Head Case

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Friday morning was a rough one. She was a friend of Lyric Benson, the 21-year-old woman shot and killed by her former fiance, Robert "Fast Bobby" Ambrosino. By her account, Lyric was a swell chick, and while there may be people who deserve to be shot in the face by a suicidal former lover, she wasn’t one of them. Tragedy doesn’t often hit so close to home for me–I haven’t been two degrees to a murder in 20 months–so it’s usually easy to remain distant and watch such a drama unfold on the front pages. But her swollen eyes were enough to crack the thick ice around this battered, blackened heart.

So she needed to get a little drunk, and I was glad to have ended my week-long drying-out period the night before when salesman extraordinaire Alex Schweitzer lured me across the street to the Triple Crown. I had a couple pints, talked shop and shit with Alex and his fellow squids, John and Spencer. Schweitzer and I started at New York Press the same day six years ago, and though I took a sabbatical, it feels like we’ve been swimming through the job together forever.

After seeing the new John Cusack movie, the girl and I made a beeline for the dependable joy of the hunting game at Sweet Water. We splurged three dollars each for a tour through Canada, and had a grand time capping dozens of elk while our new friends, Chuck, Steve and Nick, cheered us on.

She’s a smart cookie, so the irony of playing a bloody, violent shooting game to help suppress thoughts of her friend’s murder by handgun wasn’t lost on her. But it was fun, and it kept the tears at bay.

I spent Saturday afternoon with the laptop and headphones, tapping away at a coffee shop, digging the rain, catching up on reading. New issues of two Brooklyn-based freebies showed up this week: Arthur and Jest. The first, though it’s trying very, very hard, sucks hard; their previous issue was far more engaging. The May 2003 Jest, on the other hand, wasn’t bad at all. Last month, I slammed the ambitious humor zine after wasting my time looking for jokes and finding only a handful. The new one, though–not bad at all. (Even with their lil’ dig at New York Press.) Though I think they should’ve included more of Joe’s ’tardy comics, they hit the mark more often than not. With the Onion so painfully unfunny these days, they may actually have a chance at surviving in the market.

As I worked, the guy sharing my table so badly wanted to talk that I felt like a jerk ignoring him. But I had Soul Oddity’s Tone Capsule in my ears, an album first played for me by Balint, my Hungarian friend who will be visiting New York City in June. A few months ago, I stayed with Balint in Budapest, and one afternoon he took me on a tour of Buda and Pest. After taking in a fantastic Spoerri exhibit at the Ludwig Museum, we headed up the Gellert Hill and, at the foot of the Freedom Monument, we rolled a cone. We got high, and the layers of Soul Oddity’s blip and beat sucked me in. Now, in the same way that Manu Chao’s Clandestino evokes a physical memory of Prague–it was played in every bar during my time there–Tone Capsule brings me back to Budapest and getting stoned with Balint.

Or maybe it wasn’t the music. Maybe it’s being on my home turf that makes me hesitant to talk with strangers. When I’m traveling, I make friends by the dozen. I love exchanging stories and learning secrets and swapping mundane details of lives lived foreign. With anyone, anywhere, at any time, I’m perfectly pleasant and cheerful, and usually good with a joke, even across language barriers. For those 57 minutes, though, I had no choice but to stay with myself.

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