Brett Amory’s Dark Light

Brett Amory Waiting 79

I was lucky enough to catch the showing of Brett Amory’s new “Dark Light” series of paintings at the Jonathan Levine gallery in New York City this past weekend. Quite amazing stuff. I was completely hooked by Amory’s use of shadow and light — scenes of lonely denizens drifting in and out of the lamplight, past rundown stores, as they move down rundown streets. Think Edward Hopper’s darkest hour.

Check out one of the video interviews with Amory posted on the Levine gallery blog.

So To Speak – Brett Amory, Episode 1 from lenny gonzalez on Vimeo.

#SongsVMS Photo of the Day: The Metronome

I’ve always been fascinated by the Metronome. Perhaps because it is so arresting — one cannot avoid noticing it upon setting foot anywhere in Union Square — but also because it is so uniformly hated by the locals. The interesting part is even most born-and-bred New Yorkers have no idea what this public art piece is, let alone it what it’s called. Many don’t even realize that the bank of LED digits to the left is actually part of the overall piece. But it is part of the fabric of New York City, especially Union Square. When I was writing the story that would eventually become “The Metronome Winds Down,” I made the protagonist somewhat numbers obsessed (you’ll find out why upon reading it). At two crucial points in the story, he enters Union Square, and is confronted by the ominous presence of the Metronome. I actually used this photo for the single-story eBook version of “The Metronome Winds Down,” which is no longer on sale, but luckily you can still read it in Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners.

View other other photos from the Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners series here. And you can click here to get the book and soundtrack.
Network The Entertainment Company in Hell's Kitchen

The Pussycat Lounge Goes Down

Gothamist reported this morning that dive shithole strip club the Pussycat Lounge has shut down. This New York City institution (of sorts) opened way back in ’69 and was a holdout of the old strip club model: a small dancing stage up above the bar (to keep the patrons at a safe distance), shitty drinks, dirty ashtrays, and an overall funk of human sweat and body odor. It never purported to be a “gentleman’s club” and other than the upstairs bar/club which hosted bands and dance parties, kept its grim, gritty interior intact. For some reason, it always reminded me of the strip club from Scorcese’s Mean Streets.

I report this not out of any love for The Pussycat Lounge, but rather as a nod to it as the inspiration for the Beat Around the Bush strip club in “The Look,” one of the stories in my new book, Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners. I played at the Pussycat Lounge’s upstairs bar with John Hovorka and the Dawn of Mechanized Farming back in November 2006 (yup, that’s me laughing in the back). After seeing the true show — the grotesque scene of drunk Wall Street office types (still in suits), postal workers (still in uniform), cops (off-duty, but yest still in uniform), and hipsters slumped over the downstairs bar holding up dollar bills as they gawked at a group of not-so-attractive ladies parading on the tiny stage — I knew I had a great setting for a story. If you’ve ever been to the Pussycat Lounge, I think you’ll agree I got the grit of the place nailed down in “The Look.”

Pussycat Lounge photo courtesy of Flickr user gbaron1

#SongsVMS Photo of the Day: “Network — An Enterntainment Company” in Hell’s Kitchen

This sign for a now defunct company has become a bit of a landmark on 9th Avenue. Yet no one seems to know if Network worked in theater, television, or film. With a name like “Network” I would suspect it was television. However, most people forget that Hell’s Kitchen used to be the home of the film industry in New York City. Over seventy-two film distributors had their offices in Hell’s Kitchen including Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, and Vitaphone. Fox Movietone news also had an office there so they could rush news reels off to the movie houses that used to line Broadway.

View other other photos from the Songs of Vagabonds, Misfits, and Sinners series here. And you can click here to get the book and soundtrack.
Network The Entertainment Company in Hell's Kitchen

Help Richard Leck Get a Proper Burial

As I wrote a few weeks back, poet Richard Leck, whom I had the good fortune to meet at this year’s Small Press Fair in New York City, passed away on December 19th.

Unfortunately, Richard had no next of kin and had become estranged from the rest of his family. Because of this, Richard’s friends Karen Lillis and Frances Winn have not been able to claim his personal effects and arrange for a proper burial. This means Richard’s body has been sitting in the city morgue since December 19th and is likely to be buried at Potter’s Field, the notorious city-run cemetery for the forgotten. Karen has been working especially hard to try and convince someone to claim Richard’s body so he will not wind up at Potter’s Field, most notably the Veterans Administration. Even though Richard did serve in the Army, the Veterans Administration refused to claim him and flatly denied paying for a burial. By law, all veterans are entitled to a military burial, but there a exceptions and technicalities that often require a judgment call by the Veterans Administration.

It seemed that Richard was destined for Potter’s Field until The Village Voice became involved after being contacted by Karen. Voice writer Graham Rayman jumped on the case, writing this article, and contacting the Medical Examiner’s office, who agreed to hold Richard’s body for an additional two weeks in order to give Karen and Frances more time to obtain approval for his release.

Things kept snowballing from there. Someone showed the Voice article to the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’Affairs, who have agreed to look into the case and see if Richard is eligible to be buried in a national veterans cemetery with the city picking up the bill.

Needless to say, this is a big IF. So if you are a New Yorker, and would like to help, please write to the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs and ask them to arrange a proper burial for Richard. You can do so using this online form. Let them know you had read The Village Voice story about Richard and would like him to receive a proper military burial. Hopefully, with enough messages from local citizens, Richard won’t become a resident of Potter’s Field.