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I’m 40 and I Saw Grant Hart Play

Posted by on Jun 2, 2009 in Asian American, Ed, Music, Writing | 3 comments

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Grant Hart, a one-man band who knows how to wage psychic warfare.

Well a whole bunch of things have happened lately that I haven’t been blogging about.

I’ve seen The Vaselines twice again when they came through Manhattan and Brooklyn in mid-May.  I didn’t bother write about the shows because they have been so extensively covered I didn’t know what else I could add to it and also I wrote about their two shows in the New York City area a year ago.

I’ve also got another book coming out sorta soon, Snakes Can’t Run.  It’s the sequel to This Is a Bust, and it’s coming out in hardcover (my first!) on St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne/Minotaur in winter 2010.  I haven’t written too much about this because there are still some things that need to be done, including the cover design, which I’m sure will be an awesome graphic for a blog entry.

And, well, I recently turned 40.

Forty!  Jesus, am I really 40?

I won’t lie.  I was freaking out a decade ago when I was going to turn 30.  I thought it was going to be The End.  Y’know, the end of fun and the beginning of getting a will hammered out.

In all honesty, I have to say I have had more fun in my 30s than in my 20s.  I used to worry a lot more.  I’d work every extra overtime shift at the news service to try to make more money to move out of my large but ultra-crappy apartment in Boerum Hill in pre-cool Brooklyn.  What was so crappy about it?  Well, the month after I moved in the kitchen ceiling collapsed because it apparently had been holding a quantity of water that had leaked in from somewhere.  A few months later I had a flood that left two inches of water on the floor.  The worst part about that was there were mice parts (not whole mice, for some reason) floating in the murky water.

But it was there, on that then crappy place on State Street that I’d fire up my Mac clone and helplessly punch out a short story or another page to a another doomed novel.

It was tough.  It was the hardest thing in the world to do.  It would have been so easy to stop at the bullet-proof Chinese place on the way home from work and pick up half a fried chicken and french fries with Chinese hot sauce, and then zone out in front of the TV.  Or hit the PlayStation with my neighbors.  That happened often enough, but the fear pushed me.

Fear and worry.  Fearing that I wasn’t cut out to write a book.  Worrying that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I pushed myself like my parents wished I did for my piano lessons.  I spent many nights huddled in my futon, wondering if I could put together a manuscript before my apartment caved in and killed me and worse, knock out my hard drive.

Those days seem so long ago because they are — nearly two decades.  I need to thank that guy for all his effort because it helped instill the writing discipline that I have now.

My 30s were spent writing regularly and certainly at a more-measured pace.  I started going to a gym for cardio/upper body/lower body workouts, and I think I’m probably in better physical shape than I have ever been.

I also started going to see live music again.  I had stopped attending in my mid-20s EA Sports days.  I think it started when the Knitting Factory had three great shows in a row in spring 2004 — the Undertones, the Weirdos (with the essential Cliff Roman in the lineup) and D.O.A. It was awesome being there (although my wife still wants to kill me for exposing her to the “pit” at the Undertones show — it was a small place and there really weren’t any “safe” corners).

I have been to many more shows since.  In fact, in the last two weeks or so, I’ve seen the two Vaselines shows, Kylesa (who are awesome!) and Grant Hart.

One rule I have in going to see shows is that I actually attend early enough to catch all the support acts.  While this has led to stretches of pure agony (though such experiences are awesome for future writing material), I’ve also discovered amazing bands that are astoundingly good live acts.  Back in 1989, I saw Nirvana open up for Tad at Maxwell’s.  I saw Sunny Day Real Estate open for Velocity Girl in 1994.

This year I saw the BellRays open for the Damned.  And “damned” if they didn’t top the headliners in pure adrenaline, sweat and effort.

But I broke my rule on Monday when I went to see Grant Hart.  You see, Grant was opening for Death Vessel, a band I’m not familiar with and whose music doesn’t rub me the right way.

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Grant, next time you come, play “Now That You Know Me”!

Grant was awesome, just him and his electric guitar (“One thing you can say about little amplifiers,” he chirped between songs, “They’re real easy to carry.”), starting out with “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill,” from New Day Rising, one of 15-year-old Ed Lin’s favorite albums.  The last time I saw Grant perform was 19 years ago at CBGBs when he cranked out songs from his recent solo album, Intolerance.  I had asked him after the show why he didn’t do any Husker Du songs, and he had spat out, “If I start playing Husker Du songs, that’s all anybody will want to hear.”

But that wasn’t true back then and certainly wasn’t true Monday night at the Bell House.  Thing is, he now treated us to many other classic Husker songs, including “Flexible Flyer,” “Terms of Psychic Warfare” and “She’s a Woman and He’s a Man.”  He shook in some expected solo stuff, including “2541.”

The goofy and lovable Grant — a man closing in on 50 — belted out songs, clearly feeling the pleasure in playing songs he loves.  Watching him on stage made me try to remember what I was like in 1990 at CBGBs.  Even back then, although I was only writing two short stories a year, I wanted to write novels.  I had no idea how far I had to go.

After Grant’s set, I noticed that the top knuckles of my big toes were hurting for some reason (I hadn’t been standing on my toes, I swear).  Ed Lin from two decades ago would have stuck it out, seeing a band he didn’t necessarily like just to be true to the integrity of the show.

But I left.  There was no way it was going to be better than Grant Hart singing Husker Du songs and I wanted to leave on a high.

When you’re 40, you owe yourself some breaks.

3 Comments

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  1. Superha

    Happy 40th! Wow, you’re 4-0. You know, it’s the new 30. 🙂

    I’m slowly making my way through both “Waylaid” and “This is a Bust” (yes, simultaneously) and you are such a great writer. I still have your old emails where you sent me stuff about the NY mugging, your cousin. So glad you made it big. I’m so impressed that your book became “The Motel” which I have still yet to see.

    You have a lot to be proud of, Ed. A great life, good career, a pretty awesome wife. And live shows!

  2. Grace

    Love the post. You’ll always be a baby to me, Ed! Happy 40s… I’m loving mine so far.

  3. Christopher

    Hey man, happy birthday! Can’t wait to get Snakes Can’t Run (great title choice by the way, I like that more than my “this is a bigger bust” suggestion.)

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