A FAREWELL TO ONE OF THE ILLEST

Most days I hammer away at my keyboard wondering if anyone is feeling exactly the same way I am. I click-clack on about love, lust, or plain old douchery, depending on the hour or my mood. But today wandering down that same road didn’t feel right, because I don’t just know – I’m certain – that others feel the same way I do upon learning of the loss of Beastie Boys co-founder and rhymin’, stealin’ badass, Adam Yauch.

So indulge me for a moment if you will, because one of my heroes is dead, and writing about anything else would just be inauthentic.

“Born and bred Brooklyn U.S.A.; They call me Adam Yauch but I’m MCA…”

I suppose it’s only appropriate that I was in Brooklyn when I heard that MCA was gone. I’d been doing that obnoxious thing where I was reading the news feed on my phone as I walked, head down, oblivious to everything around me. Then I saw it… and I froze. I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk for a good minute, feeling like the volume of the world had been abruptly turned all the way down.

And I begged for the words to be wrong.

“Fuck,” I said out loud (sorry, mom). “No. Fuck. No no no…” I think a lot of people were similarly poetic when they found out, too. There’s really nothing else to say when you hear something like that, is there? Only I wasn’t just reading about some guy in some band that lots of people who never owned Paul’s Boutique or couldn’t recite a verse claim to be huge fans of now, especially after something like this happens. I was reading about a member of the only band I’ve ever really considered to be a part of me. Like one of my limbs was just lopped off, and I wasn’t prepared to figure out how to go on compensating for its loss, how to adjust to life without it.

Licensed to Ill came out when I was in first grade. First. Grade. And yet within a few years, it became my favorite album of all time – still is. That fact consistently surprises people, like when they learn that my favorite movie is a blood-soaked, historic war tale (“Braveheart”), or find out exactly how many tattoos I have. Like somehow my girly exterior belies all of this, covers up my sheer affinity for people and things that can f*ck shit up.

In high school I drove around blaring “Hey Ladies,” “Root Down,” “Get It Together” and the newly-released Hello Nasty album like the certified badass that I wasn’t, in my white girl voice, in my parents car. My sports teams took the field to “Sure Shot” like the suburban hard-asses that we weren’t, and in college my dance team choreographed a suggestive routine to “Girls” like the wannabe skanked-out Jesuit school girls that we definitely were. The Beasties were everywhere that I’ve gone, and if my iPod could be depicted by a pie chart, a sizable slice would belong to them.

To this day, I’ve been known to walk out of a bar in disgust if the jukebox is conspicuously lacking in Beastie-ality, I know every word to at least half of their catalog, and I long for the days when the only “situation” people talked about was doing homework on the train to High Street station, with no mention of the Golden Ab’d One (sigh).

I’ll never forget the day at my old job when my boss told me I’d be interviewing them for the first time. It had been my biggest dream and deepest dread from the moment I’d started my career interviewing bands and celebrities for a living. “Shit!” I thought. What if they weren’t everything I’d always imagined they were? What if I met the single most important band I’d ever really call myself a “fan” of, and they disappointed me? What if, in real life, they sucked?

I’d never been nervous doing interviews, but the day I sat down across from them I could feel my breath get shorter and my voice get higher as I introduced myself. It was like the part of the roller coaster ride where you slow climb to the top. Exciting, scary, but mostly you just try desperately to keep from hurling.

The thing about the Beasties, who I ended up having the pleasure of interviewing a few times over the course of my career, is that they loved, LOVED, to mess with people. They’d run circles around your questions, making hysterical, nonsensical statements back, playing off of one another like some perfectly attuned hacky sack circle of total BS. You never really knew if you were in on the joke or if you were the joke.

But I remember that MCA was always the one who I looked at to gauge how badly I was being played. If anyone cracked a smile or tried unsuccessfully not to laugh, it was him. He had a kindness that took pity on the likes of me, I wasn’t the first one they’d done this to, nor would I be the last. And if they seemed cooler than you when you spoke to them, it’s because they really were. Not in a pretentious way, it was just fact. Though they’d never be the ones to bring it to your attention.

I can still remember the gritty, old New York feel of their Oscilloscope offices, their hipper-than-your-average-white-guy sneakers and tees, and thinking when I walked away from them (more than once) how lucky you’d be to have one of these guys be your dad.

And now a little girl is without her impossibly cool, thoroughly decent father, and that’s brutal and unspeakably sad, any way you slice it. My heart breaks for everyone in Yauch’s inner circle today: for his wife, his child, and for Mike D and Adam. That’s the kind of chemistry, history and dynamic that can never be replicated. Can never be substituted. And all that they can hope for, and we can hope for as fans, is that the hole left in his absence will get smaller eventually over time.

That’s the thing with Adam, and with the Beastie Boys. People will throw around words to describe him like “pioneer” and “legend” now, they’ll mourn the loss of his gravelly rhymes and activist lifestyle. And they’re right on all counts. What the Beastie Boys did for hip hop at a time when three smart-mouthed, white, punk kids dared to charge the scene was unheard of. It was brazen. It was irreverent. It didn’t only take talent, it took balls.

But the thing with legends and pioneers is that they seem impossibly far away for your average fan. They’re the kind of unattainable that us common folk never really expect to be able to grasp with two hands. But Yauch was different. He was as regular a guy as you could ever be… if you were an ordinary guy with extraordinary lyrical talent, that is.

So tonight I mourn the fact that I’ll never see the Beastie Boys perform live again. There will be no more cryptic, silly interviews in the future. The mic will never be rocked quite as hard as when Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA took the stage together.

Lastly, thank you, Adam, for the years that you fought for your right, sabotaged the competition, and showed us all how to elevate the game. Your beloved five boroughs weep for your loss, and I salute you. For a guy who was never anything but down to earth, it’s only fitting that you now take your place in the heavens with the rest of those we lost too soon.iWINGMAN

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FAIL-SAFE GIRL GIFTS: DAY 3

After yesterday’s list of holiday gifts highlighted things that can’t fit in a box, it’s only natural that today’s list features things that only fit in an envelope. That’s right – put some tickets in her stocking this year. Whether for live music or sporting events, you can’t go wrong taking her to see something she loves in person.

While I lean heavily towards the “there’s nothing like a concert” direction – or maybe I’m just still disgusted by the NBA post-lockout – here are some of the more coveted (Big Apple) shows she might want to add to her stub collection (sorry other cities!):

  • Phish at Madison Square Garden (12/28, 12/29 and a 12/31 NYE show as well - if you can get tickets)
  • Also solid New Years Eve shows: Matt & Kim (Hammerstein Ballroom), New Kids On The Block (if she has a sense of humor like that – and you have nerves of steel – at Roseland), Fitz & The Tantrums (Blender Theater at Gramercy), Gogol Bordello (Terminal 5).

And if she can wait a little longer, some 2012 dates that could make for great gift options are:

  • Chris Cornell (1/7 Times Center)
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band (1/7 Carnegie Hall)
  • Peter Frampton (2/18 The Beacon)
  • Flogging Molly (2/23 Roseland)
  • And the mother of all coveted tickets, the 3/22 encore date of The Black Keys’ already-sold out March show (3/12) at Madison Square Garden. But you better wake up early for these, tickets go on sale Friday 12/16 at 9am.

Of course, there are other 2012 tours in the works, like Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers, not to mention several more rumored shows (please please pretty please Beastie Boys), just in case this list doesn’t suit her concert palette.

And, since Santa wanted you to have other ticket options, if you can’t catch the end of the NFL season, you could always take her to an NBA game (insert eye roll – I’m sticking to college hoops this year) or hit up my favorite sport to watch live – hockey. New York Rangers fans don’t have to wait long to gift her, they play the Islanders on 12/26 – always a fun rivalry.

If you don’t live in the greater NYC area, you can always check what’s playing in your neck of the woods on sites like Citysearch, or just stalk the tour dates list on her favorite band’s website (or sign up for alerts, too).

So, whether you want her to rock – or be a jock – this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with the gift of paper…tickets. Ho Ho Hope she likes them! (OK, cheesy puns over, won’t happen again). And, make sure you keep it right here for much more of Miss Wingman’s 12 Days of Fail Safe Girl Gifts.ETIQUETTE WINGMAN

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