee Greenfeld © 2017
Quote from The Handmaid's Tale, 1985

Friday, January 20, 2017

Streams Of Whiskey


Allen Mandeville
Rest in Peace

Many years back I was tending bar and sipping a nice top-shelf bourbon as my shift was about to end; Allen had been there since open, and was drinking cheap well whiskey. I didn't notice him leave — which wasn't a big deal as he was all paid up and I'd see him the next day — but when I took a sip of my drink I realized that he had swapped his swill out with my good stuff! Doing that took a monster pair of balls, and as such didn't even make me that mad. I laughed, spit it out, and poured another drink. (It really might've been a mistake, but I like to think he did it on purpose.) In recent years I enjoyed visiting him when he was behind the bar at Montero's (where he started working not long after the swapping incident); I always got the warmest of greetings, and he always had a great story at hand.

Sadly, Allen passed away suddenly this past Monday night from an apparent heart attack. He was a real neighborhood legend, a warm gentle man with a daunting wealth of knowledge about a myriad of subjects. He will be sorely missed by so very many.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A True Revolution Of Values



"On the one hand, we are called to play the good samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Excerpted from the Beyond Vietnam address, 1967

Friday, December 30, 2016

Adiós Amigos


A.I.T.A. is on a brief hiatus... Back in a few weeks.

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Reasoning, Realization, Revolution



"In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion."

Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark, 1963
Quote from Le Mythe De Sisyphe, 1942

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Let's Live For Today


Live recordings oftentimes feel unnecessary, like a contract fulfillment from the artist, leaving one yearning for the original studio versions. That said, there's a clutch of live albums that take songs to the next-level — from stunning reinterpretations to unadulterated live'n'loud raw power — leaving ones mouth agape and equaling, and at times transcending, the original studio takes.

So with no further ado, here is Achilles In The Alleyway's very subjective list of the top-25 greatest live albums of all-time:

1. Sam Cooke - Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963
2. Bob Dylan - Genuine Live 1966 / Hard Rain / Live 1975 [tie]
3. Frank Sinatra - Sinatra At The Sands
4. John Coltrane - European Impressions *
5. The Who - Live At Leeds
6. Jerry Lee Lewis - Live At The Star Club, Hamburg
7. Grateful Dead - Live/Dead
8. Otis Redding - Live At The Whisky A Go Go
9. Thin Lizzy - Live And Dangerous
10. The Band - Rock Of Ages
11. James Brown - Live At The Apollo
12. Hawkwind - Space Ritual
13. Muddy Waters - At Newport 1960
14. Judas Priest - Unleashed In The East
15. Velvet Underground - The Complete Matrix Tapes
16. The Rolling Stones - Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!
17. Jefferson Airplane - Bless Its Pointed Little Head
18. Yardbirds - Five Live Yardbirds
19. MC5 - Kick Out the Jams
20. The Jam - Dig The New Breed
21. Motörhead - No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith
22. Georgie Fame ‎– Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo
23. Spacemen 3 - Live In Europe 1989
24. The Ramones - It's Alive
25. Black Flag - Live '84

* This entire list could easily be made up of jazz releases, so I limited
it to just one, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite live recordings.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Symptoms Of Withdrawal


"A lonely, quiet person has observations and experiences that are at once both more indistinct and more penetrating than those of one more gregarious; his thoughts are weightier, stranger, and never without a tinge of sadness... Loneliness fosters that which is original, daringly and bewilderingly beautiful, poetic. But loneliness also fosters that which is perverse, incongruous, absurd, forbidden."

Art by Franz Kafka
Quote by Thomas Mann

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Granadilla

I cut myself upon the thought of you
And yet I come back to it again and again,
A kind of fury makes me want to draw you out
From the dimness of the present
And set you sharply above me in a wheel of roses.
Then, going obviously to inhale their fragrance,
I touch the blade of you and cling upon it,
And only when the blood runs out across my fingers
Am I at all satisfied.

Poem from Coterie, 1920

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Coney Island Of My Mind #19


"What good is the warmth of summer, without
the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" 

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2016
Quote from Travels With Charley: In Search Of America, 1962

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Rational Habit Of Mind Is A Rare One


"I think that we ought to do all that we can to bring before the world the importance of the attitude that we are not going to believe a thing unless there is some reason to think that it is true."

Quote excerpted from Why I Am A Rationalist, 1928

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lost At Sea

Dawn breaks, and the streets flood with the rush of winter solstice's annual sorrow. I stand back, straining with thoughts of him through my blurred memory. He may as well have been magical; his history glorified and partially invented via family, friend, and even enemy.

When did it all begin?

Age eight: laying, kicking my feet into the fluff of dirty blankets, watching the pain on their faces as they struck blow after blow for glory. Age nine: wreckless car-rides through the old city, paved with macabre ornaments of criminality. Age ten: wondering how long the joy of awe and blind respect could possibly last.

After that, it's all awash in lies and exaggeration, pettiness and a circular gallop towards a damaged fate. Faded photos hold not a trace of fact — the stance and glance tell little of what once lay behind those stoic, ocean-blue eyes.

© 2009-2016 Lee Greenfeld

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Out In The Cold


Micky Fitz
Rest In Peace

Fare thee well to the legendary frontman of British Oi!/street-punk band The Business. I count myself as lucky that I got to see The Business the very first time they made it to New York City, and the last time (plus a few times in between). Thanks for all the splendid music, good times, and for the name of a certain short-lived fanzine.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Lesson

A simple observation, her good-natured ribbing did it: all about the black socks. It was more than just the black socks, but it was a reminder; the ends were very far from the surface. Black socks. Bridges. That curl of the lip... That night.

"We all shouted 'ammonia man' as he clawed at his eyes." "You think that's funny?," he asked. Then he stood right in front of me wearing a weather-beaten leather vest, and big black mc-boots; hair all slicked back and a deep olive complexion. He leaned in and asked me his name. I said it, and he hit me. Standing there in front of the candy store shivering from the cold, the shame I felt was nearly unbearable. I did nothing wrong yet I felt lost. I often felt lost back then. I put myself in the position to get hit, perhaps that's why I felt so wretched. The reverberations of that punch would shake right through the neighborhood, and I'd live with it for a while in the spotlight, and for years to come in my own dark corners. There were many times to come after that snowy day that I'd get hit in one way or another. Many more days and nights of shame. He asked me his name, I answered and got hit so hard it took my wind away and left me shaking. Paralyzed. Why then did I spend the next day with him, blurring the edges and acting the fool?

Her hand reaching out across a scarred, stained, beer-soaked table, wrapping itself in my fingers. That curl of the lip. It all turned into everything I desperately needed, and was gone before the processing could even begin... Black socks. How could that ever sum it up?

© 2006-2016 Lee Greenfeld