Notes from the Road
by Catherine MacLellan
We’ve been hanging around New York City for a few days now, playing venues that pass the hat and have regular hourly turnover of musicians all night. In Manhattan’s lower east side there is the feeling that the city never sleeps and musicians are akin to rats, everywhere and certainly bottom feeders.
Our first night in the city we played our regular haunt of the Living Room and were delighted to be on the same bill as The Good Lovelies, our own Canadian darlings. The Lovelies were on their first tour since the birth of member Caroline’s baby, Annabelle. They now travel as a crowd with support from their label as well as Caroline’s husband, everyone taking turns with the 4-month old sweetheart. As always, it was great to see friends from home and it reminded me of the tours I did when my own Isabel was a tiny baby, frequenting bars, cafes and festivals. Annabelle will be another one of those music kids with friends all over and perhaps a broader perspective of what family can be.
On our second night in the city, we stayed with our new friend Ruth in Coney Island. Miles from Manhattan, here the streets are quiet, suburban, with a sense of long-standing community. Ruth has spent almost her entire life in this part of the world. She grew up on the boardwalk, hanging out at the side shows and amusement parks, riding the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, eventually even working in the parks. We ran into her friend Stanley on the boardwalk, a man who is a virtual walking encyclopedia about Coney Island and a volunteer at the Coney Island History Project. Together we walked past the rides and closed shops and restaurants while Stanley and Ruth pointed out the things we should know and how much it’s changed over the years.
Having suffered through Hurricane Sandy in the fall, Coney Island still has the marks on the buildings from the water where it rose swiftly to 3 to 6 feet all along the island. In fact, Ruth’s house, just down from the boardwalk was submerged in water halfway up her first floor. At one point during the storm, she suddenly heard the rushing of water and thought she had left a tap on downstairs, only to find the floodwater surging in from every side. The fridge even tipped over and floated into a corner. The whole main level was gutted including her kitchen and living room, and now, months later, she is still waiting for her insurance company to settle with her so she can begin the repairs. It will be many months before she is back to a normal life, and so many of her belongings, keepsakes and mementos can never be replaced.
I remember seeing the footage of Hurricane Sandy on the television, and it seemed quite dramatic at the time, but the aftermath is more than I thought it would be and the speed with which the recovery is taking place is at a snail’s pace. Many people lost their homes entirely and so many local businesses may never return. If you’d like to check out more about Coney Island and see the damage done by Sandy, go to the Coney Island History Project website, www.coneyislandhistory.org.
Today we play our last show in New York, a cafe in Brooklyn, and then we head back and forth across the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We’ll spend four days recording in Woodstock, hanging out in the Catskills, and then play one more show in Philadelphia before heading back home to real winter and snow. We’ll spend the rest of the cold season traveling between PEI and Ontario attending the Folk Alliance International conference in Toronto and playing bills with a great (though little known) American songwriter named Jonathan Byrd. We hope to see you along the road.