Carol Wade and I met for the first time at Wetlands in early 1997, though
the specific date of our meeting has long been disputed. At any rate, it was
the beginning of a long and (still) wonderful friendship, much of which was
nurtured through long nights sunk deeply into the couches of the Inner
Sanctum in the basement of the Wetlands. Forcing a piece of writing out of
her for the Wetlands special issue was a necessity, though one which proved
tougher than I suspected.
Eventually, we settled into what might be called an abstract interview. With
a collaborator, musician and producer Brian Eno invented the Oblique
Strategies cards. The basic principle behind the deck is that, when one is
at a creative standstill, he can draw a random card. The card, containing
some esoteric instruction, will – theoretically – free his mind from
stalemate. With the exception of one straight-ahead question I asked out of
obligation to coherence, I mostly asked oblique questions — some of them
even drawn directly from a computerized version of Oblique Strategies
sitting on my desktop.
I like the results because it stands like a document of a dream — a real
dream, the kind with twisted characters and non-sensical plots, not some
theoretical version of reality. The are the kinds of things that populated
the back halls of Wetlands. It reads like the kind of thing one would write
when he wakes up and tries to make sense of the world he just left as it
slips away. And maybe it doesn't make sense, but neither does life.
Brooklyn, New York
14 October 2001
The entryway to the back hallway.
JJ: How is Wetlands like a glacier? How is it like an ice palace?
CW: Wetlands, is (damn, sorry, was) like a glacier, in that it
sorry, was) simultaneously a solid, structural entity, and a liquid,
entity. First, the club sprung out of a jaded time in New York City
history. The glut of the 1980's soaked our metropolis in debauchery,
monetary obsession, and a fearless, ironclad turning-up-of-noses at every
international city. Aloof from Washington in its liberalism, yet
bird-flipping, say, L.A. in its refinement, New York was in need of a club
just as unbelievably concrete and unshifting in core ideals, yet one also
somehow forgiving and malleable in it's upholding of such shiftless concepts
(i.e. peace, environmentalism, social justice, and strength in diversity).
In its earlier days, The Old Home Place was quite like a hunk of Mother
Earth's nourishing nectar of its namesake: water, ol' H20, the universal
solvent, in static form. Very much unlike your average glacier, as anyone
who attended any pivotal DeadCenter Tuesdays in those early years can tell
you, Wetlands (also affectionately known as "Sweatglands") was ever anything
but cold. If the interactions of the heavens and the land could create such
a thing as a warm glacier, it would have looked just like Wetlands.
Wetlands was not your average slab of Earth, save, perhaps, the feisty
tectonic plates churning remotely in the far Pacific Ocean (in hopes of
bringing Tokyo and San Fran closer faster than you can say "Ghetto 2-step
Manga Wookie"). Wetlands, like a glacier, moved. Always. When JerryCore
began to get summarily old (even before the passing of the woolly legend,
God rest), you began to see more hardcore punk popping up on the Weekly
Skedge. Churning elegant rivets into the terra firma of Our Fair City, the
place breathed and lumbered, as much as it rocker.
Also, as many very integral glaciers have throughout millennia, Wetlands
(even in its melting, dissolution, and albeit shattering disappearance)
managed to nourish the underlying soil, carrying essential nutrients from
one place to another (and thus stirring the primordial sauce necessary to
perpetuate life on our planet), not to mention created impressive
landscapes, chemical connections, and wondrous shapes on the global
horizons, through its slow, yet determined movement across time.
An ice palace? Well, much like a glacier, an ice palace consists of both
structure and fluidity at once. Ice lends itself to impressive sculpture,
as one may add sweet, shimmering curves merely with the measured rubbing of
one's warm, bare hand. Some might say Wetlands was like an ice palace in
that its aims and ideals were impressive, bold, almost foolhardy in its
aspirations, and imminently fleeting. With a look around right now, it
might seem they were right, with nothing remaining of the beloved palace of
dreams for so many bands, fans and landlubbers alike. But the fact that
you're even interviewing me (for an article likely to be read by some
thousands of souls who've laughed, danced and loved on the floors of the
now-melted palace), is evidence enough to support that a great portion of
the beauty and power of an ice palace rests almost entirely in its fanciful,
overambitious and near-Utopian aims.
JJ: What's the first thing you did when you walked into Wetlands on a
CW: Hah! And what exactly do you mean by "a typical night"? Nights
were nothing but typical. Up until the very last night I was there, I could
still say that EVERY SINGLE TIME I'd entered the building since June 1994, I
saw something new, something different, something odd…even in the way all
the myriad parts fit together to gleam and warble off each other.
First off, if it was raining outside, I tried to find somewhere to put my
drippy outerwear. If it was Summer, I twirled into the front door with
tinsel on my shoulders, doing cartwheels at the sun. In Septembers and
Octobers, it's customary to shove your hands deep in your pockets, stroll
from the van, past the Aquarium-Tank Merch zone, and hover all "I'm too
fuckin' tired of humanity and all this shit"-style kind of by the right of
the stage. Right were Nate, or Al, Magner, or Joe Russo (in the older Fat
Mama stage equation) might have stood (or sat).
In the Winter > Spring (with "Let's Get It On" teases), I might have bounced
in high from the weather (or the drive), dove with heedless fury directly
into the pit (if it were a late April Sunday in 1995, do not pass go, and
like anyone's got $200 for your ass). More recently, one might have seen me
1) make beeline for the bar, 2) dive mercilessly away from the bar,
bungee jumping from DJ booth to front and center, to 4) slightly back of
front and center, and 5) most popularly, "The Zone" (that klatch of turf
stretching from…fuck….what used to be the spot near the Tapers
and just right of the Soundboard).
I would hit the Lounge straight away, to get to huffin' nug. I was (rarely)
finding myself in the back room, standing awkwardly where the door handle
would open repeatedly into your ass-bone. Also last year, I would be making
a heated dash for the Office downstairs, to grab the cashbox and plant
myself for hours of "fun," behind the Big Wooden Diamond. In this last
month, though, I mostly lingered on the ramp, dejectedly, shootin' shit with
Tony, or Kregg, or Pauly Ethnic, Michelle, Olivia or Wayne, Chris or Leon or
Lance or Roosevelt, Carl or Pete or Jorge…or…or…just about anyone.
Anyone who was coming inside. Then I would go inside, and I would do
JJ: For the third question, I click on my ye olde Oblique Strategies
generator, which sez "look closely at the most embarrassing details and
amplify them" (seriously).
Gravity. The way the ceiling's innards would drape down over the bucolic
Utopian Hippie Murals at the back of the club.
The Boiler Room. Weird things happened there. Things that make my stomach
churn and my innards burn. But it got better later on, I guess.
The Stool. The Stool in the Box Office was probably the most suitable chair
for existential and karmic torture, ever known to mankind. The only time it
could have possibly been any worse would have been to be sitting there on
the morning of September 11, 2001. The noise would have just been
horrific. But thankfully, no one was ever in the Box Office that
late/early. I won't mention the inside of the club after hours, though.
The Van. Everyone said the interior was too small for anything but smoking
bowls and looking for lost (or concealed) merch, and screwing with the door
locked. I'd have to say they were probably right, although I've neither
worked (nor screwed) in the van. I also never purchased one single piece of
clothing from the van. I might have bought a bunch of CD's, but for some
reason, I always seemed to follow the words of John Cusack's limitless scion
of Zen punkerifics, Lloyd Dobler, out of Cameron Crowe's classic indie
Utopian teen-scene love-yarn, "Say Anything" (released, unironically, the
same year as the club's birth). Wetlands, to me, the last place on Earth I
could often conspire "to sell anything, buy anything or process anything".
Towards the end, I probably made a little too much of the freedoms that came
with post-employment, and six or so years buffing the lats to a familiar
shine. But what can I say, most of the time I was probably just broke.
The DJ Booth. So, he kissed someone else. It's crowded in here. God, that
kid smokes too much. Fuckin' pole, it's obscuring my view of Max Verna. I
don't wanna go in there…they're doing coke. I wanna go in there, they're
smoking dope. I have to go in there, there's nowhere else to stand. I
can't get in there, the door's closed and locked. I have my shit in there.
Lance is giving him dirty looks for trying to come in here, and not me
(phew). It's late, I gotta get outta here. It sure is better in here than
out there. It sucks in here. The music sounds better in here. I can't
hear shit in here. I got a lotta room to dance in here. Screw this, I'm
going out front. This music is totally shitty, I have to leave. Everyone
looks so happy, I'm so happy. I want to die, I feel ill. This is the most
amazing moment of my whole entire life.
The Bar. I have laid on the bar, and slept on the bar, and speculated at
the bar, and had Pad Thai off the bar, and rested my foot on "The Bar"
(which was what made the bar at Wetlands a bar in every true sense of the
term), kissed a person on the bar, touched the bar with my fingers, pressed
my face into the bar, ignored the bar while hanging with Tibetan Monks,
glanced back at the bar from the middle of the crowd and seen a certain
someone wheedling as per usual, smiled at Lento over the bar, tipped Denise
on the bar, rolled against the side of the bar, hovered in the barback
corridor in a way which was probably deeply irritating to those fine,
sinewed tenders of all the needs of the bar, drank some thousand beers near
the bar, tipped the last dregs of water from the bin on the side of the bar,
watched patrons of the bar imbibe heavily from that little bench that used
to be a little off to the left of the back of the bar, the one next to the
ethereal peace sign mural built into a circle in the wall. And that's not
even mentioning the Downstairs Bar.
The hallway outside the office.
JJ: Faced with a choice, do both.
CW: So, I stood in the middle of the stairwell, and we kissed. I'm
sorry, but I
didn't enjoy it. I wished I was kissing the other one. The only other one.
No Red Stripe? No Heineken? Face plant, or Number 9.
I stood underneath the disco ball. I felt the shiver up my spine.
That looks like the Five Auspicious Signs of a Buddha. Loop Dreams rule.
I love to be here so late. I'm going to lose my job. It's too cold here.
I love you, don't touch me.
Oh my God… I'm on the stage. This place is so huge, and so very
Jesse Jarnow and Carol Wade. (photo by Scott Palmer)