Souring my mood further was the 95 degree heat plaguing New York City on Thursday afternoon as I began my journey. It's no fun to haul records around in such weather, and the rising mercury had brought out what sociologists call "the crazies" here in New York City:
Despite riding the "E" train regularly to my remote studio on the rugged Brooklyn-Queens border (Woodhaven residents are considered the Pashtuns of the "outer boroughs"), I had never encountered "Eric" before. Pacing around in an outfit reminiscent of Dr. Fink's, he repeatedly yelled, "All day long, they're complaining about the same BULLSHIT!" while pushing his metal cart through the train. The cart was laden with several bunches of bananas, empty plastic bags, a dozen or so sandwiches made on white bread and wrapped in cellophane, and 30 or so hand-labeled cassette tapes. I desperately wanted one of Eric's tapes, but I already felt like too much of a hipster douche tourist surreptitiously squeezing off photos for my "poor me, I'm a 'DJ' who has to fly to Europe" blog:
The above crappy photo is of an equally-crazed gentleman relieving Eric of about six tapes. I learned during their screamed transaction that the Eric's tapes were in fact free, which made my remorse over not procuring one even more intense, and when the gentleman began screaming, "Sugar, these are some CLASSICS! Oh, SUGAR!" as he flipped through his bounty, my heart sank. I was fairly certain that the tapes Eric was giving away were filled with more of the ranting my fellow riders and I were witnessing live, but still, maybe they were classics. Future classics.
I could definitely relate to Eric. Like me, he appeared to be in a perpetual state of paranoid ranting (I just keep my ranting inside my head, which is probably exactly how Eric started out years ago). But more importantly, I felt like we were fellow disgruntled "DJs," and even though he only had cassettes instead of records or a laptop, a handwritten sign on his cart boiled down the "DJ" experience (or mine, at least) perfectly:
I WORK 4 SMILES
I haven't been making enough smiles lately
The haters have me surrounded
I thought about Eric for the rest of the ride to JFK, and after a weather delay of about 2 hours, my Finnair flight finally took off for Helsinki.
After taking a taxi through what looked like a ghost town, with nary a person walking on the street and even the licorice-crammed kioski shuttered, I arrived at my hotel. Glancing at the lead story of the Helsinki Times, I discovered the reason:
Outgoing Midsummer traffic is expected to be at its busiest in the afternoon and evening of Thursday, 24 June. This weekend sees the annual celebration in Finland of Midsummer, juhannus. Held this year on 26 June, Midsummer is notable for the majority of the population heading to the countryside for prolonged celebrations that include the lighting of a giant bonfire, or kokko, at lakesides and by the sea.
As I read this paragraph in the paper, my fantasies of a redemptive gig filled with cheering, translucent blonds in rectangular black-framed glasses vaporized. Why would they have booked me just as everyone was leaving town? The club would be empty! I was going to have to hit the salmiakki pretty hard to make it through.
To my surprise, however, the gig was well-attended considering the circumstances. While the beautiful new Club YK was certainly not packed, a sufficient number of country bumpkins had trekked into the city to eliminate the need for any "pity dancing" on the part of the promoter. There were even a few familiar faces from my past gigs in the city, and I was reminded of how even a modest display of genuine enthusiasm could sustain a "DJ" like myself through the night (this even holds true at an otherwise-hostile club, provided your allies are positioned directly in front of you and blocking your view of the scowling masses). Genuine enthusiasm is the antithesis of "pity dancing," which is so obviously contrived that it ends up accomplishing the exact opposite of its intended goal.
In all honesty, the only real problem with the gig was my own performance: I was exhausted, jet-lagged and disoriented (Finland is seven hours ahead of NYC, and the sun never goes down in the summer). As a result, my brain couldn't seem to handle thinking more than a single record ahead in the mix. This made it nearly impossible to plan the trajectory of the night, or even the trajectory of the next fifteen minutes. I was struggling to stay awake, and at one point I even "dropped" the following classic fatigue-induced "DJ" trick:
- Place record to be mixed in on available turntable.
- Enter zombie-like state.
- In zombie-state, remove record you just put down from turntable, slip it into its sleeve and carefully return it record bag.
- Turn around to face now-empty turntable.
- Jolt out of zombie-state.
- Wonder where the record to be mixed disappeared to.
- (Optional) Panic.
(to be continued in Part II)