Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Evening in Williamsburg: Al Burian, Cassie J. Sneider & Cat Chow at Desert Island

Somewhat hobbled by tendinitis tibialis posterior for the past two weeks and awaiting our new orthotics from the great Dr. Meliso at Lorimer Foot Care, we were able to abandon our cam-walker boot today and finally go out and carry our laundry bags around the corner to Metro Community Laundromat. It was mild and sunny at 6 p.m. and as we cleaned our terminally unhip clothing, we jaywalked back and forth across Metropolitan Avenue to our favorite neighborhood comic store, Desert Island.

There was a nice-sized, friendly crowd in the store for a party (BYOB, whatever that means) and reading by comics creators, zinester icons and celebrated designers Al Burian, Cassie J. Sneider and Cat Chow. Though we had to go in and out due to laundry duties and podiatric problems that made standing on our feet uncomfortable and standing on our head impractical, we heard and saw enough of both the artists and their work to get us to buy their stuff and look for more. All are really talented, really weird, and really funny.

As he says on his MySpace page (ours has been untouched since Hillary Clinton's presidency and tonight we discovered we have 1969 messages in our inbox) Al Burian, "Writer, Cartoonist, Lunatic and Enfant Terrible of the Northamerican Punk Scene, Writer of Burn Collector, Contributor of Punk Planet, Musician in bands like Milemarker, Challenger, Hellbender, Sterling, Nest of Ice, is serving you a mix of poetry, reading essays and short stories, portraying his and peoples daily struggle, playing songs and scaring people in the finest way of art."

After riffling through papers for like fifteen minutes, Al told some wonderfully cockeyed stories in a deadpan-exuberant manner. First he riffed on the topic of fame, which he thought was site-specific since everyone (but us) in Williamsburg pays so much in rent that they "can't just hang out" but need to keep trying to be rich and famous in order to afford living here. Or something like that.

Al rambled charmingly until getting to the heart of the heart of his true tale about waiting to get on a flight at JFK with Gwen Stefani and her husband whats-his-name, whose name Al actually can't believe he lets take up space in Al's brain without his paying rent. The story's moral was that you always should be thrilled when celebrities are on their flight because you know that in the event of a hijacking, you probably won't be the one selected to be taken hostage. Or something like that.

Another one of his stories was about the time his band was playing Northsix and in a very unoriginal onstage punk-rock gesture (did you know that musicians get laid 30% more?), Al threw his guitar up in the air and it fell on his head, leading to profuse bleeding, lots of high-fives and admiring shouts of "Duuuude!" and at least one charge of Krist Novoselic-copying before a trip to the ER.

Al pays $150 a month rent in Chicago. That's an even number. Cat Chow, the artist-designer-craftsperson-musician-performance artist whose little books of drawings and text rival her amazing three-dimensional creations in what we'd call whimsy if that were a word we ever wrote, said that she found it curious that people (we're not sure which ones) told her that even numbers like 150 are masculine while odd numbers like 69 were feminine since a man had only one of his most important masculine feature (guess!) but a woman had two of hers (breasts), two being even and one being odd and all.

But we don't find it odd that Cat Chow could make a perfectly wearable dress entirely out of one continuous zipper. We don't find it odd that Cat Chow's garments and performances have been praised even in Pittsburgh.

And we don't even find it odd that she has created exquisite garments entirely out of interwoven dollar bills, flat washers, rubber O-rings, twist ties, plastic hospital I.D. bracelets. Also, for good measure, out of measuring tape.

But then we grew up in a garment industry family and once sold leisure suits at Alexander's Department Store in Kings Plaza and we currently teach at Fashion Institute of Technology, where Cat Chow's creations have been displayed, so sometimes we think we've seen everything.

Tonight, at Desert Island, though, we saw everything but Cassie J. Sneider because we had to put our laundry in the dryer across the street. Well, actually, we did get to see Cassie J. Sneider the person and we did get to overhear a conversation she had with someone else that we are not at liberty to reveal and we did get to enjoy some of her little books in print.

But we missed her "act." (Note: that last word is meant in an entirely chaste context.) A smarter blogger said of Cassie,
Hearing her read from her zines was truly magic. This girl is hilarious and presents her life in the most interesting way possible. Her zines have pages of hand-written stories, funny scribbled drawings and best of all – moxie! This issue [Scrappy J - A Story About Fighting] takes a look at Cassie’s view of fighting - from a high-schooler wary of her ‘permanent record’ to a present day bar brawl - all told in a chatty/witty style. Cassie also read from another issue of her zine dealing with an odd job she picked up writing first-hand (ha!) reviews of sex toys.

On behalf of our injured feet and our dirty laundry, we would like to apologize to Cassie J. Sneider, and while we are at it to Al Burian (for having to go out and sit in front of Desert Island during his story about seeing an old girlfriend on his birthday in San Francisco instead of jumping off a bridge) and to Cat Chow (for until tonight associating her name with a product we fed our Gainesville pet Camelot that was specially formulated for her optimal health).

For your optimal health, you should visit the great Desert Island store and buy the work of these three brilliant people (or the work of other people who may be less brilliant but who need to pay the rent too.)

As for us, things could be worse. Like if we had dirty feet and injured laundry. Thanks, Desert Island!


Pete said...

Burian is one of my favorite nonfiction writers, and certainly my favorite memoirist. Burn Collector is one of the truly great zines.

cassie said...

I'm just curious which conversation you overheard. I'm sure it was awful, though!


Richard said...

Well, if I revealed the conversation, it would present you in a good light as a very nice and kind person, and I didn't want to destroy your public image.

Serially, I just don't like to report on private conversations. My "not liberty to report on" was just coyness.

Peter said...

Thanks for astute commentary on this lovely event.