The World According to Keitho

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Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

Burned by daylight savings time

Posted by keithosaunders on March 12, 2017

It’s not fair to be a musician with a Sunday brunch gig on the first day of daylight savings time.  After a late Saturday gig you are robbed of a precious hour of sleep before waking up at what is really 7:30 to play for Sunday brunch.  The humanity!

One of my first steady gigs back when I first moved to New York, 30 + years ago, was at a boxcar diner with an upright piano crammed into one side called, The Empire Diner.  It was a four hour gig – from 11pm-3am – and it paid thirty dollars plus a meal.  (Eventually it went up to thirty-five)

A couple of times I played the late set on New Years eve which was from 2am-6am.  It paid double scale!  After those nights I felt so prosperous  that I would spring for a cab ride home – from 10th Ave & 22nd st all the way to the Upper West Side on Broadway and 109th st.

Us late show pianists actually caught a break during the change from standard time to DST.  At 2:00am , when the clocks  jumped ahead to 3:00, we would say, “Welp, time to clock out!”

Conversely, in the fall, when the clocks moved back an hour, the place expected us to play for an extra hour.  I would try to sub that night out, or conveniently forget about the time change.

Enjoy the extra light, everyone, we have made it through the dark days of winter.  Now if we can only make it through the dark days of the Trump administration.

 

Image result for empire diner

 

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My first night in New York

Posted by keithosaunders on July 11, 2016

I arrived at JFK airports in New York City on April 10th, 1984.  I took the subway from the airport – read express A train to Manhattan –  but when it came time to change trains I discovered that the uptown IRT was out of service.  I emerged from the subway and immediately discovered the reason why:  a rain storm of biblical proportions. This was my introduction to the charm of New York weather.

I tried to hail a cab but this proved to be no easy task in midtown Manhattan during rush hour in the middle of a subway outage.  Finally I was able to share a cab with a couple of strangers and I was able to travel the mile and a half to 74th st and West End Ave in a mere 45 minutes.

My cousin, who I would be staying with until I found a place of my own, lived in the old Hotel Esplinade. I arrived, dropped my bags off and went in search of dinner. I walked a few blocks up Broadway until I came to The Pizza Joint.  There I ordered the best meatball hero I had ever tasted.  Of course this could have been me, fresh off the boat,  over-romanticizing New York.  Over the years, however, I would return to the Pizza Joint, as well as its cousin, The Burger Joint, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t make some of the best meatball heroes and burgers ever.

I returned to the Esplinade and my cousin still wasn’t home from work.  With nothing to do I sequestered myself in his bedroom and turned on his clock radio hoping to find a baseball game.  The Yankees had just finished and the Mets were off that night (Monday) so I was out of luck there.  Turning the dial I stumbled upon a Rangers/Islanders playoff game that was in overtime.  What luck!  Ten minutes later the game came to an end on an Islander goal.  All of a sudden, out of one of the adjoining bedrooms I heard this blood-curdling scream.  If I hadn’t have been listening to the game I’m sure I would have thought somebody was committing murder.  Later I would discover it was my cousin’s sullen roommate, Rothstein.

And that was my first of 9,490 nights in New York City.

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The night before I moved to New York

Posted by keithosaunders on July 9, 2016

The night before I moved to New York City I walked into the living room to discover my brother sitting by himself on the couch.  I asked him what he was doing there.  A minute went by when he said in a choked voice that he was going to miss me.  After 23 years of sharing a room, fighting for stereo supremacy, arguing over what to watch on TV, and competing in cut-throat, sibling rivalry-infused games of basketball, or whatever sport was in season, we were saying goodbye.  He broke down in tears, as did I, and we stood together in the darkened living room embracing for the first time ever.

The next day I moved to New York City where I remained for the next 26 years of my life before moving back west to Bay Area some six years ago. During that time I met my wife and we had three children.  My brother moved all over the country before settling in Chicago.  There he met his wife and had two children.

Now both of our parents are gone and those days when we were a family with all of the security and angst that went along with it are but a distant memory.  My oldest son, just as I did in my early 20s, has moved to New York City.

Time is moving too fast.

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Ray Steven

Posted by keithosaunders on May 16, 2016

Back in the old days when I was a young buck starving jazz pianist living in New York City I fell in with this character named Ray Steven who led a society band.  Later I would learn that one must always be wary of people with two first names, but I was young, naive, and needed some gigs that paid a more than jazz clubs did.  In regards to payment,  ‘little’ was the operative word here.  Ray paid the bare minimum.  In fact often times my check, when it finally arrived, was five or ten dollars light, as if by accident.

Ray had the type of band that would play at society dances in exclusive clubs around Manhattan – the Harvard Club, the University Club, the Hotel Pierre.  The east coast refers to these gigs as ‘club dates.’  The west coast calls them ‘casuals, ‘ which is even more of a misnomer.  In the summer we would often trek out to East Hampton, 110 miles to the east, and play at some swell’s estate.  We, the sidemen, would make under scale, while Ray pocketed enough dough to put his kids through college.

Ray had several corny sayings he would draw from after a particular song was over.  He said them so often that the band ended up memorizing them.  After a lively rock song he would say, “That’s better than a Jane Fonda workout!”  If we played a Latin song such as a merengue or a mambo,  he would bellow out a sentence in Spanish followed by, “That means ‘Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one!'”

He many more but I think you get the idea.  Here’s another one of his homilies which would take place after playing something particularly demeaning, such as The Electric Slide, or after a conga line had spontaneously broken out. (It was demeaning to us musicians, not the party-goers — they had no shame)  Ray would slobber up to the mic (by that time he was as drunk as any of the guests) and call out, “That’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on!”

It’s funny, though, but this last bit of Stevenism has me thinking.  He was right —  sex really is fun.  But we don’t think of it as such, at least in the conventional sense.  I suppose that’s because it gets weighted down by the emotions that come with it.  How inconvenient!  I mean…we go bowling, have poker night, golfing, tennis, book club.  Why can’t there be sex night?  It would definitely be better than a Jane Fonda workout.

 

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Dr Seinfeld

Posted by keithosaunders on February 12, 2016

NY

This morning I read a post over at Verdon’s blog which reminded me of a story that my Dad used to tell my brother and I  — this was one of his classics and we always loved when he would retell it.

When my father was a teenager and young man living in Forest Hills, Queens, his family had this dentist named Matty Seinfeld whose office was on the ground floor of the building they lived.  Dr Seinfeld, no relation to Jerry,  was a yuge (in the spirit of Trump) NY Giants fan, while my Dad was a died in the wool Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

Dr Seinfeld would have my Dad’s mouth full of instruments while maintaining a running commentary on the greatness of the Giants.  My Dad would have us in hysterics as he imitated Seinfled using this nasally, high-pitched, whiny voice:  “Goahdon, Tauhmson, Mize, wow what powah!”   All this while my Dad was splayed nervously in the chair praying that Dr Seinfeld wouldn’t remember that he was a Dodgers fan and ‘accidentally’ slip.

 

 

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Waiting for the ball to drop

Posted by keithosaunders on January 1, 2016

Earlier this week I told my friend that I wouldn’t be hate posting re New Years Eve because it was too obvious. Consider that to be my last broken promise of 2015.

Just how much of a moron do you have to be to schlep out to Times Square, stake out a 2 square foot patch of concrete, and wait hours in sub-freezing temperatures to watch a plastic ball drop a few feet?

It’s bad enough that you’re standing in the asshole of New York City. It’s a cesspool of capitalistic corporate, kitsch, and you have willingly planted yourself there amidst the drunk Long Island and Jersey Broncos and Broncettes, not to mention the pickpockets and Aqualung-style dirty old perverts. And to do it for no good reason?!

It boggles the mind that people would do this on the most cynical, contrived holiday there is. Don’t feign irony now. DON’T PLAY THAT. It’s a corny holiday. At least us musicians get paid for going out on 12/31. I don’t care if I play the Chicken Dance & a 40 minute conga line song. At the end of the night I’m driving home with fat stacks of cash! We don’t need an excuse to drink; it can be go time on Jan 2nd, what do we care?

NPR weighed in this afternoon with a hard-hitting feature on the guy who is in charge of organizing throwing the confetti from the Times Square buildings. With Paul Simon-esque acoustic guitar music playing in the background this nimrod breathlessly described the minute planning and intricacy that goes into confetti-throwing. “…and when it’s 20 seconds to midnight I speak into my walkie-talkie: Go confetti, go confetti, go confetti!

Happy fucking New Years everyone.

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New Years memories part II

Posted by keithosaunders on December 31, 2015

Alcoa presents: Keitho’s New Years gig memories!

I used to do this solo gig at the Empire diner on 10th Ave & 22nd st. My slot was Saturdays from 11pm-3am. It paid $25.00. After a couple of years it went up to $30.00. I was living large after that. They had an upright piano which was right next to the bathroom. One day this lady went into the bathroom followed a minute later by this guy. The next thing I knew I heard this rhythmic pounding and I turned to my right to see a woman’s face plastered against the plate glass window. What could I do? I went right into “Easy to Love.”

Anyway, one year in the late 80s New Years eve happened to fall on a Saturday and the Diner asked if I wanted to play the late set for $100.00. The hours were 3-7 AM. Cha-ching!

I already had a normal New Years gig in Englewood, NJ with this horror show club date band who shall remain nameless (R*bby S*ott). In between gigs I came back to my apartment on the Upper West side at which point my buddy, Jeff, gave me a ride downtown. People were so drunk at that hour that Jeff had to have the reflexes of a Mario Andretti to avoid getting into several accidents. It was like being on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride except instead of Disneyland we were in Manhattan. Things were so much more interesting when everybody was drunk and high on blow. These days on New Years Eve people only need to grab their pipe and slippers and they’ll fit right in.

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Humble-bragging of the rich and famous

Posted by keithosaunders on December 2, 2015

Greetings from Paris, 

With warm Holiday Wishes to you and yours. Should we still be in New York, we would certainly attend your consistently enjoyable celebration.

We have moved our home fires to the City of Light and are purchasing a wonderful corner apartment, on the oldest street in the city, with a view of Notre Dame.

Please be thoughtful enough to extend our best wishes to the kind staff who served us so well for so many years.

Merry Christmas to all of our friends at 69 [insert 5th or Park Ave address here]

File this email under ‘First world problems.’  This was an RSVP to an invitation to an annual work party.  It was probably only meant for the host but it ended up being cced to the entire mailing list.

The stakes of the one percent humble-brag are high, my friends.  I mean, how is one to top a corner apartment overlooking Notre Dame?  On the oldest street in the city!  We’re talking old money, here, not some trendy nouveau riche address in Bastille.

The cherry on top is how [they] ‘extend best wishes to the kind staff who served us so well for many years.’  How big of them!  I’m sure the staff will miss hearing about their winters in Palm Beach or their madcap skiing weekends in Aspen.

Someone shoot me now.

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A Bronx Christmas, Pelham Parkway style.

Posted by keithosaunders on January 6, 2012

 Back in July I posted about a house in the Bronx on the service road of Pelham Parkway that goes crazy during the Christmas season utilizing every square inch of its lawn with Christmas decorations.  Hence its nickname:  The crazy house.   
 
I was in New York last week and I decided to revisit the crazy house and take some photos to put alongside the summer edition. 

These photos were taken a couple of days after New Years which is why the plastic was already on the figurines, but you’ll still see a good example of the lunacy that goes on for six weeks at the end each year.  Note the addition of Liberace at the piano.  He goes into hibernation during the summer months, but his piano remains on display.

July, 2011

January, 2012

July, 2011

    

January, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And with this display of pageantry we bid a fond adieu to Christmas, 2012.

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New Years in New York

Posted by keithosaunders on December 31, 2011

I have mixed feelings about being back in New York.  I am here for a week to play my New Years gig, which is a gig that pays enough to make it worth my while to fly out.  

The best part of being here is staying with my best friend, and occasional guest-blogger, Jeff Mazzei.  We get a chance to catch up on life, as well as watch sports with impunity.  This year we will get to experience the final Sunday of the NFL, which will feature much more meaningful games than usual, with the Giants v Cowboys topping the list.

To me New York represents my past, and with it, the unrealized dreams and potential of my youth.  It’s difficult to pass a street without its associated memory  and I find this both fascinating and disconcerting.  I am proud that I was able to thrive in this hyper-competitive city, but always regret that I was not able to accomplish more.  I’m sad to call myself a former New Yorker, and sheepish about being back.

I spent two months here this past summer and I find it amusing that the earth has managed to travel halfway around our solar system in my absence.  When last I was here the temperature was in the high 90s with humidity.  Now, with the trees bare of leaves, the temperature is a comfortable and unseasonably warm 45 degrees.  

Manhattan is rotten with tourists, and much to my chagrin and consternation, I am one of them.  The city smells like fear to me.  There are cops on every corner — who knows, perhaps we went to crimson-red on the terror color scheme — and midtown seems tense and joyless. 

I was verbally assaulted by a security guard at the big library on 5th avenue and 42nd st.  She took me for an out-of-town rube and to that end forced me to open my backpack, delaying my exit.  When I glared at her, asking if she would like to look at my [Daily] News, she raised the ante, screaming at me to get out and advising me not to have a happy new year. 

I remember this New York.  In the old days I thrived on such confrontations.  These days I’m out of practice — they not only feel annoying to this re-transplanted Californian, but unnecessary.  I know — I should have my head examined for walking around midtown on December 30th.  Maybe I am a rube…

The best part of New York is the Italian food.  (not the Italians!)  On two consecutive evenings, in the Bronx and the Village respectively, I have had spectacular linguine, first with red clam sauce, and then with white, along with my favorite vegetable, brocoli rabe.  You can’t get that in California.

Not to mention the music.  I heard a great piano trio last night, and after my gig tonight I will end up at my favorite jazz club, Small’s.  In the end there is no denying the greatness of this town.   

Being here in the Christmas season is no bonus.

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