Jun 23, 2023, 06:29AM

Knitting Factory Detour

Meredith sees Julian Plenti downtown and has second thoughts about leaving Paul in Union Square.

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“On the esplanade/down by the sea/Baby watch my back/Think someone’s following me…” Paul Banks was on stage as Julian Plenti when Meredith walked into the Knitting Factory that cold January night, somewhere in New York City, January 1996. Distracted by the hours she spent with another Paul—on the subway, in Union Square, Virgin Megastore, the UA Union Square 14—she came to see this one. But she had no idea Julian Plenti would be playing tonight at the Knitting Factory, nor did she know his real name was Paul Banks. Julian Plenti was just another Greenwich Village coffeehouse guitarist, a singer with a baritone voice and approximately three chords in his entire vocabulary, but he was real: his voice cracked, his mic fed back, and his guitar was out of tune for the first two songs of his set.

He trailed off and finished his song without resolving to the tonic—yet another sign of authenticity! But Meredith remembered why she was in the city in the first place: Enzo B. Bucci was speaking uptown in less than 45 minutes. At least she was on the right side of town now. “Thanks, I’ve got two more…” Mr. Plenti tried tuning his guitar for five minutes, shrugged, and started singing about cellophane and larynxes. Meredith wondered if he was an At the Drive-In fan. “The larynx that you have/You give no plea to no man/The lovers that you've borrowed whisper/The happy and the naked…” The bartender chucked a dozen bottles into the garbage in the back, drowning out every single sound coming from the stage. Plenti kept playing. “Is it enough to say you can do anything/Oh, with your heartache…/and your love gun/oh, set to stun…”

And it was something Paul Cartwright said to her in the Virgin Megastore, somewhere in the HORROR section, that sent her flying up out of her seat, out the door, and on the way to Academy. She would catch him on the way to see The Smashing Pumpkins. She could catch a cab, spend the money she saved for posters and tapes and find someone she just met and hoped to see again. When they split up, in Union Square, they didn’t exchange phone numbers, addresses, nor last names—if she didn’t find him tonight, she would never see him again. Out the door went whirling dervish Meredith, a goth tornado leaving glass and raised bows in her wake. Julian Plenti coughed into the mic and said, “Thanks, sorry, I have one more…”

Meredith walked up and down Leonard St. looking for a cab, and when she finally found one, she told the driver to take her to the Academy. “Which one?” Meredith sank, finally defeated. She had no idea where this venue was. She knew this guy had no idea who The Smashing Pumpkins were. She would never see Paul again.

And then she looked out the window.



She pointed at the poster and yelled, “TAKE ME TO THE ACADEMY!”

—Follow Rooster Quibbits on Twitter: @RoosterQuibbits


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