Why I Love New York City (Vol. 236,731)

This is what I did on a sweltering Saturday in Manhattan (or, as I like to call it, the other side of Jersey City:

I took the PATH train in around 2 p.m. after actually waking up and being active before noon on a Saturday (two weekends in a row spent with friends with early-rising children has opened up the possibility that things can get done before noon on weekends). On my way to the Housing Works book fair, I spot a guy sitting behind a card table outside a store on Bleecker. He's reading a newspaper, and there are three copies of a book displayed on the table. I glance over and see orange and the words "Mr. Met." Focused on getting to the book fair, I keep walking up the street before I come to my senses and head back.

Hot damn. The original "Mr. Met" is signing copies of his book. That's right--the first Mr. Met, the man who first put on the oversized, somewhat frightening baseball head back in 1964. Seriously, what other city are you gonna find a guy like that selling books in front of some kind of pharmacy? Does the original Phillie Phanatic park himself outside of Geno's? Doubt it.

Anyway, I chat up Mr. Met (Dan Reilly) and pick up the book. I soon notice that Mr. Reilly is a fellow iUniverse author, which clinches the sale. And not only did I get my own personally inscribed book, but I also got a bonus signed photocopy of a photo of Reilly with the original Mr. Met head. Awesome.

I am on a high once I get to the actual book fair, and that high continues when I find a 1999 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame program lying on top of a box at the fair. It was a pretty good year for the Hall, with Bruce Springsteen. Billy Joel (screw you, haters), Bob Wills, and Paul McCartney among the inductees. But better yet, the program cover was designed by personal hero Jon Langford. And it was a buck. Score! I also picked up some Erle Stanley Gardner paperbacks, an Ian Frazier book, a Dick Butkus autobiography, and a few records. Fourteen items: $10 total. And the money went to a good cause.

I was running a little late to the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park, but I got there just in time for the start of the Wild Magnolias' set and was able to squeeze in some pulled pork (something sounds really bad about that, but I'm leaving it) as I took in the Magnolias' set. Good times. And God bless the spyboys for their willingness to wear their garb and give it their all in 90-degree heat.

After ducking into a bar to not see horse racing history, I decided to walk to the Mercury Lounge, where the Bottle Rockets were doing the fourth in their series of 15 shows to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary as a band (with Eric Ambel and the Roscoe Trio directly preceding them on the stage). But I got sidetracked in Union Square by a pretty cool brass band doing the Isley Brothers' "Shout" (lest you think they were doing Tears for Fears's "Shout") and "Charlie Brown," among other numbers. I stuck around for about 20 minutes and didn't feel much like leaving but had to continue the journey to the Mercury Lounge so I could get there early enough to get good photo position (which, as often happens when I plan that, was about an hour earlier than I needed to be there).

After a pretty good set from the Apple Brothers and a damn fine set from Ambel and the Roscoe Trio, it was time for the main event. And the Bottle Rockets came through with a kickass set, which though it didn't include any of my three favorite Bottle Rockets songs, was still amazing. They played somewhere around 30 songs for a little over two hours, but by the time it ended with a completely incongruous and dead solid perfect cover of Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love," it was still over too soon.

On my walk back to the PATH station, it occurred to me that over the course of about 12 hours, I had sat for a total of maybe 15 minutes. And my back and legs were feeling that a bit. But it didn't feel that bad. After all, in that half-day, I had stumbled upon the original Mr. Met, picked up some cool books and records, ate some good barbecue, and heard a bunch of great music, including a two-hour set from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Thank you, New York.

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