Sunday, August 26, 2012

Houdini's Wife III

Park Slope.
Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Cover Star: Pandora
Headlining Band: Mr. Dulli

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brendan Boeckelman,1971-2012

The first and last time a really good friend of mine passed away, I was 18 years old. He dove into a swimming pool on July 4th and hit the bottom and broke his neck. A stupid, random accident, a bad decision caused by impaired or just faulty judgment – whatever – he was dead. And it made me angry. Not at George – but at God. I was well on my way to becoming an atheist, but George’s Catholic funeral sealed it for me.

George was a lovable freak, out there, a strange thinker who came up with strange ideas, a person that loved “outside the norm” music, films and experiences. He was probably the first person I met that truly embodied that and I’ve spent my life since aligning and surrounding myself with people just like that.

Thirty years later, yesterday, I lost another really good friend. And I’m just as angry. I met Brendan roughly four and a half years ago after my friends Marko and Chris and I wandered into Fontana’s in search of beer and a pool table one afternoon early in 2008. Well, technically, there was some rockabilly chick there and we liked the place so much we kept coming back on Tuesday on Patrick’s shift. Patrick dug us and when Brendan was hired shortly thereafter, he inherited Patrick’s shift and as Brendan liked to say, “I inherited you assholes, too.”

Fontana’s became my other downtown joint sharing the top spot with Toad Hall. Some nights were just Fontana’s nights and it was easy to bounce into right off the D or B trains at Grand Street. I met everyone at Fontana's through Brendan and count the wonderful owners, the rock 'n' roll staff and the misguided patrons as some of my great friends. Always will.

I was always taken with Brendan’s tough guy attitude – you know the disfigured from fighting hands vs. just how sweet he really was inside. He would absolutely do anything for you if you were a friend (or even a friend of a friend) many times to the detriment of his own happiness. As a bartender, his rapport was world-famous. He could literally talk to you about anything – genuinely and with a depth and knowledge that would oftentimes surprise you. He was deeply learned in literature, film, music, sports, history, geography  and just about any other subject you could come up with. His morning ritual consisted of buying The NY Post and The Daily News and reading every word of both by the time he got downtown to work from Inwood.

As we really became friends and not just bartender and patron, I really began to see his kindness. He turned me onto some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard in my life, which is, at this point, a pretty amazing accomplishment.  And I turned him onto stuff too. He took me to see the very last Giraffes show at Mercury Lounge in February 2011 in a snowstorm. I turned him onto - and made sure that he saw - Mark Lanegan with me. We both saw Guided By Voices, Faith No More and many, many others that we had a mutual appreciation for. And these shows were always events. Big pre-show plans segued into big post-show plans, which usually involved us staying up all night and talking about the show and music and life and stuff. Important stuff. Funny stuff.

I also began to see how vulnerable he was and just how much he wanted to be loved. Which at first struck me as odd, considering just how many friends he had, but over time I started to see behind the public persona. Ultimately, I believe that this was his undoing. To value this idea of “love” above all else, even over his own life.

And that’s the part that makes me angry. He reached out to me and his other close friends a lot. And we were there for him. I’d like to think that we were really there for him. But you cannot change anyone’s mind that is that strong willed. We’d do what we could and then there would be a respite and then there would be another flare-up. And then one day he really didn’t reach out anymore. And now we're here.

When someone goes out like this, in a sense, they win – the noise stops. But the noise just gets louder for the rest of us – and I know that Brendan not only knew that but also would say the same thing. In beating myself up as to whether I could have done more or anything different so that he would still be here I do realize one thing. Ironically, he would have never let this happen to me. He would have stayed with me, slept with me, carried me to get help, yelled at me, screamed at me, etc…We did all of those things, but obviously just not enough. Or maybe enough was not a possibility. I will wonder about that the rest of my life.

Several times I told him, “I don’t ever want to go to another friend’s funeral, ok?” The last thing he said to me was that the feelings he was experiencing were “hard to process.”

Sometimes the noise is stronger than the will, I guess.

I will miss talking to him, spending time with him, sharing music with him, and sitting quietly with him and watching some sports thing I don’t give a fuck about. I will miss introducing my friends to him (to a person, every single one of them not only remembers him but really dug him and remember him fondly).

I will miss him hugging me and telling me that he loved me and then saying “No, I really do, man!” Like I had any doubt...

I will miss our inside jokes - like him saying to people while pointing to me “He knows stuff man” (true) and telling those same people that Justin Timberlake was my roommate at NYU (false).

I will REALLY miss hearing him call me “Jimmy Snapshot.” And the fact that the only choice he has left me with is to tell people finite stories about him rather than sharing stories with him for many years to come.

I love you too, Brendan. I really do, man.

Cover Star: Brendan, the last photo of him that I ever took, 07/21/12. He never saw it
Headlining Band: His beloved Giraffes

Monday, August 06, 2012

Shhh...Baby Sleeping...

I haven't shot much lately that I cared about except for this shot of The Barrens.

Buy their album here. It kicks ass. And it's good, too.

And I baptized each and almost every one of them (Jay escaped due to timing) and then shot them wet and miserable.

The Feelies? Sure. The Heartbreakers? Sure. The Barrens? Definitively.

I also shot a promo photo for my friend Matt Graham's Fringe Festival show.

I think you might recognize what we were trying to do.

And with that, for now, I'm done with this here 'blog' thing.

It's been a great run, but I just don't give a shit anymore. Blogging is dead. Social Media is a joke and my photography can be seen both on my website and on Facebook, as long as that exists.

I've been having fun shooting only things that are important to me.

Stay tuned - over there, somewhere.


JMG - 18 days shy of 48.

Cover Star: Moi
Headlining Band: Bongwater covering Mr. Erikson

James M. Graham, Website
James M. Graham, Tumblr
James M. Graham, Monograph