DeKalb Ave April 2007

“The Gold Cure” =
DeKalb Ave/April 2007

Original Title: “The House of Shame”

Where: At Green Apple bakery (now closed, I noticed last week), after dropping my kids at school, annoyed by people who were talking loudly.

Music: The sassy, playful sound of Dyme, a pair of identical twin female rappers I was supposed to write about for the New York Times Magazine (but didn’t, in the end). While they were nothing like Stop/Go, and I was sorry their album was never released, I did avail myself of the look and feel of their home recording studio.

History: Only one of Bennie’s shame memories (which I ended up cutting) was based on fact: in a meeting with some hip hop artists at a Greek Restaurant in Queens, Bennie inhales a flake of filo dough and can’t cough it back out, leading to much hacking, teary-eyed embarrassment. In my case, this happened in 1992, in Astoria, where I’d gone after work from my temp job at the Tribeca Film Center to sample spanakopita in a few bakeries before ordering some for my boyfriend’s thirtieth birthday party. I inhaled a flake of filo dough and it hunkered down in my lung and would not depart. I had to leave the bakery and stand on the sidewalk, under the elevated subway tracks, trains grinding over my head as I coughed in a panic, wondering if a single flake of filo dough could kill me. It seemed almost miraculous when the flake finally dislodged and my life resumed. My boyfriend was directing a production of Antony and Cleopatra, and the birthday party happened after his show, in the massive, dilapidated loft that our friends Alex and Rebecca were renting on lower Broadway. Toward the end, we wheeled out a huge cake from Carvel, layers staggered like a Ziggurat, decorated with Egyptian stencils I’d bought at the Metropolitan Museum Shop.

Beginning:

The shame memories began early that day for Bennie, during the morning meeting, while he listened to one of his senior executives make a case for pulling the plug on Stop/Go, a sister band Bennie had signed to a three-record deal a couple of years back. Then, Stop/Go had seemed like an excellent bet; the sisters were young and adorable, their sound was gritty and simple and catchy (“Cyndi Lauper meets Chrissie Hynde” had been Bennie’s line early on), with a big gulping bass and some fun percussion — he recalled a cowbell. Plus they’re written decent songs; hell, they’d sold twelve thousand CDs off the stage before Bennie ever heard them play. A little time to develop potential singles, some clever marketing, and a decent video could put them over the top.

But the sisters were pushing thirty, his executive producer, Collette, informed Bennie now, and no longer credible as recent high school grads, especially since one of them had a nine-year-old daughter. Their band members were in law school. They’d fired two producers, and a third had quit. Still no album.

“Who’s managing them?” Bennie asked.

“Their father. I’ve got their new rough mix,” Collette said. “The vocals are buried under seven layers of guitar.”

It was then that the memory overcame Bennie (had the word “sisters” brought it on?): himself, squatting behind a nunnery in Westchester at sunrise after a night of partying — twenty years ago was it? More? Hearing waves of pure, ringing, spooky-sweet sound waft into the paling sky: cloistered nuns who saw no one but one another, who’d taken vows of silence, singing the Mass. Wet grass under his knees, its iridescence pulsing against his exhausted eyeballs. Even now, Bennie could hear the unearthly sweetness of those nuns’ voices echoing deep in his ears.

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