Rejection Letter

I promised myself that this weekend I would clean the apartment, more specifically the “Computer Room” which is a small room that we keep the computer in. It’s unofficially my room as it’s filled with guitars, mics, amps and stacks of half written scripts, song lyrics and short stories in boxes. In fact, I’m writing this blog entry sitting at the computer right now. During the upheaval I found DVDs of early stand up shows, old band demos and even the first professional recording of songs I wrote in a band I played in back in Dublin.  
I also found a letter.
I left home when I was 25 and my first stop was New York. I arrived on January 4th 2002, to a city that was still trying to come to terms with September 11th. I worked for a small construction company and saved every dollar I could for an upcoming back packing trip I had planned with friends in three months time. While I was in New York I decided to send a copy of my E.P. to every record company I could. I pulled out the phone book and each morning, or lunch break, or late evening I would call them to confirm addresses and contact names before writing a letter and placing it with the CD for mailing. Every single person I spoke to told me they would not accept unsolicited music packages. I needed a lawyer or some type of representation. I said I understood and sent the package anyway hoping at least one would get through. 
One lunchtime I lied my way passed the reception desk and got to someone somewhere inside EMI. She gave me the same speech as the others, but I pleaded with her that she at least give me her information just so she could hear it and then throw it in the trash if she wanted. There was silence before she changed the subject and told me that I reminded her of her husband. I asked if he played in a band, he didn’t, he was Irish too. We chatted for about 20 minutes about everything except music. To be honest, she seemed to enjoy being distracted from her corporate job. Our conversation ended with her giving me her information and suggested I mail the CD to her directly. She promised me nothing except that she would place it on the desk of someone who would listen to it, that was all. And that was good enough for me. I sent the package that day in the late mail.
A week went by, then a month and then three. I quite my job and returned home. After six days I left home again and spent the next year backpacking around the globe. When I arrived back in New York I stayed with my old roommate as I had the year before. As I was unpacking he handed me a letter and told me that it had arrived a few months after I had left. It was from EMI. I opened it, it was a rejection letter. It was the only letter I had got back from the many record companies I had submitted too. I couldn’t top smiling at it, even though I knew I should have been disappointed. She done exactly what she promised me she would. How often do people actually do that?           

New York Shots #2

By C. Dempsey

It was sometime after lunch when I heard the noise from outside my office. I work in construction as a project estimator which means I spend most of my days scouring blueprints with a scale rule alone in absolute silence. This has allowed my hearing to over compensate due to the dulling of the other senses. The office is the converted ground floor of a residential building right in the heart of the bustling borough of Queens. I work with the door open, weather permitting. I am well educated on squirrels and their feeding habits, birds of all sorts, postmen and their uniquely squeaky trolleys and the laughter of various kids that play hooky.

This sound was different.  

Upon walking out the rear entrance to the side lane to investigate I was confronted by an NYPD Officer gingerly making his way down the same lane towards me. He had already been defeated by his hard soled shoes. He drew his gun and pointed it at me. “Put your hands up” he shouted repeatedly until I did. I reacted as only a person who has never had a gun pointed at them before can react. “Stop pointing your gun at me” I said. We argued briefly back and forth until he shouted convincingly enough that I should turn around and put my hands on the wall and I did. “Stop pointing your gun at me” I continued. He didn’t.

Seconds later a dozen officers noisily flooded into the rear yard and surrounded me while the first officer asked me who was inside. “Nobody, I work alone” I explained not realizing how incriminating that sounded. They frisked me twice before asking me to get some identification. I went inside and pointed to my jacket which they would not allow me to touch. When my expired drivers license confirmed who I was they relaxed. I didn’t. After they explained that they had been called out to the address as a mistake I realized that they should have been at the other corner house. There is a big drug problem in the neighborhood and everybody knows about the other corner house. The initial officer pulled me aside and gave me a textbook apology. I followed him out to the street beside two police cars and a police van to fill out some paperwork while surrounded by a horde of bored cops. I joked that they should have known I wasn’t a criminal because I was too handsome to commit crime, some of them laughed. It was a stupid joke but I needed the silliness. Deep down I was just relieved that the whole thing was over.

I went back to work and tried to forget about it but felt uncomfortable for the rest of the day, and for many days afterwards. I joked about it with my boss, in a strange way it was exciting. It was a funny story to tell my mates but I left out the part where for a very brief moment I was terrified. Then I felt guilty for the lie, it wasn’t funny or exciting anymore and I couldn’t shake it. Two weeks later when I was alone in the apartment I suddenly became incredibly angry at the memory of it, teared up and flattened my knuckle punching the wall. Somewhere downstairs my landlord stopped shouting at his wife. There was silence, and I felt I had control over something again.   

– August 2012

New York Shots are those small moments that happen while living in New York. They’re so small that they are rarely mentioned yet take up considerable space in various notebooks I carry around with me at any given time. This blog was started as a writing exercise and I thought this would be a nice way to write shorter snippets of life in NYC. They won’t always be interesting but I don’t want them forgotten either.  

New York Shots #1

By C.Dempsey

I walked into the bar for the same reason I always do when I’m alone, to kill time. At least that’s what I tell myself. I heard it had a great jukebox also. James was a washed up rocker from the early eighties selling Marilyn Monroe portraits at the bar. I sat beside his empty seat while he was outside smoking, upon returning I became his temporary best friend. The bartender asked him to put on some music and gave him his tips. It’s alright he said, I just started my shift. How could I not talk to this guy?

Every song was a gem and I screamed over each one battling James’ tinnitus when I answered his questions. Yes I’m a musician, isn’t everybody? When conversation turned to starting a band together I made my excuses and walked across the street to another bar. They had a jukebox too but it was democratically run. I tried to write but my pen and notebook stuck to the bar just as my feet had to the floor when I entered. Pretty soon I was licking my fingers apart and contemplating returning to the first bar. Drink will do that to you. Music too.

I went home instead and obsessed on the subway over that persistent thought again, that we are all made from the smallest possible indivisible things and the empty spaces in-between.

– September 2012

New York Shots are those small moments that happen while living in New York. They’re so small that they are rarely mentioned yet take up considerable space in various notebooks I carry around with me at any given time. This blog was started as a writing exercise and I thought this would be a nice way to write shorter snippets of life in NYC. They won’t always be interesting but I don’t want them forgotten either.  

The City Balcony

I am sitting on the balcony for the first time in four days. I was in Boston with Marisa visiting some old friends and relearning old habits, drinking and laughing mostly. Being on the balcony was all I could think about on the long silent bus ride home. I am there right now. I poured myself a large Harpoon IPA (after a visit to the brewery I am now a life long fan) and am listening to a combination of crickets and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. An air conditioner kicks in even though it’s in the low sixties and the girl across the street is stomping around her apartment naked again. She has the blinds mostly closed, not enough for me not to see though.

The basil and other crops in our little balcony farm survived which hurt my feelings, it would have been nice if at least one keeled over and withered from a broken heart as I left.

Planes blink overhead into LaGuardia and the recycle trolls scour the trash cans looking for treasure. It is cold for the first time since spring. Cars tumble down the street, strangers sail by with their cellphone headlights and the wind chime is ready to dance free and elope with the wind. It was nice to leave and nice to return.

All cities are the same, all places are the same but their songs are different.   

Occupy Wall Street

After hearing about the growing Occupy Wall Street movement for some time now, I realized this would not simply be a flash in the pan like so many other protests I have witnessed. I lost faith in politics pretty late in life, I’ve always felt that my optimism has been my biggest flaw when dealing with reality in general. I live in my own world the majority of the time only dipping out to taste reality when it suites me. Watching the protests in Dublin last year and how little they achieved after the government oversaw the largest economic collapse in the western world deeply troubled me, I simply gave up. Close friends mocked my late coming to the table of the jaded and it was truly a depressing time for me to be honest. I don’t like seeing friends and family struggle, just because I’m doing okay now does not mean I can forget times when I was broke and feeling depressed, useless, trapped, insecure, irrelevant and at best simply embarrassed. In recent times I’ve seen rational people turn to opposing political parties in desperation regardless of what they stood for. The I don’t like these guys so I’m voting for those guys mentality. At home i’ve even heard close friends unload on immigrants forgetting that I am one elsewhere. 
The biggest hurdle is often a person’s own perception of themselves. Today I really felt that the folk banging drums and chanting believed that they deserve better. Void of aggression and cheap slogans I found them to be intelligent and genuinely, well, pissed off. I met Two Sanitation workers protesting against Fracking because they simply cared about having clean drinking water in the New York and Pennsylvania area. There was no shouting or red faced screaming, just two middle aged guys willing to spend their day off talking calmly to all who passed by including me.
A local fifty something white haired tattooed building supervisor explained to me how the local pizza parlor Majestic was funded by a European business man to provide $10,000.00 worth of Pizza each day to the protesters. “It’s about fucking time New Yorkers woke up like we did to these dick heads in Wall Street they keep saying” he said referring to this faceless European pizza funder. He explained how his fiance was related to the owner’s sister hence how he knew about it. “Ten Thousand Dollars is not a lot of money when you think about it” someone else chimed in. It doesn’t, not when you realize not only what is at stake but that most people have had a crash course on economics using billions and trillions as units. Ten grand is nothing.     
I decided to walk right into the middle of the protest to see for myself what these people were like. Unfortunately my camera-phone battery began to die hence the lack of photographs. The police stood nearby watching everything, they were relaxed and courteous. The protesters were also calm and friendly, willing to talk with anyone about their various causes. Some seemed to be on first name terms with each other after what I suspect was due to recently shared experiences while most gave each other a familiar nod and smile. Placards were held high. How about a maximum wage? Imagine what we can do if we stick together? Never, never, never, ever vote republican? Not sure I actually agree with any of that myself – I’d vote McCain 2000 over Kerry 2004 any day. 
I heard surprisingly few local accents, and a lot seemed like professional and seasoned protesters. I seen at least two genuine long haired doped up hippie types which other protesters appeared to tolerate if nothing else. Most fell between the 18-35 age bracket. Some still slept in their sleeping bags, free food was on offer, a large chalkboard schedule of marches and events rested beside a stand giving away free DVD’s on the current crises. Donations welcome. 
At the perimeter I could not help but notice the difficult job the NYPD must have had. Police officers observed the protest, helped in traffic issues and kept people from spilling onto the street due to the bulky barricades all the while acting as unofficial tour guides to the local area. Some even giving the Euro trash a brief run down on 9-11 and it’s current rebuilding progress.    
Everyone & Everybody

These guys below later fronted a parade along with a catholic priest carrying a golden bull on a platform. You worship a false god – painted on its side. Every religion was represented and it was the first time I ever seen so many people from so many backgrounds in a supportive roll together. “We are all gathered here today under many gods” shouted the woman speaker. “Under ONE god” a person in the crowd shouted back. “Mic check, mic check” – they chanted and she corrected herself and begun again. Not having a microphone a person would say a sentence at a time and everybody would chant it. It was an effective way to get the message out.

Drummers before the march

Wall street itself was empty. Tourists waved at the horse mounted cops and they waved back. Tours continued and several people had their picture taken in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

Empty Wall Street

At the center of the protest a large group had gathered to sing and give speeches. The speeches mostly consisted of leaders from many churches and organizations from around America showing solidarity. In the video below they were singing an old classic.

In the video below I managed to capture the very impressive way in which they got their message out without the use of a PA system. It reminded me of being at church when I was younger and how powerful it was to hear what the priest had just said chanted back to him.

After I circled the whole area I moved to the subway and took it back to Astoria. I was glad I made the trip out. I’ve heard wildly different things about the protest from both sides and I thought it would be educational at least to go visit it myself in person. The protesters are not the bad guys and neither are the police, both were behaving responsibly and treated each other with respect. Seeing so many young females involved was a relief. They bring common sense and besides, men in large numbers are idiots.  
I’m not sure it’s all good and I could see how a minority could infiltrate and cause trouble. I spoke to one guy who said the reason I heard so few native accents was because a company was shipping in young white unemployed protesters from California. A left wing funded venture was scooping up unemployed disenfranchised males from the west cost and paying for their stay at New York? How true is this? It was a security guard at a Wall Street barricade and just some guy I suppose. Although American, a substantial number of the protester’s accents were definitely were not local. After many years of living here I still have trouble placing them, well except a Boston accent because they all sound like pirates. 
TV cameras, radio interviews and several guys with microphones interviewing anybody and everybody littered the whole area. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the excitement. Photographers were having a field day and I don’t blame them. I was pissed that my camera phone had died. There was a lot to see. 
So, that was that. After hearing all sorts about this protest I decided to take the 20 minute subway ride to check it out for myself and I’m glad I did. I’ll be honest, I went with half a mind to mock it. Would I see something funny or ridiculous? Would their demands and placards be as over the top as the right wing? No, it was just a meeting of like minded people from a multitude of backgrounds and faiths with various causes that all fell under the same umbrella.  
– We want things to be fair and better than they are now and we are frustrated and we feel powerless. 
They were genuine and sincere. It’s hard to argue against that. I took a break from day dreaming in my own little world and experienced a little reality on a sunday afternoon. I feel like I’m a little better because of it too. 
On the way home I thought about my friends and family who have fallen victim to the recent economic circumstances and how little they had to do with it. I thought about how lucky I have been solely due to tragedy and geography and timing. We’ve all worked hard and maybe if these guys get their way that can actually mean something someday.

Newtown Creek Bike Trip

Every weekend I go for a bike ride in order to remind my body what moving around and being healthy actually feels like. Today I decided to skip my usual route which normally includes the Noguchi Museum, Sculpture Park, 5Pointz and Williamsburg for somewhere I had been putting off for sometime. I read about Newtown Creak on Radiohead’s website and via the Newtown Creek Alliance, or at least the environmental disaster there. It is the location of America’s worst ever oil spill, three times in fact the size of The Exxon Valdez spill which dumped close to 750,000 barrels of oil in Prince William Sound in 1989. 
The creek separates the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. I’ve biked over it numerous times and explored some of the sections on its north side. I had heard that there was a Newtown Creek Nature Walk which had been built pretty recently. Today I decided to pay it a visit but not before getting lost first. 
What I thought were abandoned tracks were in fact part of the Montauk Branch line which runs from the city to Montauk at the end on Long Island (Montauk is my favorite part of New York but more about that another time).  I obviously did not know this as I stood on them taking pictures with my camera phone listening to my iPod.   
Wrong turn and abandoned tracks/active freight lines apparently.
Another wrong turn and more abandoned tracks/Montauk Branch lines.

I eventually found the entrance and noticed that it lined up perfectly with the Empire State building. The road was deserted except for three people and a car. This gem was well and truly tucked away.

Looking back from the entrance on Paidge Avenue.

The entrance is wheel chair assessable which meant I could cycle in like I owned the place.

Great for looking like you own the place or people in wheel chairs. 
There was a long interesting walkway to get to the water. I loved the exposed bright layered concrete walls and steel railings. The surrounding area is incredibly old and industrial so it was a welcome relief to be around something so new. 

Approaching the rotunda bend.
Looking back.
Looking forward

Newtown Creek and Queens beyond.

Steps to the water.

The creek and the BQE beyond.

My trusty steed/Trek Bicycle.

Information on local wildlife.

Good idea.

NYC beyond. Nice at night I’m sure. 

 Small triangles were cut from the concrete to let the local vegetation take seed and grow.

Seating area.

Willow Tree

The nature walk ran along the river and then turned right to follow Whale Creek, another section that branched off. This area was heavily populated with trees and shrubs. I was in heaven.

Willow Tree/Pre-evolved Human

Okay, so I like to take pictures of trees. I’m a little obsessed with them to be honest. Maybe it’s an Irish thing as they play such an important part of our culture. Did you know that Irish people used to believe that humans evolved from trees that uprooted themselves and learned to walk on land? Well you do now. Trees are awesome. Fact.

Another Willow Tree – don’t judge me!

Boat Dock.

Sewage treatment facility tanks.

Educational old school first aid.

The nature walk is a dead end as I found out. This gate was locked and seemed to lead to a building several feat above.

End of the line in whale creek.

Looking back from the end.

Barrel/Trash Can

The local area was famed for barrel making for years so when the nature walk was designed they incorporated that fact when designing their trash cans. A nice touch methinks.

Returning to the entrance I really began to appreciate the industrial architecture of the nature walk. It neither blended in nor stood out. It was simply it’s own thing amongst an ugly landscape.

Surrounding area.

Returning home over Newtown Creek

Newtown Creek & NYC

The one thing you could probably work out from the photographs was that there was no one at the nature walk, I was totally alone. A beautiful sunday afternoon and not a soul. It is a peaceful oasis in the heart of a pulsing city, especially in such an industrial area. It is a little out of the way but I’m surprised that being so close to Williamsburg, Greenpoint and LIC that more artists have not exploited this hidden gem. I plan to return, alone with my guitar and notebook or with friends and a bottle of wine or two. It’s not often that in such an overcrowded city you can find your own space like this. They are slowly turning an environmental disaster area into something very beautiful.

In Short:

  • Newtown Creek Nature Walk: Paidge Ave & Provost Street, Brooklyn, NY11222.
  • Open dusk till dawn.
  • Wheel Chair assessable.
  • No biking (*cough, cough)
  • No pets.
  • 1/4 mile long or 1/2 mile walk round trip.
  • Totally empty.
  • It’s in the heart of industrial NYC so strange smells and sounds may occasionally drift your way. 
  • It’s very educational. The area sings with information on everything from the original native tribes, old maps of the area, local history and the flora and fauna.
  • Walk to LIC or Greenpoint and grab a beer afterwards.  
  • It’s free.
  • Getting here: 7-Train to Hunters Point Ave, G-Train to Greenpoint Ave…or a bike.
  • Check out the Newtown Creek Alliance