Stories From The City At Night

Pete M Wyer

Rain at Night:
Voice: Wally Burr. Saxophones: Simon Taylor. Cellos: Matthew Sharp. Guitar, arrangement, field recordings, sound design: Pete M Wyer

Sometimes, when its quiet and I’m on the edge of sleep, I dream I can hear the rain speaking to me. The countless drops falling across the street, catching the sodium light.
I can hear my name and I try to hear what else the rain is saying.
I watch the cars sliding through the night, the reflected headlights sliding down buildings toward them. I can see the dull gleam of the slate church roof standing out against the sky and I can hear the water running down in the silence of the rooftops, in the dark alleyways, speaking in gutters and sills.
This fresh drop of rain that touches my hand, that touches your hand is unimaginably old, it has passed through the rise and fall of continents and of species.

Distilled here are the tears of an old man a thousand years forgotten;
this is a dewdrop from spring in the very first garden, these are from the steam of ancient volcanoes whose ash blotted light from the landscape, droplets from the deep belly of the salt lake of Nichinwan, whose name was lost and forgotten, this is a drop from the brow of Jesus dying on the cross, this is one from the fountain in the court of Cleopatra and here are a few from the frosts and Fjords of Norway, these are from the tears of the poetess Ono No Komachi from the Haein Court when Kyoto was still the capital, here is water used by John the Baptist, this is precious water from the diamond oasis of the Sahara, this is from the kisses of lovers on the Silk Road at Isfahan…….

A sorcering homeopath can tell you about the memory of the water. “The water remembers its secrets” she will say, with a knowing smile, as though these clouds and oceans might contain the uncaught thoughts of Plato, the ecstasy of the lover from Byzantium or the tender touch of a nursing mother in “undiscovered” America. The water remembers.

Each drop falls back toward its centre, my body and your body, a little passing dust in a passing moment. This rain falling in the streets outside is the water of forgotten oceans and lands passing through the rising falling ever-changing world. When we are forgotten, the water remembers. When we are forgotten, the water remembers.

Question sits next to answer and loneliness next to loneliness. “On the inside is where we meet each other, outside, we are truly alone”*.

We are born eternal, into sweet and evanescent days. We were gods then, now we are full grown into children, and faced at last with the world.

Insomnaic, we do not sleep for the beating of the clock running out of minutes, for the endless engine pulling the late night freight. Together alone in the thundering silence, and faced at last with the world.

Sometimes as I get close to sleep, I can hear the rain talking to me, I try to hear what the water is saying, I get closer and closer to understanding, each it night it rains I move toward an answer and finally sounds become words and I begin to understand and words become images and images dreams, that I somehow never remember, come morning.

*Charles Simic

Vocal: Carol Lipnik. Trumpet: Rob Heasman, Piano, arrangement. Pete M Wyer:

There is a place downtown
With no lights in the window
No bell on the door
But it once was a club I owned
And everyone knew me, everyone came.

Those were days of jazz and booze
Of old Louie Armstrong, singing a blues

I remember the night you came
I never thought love could ruin a heart
Your song was a smile of sin
Your lips were wet with the cold taste of gin

We were lovers winter-long
Before crooked spring came and twisted your song

I remembered you a sister long lost
Now you waited for her
For days on the dock
As you waited for her
I waited for you
While the club all went to hell
And the madness still grew

That was all so long ago
But I see you still on that pier all alone

Dina’s All Night Diner

Voice: Caryn Havlik. Piano: Matthew Shipp. Sax: Simon Taylor. Guitars and cutlery: Pete M Wyer.

Hi and welcome to Dina’s all night diner. You’ve been here before, I never forget a face.
Me? I’m here all hours. Through the teeth of gales, through snow and rain and right through the night. Never was much for the daytime. The people you meet here. Night brings them out.

It isn’t what I set out to do. But I can’t complain. It was fate. When I got here I had nothing, Got off the bus with a saxophone on my back and hoped for the best. The first years I worked in the basement of a disused downtown record store, playing broken jazz on a broken piano till 5.00 am. Some nights it was just me and the rats,. Then one day a demolition truck showed up and it was time to move. I had nowhere else to go. I went all over town on my bike, with that same old sax still strapped to my back. How was I supposed to know it was just destiny lending a hand?

It was somewhere around 5th street. Out of the crowd I see another guy on a bike coming the other way, a tall guy, carrying a serious guitar case. He’s a musician. And somehow, right away I know…he’s the one. Y’know? The one I’m meant to be with. Forever. It’s fate, it’s destiny. Five long lonely years in this town and suddenly there he is right in front of me.

But he doesn’t see me. His mind’s on other things, maybe he’s thinking up his next piece of music, or maybe he’s thinking of finally meeting the woman of his dreams or maybe he’s just hungry and looking for a turkey sandwich. He’s coming toward me, closer and closer and still he doesn’t see me and in a second he’ll be gone and who knows, maybe there’s never another and I’ll spend the rest of my life thinking about what might have been. But what can I do? I can’t just yell out ‘hey, you’re the one!” , he’ll think I’m crazy.

He’s 5 yards away, and now he looks up, but not up at me, up at the buildings, the crowds, he’s taking in a fine New York day. He’s going right past me. I did the only thing a woman could do in these situations, so I crash right into him.

So, we were married 5 months later. He still has a scar under his chin. Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker? Ah, he never even heard of them. He was no musician. The great fat lummock is home now snoring his ass off. But you can’t deny fate.

He ran this place. Had an overdue loan at 26%, roaches and bad coffee; a crumbling dive, going out of business.

Do you have days when just everything seems absurd? Days that feel like there’s something you realized in a dream and if you could just remember it, everything would finally make sense? Happens to me all the time. Fate.

So he needed help and I needed a job and inside a year I was running the place. Twenty years later, here I am, 3.30 in the morning and here I am serving the coffee. Fate.
You want coffee?

East of Manhattan

Voice: Wally Burr. Clarinet: Chris Cundy. Trombone: Alan Tomlinson. Cellos: Matthew Sharp. Extra voices: Matthew Sharp and Joe Warren. Guitars, field recordings, arrangement,: Pete M Wyer.

Take a walk down Slant Street
Seems like there’s nothing here
Look east of the Lower East side
It’s not on any maps, you’ll never find it by day
Cars lurch along the road, like symbols spilled from the dreams of others that I don’t understand
I don’t know if I’m awake
The phone in the booth keeps ringing, no-one’s answering
The neighborhood starts to look kinda scary. An old man passes you by, a look in his eye like there might be a ghost behind him. Keep walking, look for a Chinese guy on the corner of Mason and Burr.
Slip him a wink and fifteen bucks gets you inside
Stay cool. It’s cold. Walk down the long corridor.
There’s a cool white light on the smooth white walls, like this whole building’s made of ice.
Where the hell is this taking you?
Suddenly, there’s a girl in there. She smiles, takes your coat and brings you round to the back, where guys are sitting at tables playing cards. Don’t catch their eye you wanna get out of here.
They gesture toward the door, laughing among themselves, like they know something you don’t.
It’s an ancient door, covered in strange carved symbols.
The girl looks you in the eye “are you ready?”.
She takes hold of the heavy brass handle, eases it down till a crack of blazing red light appears. The chanting’s getting louder, something’s moving inside.
My god what have they got in there?
Fork-tailed devils hang in the sky, leave black trails of January in their wake, this rain appalls the roads, river gods spill into the city slithering from drains, this is devils weather tethered to the trees and roofs and spirits writhe in the streets, rats watch in dreams from drains and dead men stand on their graves, dreaming of sky that is blue, dreaming of sky that is blue……

And you shiver in the streets afterwards, looking up at the moon and the Chinese guy smiles coldly, rubbing his hands together, he’s seen it all before. You know? You’ve seen something, something no-one is ever supposed to see, something impossible to forget.

Here I am

Radio voice: John Schaefer. Vocal, guitar, arrangement: Pete M Wyer

Here I am
Between two bridges
Where Brooklyn used to be
Here I am
Between two rivers
Where Manhattan used to be
And here I am
Between two oceans
Where America used to be

Here, between sky and earth
Where there are no boundaries
Where night and wind are wed
that’s me, dancing in the grass.

Night Ride by Subway Car

Voice: Peter Gordon. Whistler: Evelyne Beech. Sound design, arrangement: Pete M Wyer

It was her reflection which spoke to me. As she lay sleeping beside it.
The train heading from Brooklyn, we crossed the Manhattan Bridge, passing like ghosts into the city.
It was her reflection in the glass that opened her eyes to look at me and with glance at her sleeping echo gave kind of a smile and a finger to her lips, as though to say, “sssshhhhh, don’t wake her”. Then resumed her position and closed her eyes.
Every night I sit here. How many years have passed?
I see her still, passing through a station on a different train. I keep looking. Each night you’ll find me here reading too many signals.
The train is rolling on deep beneath the city. There’s a rain on the streets above Canal, Spring, Union Square, Grand Central, all the way up to Spanish Harlem
I keep looking.
We attach meaning to events, but events happen in the universe and meaning happens in the human heart.
I believe in miracles and the journey of souls on the 4.00 am train.
I’m hearing voices, an archangel on the roof of the Woolworth, on the Brooklyn Bridge. I keep looking. I keep looking.
My memory’s an on-off flicker like a traffic light at a jammed junction in the rain. I believe in miracles. I look in the window of the subway car. It’s my reflection that speaks to me. A ghost stares back with haunted wide eyes and I realize “the road of the living is among the dead, we are the great river of shades”*.
Year after year, night after night I travel in this car until the ghosts of dawn arrive. The train stops at Delancey. Wherein the tired eyes of an old man clinging to his stick, stare through space at something no-one else can see, I smile back at him.


Vocal, Carol Lipnik. Arrangement, Pete M Wyer

On the streets far above us
You’ll hear them pass by
The people with places to be
But here in the tunnels
Another world sleeps
That is far from the sight of them all

Nobody knows we’re living
In the tunnels right under their feet
And nobody is who you are here
In the eyes of the people that you meet

We made homes out of pallets
Got power from the mains
Got water from cutting the pipes
And no-one would ever believe it until
They were forced from the streets just like us

Nobody knows we’re living
In the tunnels right under their feet
And nobody is who you are here
In the eyes of the people that you meet

La la la la la la la la la la la
We’re the people that nobody sees

We’ll find a dinner
At the back of the diner
Breakfast from trashcans around
Sit through the night
While the trains all scream past
Waiting for better light

Sometimes I feel we’re fighting
To be given some grace in this world
But some people sit on the tracks now
Wait for the train that takes them away

La la la la la la la la la la la
We’re the people that nobody sees

Pier 45. (Pt 1)

Vocal: Matthew Sharp. First sax solo: Simon Taylor. Second sax solo: Chris Cundy. Guitars, field recordings, arrangement, Pete M Wyer.

An ocean divides us
The salt sea rains memories on us now
When will this rain end?
When will this night end?
For I have grown old
Watching the seas
And the ships pass thru
Without news
I know you must be lost
In the memory of the ocean
When will this rain end?
When will this night end?

Pray For Me

Voice: Jenny Agutter. Cellos: Matthew Sharp. ‘Chorus’: Evelyne Beech. Guitars, arrangement: Pete M Wyer

For I have been ambushed
Pray for me
Because the older I get, the less tomorrows there are
Pray for me
Pray as I am forced to strip and made to walk the naked highway
Pray for me. Pray as if the prayer you are praying was the quirkiest blues ever intoned
Pray for me, in jagged voice and broken tongue, in soft lament, complaining moan and joyful agonizing shriek, pray for me, jagged stone that I am until I am withered and gone and even after that, pray for me
Pray for me, pray as if my life depended on it, as if your life depended on it.
Pray for me on those cold nights and summers too.
Pray for me, embattled jackal that I am.
Pray for me as I vanish from the plains of geometry preparing to regroup and rehearse.
Pray for me when I am struggling like a peach blossom for satori
Pray for me, my private affairs of the heart impaled and imploding within the body of a thief.
Pray for the ruthless way I thrust the homeless from my door.
Pray for me. I like to take, I don’t like to give. Pray for me for that reason alone, if for no others.
Pray for me. The way ecstatic peace-seekers raise their voices in jubilation. the way a group of not so holy lovers of death have prayed together for centuries.
Pray for me, pray for me just the same.
The mirror is a shore surging and receding, your voice can be a part of the breaking.
Pray for my partner, for the sutures in my heart, for the narrows to widen,
for the fuzziness of cheap sentimentality that my departure will cause and the genuineness, the genuineness.
Pray for me for the devils are working much too hard.
Pray as if your prayer may be overheard, take shape and rise like a spirit on an upward path. Pray, pray that the lights will never be extinguished.
When I close my eyes, close your eyes and pray for me, for I myself am I myself no longer.


Whistler: Evelyne Beech. Guitars and sound design: Pete M Wyer


See Description


1 Rain At Night
2 Somebody
3 Dina's All Night Diner
4 East Of Manhattan
5 Here I Am
6 Night Ride By Subway Car
7 Nobody
8 Pier 45 (Pt. 1)
9 Pray For Me
10 Imprint