Aerial View was WFMU’s first regularly-scheduled phone-in talk show. Hosted by Chris T. and on the air since 1989, the show features topical conversation, interviews and many trips down the rabbit hole. Until further notice, Aerial View is only available as a podcast, available every Tuesday morning. Subscribe to the newsletter “See You Next Tuesday!” and find tons of archives at aerialview.me.
Sooner or later it happens to the best of us: we have to go to IKEA. It happened to me this past Friday and I documented the drive and the shopping experience for this Aerial View in Exile Pod(iatry)cast.
I went to IKEA for a Helmer cabinet to hold a shitload of cassettes that I should've digitized eons ago. My first foot surgery is this Friday, Oct. 2 and I'm desperately trying to clean up my office before then. I'll be working from home and the walls in here are, as they say, closing in.
I own an old Helmer cabinet and my intention was to get a little Helmer-on-Helmer action going on by stacking the new one on the old. Here's my quarry:
I'm not a fan of most IKEA furniture because it's made from engineered wood and looks it. But they do have a line of steel cabinets that are great for stashing all kinds of recording and recorded media. And, at last count, I own everything from 78s to LPs to 45s to Hip Pocket records to reel-to-reel tapes to 8-tracks to cassettes to micro-cassettes to DATs to MiniDiscs to CDs to who-knows-what-else. Hence the Helmers.
This Helmer differs from my old Helmer most notably in the finish: it's a dark gray (other colors "available" but never in stock are white, red, orange and green) as opposed to my light gray antique. The new Helmer also has card holders so you can identify what's in the drawer. The Helmer drawers are the perfect height for cassettes on their long end, face up so you can read the title. Then I go inside IKEA, recording all the while. If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to drive with me, this is as close as you'll get. My driving scares some people - like Mrs. T. - but I'm perfectly fine with it. You can click on the photo below to see the video I shot while driving to IKEA.
Click above for a vide of my drive to IKEA.
Below is the main entrance to IKEA Elizabeth, where the jets landing at Newark are so CLOSE you can smell the aviation fuel. IKEA is actually part of something called Elizabeth Center, which includes a Toys R Us, Babies R Us and a bunch of other places to run up your credit cards.
Below is the new Helmer (dark gray) atop the old. The dimensions are exactly the same but they've utterly changed the design, specifically the way drawers hang. On the old cabinet I can pull a drawer almost completely out and it will stay in the cabinet. If I try that with the new cabinet I have to hold the drawer up to keep it from taking a dive. Please note the vintage SHMO game, by REMCO (of Harrison, NJ).
Here's one of the Helmer drawers packed full of godawful cassettes. This one represents about four bands I've been in, from The Nihilistics to Missing Foundation to Jungle Creeps to Wrench to Nature's Mistakes to solo stuff I've done.
Someday some of this crud will make it into an Aerial View podcast.
This episode was awesome! Now I want to go get guitar lessons!
There will be more lessons in the future and - I hope - more comments. Again, if you listen to the podcast please leave a comment on the playlist or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! And don't forget to keep up with the show via the Facebook Group See You Next Tuesday!
This piece dates back to when I lived in Hoboken, a lifetime ago. It holds up, though.
Last of the Shmohicans
A beautiful Sunday and I am indoors doing nothing. I missed a chance to head out to the beach with my friend, Bill. He wasn’t sure if he was going when we had breakfast at the Newport Pancake House in Jersey City. He said, “Call me before three o’clock if you want to do something. I’m either going to the beach or I’ll do something else.” So I came home, set the alarm clock for three and fell promptly asleep (I was up until four A.M. yesterday and was tired).
I awoke to the alarm clock at 3:12. Then I called and got Bill’s answering machine. He’s gone already. It’s a mild. sunny day and I’d like to get out of here and go somewhere with a friend. But I don’t want to lose my parking space across the street. The Feast of St. Ann’s is in its final day and the crowds are heavier than ever. The Virgin Mary is making her way down the street, covered with greenbacks, hoisted aloft by eight devout Catholics. There’s a line of cars snaking behnd her. People are desperately looking to park. I peer out my window to my car across the street and can’t bear to part with the perfect space.
For me, the perfect space in Hoboken is one where you might actually hear your car being stolen. My car has been the victim of attempted theft several times. Each time I thought, “If only I could’ve heard the bastards.” Truth is, I sleep like a log and probably would’ve snored through the break-ins even if I’d been inside the car.
Still, there’s something to be said for having your car safely berthed where you can see it. My car is probably my most valuable posession. The further it is from me, physically, the more I worry. “Who’s trying to steal the antenna? The radio? Everything inside not bolted down? The car itself?” If I can walk to the window and do a visual check every few hours, I feel better.
There’s an even more practical reason for not wanting to lose the space: having to get another one when I return. Tonight, it will be nearly impossible, especially if the Feast goes to one or two A.M., as I’m sure it will.
Parking was not a problem when I moved to this neighborhood four years ago. It was a working-class Italian/Puerto Rican enclave, in about a 70/30 mix, essentially unchanged from the Hoboken I first encountered in 1984. In February of that year I moved out of my mother’s house on Long Island to Tenafly, New Jersey. I accepted an offer I couldn’t refuse: to share a four bedroom Victorian in a hoity-toity neighborhood for the ridiculous rent of $200 a month. My second night as a resident of the Garden State I was dragged to Hoboken by my house-mate. We ended up on upper Hudson Street, at Tom and Jim’s, across from Elysian Park (the park where Karl Malden worked on Marlon Brando’s conscience in “On the Waterfront”).
I met many soon-to-be good friends that night. And I became charmed by the Mile Square City. It was a freezing cold February night but I can remember walking through Elysian Park and being bowled over by the view of Manhattan and the immensity of the Maxwell House factory across River Drive, with its huge “Good to the Last Drop” sign. The whole evening was a heady introduction into a world I hadn’t yet known: a city where cool people lived walking distance from one another. Tom and Jim even lived around the corner from Maxwell’s, then the best bar in Hoboken. I’d go there and just hang out, drink beer, eat a good meal or catch a great band in the sweaty backroom. Then I’d stumble back to Tom and Jim’s.
I didn’t know it at the time but 1984 was a watershed year for Hoboken. The process had started years earlier, as artists, musicians and bohemian types - pressured by escalating rents in Manhattan - began to set out across the East and Hudson rivers, to Brooklyn in the east, Hoboken in the west. Looking for nothing more than a cheap place to live near public transportation, they pioneered their way into the outlying areas.
Mostly White, they arrive in blue-collar marginal neighborhoods past their prime, places where jobs have long fled, the infrastructure has crumbled and old-timers are dying off. Inherited property is disposed of quickly as sons and daughters – smelling escape – cash out and move to the suburbs. Grabbing up any affordable living space, the pioneers ride the train back and forth to their jobs in Manhattan and endure the fisheye from the “born-and-breds” who are staying put. As always, they serve unwittingly as the vanguard of gentrification.
Eventually – when enough pioneers gather in an area to make doing so economically viable – one of them opens a little art gallery or bar or coffee shop or record store. These places become epicenters for the newly arrived. A local reporter, smelling the next trend, picks up on the action and dubs it a “scene”. A national reporter follows suit. Word gets out and a place which had previously been sneered at as “not Manhattan” suddenly has cachet.
The second influx begins. Would-be artists, musicians and bohemians follow their more fearless brethren. New businesses – catering to the wants and needs of the burgeoning demographic – displace old. The butcher shop becomes a health-food store, the bakery transforms itself into a gift shop, the hairdresser becomes a cigar store, etc. Bars – especially – spring up everywhere, even brand new ones that use the word “Olde” in their names. Working-class folks who moved in before the place was abandoned by the old guard soon find themselves evicted or – worse – burned out of their apartment houses (landlords get more money if a building is “delivered vacant”, i.e., free of tenants. If people die in the processs it’s considered a reasonable cost of doing business).
Yuppies – finally reassured the neighborhood is “safe” (they see faces more like their own than not) – set upon the town with a vengeance, seeking reasonably priced (by Manhattan standards) shelter. Apartments that cost $300 just a few years earlier routinely rent for $1,200 and up. Ever more frivolous businesses move in. By the time the Starbucks arrives, the former neighborhood has faded completely into the mist.
In Hoboken, the waves of displacement continue unabated. I moved here in a panic in 1994. The place I was living in was being sold out from under me. A friend called and told me about an apartment around the corner from him, renting for less than $600. It was a bargain and I grabbed it. In the four years since, the Hoboken housing market has gone completely through the roof - literally: the building that houses my local post office added two stories.
Everything empty, no matter what its former purpose, now becomes condo fodder. The booming economy and the need to house Wall Street wankers has new housing going up everywhere in town, five of them in a four block radius from me. The gas station not a block away, where I once got my car serviced, will soon be a 35-unit monstrosity. The huge billboard out front promises “Luxury one and two bedrooms – each with two bathrooms, on-premises health spa (and the kicker) off street parking.”
When I see the words “off-street parking” they instantly translate as “less parking for you, sucker”. To provide the needed private access to the hallowed off-street parking, massive sections of curb – “on street parking” – are broken up and eliminated. Add to that the friends that will come visit the new condo residents and it means I might never be able to park again.
Lately, I’ve even thought about giving up my car, becoming a pedestrian and public transportation user. But my car is one of the few places I can be alone. I’ve had one since I was seventeen and have become thoroughly invested in the concept of going where I like, when I like. But I’ve been walking alot more lately, afraid to come home too late and find not a single space left.
Last week, I walked to the train, down the main drag – Washington Street. It’s completely changed since my last stroll down it. To compliment the freshly-graduated, khaki short-wearing Midwesterners who now seem to comprise the majority of Hoboken’s population, it was given a college-town makeover. Widened, with new brick pedestrian crossings and old-fashioned lamp-posts, Washington Street is now officially “quaint”. Bars and restaurants with cutesy-pie names rule the day, with the occasional stuffed bear shop thrown in. Serving the khaki short brigade has become the call of the hour.
Post-collegiates in backwards baseball hats can be seen lifting their golf bags from Saab trunks on every corner. They want nothing more than to drink Coronas with other young professionals, trade stories about the back nine and hit on each other, all while listening to the Dave Matthews band.
I suppose there’s nothing wrong with any of that. I used to think “those people” quote unquote were freaks, some kind of godawful aberration. I once thought I hated them because they value all the wrong things in life, because they are throwbacks to an earlier, much worse time, because they seem to be driven solely by sex, money and power. But I realize I hate them because they’ve won. Whatever deals they’ve made to get what they want, however they may have compromised, they are now the norm. They are always smiling when I see them.
And if they are happy with their lives, with their golf bags and backwards baseball caps and khaki shorts, it takes too much energy for me to rail against them - to rail against the future.
To think them freaks.
Now I know the freak is me. “Those people”, quote unquote, FAR outnumber my kind. I am one of the last of a dying breed: I don’t work on Wall Street, I don’t make lots of money, I don’t golf, I don’t go to faux Irish bars and I don’t wear khaki ANYTHING. To the khaki people, I suppose I am a schmo.
I am “Last of the Shmohicans”.
David Chris T. Bowie
Moonage Aerial View Daydream
Another Piece in The Weeklings
Check The Weeklings on October 2nd for The Other Chris, first seen in this newsletter.
Janet gives an Artist Talk Wed., Oct. 7, 7 - 8 pm.
Obligatory Throwback Pic
1983, me & my 1968 Chrysler New Yorker
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Tue. 9/29/15 6:10pm
Ken From Hyde Park:
Hi, ChrisT and pod people. Good luck with the surgery on Friday. I've never been to an Ikea as of yet. Let's see if the video goes inside or not.
Tue. 9/29/15 7:18pm
George of Troy:
Enjoying the IKEA podcast. Best wishes for your surgery, Chris!
Tue. 9/29/15 7:30pm
Ken From Hyde Park:
The video and the podcast audio are the same, but the video ends as Chris arrives at IKEA. If you jump to the 47-minute mark of the audio, it picks up with Chris entering IKEA. The video is a 1.5GB file, so folks on 4G, check your data plan.