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in the distant twilight texas holdem poker

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Damn near everything in the old neighborhood triggers a memory, indelibly etched and always to provoke an emotion. The early years, dragging guitars and amplifier down the 75 steps and into the taxi, over the bridge or, more and more as Billyburg exploded at the turn of the century, within the neighborhood, to the gig. 

A few months ago, alas, I did. 

“Rock ’n’ roll was new, then,” the guitarist Danny Kortchmar said to me, a year or two after I’d hauled those possessions up to that sixth-floor walk-up for the first time, during a long and winding discussion in a Connecticut recording studio. He was talking about the 1960s, but now it was 2001. “It isn’t new anymore.” 

It always feels strange to walk around the old neighborhood again. Williamsburg is scarcely more recognizable to me than Montauk is, and sorry if that makes me a hipster or whatever. At least I lived in Montauk first, decades before moving to a crummy shared apartment on Wythe Avenue, an arrangement entered into with great reluctance, hours before flying to San Francisco and the Audio Engineering Society Convention, homelessness looming large upon my return. 

Four months after landing in that crummy share on Wythe, I found a place of my own a few blocks away on Driggs, and 20 years ago tomorrow hauled my possessions up to that sixth-floor apartment, with a little — very little — help from three of the laziest movers alive. I didn’t care; I had a place of my own again, and I never wanted to lose it. 

Late-night, sometimes all-night adventures with bands and friends and fans, the crackling, sparkling, nonpareil spontaneity of loud rock ’n’ roll in a packed Lower East Side club, the nervous energy and boozy hilarity of Friday night revelry, I’ll never forget. 

I’d taken the “Lennon” guitar to Main Drag for a minor repair, before putting it up for sale. The case lying on the counter, I lifted the latches one by one and opened it, and out came a rush of memories — the thrill of strumming it for the first time it, of its inimitable tone coming through an overdriven tube amplifier, of wielding it on stages in New York City, doing what I loved. 

I’d driven all the way to Brooklyn on Saturday, to Main Drag Music, a cavernous shop that dwarfs the tiny Bedford Avenue storefront of its late-1990s youth, now located, coincidentally, directly across Wythe Avenue from that crummy shared apartment. 

It was new then. It isn’t new anymore. Still, it’s hard to let go. 

It was just for the summer, I was sure. I’d be back by October, but surely November. So I tried and tried to hold on to that sixth-floor walk-up, and for a long time I did. 

The married years, post-Sept. 11 and cocooning in the sixth-floor walk-up, trying to be grown-up but never quite. And then the bad times: the death, in quick succession, of her father and younger brother — word of the latter reaching me exactly 10 years after that flight to San Francisco, once again, incredibly, en route to the airport and San Francisco and another Audio Engineering Society Convention. The long separations, the recession, the layoff, the divorce, the return to school, until finally I sought sanctuary in East Hampton.

I’ve been looking around for stuff to sell, and that beautiful limited-edition Epiphone John Lennon “1965” Casino electric guitar rarely gets played anymore, so why not? Better to spend the proceeds taking refuge in some faraway land than have it gather any more dust. 

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