Some commentary on a place I really seem to like. It is called the NORWOOD CLUB, and it is in Manhattan, NY, on 14th st, between 7th & 8th Avenues.
Nondescript might categorize the front of this aged townhouse, and yet that is exactly what drew me to it, for I was feeling rather nondescript the day I first arrived,
perhaps a day I shall never forget.
[picture: Norwood Hawthorne Lamp Day]
‘TWAS on a blue October afternoon
slightly after quitting my job (an hour or two)
that I found myself en route to one
townhouse never afore envisioned
in even the most vagrant of my imaginings:
Nor wood I go away too quickly
Nor wood I stay too long
Nor wood I find another hollow
in which to lay my swan
Nor wood I cascade to the floor
snake-like against the olden boards
lurk in the keyhole of my dreams
Wor nood na wee Lass last it seems.
(this is a short tune entitled: 14th St. Blues)
* * * *
Straight from the website, the Norwood Club “is a private club that draws its membership from the creative arts and in addition to basic sustenance aims to provide members with a salon of discovery through talks, tastings and stimulating events as well as being an active sponsor of creative talent in the New York area.”
I have to say, there are some fairly biting critiques of the existence of private clubs in Manhattan, and I know there is a long history of exclusionary politics surrounding the concept of these clubs in general, but I have to admit that finding the Norwood Club was a welcome surprise in my newly unemployed life.
I had begun to wonder just where my particular spot was in this world—what is my calling? Where should I go? Does it matter if I leave my apartment today? Why should I go on, what is art-making, I really have nothing to write about in this purposeless life . . .
The answer was clear—Norwood was calling, calling me near. I find solace in the nor’ woods, and similarly in this renovated 14th St. townhouse. When I arrived I was early to the film I had planned to see (some research for a current project), which was being shown at Norwood as part of the CMJ Festival.
Not quite knowing which way the wind was blowing, or how to purchase tickets to the film, or what, exactly, the elusive Norwood Club meant to me, I was greeted in a stately foyer and told that I was not in need of a ticket here, and to lounge in the downstairs lofty-topped parlor and salon until the film began.
[picture: Norwood French Relationship Day]
Feeling welcomed, I nestled into a down-cushioned sofa while being served French-press darkroast coffee, and waited for Alpha to show up.
[picture: Norwood Lilac & Alpha Future Album Cover Day]
Nearby, filmy types also lounged and had important business meetings. This was a homey place perfect for relaxing. I wondered numerous times if I might be asked instantly whether I wanted to join this club, but unfortunately I probably nipped this bud too early when I dashed up to the film, so carried away was I in my relaxation that I quite lost track of the time.
[picture: Norwood Important Business Day]
The film, Footsteps In Africa: A Nomadic Journey (dir. Dir. Kathi von Koerber) gave an collaged view of the lives of Malian nomadic tribes, the Tuareg, and the music they make. This was a tender film with lots of dance, interviews, & sandy desert, but the textual component was a disappointment. Overlaid on the screen as a story-telling technique, it seemed to reiterate the kinds of conclusions/thoughts I was having without it (one such banal insight being that nomads have deep relationships to place), rather than adding something poetic or surprising to the piece.
Perhaps this is my own snobbish poet’s critique, or I was too distracted by the fact that I was sitting in a 4th floor viewing salon at the Norwood Club, still in awe of how I landed in these usually-close-curtained environs. And yet I began to tire of the scene, feeling like a Tuareg lingering too long in a sandstorm-beaten tent, and moved on into the bright singing sidewalk bustle of 14th St., my heart a small butterfly emerging from a dampened leaf chrysalis of existential dread narrowly avoided.
* * * *
[picture: Norwood Birds in Flight (or Drowning) Night]
Two Days Later
I Was Back
Norwood Was A Callin’
I Came A Runnin’
Can’t Explain It
Love Mixed With Fear
Hate Mixed With Cheer
Oh Dear (someone said, as we passed the road-
kill en route to Rhinebeck
of course this came later
but everything’s a flood
when I think of Norwood)
To tell the truth is imperative here: I had done some thinking about the idea of a PRIVATE ART CLUB since last lounging at Norwood. I had always thought that PRIVATE ART was the kind of thing folks do when they make art and never show it, lock it away, and I wondered if this was the kind of thing that happened at Norwood—if it is, becoming a member would be eminently bad for my career. And still, wasting away within those high-mould’ed-walls, shoving lyrics into mouse-holes or between cracks in the shellac’ed floors had appeal nonetheless. I became both intrigued and disgusted by the way my thoughts returned over and over to a vision of myself sitting in Norwood, thinking, very still and with my head-cocked as birds do, regally.
[picture: Norwood Lilac Pensive Night]
[picture: Norwood Charming Deliberate Esophagus Night]
Sumputous beatific experiences have been fascinations of mine since I was a young girl, so why not throw politics down the drain for an evening and insert myself into the novel I should have written about my life years ago?
* * * *
Hannah & I embarked on a short gray train ride back into a dream. The Night Scene at Norwood (perhaps another novel I will pen one day) was deliriously sultry.
[picture: Norwood Evening Light Night]
While waiting to see a documentary on musician Elliott Smith’s life—the first to be released following his death—we sipped wine & chatted with an ad man before retiring to a 2nd floor lounge with a bunch of NYU students who seemed unappreciative of the fact that there was not enough room in the upstairs salon for us to watch the film there. I happened to know that we were much better off where we were in plush chairs than upstairs on those rickety folding rigs (one of Norwood’s biggest downfalls, though I hate to admit it), however I was too perturbed that they were plaguing my disillusioned love of Norwood with their proletarian concerns to say anything, and continued enjoying my glass of Malbec and the sorrowful crooning of E. Smith, R.I.P.
Following the film, Hannah & I lounged more while listening to a cute Australian uke-playing gal upstairs when we began to know a live member of the Norwood Club. I won’t reveal information about this individual, but let’s just say he’s in the creative arts, as all the cubs of Mother Norwood are wont to be.
Unable to resist, I asked him Why join Norwood?
He replied To eat good food and get drunk.
Everything seemed to tangle up in me. Legs lots of lots of legs were all mixed up and the neon flash simulating Chinatown the dissipating member that big member disembodied in black space holy land oh his words echoed ‘neath the ruins of my Norwood House of Cards.
[picture: Norwood Legroom Night]
I might have sashayed over to a local Brooklyn bar full of indescribable artists had I wanted that. No. No. No. Not this. Not that. Norwood was for PRIVATE ART and relaxing in a luxurious space. No. no. n o t t h a t n o t t h a t o h s h o o t a n o t h e r d r e a m d a s h e d . . . . .
Disgraced by the member’s reply, we left shortly after. I had higher hopes for my private Norwood Elysium—blazing salons of private lounging with other artists, amidst the cool back-garden of paper-lantern repose.
I hate mostly everything about private art clubs, except that I love Norwood. This is a Piscean sort of oxymoronic state, and I am positively drowning in it, a suicide to be sure.
[picture: Norwood Dog Days Night]
Plus, Norwood apparently allows dogs, which stirs my cockles, my mystic visions of moving right into Norwood and like their chandelier, turning the growing branches of my art career into a well-designed set of private roots.
[picture: Norwood Tangled Dreams Night]