Friday, September 18, 2020

You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

"The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history." -George Orwell

Our nation's history is soaked in blood, and the country was built on the backs of the exploited and terrorized. Knowing this does not make one "indoctrinated" or "unpatriotic." Also, who is Trump to tell anyone about history? Shit, I am not convinced he can even read.

Art by Martin Sprouse (3chordpolitics)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Take Me Home

Toots Hibbert
Rest In Peace

I saw The Harder They Come when I was around 12 or 13 years old and fully fell in love with Jamaican music (and became a forever fan of The Maytals). Toots sounded like a Jamaican Ray Charles; he also had the same uplifting feeling stretched across his catalog. His loss is immeasurable, but his music will live on forever.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Quiet, Please

"Quiet, please, not only because it is a mark of respect for the deceased and their friends and families, but also because it is the sound of silence that many New Yorkers find so evocative of those days just after the attacks. Our streets closed to regular traffic, patrolled by police and the National Guard, we wandered in mute disbelief at what had happened, at the enormity of our loss. Even the emergency vehicles that raced along the empty streets did so without their sirens. We murmured softly amongst ourselves, looking for answers as many of our fellow citizens still searched for news of their missing loved ones."

Words by Michael Winship
Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Nail That Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down

Sam McPheeters' latest book Mutations: The Many Strange Faces Of Hardcore Punk (Rare Bird Books), is a memoir, of sorts, of a life informed by music as both a participant and most of all, a rabid fan. It's a beautifully crafted book, imbued with passion (sans nostalgia), humor, and refreshing unvarnished honesty. It is also incredibly biting at times, but thankfully lacks the vitriol McPheeters once trafficked in through his music and fanzine writing.

Among the superb band "profiles," record reviews, essays, memoir fragments, and the must-read endnotes (as Tobi Vail states in her foreword, you would do well by reading them first), one quote jumped out to me and hit home hard: "We begin our lives struggling to grasp the mysteries of adulthood, then spend the rest of our lives struggling to access those raw emotions of childhood." This is what makes the book burn bright: reflections on a youthful existence mapped by music and rebellion (real or preceived), and how one carries that forth into adulthood.

A highly recommended read, whether or not you're a fan of McPheeters' bands (Born Against, Men's Recovery Project, Wrangler Brutes), fanzines (Plain TruthDear Jesus), or even hardcore. As with the best memoirs, it's a total page-turner and McPheeters manages the rare feat of pulling off an emotional portrait of the artist as an angry young man growing up in public, filled with epic stories and revelatory self-reflection. He throws the traditional constraints of memoir writing out the window, and never loses sight of his love of music, and its potential to transform, inform, and destroy.

Review by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Answer May Surprise You!

David Graeber
Rest In Peace

"What if freedom were the ability to make up our minds about what it was we wished to pursue, with whom we wished to pursue it, and what sort of commitments we wish to make to them in the process? Equality, then, would simply be a matter of guaranteeing equal access to those resources needed in the pursuit of an endless variety of forms of value. Democracy in that case would simply be our capacity to come together as reasonable human beings and work out the resulting common problems — since problems there will always be — a capacity that can only truly be realized once the bureaucracies of coercion that hold existing structures of power together collapse or fade away."

Words from The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement (2013)

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Beautiful Notes

"The thing to me that's most inspirational about Charlie Parker is that he felt that you could only redeem yourself for bad things by doing something that was beautiful. He felt that he could give the world beautiful notes."

Words from Kansas City Lightning by Stanley Crouch
Photograph of Charlie Parker with Tommy Potter, Miles Davis, and
Max Roach at the Three Deuces in NYC circa 1947 by William Gottlieb

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Separate Piece

"There is a common superstition that ‘self-respect’ is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation." -Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

A simple observation, her good natured ribbing did it: all about my beloved black socks. It was more than just the socks, but it was a reminder; the ends were very far from the surface.

Black socks. Bridges. Endless talk. The curl of her lip… That night.

We all shouted "ammonia man" as he clawed at his eyes. Then he stood in front of me wearing a weather-beaten leather vest and big black m.c. boots; hair all slicked back and a deep olive complexion. He asked me his name. I said it, and he hit me. It was a test and I failed. Standing there in front of the candy store shivering from the cold, the shame I felt was nearly unbearable.

I knew the reverberations of that punch would shake right through the neighborhood, and I'd live with it for a time in the spotlight, and for years to come in my own dark corners. There were many moments to come after that snowy day that I'd get hit, literally or otherwise. Many more days and nights of shame, sending me into a dizzying spiral of doubt without reflection.

He asked me his name, I answered and got hit so hard it took my wind away and left me shaking. Why then did I spend time with him the next day, blurring the edges? What was I trying to prove?

Her hand reaching out across a scarred, beer-soaked table, wrapping itself in mine. That breathtaking curl of her lip. It all turned into everything I desired and was lost before I could even understand it.

Black socks... How could that ever sum it up?

Words and photography by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Not Everybody Else

Walter Lure
Rest In Peace

"There was definitely a whole community thing going on. It was the New York scene and we were a part of it, whether it was hanging out with Debbie Harry or David Byrne or whoever. There were rivalries later, but it was pretty diverse between bands like Talking Heads and Television, who were almost diametrically opposed to The Heartbreakers. We didn’t even have any management at that time. The main thing was that we’d all been brought up with — and ate, drank and breathed — solid, fast rock'n'roll. That’s what we all loved. I guess you could call us the only authentic rock band in the city."

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

At What Price Is Freedom?

“How many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?”

Words from Fear and Loathing On The Campaign Trail '72

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Hear Me Singin' Through These Tears

Beautiful version of one of Dylan's greatest songs, which captures, and maybe even amplifies the powerful raw ache of the original. (The video is visually stunning as well.) Taken from Emma Swift's sterling new album of Dylan covers, Blonde On The Tracks.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Save The Post Office

Beyond the fascistic electoral interference, defunding and sabotaging the United States Postal Service puts seniors and others who depend on the mail for their prescriptions at risk, as well as threatens the survival of countless small businesses and puts the 500,000 jobs at the USPS itself in jeopardy. (The USPS is also the second biggest employer of veterans in the country.) Everyone needs to step up and fight this fucking insanity. Don't just sit there... Do something!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Best Laid Schemes

"I don't want to play around no more.
I see that black cross painted on your door."

It was a Sunday afternoon, and we all sat at the side of the warehouse in a semi-circle, as if around a campfire. A.S. explained the initiation rite, and we listened intently and with respect. (A.S., which stood for ‘Always Stoned,’ was a tough, older Puerto Rican hard-rock dude from the projects who happened into our little scene.) He had us each of the four of us roll a blunt, filled not with the shitty tre-bag stuff I was used to from Murder Avenue, but with the step-up nickel-bag green that we never copped as every dollar counted. After we each rolled our own personal stuffed blunt, A.S. had us each light it up, take a toke and pass to the left. Essentially this meant that the only oxygen we got was the brief moment between puffs. We continued to do this until the blunts were extinguished, and we were so incredibly zooted that standing was not even remotely an option.

We sat there and exchanged the usual stories — graffiti tales, which girls put out, fights — laughing our heads off, and mean-mugging anyone who walked by our little motley crew. A.S., while obviously high, was in much better shape than the rest of us, and presented a plan to make some quick-dough. He worked nearby as a custodian of sorts in the office of a theater, and said there was a safe there that was filled with cash. The plan was simple: we roll over a hand-truck, he loads the safe on to it, and we wheel it to the alley behind E-Rock’s house, which was two blocks away. A.S. said he knew how to get it open easy.

Now you’d think being as stoned as we were we'd make a plan to do this on a later day, but no, instead we promptly wobbled over and got to it. I recall feeling like there was a small amount of thick air between my sneakers and the sidewalk which helped me glide down the street. Getting the safe to the alley was easier than we’d imagined, with us not even catching a glance from anyone walking by. Once we got back there, things took a turn for the worse.

After much work, sweat, and blood — A.S. ripped his hand wide-open trying to pry at the safe with a crowbar — we got it open. Much to our surprise, there was no cash but hundreds of canceled check and perhaps $200 worth of subway tokens. We shurgged, laughed a bit, and divvied up our score.

Of those of us there that day, all but myself went on to get involved in varying degrees of crime. (Though I did my fair share of petty wrongs.) Last I heard, A.S. was robbing people via an elaborate set-up scheme using the personals pages of the Village Voice, leaving his victims beaten and tied-up in their own apartments. Some real next-level shit. E-Rock ended up a gun runner and a junkie, eventually catching a pretty serious bid. Once he got out of jail, he seemed to turn himself around, cleaning up and getting a civilian job. Eventually his demons caught up with him, and he turned back to drugs, dying homeless and alone. I still think about him often. Johnny Correct — who I was closest with as he felt like the little brother I never had — also ended up doing a bid after cutting someone's face up badly with a tin can. We lost touch once he went away, but ran into each other a lifetime later and he's doing alright, repairing vintage radios and growing vegetables somewhere in the midwest.

Words by Lee Greenfeld © 2020
Photograph by Carl Purcell, 1955

Names, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the
author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Time Before

I miss hanging out with my friends, dining out, DJing, booking shows, going to shows, and spending hours in a record store. I miss working and earning dough. I miss sitting down at my local for my ritual mid-week, head-clearing martini. I miss having long, face to face conversations, the kind you never want to end. I miss museums, galleries, and movie theaters. I miss the time before I actually knew people who went in for absurd conspiracy theories, proclaimed themselves to be smarter than actual scientists, or outed themselves as boot-lickers. I yearn for pre-pandemic America so much it hurts.

Thursday, August 6, 2020


"New York is best seen with innocent eyes. It doesn't matter if you are younger or old. Reading our rich history makes the experience more layered, but it is not a substitute for walking the streets themselves. For old-timer or newcomer, it is essential to absorb the city as it is now in order to shape your own nostalgias. That's why I always urge the newcomer to surrender to the city's magic. Forget the irritations and the occasional rudeness; they bother New Yorkers too. Instead, go down to the North River and the benches that run along the west side of Battery Park City. Watch the tides or the blocks of ice in winter; they have existed since the time when the island was empty of man. Gaze at the boats. Look across the water at the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, the place to which so many of the New York tribe came in order to truly live. Learn the tale of our tribe, because it's your tribe too, no matter where you were born. Listen to its music and its legends. Gaze at its ruins and monuments. Walk its sidewalks and run fingers upon the stone and bricks and steel of our right-angled streets. Breathe the air of the river breeze."

Quote from Downtown: My Manhattan, 2004

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Sunday, August 2, 2020

All Of Us Once Were

James Silberman
Rest In Peace

Fare thee well to a behind-the-scenes literary giant who was responsible for publishing and/or editing greats like James Baldwin, Hunter S. Thompson, and E.L. Doctorow, among many others.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Dark End Of The Street

"This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind. The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of with start up like sharpshooters. Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder."

The Dark End Of The Street coffee is a collaboration between AITA's Mr. Lee and the Oak & Crow Coffee Co. You can purchase it here.  [Photograph by Luke Ratray]

Friday, July 31, 2020

Everything Went Black

"Please be with me. Love me the way you do now, forever."

He wakes and checks. She's not there.

Empty white sheets and a propped pillow. Black underwear and fallen golden hair. Tomorrow is another day, For hope against hope.

"You are the best man I have ever met."

He closes his eyes tight.

She's not there.

Photograph and words by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The More Places You'll Go

If Beale Street Could Talk, page 41 [click to enlarge]

One of the greatest joys in life is reading a book and hitting that paragraph. You know, the one that makes you pause, soak in its artistry, and then read it again. (And maybe a even third time.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

I've Got A Mind To Give Up Living

Peter Green
Rest In Peace

It's mind-blowing that Peter Green didn't receive the acclaim for his playing that so many of his British peers from the 1960s did. He was truly next-level; subtle and searing, and so incredibly soulful. (He was also a splendid songwriter and singer.) On this track his guitar sounds like it's actually weeping.

Friday, July 24, 2020

All The Lessons

I was always drawn to those who lived on the outskirts of society, from film to music to literature; to the city streets, where of course all the trouble began. It's hard to sort out when exactly the romanticism kicked-off, though I can recall the images flashed into my young brain via the likes of Welcome Back KotterSaturday Night Fever, The Wanderers, and the day-to-day scenes of Brooklyn in the 1970s. The well-dressed man with newspaper tucked under his arm on his way to work held no sway over me, but the shady looking toughs laughing and lounging on building stoops, doing their best to look hard... They utterly fascinated me.

Jump back to around fifth or sixth grade, and having one of my earliest one-on-one talks with my pops — it wasn't about the "birds and bees." He was explaining to me: you bite, claw, kick, punch, smash. Whatever it takes. What you don't do is start it. Let it happen if you must, but avoid it if you can. Still, always strike first and strike hard. Make it count.

Sure pops, but couple that concept with your already legendary — in my mind at least — tales of violence in reaction to anti-Semitism in the 1950s, and how could I walk away from the slurs myself without feeling a shame that burned my insides? Forget any sort of prejudice or real hatred, how about the just the normal kid shit of the day; the street tests that were the norm? The consequences of standing tall and fighting back for pride were huge; casting a shadow both on reputation and the self for many years to come. As were the consequences from the act of backing down. You got played-outI hear that kid's a fucking sucker. That's just how it was. No one wanted to be a herb. You would wear that shit like the Scarlet Letter, and people's memories were long, or so it seemed at the time.

I can still remember what it felt like the first time I punched someone in the face. You never forget it. I was young, and this kid in my class was messing with me. He was a lot bigger, and he knocked over the blocks I was using to build my own Camelot with. I knew I had to stand-up to him, though I felt nauseous at the concept. He stepped to me and got right in my face with something along the lines of whatcha gonna do about it? I told him to meet me in the playground at lunch break. Of course word spread and our classmates were ready for it. I walked towards him, imagining that everyone could see my knees shaking; the fear almost making me sick. As I got to him, I saw his smile and heard my pops' words in my head. I don't really know how it happened, as it was a flash, but my fist smashed into his face, and then rather than attack, I backed up fearing his reprisal. And nothing happened. He didn't do a thing, except look as though he was holding back tears. I wish I could say I felt wonderful having defeated the big bully, but I didn't. Sure, hitting him made me feel powerful and in control, but it also made me feel even sicker than I had when I was walking towards him.

The next fight didn't go nearly as well.

Words by Lee Greenfeld © 2020
Photograph by Leon Levinstein, circa mid-1950s

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Gimme Danger

From CREEM Magazine, 1973

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Walking With The Wind

John Lewis
Rest In Peace

"As citizens, we knew we had ceded some of our individual rights to society in order to live together as a community. But we did not believe this social contract included support for an immoral system. Since the people invested government with its authority, we understood that we had to obey the law. But when law became suppressive and tyrannical, when human law violated divine principles, we felt it was not only our right, but our duty to disobey. As Henry Thoreau strongly believed, to comply with an unjust system is to accept abuse. It is not the role of the citizen to follow the government down a path that violates his or her own conscience."

Friday, July 17, 2020

American Achievements

Who could've ever imagined that most of the classic political hardcore records from the '80s would remain relevant for the USA of today? Shit, I think many of them may be even more relevant now.

Photo: MDC in front of the Berlin Wall, 1984

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Pickaxe And The Shovel

"We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie may blast and burn its own world before it finally leaves the stage of history. We are not afraid of ruins. We who ploughed the prairies and built the cities can build again, only better next time. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute."

Monday, July 6, 2020

Away From The Numbers

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2020

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Terminal Stasis

While it's hard to be excited about July 4th this year, I will attempt to remain hopeful for the future of our nation — a hope that is bound to those taking to the streets to demand change, as well as to a handful of upstarts in local politics doing their best to restore democracy within in a blood-soaked system that puts capital above people. The brilliant James Baldwin said it better than I ever could, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

We All Breathe The Same Air

"So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

Photograph by Lee Greenfeld © 2020