I Googled how long it takes for milk to go sour, and unless Becca Ryskalczyk can chug a gallon in 2 hours and 45 minutes, I shouldn’t bring it as a gift. Granted, almost accidentally killing a musician would be such a throwback to when I started Morning After, and I do love things coming full circle. But the milk is supposed to be a gesture of good will, to replace the (benignly expired) bottle drained on New Years Eve for makeshift White Russians.
Becca is the leading lady of Bethlehem Steel. Her gift, heard best on Party Naked Forever, is in utilizing a light and sweet voice for a kaleidoscope of emotions. “Deep Back” breaks my heart, “Untitled Entitlement” pretty much captured the current national mood of seething anger and disgust (and the line “sometimes I can’t tell if I’m real anymore” gutted me on a personal level). And yet there’s no fear in raging, either; Bethlehem Steel’s landscape of sound is both fuzzy and ferocious, delicate and dangerous, as all good things should be.
Truth be told, tho, Becca stuck in my mind as a good subject for this column after an encounter at a party in October (she came highly recommended by Jordyn Blakely). And because, in a weird twist of fate, it was in her apartment that I ended 2017. And what was 2017 but the year of a kaleidoscope emotions?
So once again, I find myself braving the (milkless) Brooklyn tundra at the dawn of a new year.
THE SCENE: Becca shows up to Sunshine Laundromat wearing pants-on-pants, a pink Northface (her first, despite misgivings from her SUNY Fredonia days), and excuses herself to glitter-up with one of those Fenty Stix. I’ve never been here, but the flickering pinball-arcade-slash-bar-slash-literal laundromat is her favorite spot.
I grab some sort of holiday ale (I don’t want the holidays to end) in the meantime. It’s, tbh, super late in the afternoon but these days my mornings have started later and later. Plus I brought a scone from Starbucks, so as far as I’m concerned this is a canon breakfast.
When Becca gets back I learn that she’s big, big, big on pinball – it gives her some respite. A while ago she quit smoking, which gave her an out from social interactions that went on too long. “And now I just find the pinball machine in the bar,” she explains later.
I try to be a gentleman and ask what machine is her favorite (Jurassic Park is good; The Big Lebowski is like her White Whale because it’s always out of order). But then, I see it.
“OH THERE’S THE ADDAMS FAMILY PINBALL MACHINE,” I scream. “Can we do that?”
4:33 I suck at the Addams Family so we try our luck with Elvira next door and I ask about New Years Day. “How was clean-up the next day?”
She smiles.”I don’t know – I was working. I got home and my apartment was clean. It was magical.”
“So magical! I only got to see two rooms but I liked the entire wall that had streamers.”
“Oooh, it’s down,” she says.
My face drops. “What happened?”
“It was smelling really weird, and then it dyed our wall blue.”
“Was it like, dollar store streamers?” I ask, as if 75% of my apartment isn’t a collection of Dollar Tree finds.
“It was. It was definitely smelling like a dollar store and making me feel sick and sneeze a lot.” That’s fair; sometimes beautiful things can be toxic and wall-damaging.
We suck a little bit less at Elvira, and that’s a huge comfort.
5:08 Meanwhile, at the Jurassic Park machine we talk about resolutions and maybe Jeff Goldblum a bit (“So hot.” “SO HOT.”)
She mulls over her wish for 2018 as a plastic raptor pops its head up for a charming shriek. “I want to be…less anxious.”
“Do you have a plan of attack with that? Because I haven’t found one for my anxiety yet.”
Becca’s idea is more about streamlining her responsibilities, rather than spreading herself too thin. “Maybe I just should be doing less,” she ponders. “Just not taking on a lot of unnecessary things, like ‘I need to plan three things all at the same time.’ And then it’s just TOO much. Or ‘I need to be social’ but really I just want to eat stew and watch The Office.”
Word. “That sounds like a perfect life plan and anyone who loved you would not keep you from doing that.”
The secondary goal is to get more into make-up, and she’s currently obsessing over Rihanna’s line.
“It’s the galaxy palette, look at that shit,” Becca says, gleefully pulling up the sparkling polychrome on her phone.
I do my best raptor impression in response. “That’s fucking gorgeous.”