Andrew (or more popularly known as Andy) Parker has been a valuable member of the Kingston community for a long time. A half perpetually inspired/half world-weary soul who plays a mean harmonica while gravitating towards laughter and yarn spinning, many of us around here have an Andy memory or two, or three, or seven. If you don’t know him at all, well, here’s your chance.
Morgan Y. Evans: Tell us the most embarrassing thing about you. I mean, only if you want.
Andrew Parker: (Tells a completely unprintable fake story involving an imaginary “escapade” with basically the entire cast of Young Frankenstein).
Dude, there is no way in hell even I can get that in print (laughing).
So I have to talk about Kingston, not Teri Garr?
I mean, that would help me. People like hearing about, y’know, first impressions of the area.
I’ve thought about that one a lot. I am prepared for that! It was my dad bringing me to Ed Surowitz old guitar shop, Allegro Music. Across from the park. The original Allegro by Academy Green. I was split between parents’ houses in Woodstock or Kingston but my dad would buy me drumsticks while he was buying guitar strings when I was like seven. I moved to New York when I was seven. Ed was my neighbor. Dave, my brother, used to cut his grass.
That was a great store.
So, I was curious why you’d pick me?
You’ve seen a lot of sides of the city for good and bad. How would you summarize it? You’ve lived through a lot of it.
Well (laughs), the drinking fountains are a lot shorter. I am completely unprepared (laughs).
No more gas pumps at most Stewart’s. That kind of sucks.
You can still get free air for your bike tires, though. I haven’t driven a car in 15 years. You have to break the law to be safe. You have to ride in the street and on the sidewalk. I’ve been hit by two cars as a pedestrian and two on my bicycle.
Do you think that has … affected your personality? (laughs)
It might have (chuckles).
How would you compare the music scene now to what it used to be?
(laughing) I think everyone’s too worried about being a product, selling their music as a product and dressing appropriately. I think it is less cliques than opportunity.
Brand marketing? Instead of people just wilin’ out and being weirdos?
Yeah. I went to Woodstock the other day and I grew up there. I hadn’t been there in 10 years and you can’t get a taco at [expletive] Taco Juan’s. They only sell ice cream now for some reason. So call yourself Ice Cream Juan.
That’s so funny because someone was just telling me about a guy that used to hang out there was always calling the FBI from the pay phone.
The first time we got caller ID at home the first number that called was the FBI.
What? Because of your dad? Tech consultation? Or is he like the gong show guy?
Sam Rockwell? We will find out years from now. Who knows.
An assassin. I could see your dad doing that on the sly. Um, how long have you been playing harmonica?
Started when I was 17. Twenty years. I was playing in a punk rock band, So On and So Forth. Everyone made fun of me and said play guitar, ’cuz you’re good at that. A pivotal moment was my dad took me to Jorma Kaukonen’s (Jefferson Airplane) Fur Peace music ranch in Ohio. I took guitar lessons from him and Roy Bookbinder and Michael Falzarano. Which is how I booked Roy at the Rondout Music Lounge once. The guy who ran the gift shop gave me a disc of harmonica players and a Paul Butterfield record. I listened to the Paul record over and over again the whole drive back to New York.
I bet you never thought you’d jump onstage with Murphy’s Law on harmonica.
But I’ve done that multiple times! Harmonica opened up everything. I made a living just playing harmonica for over two years and traveled over the whole country on foot. Trains, ride shares and psychopaths. (laughing) But I’ve done that.
Is there any place you miss that’s no longer here in Kingston.
God, how many times I cracked my head bombing the parking garage.
You mean skating?
Yeah. There was that little lip at the end and you’d jump up to ollie it and just crack your head at the end of it. Also the old skate spot that is where they did the Bob Dylan concert that lost money. The Brickyard.
That used to be a skate spot? I got a stray dog from there once.
Yeah, I used to skate there.
What do you think of the planned developments Uptown where the parking garage used to be?
Do it. Just [expletive] do it and see what happens. The economy will collapse again and Kingston will become a shitty place and a depressed economy again. It’ll be great (laughing). Then everyone else will leave. I lived through IBM leaving. Who cares anymore (laughs)?
God, imagine everything collapses again and the only people left in the smoke and rubble is ex-staff members of The Basement (laughing). We are the cockroaches.
I used to have to clean up all the goddamn PBR recyclables off the floor after the punk shows. Rob would hang them from full trashbags to be piñatas.
Can’t be worse than that.
The article is the Faces of Kingston, so I wanted to talk about … I’ve worked in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, the inpatient psychiatric unit, bars. I know a lot of people around here. There was one day where I walked the entire length of Broadway from The Strand to Uptown. Every single person walked by I knew.
Pretty good. You got bingo.
It was surreal to brush shoulders and no one knew me out of context. They were used to see me in the grungiest clothes cleaning a toilet or scrubs or elsewhere. None of them knew who I was. But I could look at them and know their full name, medications, parents names. I felt like a ghost. It was a very strange moment.