You Think I’m Kidding: Starting A Band With The Russian.

posted in: Art, Day In The Life 7
James Taylor and Carly Simon "at their Vineyard home." Photo, Peter Simon.
James Taylor and Carly Simon “at their Vineyard home.” Photo: Peter Simon.

Yuri plays the piano brilliantly.

I sing…passably.

We’re probably going to start a band.

Living in New York City, it’s required by law that you have a gig one night a week. It can be anything. Smack fish on your head to Metal Machine Music outside La Mama; present a tinikling showcase in Tompkins Square Park; host a series of one-woman one-act plays on the subway — sky’s the limit. And fear not: if what you do is poorly attended, all the better, as this means you must really want it. 

I’m kidding about starting a band or a duo act with Yuri — kinda. I’ve made up songs all my life but, never being formally trained to play an instrument, all songs I’ve “composed” either stayed in my head or died immediately on the mental/vocal vine. My love of writing poems is a result of my love of writing little songs — or the other way around. I like words, so I like to play with them in all kinds of ways. When words have different tones (a.k.a. become songs) well, that’s terrific.

The other night, Yuri and I went to go see a singer at Joe’s Pub. She was wonderful. Floanne was her name; she is French. We went because Yuri was having trouble getting a bike out of the Citibike docking station the day before the show, when a pretty lady approached him and helped him out because that is what happens in New York City constantly, as I have discovered.** The pretty lady was Floanne. She gave him a flyer after helping him with the bike. “Eets a good show for a date,” Floanne said with a wink. Yuri brought the flyer home and said, “Baby, I’ma take you out tomorrow night!” And sure enough, he did. Boy, did we have fun. And there was a big screen onstage for live tweeting during Floanne’s show and I tweeted that we were there because of the bike assistance incident. Floanne is now following me on Twitter.

Where was I?

Oh, right: Yuri and my plot to become the next Carly Simon/James Taylor musical power couple.

The first song on the album is going to be my song about Shipshewana. When I was there last month for the big quilt festival, I drove in from Chicago. As I got deeper and deeper into Amish country, I got more and more inspired. The fields were verdant! The sky was blue. And I had been told by someone that the county is a dry one, which means you can’t buy or sell alcohol. Like, maybe at all? I’ll have to check on that one. It didn’t bother me much: I didn’t have plans to do any drinkin’, but I started singing this song about Shipshewana, a kind of ode, but real Judy Garland-y, and it went like this:

“The cows are lowing/the traffic is slowing,
The buggies are all on the shoulder!
There’s lemonade to be had/and that ain’t so bad
But it’s Saturday night/alright, alright,
And whatchoo gonna do?

[CHORUS] So.. Whatcha’wanna do/Shipshewana, you
Whatcha’wanna do, tonight?
Can’t drink
Can’t smoke
Caaaaaaaan’t even dance
So whatcha’wanna do…tonight.”

It’s a real sweet-sounding song, so please don’t read those lyrics and think I’m dogging on Shipshewana. I love it there. It’s just a song about not doing all the things that most of the rest of the state of Indiana is probably doing on a Saturday night. It’s really fun to say the word “Shipshewana” and it’s even more fun to sing it and rhyme it with “whatcha’wanna.”

Now if only we had enough money to buy Yuri a baby grand and a whole other apartment to put it in.

**It’s not that pretty French singers constantly come to your aid in New York — it’s people in general who do. You’ll have to go to Paris for more pretty singers per block…maybe.