Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Looking for the spirit of MCA

I’ve never listened to Paul’s Boutique (for shame, je sais), but when my friend Kristen summoned a posse to head down to the eponymous storefront on the LES after MCA passed away on Friday, I knew that’s where I needed to be. Voyaging by bike, I rode down Kent Avenue and up South 4th to the entrance to the bridge. With the Beasties’ Gotham-grown contribution to global culture on my mind, the clatter of a passing train was the sweetest cacophony, the loveliest hop. I felt so happy to be a New Yorker in the memorial night.

But on the LES, there wasn’t a memorial to be found. In the first place, I couldn’t find Paul’s Boutique itself. Walked up and down Rivington, then up and down Stanton, but no luck. I did find an old synagogue with a stone, six-paneled Star of David that looked like the eye of a sleeping Transformer, but that was about it.

When I met Kristen at Iggy’s on Ludlow, we marveled that the bar’s speakers weren’t blaring Beastie music: shouldn’t this have been the neighborhood’s own Michael Jackson moment? Out on the streets, I heard nary a mention (nor beat, sample, or verse) of the Beasties or MCA. Where was the sense of history? The calling to mourn? It just seemed like pleasure as usual, although K did tell me that two candles were burning outside the elusive landmark.  

Where, can you guess, was the spirit of the Beasties alive and well? You got it—Hello, Brooklyn. At the Smorgasburg on the East River on the following afternoon, I heard some wacky vocals and party beats coming from the Brooklyn Salsa Company booth. I couldn’t make a positive ID at first, but like a post-jalapeno burn, there was soon no denying that these were the legends.

Turns out salsa slinger Nick had been representin’ from his rugged red boombox all day long. “It’s pretty funky stuff to play at 11 in the morning,” he said. “I’ll be dreaming it tonight,” averred Cassandra, who was working next door at quinoa/falafel mash-up artists Saucy by Nature; “Can’t stop won’t stop,” chipped in Kem, her partner and a fellow fan. Cassandra also reported that Paul’s Boutique was “her childhood on a disc.”

As some vendors began packing up their nosh, Nick searched Youtube for the one song he didn’t have on his playlist. When he found it, across the river from that curiously quiet former capital of Beastiania, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” boomed in the ‘Burg. Couldn't think of a better way to say goodbye.

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