Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Early to midweek are days that blur as they blend in, making me lose track of where one ends and the next begins, with sleep, when it is possible, the division between each that gives some clarity.
I use to live life in clumps that one old journey entry defined as “segments of time and place that seemed to reflect different worlds. Some of these focus around a place so I can map them out as easily as I could a road trip.”
Portland, Oregon, was such a clump – well, each visit separately was – even though in both trips many of the same people played parts, a cast of characters acting out a plot indigenous to that time and place.
“The old house I grew up in on the Clifton/Paterson border (which became platform for a number of short stories) was that kind of clump. Even when the tales took place outside that house, they somehow seemed to reach back and connect to that house.
“High School was a different kind of clump, more of a time reference than a place, a passing a series of events not so much connected to the place as that time – so that flashing back to hear boys singing songs from St. Pepper’s album carried a significance beyond school, and shaped my destiny as part of a group of people sometimes referred to as rebels or hippies.”
This clump becomes very relevant today because of the passing of Sid Bernstein, the man who brought The Beatles to
America, and a
man I considered a friend, though I saw him less frequently over the last few
years than a decade ago. He was a clump
unto himself, a man who tried to sell me schemes in Hoboken,
and Secaucus and later in New York,
come back musical talents or new kids he said would become the next Beatles,
but never did.
I last saw him in Thompson Square Park in the company of yet another blow back to my past, David Peal, who was trying to sell Sid on the idea that a washed up Washington Square street performer could once more rise out of his ashes, even though the man who helped him so many, many years ago (John Lennon) was dead.
I had numerous ill experiences with David Peal, even as late as the late 1980s when he was scamming young kids in some side show act on Bleaker Street, acting out the role of superstar when he was no such thing.
Sid didn’t take him seriously either, but recognized me, and much to Peal's discomfort, Sid asked me about my kid and the paper, and how life was treating me as a musician. He may have liked me because I never pretended I would be the next John Lennon, and was happy doing what I was doing on any scale in which I got to create.
A few months ago, I called Sid to find out how he was, and his son answered and then put Sid on the phone.
Sid had just arranged to meet Paul McCartney, who was in
New York for some show, and recalled other times when
Paul had arranged for him to attend a show, once I remember in Philadelphia. Like all such calls, I always
asked Sid to pass my best on to Paul, even though Paul had no clue as to who I
was, my lone connection to one of the four men who were most influential in
saving my life, and Sid always said he would, and to this day, I believe he
actually did so, and can only imagine the frown on Paul’s face wondering who
the hell Sid was talking about.
All of these moments, of course, clump together in me so that it is difficult to say when each happened, and when I spoke at which point. At one point, when interviewing one of the (Young) Rascals – which was my local band growing up – I mentioned knowing Sid. The band was to appear at the
Hoboken music festival,
and they had not seen Sid since the 1970s or 1960s whenever it was he had
worked as their manager, and they said they wanted to see him again. So I
called up Sid and arranged it, and he came over from New
York City to meet with them in Hoboken, a long awaited reunion no one knew
about but Sid, the band and me.
Sid was my sole connection to many things I never got to experience as a kid, the big time acts I only listened to on my transistor radio, and somehow, this man managed to pull together all those little musical clumps and make me feel as if I had spent my life connected, and in fact, knowing him, I had.