Outlandish Press presents Puppy Dog Ice Cream by Ian A. Vanek, May 2021 144 pages

Ian A. Vanek’s Puppy Dog Ice Cream: The Story of Japanther is a rollicking first-person narrative that chronicles 13 years of infectious noise and visual spectacle by the art-punk duo Japanther. Vanek, drummer and cofounder of the group, takes us by the hand, leading us from dingy New York apartments to the beaches of Australia and beyond. Along the way he muses on art, ambition, travel, nature, bicycle culture, and Japanther’s many triumphs and mishaps

Puppy Dog Ice Cream: The Story of Japanther is a stirring glimpse into a Brooklyn on the brink of total gentrification, a taste of the grit that is life on tour, and an embattled acknowledgement that every party––no matter how ecstatic––must end. Where will we go when the lights come up?

Introduction by Penny Rimbaud:

Riding Home

–  like a river –

And so the river grows; squeezed and dripped from secretive rock, bubbled in craggy brook, tumbled as swirling stream to find a valley home, yet never to remain there; fields to irrigate and bridges to defy. The angler and his sullen son reflected, time to pass in passing time, casting line, left to clean the fishes; bread’ll come later. The mill and the rapids; used and user. The dreamer casting angels to the eddies where the fools beat ‘em to it. The lovers helpless in the flow, bedded in the draw of it, arm arming in the charming calm of it. The jetties and the landings; stops where there are no stops nor stoppings. The village, the town, the city.  Industry, the smoking chimney stacks, darkened skies. The oil slick and rude pollution, plastic fornication and drastic devastation of oceanic depths. The rugged noise and then the estuary, the mud flats, the sea birds. Rivers end? Call a name, but never end. 

Brooklyn and the East River which isn’t a river at all, well, not in the real sense of the word. Big city rising, tumbling too as cities do. Deep eyed Ian weaves a story of delight like we’ve got forever, which in a way we do. We’ve all got a story to tell. We came from nowhere to be here; somewhere a place for us. Me six-hour plane riding, he a five-minute bike ride, legs akimbo, or maybe skateboard, weaving way ‘tween graffiti, billboard and thought; ne’er the twain. We sit back ‘gainst an old stone wall, hear memories flickering like an old B movie. ‘Mmm,’ in unison, laughing. Respect innate; there for the making. No questions to ask, nor directions to give; there for the taking. ‘Walt Whitman rested here awhile,’ whispers Ian with something akin to reverence.  Hush; I look around. Bearded man with big fedora smiles at me from the shadows and shrugs his shoulders. ‘Just passing.’ It might have been a question, but I just shrug back.  Ian picks his teeth with a matchstick. Tourist ferry glides by, slowly. Kids waving, but lots of selfies all the same. ‘Used to be big ships up here, heaving life with the fishes.’ ‘Pardon me?’ ‘Guess it’s only rock’n’roll.’ ‘What is?’ ‘Where it all gels.’ 

I’d first met Ian and Matt in a German city by the Rhine, some place where I’m told the printing machine was invented; in the beginning. Name eludes. Name often does. Something to do with illusory time. We’re by a river again, another river, real one this one. Big hefty barges making a storm of it while juggernauts bridge shuddering iron. ‘That’s it,’ chuckled Ian. ‘What’s it?’ ‘Just it. Know what I mean?’ I kinda do, and that’s good enough, least for the time being.

Ian and Matt met up in some sort of shamanistic alliance, scooped sounds from the ether and magicked form; expansive. Called themselves Japanther; big cats of the rising sun. Me join them, met up me too, bit bullet, danced poetic in the trance of it. Kinda sweaty with all that noise; holy grace and breath phosphorescent. Lost the hotel on the way back to it. Happened next night too, somewhere near Leipzig. Think Bach beat me to it. Noticed a rail track and a signpost. Still lost, though. Fell asleep in a ditch. Dunno what happened to Japanther.

Did an opera in Manhattan, ‘bout as tight as Fitzcarraldo’s Amazonian dream. Japanther in a cage surrounded by dancers, prancers’n’chancers. Me in a sentry box, guarding creativity ‘gainst doubters’n’shouters; plenty of ‘em. Next day drove upstate to Newhaven where many years later I’d juggle quantum gravity. Hit the biggest supermarket I ever did see. ‘Need anything?’ asks Matt. ‘Where d’ya begin?’ I wonder. Come out with peanut jelly all over my face. Hot day. Dealers in the parking-lot fixing the ticket. Old street bums retching lost pasts, hunting around for a newspaper to call a home. Hard to imagine fresh-eyed youth way before the dope’n’booze took its toll. Some bargain, that; call it a tryst. ‘Me, man? Let me tell you, ‘twas me wrote them there scriptures long before you Christs set a’foot.’ ‘Yea,’ smiles Ian, ‘then put it to music. Could be you’re another Elvis.’ Faust, more like.

  Once upon a time crossed ole Mississippi at St Louis; jazz in the air, tenement blocks all a’burning blues. Smell of magnolia. Long way yet to go. Ian and Matt waiting on the further bank. ’Hi.’ Long-time waiting; thirty years or more. Guess they were barely born back then. Vietnam just about bathing in a new peace of sorts. Vets at a picnic table eyeing dappled deer, awaiting the well-trained shot; blood is wine is water. Really didn’t appreciate my interpretations. ‘Yea, buddy, so what do you know about it?’ scratching a scar or two. Long time in the turning. Guess I didn’t know anything. Deer make for the undergrowth.

Played a gig somewhere in the Bronx by a river which stunk of raw sewage, rotting meat and a sad sense of hopelessness. ‘As good a home as any I know,’ muses Matt. ‘Yup, guess it just needs tidying up a bit.’ Sludge drifted by carrying yesterday’s headlines and last night’s loaded condoms. Good gig though. Next day we were loud on the highway back from Connecticut, stormed into Manhattan breaking wind. ‘Now, there was a time…’ Ian interjected, but got overrid by the satnav. ‘Left on Hudson…’ Some big son of a bitch river, that.

Like the river, nothing ends; nothing there in the first place ‘cept observation of a sort. Nothing ends, just renews, flows on, observed and unobserved, but never caught up with. We not it, not it at all. River’s got a name, but knows not, in any case, river’s not name; we too. Name don’t stop with us, only we in arrest of consciousness. Call it dead if you like, I call it beginnings. Dream ain’t going places either. Bus might, but dream doesn’t. Dream never knew nothing. There’s people like to think it’s over, like it’s not there, past the sell, done with, but ocean is river is ocean just as river is rain is river and rain is ocean is rain. Big clouds a’coming. Don’t me speak me Crass. Others can, me don’t. Nothing to said me.

Me and the boys; we like lovers be held, behold the moment, beholden to nought. Big passions; saw them there on the banks of the East River; played a goddamned tune to it. Still playing, vets a’weeping, deer a’running, Titanic a’sinking, Ophelia a’floating. Catch ferry to the other side. No reminders, only glories. Raise the flag, me hearties. See me, see me? Ian and Matt, good fellows, them, and we the ill-begotten omen. Never again, but ever present. Anyone would think, and many do, of a sort. 

And then last time. Sit in park with Ian, talked ‘til dark with Ian; dark in the park. Kinda bohemian vows to solitude, kinda kinship. Watch Hasidic boys playing basketball in floodlight. Very black and white and cinematic; dramatic. Big shadows too. Might death part us? Not in principle, and that’s the very dear of art and creativity, the very nature of love. A simple marriage, just a promise of light. ‘Yea, I’ll pass your way again, dear friend, again and again.’ The very core of kinship, the unbreakable bond of being. Not I, not you, nor even us. Just a promise of light. The switch is ever near.

Reckon the river’s still a’flowing, but sure as nature’s nature it ain’t going nowhere much beyond itself.