December 27, 2015
The cramping brain swell. A kind of slow sloshing. Cabin fever of the mind. I ride down the only dark and congested street in Williamsburg. Train tracks directly above remind me of the time we climbed the famous Cyclone at Coney Island, clambered around the rotten wood and wet steel, some crazy time of the morning.
Yesterday’s tragic memories of getting baked and joining hundreds of others in a no pants subway ride began to fade.
I love the forced refresh of riding in this weather, so crisp it blows straight through you. The reality of the chill across your cheeks, sneaking inside your clothes. Tearing at the clouds of the weekend. Yesterday’s tragic memories of getting baked and joining hundreds of others in a no pants subway ride began to fade.
This little stretch demanded attention. Shops lined up wall to wall on both sides, leaving only a small opening for light to cut through between blocks. It was a street of essentials. Food, discount clothing, barbershops, transport. This is Brooklyn’s Broadway, a contrast to the Manhattan version – a cultural intersection, one side giving way to large Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods, the other to Black, Hispanic and Latino communities. A smattering of hipsters and young white collar families were dotted around, all wanting to stay close to Williamsburg or the L train, not quite ready to go deeper into Bushwick or Queens. The Jewish property owners generally ran a pretty tight operation, not allowing a lot of outsiders to buy on their blocks. I think they owned most of the property on both sides, making fortunes as gentrification drove the rents up.
I glide around a slowing taxi. A friend of ours was hit by a car on this street, nothing serious, but I’ve been cautious ever since. I generally preferred the more relaxed roads – pretty much every other street around here. Out from under the shadows of the train, the condensed street gave way to soaked concrete. The muscles in my back start to ease up and I begin to get out of my head, focusing on the rhythmic rattling of my back wheel.
It had been over a year since a customary Malt Liquor Monday, the spontaneity was refreshing. I didn’t ask Zack along today, it was an isolated experience in the heart of winter. I just grabbed my bike and had to go. Malt Liquor Monday was now the name of my YouTube channel but the day was spawned as a respite from the start of the standard work week, not that me or Zack worked a nine to five but it was a great device to fight, or at least postpone, the summer comedowns.
We had started it together, Zack had his own startup so he could work pretty much whenever he wanted – which often included forty-eight hour Adderall-fueled coding benders – and if I wasn’t shooting or in the middle of an video edit I generally had very few Monday commitments that got in the way.
It wasn’t just some borderline alcoholic refusal to conform to the world, there was a productive side that developed.
The first day had been epic, riding around Brooklyn, chatting with great characters, who, like us, were enjoying the freedom of a Monday at their disposal. It wasn’t just some borderline alcoholic refusal to conform to the world, there was a productive side that developed – we had been drinking with these old guys on a stoop in Bed-Stuy, they must have all been around sixty, when one dude started freestyling with this really laid back style, like he was schooling his grandson.
We shot this video of him on my iPhone and it was picked up by Complex.com the next day. After that I started bringing along my camera and a bunch of recording gear, we built up a bunch of subscribers by cutting a series of mini docos about the people we met, making tracks as we went. Malt Liquor Monday started getting a whole bunch of followers. It was a random way to get to know the corners of Brooklyn – we would stay for grill sessions, dinner with someone’s Grandma, we hung out with wannabe gangstas, real gangstas, half a church choir – just loads of soulful people – plus a few crack heads and crazys. I’d bring half-finished beats and end up with killer vocal hooks and crazy verses. Sometimes I’d be back home passed out by late afternoon, other times some real debauchery would go down. All these beautiful black and Latino women, drinking and dancing – some crazy shit. Zack really pushed the upper envelope of the cougar definition – I’m pretty sure one of them had grandkids in the house.
I’ve got a bunch of photos somewhere, loose antics, no idea where they are but I should dig them out. Those were good days, easy days. Once we stopped doing the rides I decided to change Malt Liquor Monday, now I set up a camera in my studio and introduce tracks that I have remixed, talk a little bit about how I do them. I do these cut down versions on Vine that do pretty well too. #MaltLiquorMonday. I need to do them more often.
Parking up by an empty basketball court, I went inside for the traditional refreshments. The glass of the Colt 45 felt like it would stick to my lips if I let it linger too long. I drank it as a tribute to summer – waiting out the front of the Deli – watching the warmth of the barber shop across the street. Waiting for my bacon, egg and cheese.
It had been too long since I’d caught up with Zack – you know those friends that always call you out on your bullshit? I could use a blatant perspective on things. He was good like that. I fired him off a quick message and a photo of the Colt 45 to spark a few memories.
Props to Daniel Batten for this chapter’s photos.