Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Carol Mae

Before I set foot in Minneapolis, before I could mouth consonants, before everything… she baptized me in a kitchen sink somewhere in the midst of New Orleans. Raising four children, married to a trombonist, recently becoming a great grandfather, on Thanksgiving, her invite list stretched as far as 3rd cousins, cooking for a crowd equivalent to a wedding reception.

A kind, gentle, and reasonable tough lover, her shoulders sank a bit lower than the rest. Carrying the addicted, treating the ill, melding pic-a-biscuits to perfection, and biting bullets just before returning them to the sender, you’d have to ask where the time went to foster a home, a family, where the hell the time went to foster herself. Something that seemed to stand as constant as gravity, I never questioned if she ever buckled underneath it all, cried amidst the chaos, or lost the love for split seconds at a time. If she did, it didn’t show. Not by any 7th Heaven means of smiling while dying on the inside, good ol’ Minnesota Caucasian passive aggression, but more so a straight glance to the heart. If you fucked up, you’d know it. A balance of all things, she was… and although things have changed, she still is.

I love her to no end, to no memory I can conjure when I began to love her. You could say throughout my existence, I’ve always loved her. On the contrary to the notion, I can remember the moment I began to fear her. My cousins and I were playing in the front yard of my mother’s house. Evan & I were around the age of 9, while Hugh was a eager 7. Knocking on the front door of the house, we rarely opened or used unless to grab mail, no one answered. Too tired, lazy, and selfish, we continued to knock. No one answered.

Could’ve been my mother, aunt, or even Annie (my sister) to answer the door, and everything would’ve went kosher. This was not to be. Of all people, She… answered the door. “Go around to the back”, she declared. Totally caught off guard, jaws dropped to the sidewalk, “What the fuck”, repeating in our heads, she slammed the front door. And it was on.

You don’t tell a pack of 9 yr. olds to go around to the back when the front door is clearly open. Now, I won’t name names, but one of us, not me, was absolutely furious. Beyond all impulse and ill temper, he shouted “FUCK YOU!!!!”.

I took a triple take as to what just went down. “Whoa”, I thought. That takes some balls. I’d never say that to Her. I mean, I’d think that, but I wouldn’t say that out loud. The punishment that would ensue could potentially make Singapore look like a gentle state of repercussions. Whatever, She couldn’t hear it , right? I heard her close the other door to the porch, she’d have to hear that through two doors and half a living room- Whooom! The front door swung open.

Tears in her eyes, “What did you say?!?!”. Uhhhhh, uhhhhh, I ran. A conference was held later that family dinner. One of my cousins was punished, never heard exactly what they did to him, but his mouth didn’t open for the rest of the day. How’d she hear what he said? Super powers, Wolverine ears, Spider- Sense? I don’t know what it was, but it scared the shit out of me. From that day on, not only would I never say a cruel thing to my grandmother, I can’t remember a time that I’ve garnered a cruel thought towards her.

As a child, I respected her out of fear. Encountering all I have since then, the respect remains, but not out of fear. It was just a year ago, I sat in a hospital waiting to hear the doctor’s verdict on her arhythmical heart beat. Earth teetering on a thin line, as most do in a hospital waiting room, the nurse came out to invite me to visit her. There she lay, tubes plugged into her old body, conversing and laughing with my mother like a lunch break. Looking mortality in the eye, she smiles.

I asked her what she wants for Christmas a few weeks ago, and she told me to just write. “I still have all your cards. Don’t buy me anything, I don’t need that stuff. Write me something nice for Christmas”. Certainly not the first, and mos def not the last, but here you are Carol, grandmother. Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mixtape Mortar: Mohammed Take The Wheel

It rocks, a little bit, not enough to move out of the ditch. The wheels twist, but the ice doesn’t give. I’m stuck. Honda & I are absolutely, unequivocally, totally, utterly, stuck.

My connection to my car is that of Denzel Washington’s arm in Virtuosity. My Honda is my mechanical limb. While others use vehicles as an ego, pride, or genitalia extension, Honda and I are in a whole different waiting room. Honda and I are bound by a fiery past, distorted history, and tumultuous trust. Right now, I’m not holding up my end of the bargain. Turning for a gas station in the depths of suburban hell, I landed us into a snowy situation. Yes, you could say Honda & I are “fucked”... for the moment.

Driving by, a man stops in his giant Suburban and offers to help, for $20. I have no cash. He says he’ll be right back, jumps in his truck and zooms off. He never came back.

A woman stepped outside of her nearby apartment and offered help. She pushed, I pushed, we pushed… nothing.

Seeing the road blockage, a guy in a jeep passes by, offers to give me a bump with his vehicle from the back to push me into the drive way. “I’m actually trying to back out of the drive way and get to that gas station a hundred feet down the road.” “Uh, ok, well, good luck”, he drives off.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing can help this situation. The dry sullen feeling of helplessness passes through me like a ghost. Phone’s outta batts, Honda’s gas light’s on, and me on the final bit of sanity I have left. I drop back into the car. Close the door. It’s my chest, my breathing, my body’s juts out of my control… the anxiety kicks in. The tears collect, and then dissipate with the widening of both eyes. Get a hold of yourself, man. If we can just get to the gas station, we have a shot at getting the f--- out of this God forsaken suburb of white hell.

The anxiety sets in deeper. It’s not the car, it’s everything. The situation manifests into everything… anything… everything… burning 600+ mixtapes in time for the release party, the plans to visit my father in New Orleans, the guy from LA that calls and visits to make sure the other music project is going up to code for the powers that be, grandmother's heart, Annie's wedding, take a day job or keep floating with monthly concerts...

The wind conducts the snow sideways, so hard that I can’t even see the gas station less than a half-a-block in front of me. There goes the breathing again. I grab my chest, feels like my ribcage is about to implode and take me to the hereafter. Sidenote: Anxiety is accidentally locking yourself in a closet as a child, being trapped in a prison tube from Minority Report, except there’s no brain relaxing mechanism to keep you from knowing your surrounded by a glass wall. Anxiety is clausterphobia, the scene from Star Wars where the walls close in on Han Solo, the slowly falling spiked ceiling from Indiana Jones… pause.

Take a brief moment from your head, and it just might save you from thinking purely irrationally. I turn on NPR for a minute. “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” the game show is on. Another minute passes, and I make a plan. If I don’t get out of here, I’m going to have to break into the nearest 4 wheel drive and skirt this hell hole… and of course I’m kidding. The plan: get a f’ng shovel from the gas station and start puttin’ in work- wait, who’s that?

Out of nowhere, kid with a shovel slowly paces towards me. I can’t tell if it’s to say, “Your kind ain’t welcome in these parts”, or to actually help me outta this pit. He doesn’t say a word, and just begins shoveling around my car. “Try it now”, he says. Honda budges a little more. Shoveling and hand-scooping commences, “Try it now”, he pushes on the damaged hood. We’re out. At least it’s straight…and again, more shoveling commences. And we’re out, for good this time.

Call him Jesus with a stick, Muhammed with a winter coat, or just call him Eddie Shovels… the kid is ethereal in some form or manner. He disappears back into the white blanket of snow crossing the streets. I thank him, and make it to the gas station to pump $2.36 worth of gas into Honda. Make it back to Mpls.

Stepping into my mother’s house and being yelled at to wash the dishes… never felt this good. 

Toussaint Morrison Mixtape Release Party
Friday, Dec. 17
9pm at the Triple Rock

Sunday, Dec. 19
5pm at the Triple Rock
all ages

Both shows 8bucks.
6bucks if you have a color-flier with you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mixtape Mortar: Driving Ms. Isa

Her car broke down, the promo vid won’t be anywhere near badass without her, we have to pick her up... I am nervous. I’ve come to terms with it, and I don’t care to say it out loud. Two six foot tall gentlemen with cameras suffocate  my Honda’s backseat, as we trek to the deep east side of St. Paul to pick up the crown jewel of Midwest music, Modern American allure, international clout- she’s too many things to put into a word, a phrase, a song. Murals run along side the open-ceiling tunnel ascending to the queen’s household.

We’re here. I’m so jittery I have to stop to use the restroom at a local bar. Wouldn’t dare use hers. Haven’t even met the woman- “But, hey, can I acquaint myself with your toilet”. Na, what if she weirds out easily… then the whole promo shoot’s a bust…

Final call, “hey, we’re outside”. I’ve never seen her in person, only magazine covers, newspaper covers, online blogs, StarTribune headlines, etc.  She steps into the car and begins talking to me as if the conversation began 5 minutes ago. More than a step ahead, more than a trend cooler, she brings every vulnerability, you quite possibly have, to light. I say “smoke”, she says “blaze”. I say “drive”, she says “roll”. Not even my vocabulary can stack up.

The thing with Maria Isa is… absolutely nothing. No filter, no restraint, no passivity. She confronts the present moment like time, and calls out the giant pink elephant even when it’s not in the room. In the face of a no-bullshit personality, I’ve seen men go defensive, intimidated, challenged… whatever they can cling to in dealing with their own fear. However, with Maria, it’s comforting. She speaks on Pawlenty, grants, upcoming mixtapes, music videos, awards, activism, doesn’t pronounce a single Spanish word with an English bastardization to it, and on.

I begin to believe the term “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” falls short against her schedule. The way she speaks of her plans for the next several months, whether it be community organizing, music, or networking, you can begin to feel just how much s—t you could’ve been doing with your time. Get on her level… I’m working on it.

So much to be said, but within the short evening I was able to spend with a handful of local & national musicians, and Maria Isa… There’s a beauty to wearing your vulnerability, there’s a warmth in dawning your scars like short stories of small victory , there’s something to smiling an entire car-ride from East St. Paul to North Minneapolis. Most emcees' feelings have translated into words, but hers have translated to action. 

Our evening errands finish, leaving Mortimer's in uptown, I give departing words to the camera crew, the handful of spoken word affiliates, and Ms. Isa.. “Speak with your heart”, she says... "You can't go wrong with that". And I want to, and I have been. But what of it when your heart weighs like a wet sandbag drooping atop your stomach, pushing through the day is parallel to navigating a two-wheel drive through a blizzard, and common sense has officially left the zip code. I've been a sensitive, over-analytical sponge for the past 2 weeks, and I can't tell if it's coming or going. "When does it wear off?", I wanna ask her, "and how do you speak with a heart that won't listen to any other part of you than itself." There's so many things I want to say, but the words keep bouncing between my gut, artery, and frontal lobe that I'd swear there's a tennis match going on.

I want to tell her my heart's been selfish and soaking up every bit of emotion I can plausibly put out into the universe, without going into cardiac arrest (cue: smallest violin). And I'm getting there. Although I may not understand why emotions are kickin' my ass at the moment, I don't believe it's for my understanding right now. 

I looked back at her, and smiled...again. "Speak with your heart"... it's been years since I've heard someone say that. I'll thank her for the reminder, later.

Toussaint Morrison Mixtape Release Party
Friday, Dec. 17
9pm at the Triple Rock

Sunday, Dec. 19
5pm at the Triple Rock
all ages

Both shows 8bucks.
6bucks if you have a color-flier with you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interview With The Franpire

Woke up with Henry draped atop my knee just before I lost all feeling in it. He murmurs something in Dog, I can’t make out. It’s not to go outside, it’s not to eat, it’s just a “ehhhmmmm”. Could translate for “Damn Toussaint, you one lazy-ass m----f----a”. I see where you’re coming from, but I disagree Henry, I just disagree. Problem with my line of work, at the moment, is I stay up to f’ng 3, 4 in the morning and wake up round 10am. It doesn’t look good on paper, but it makes for a damn good album campaign and potential tour.

I grab my laptop, the promo vid for the Triple Rock is at 700 somethin’ and’ll be over 1000 by the end of the week. Nice. However, I’m totally not 100% finished with these final songs for the Reid Project. Has to, must be, will be… done by tomorrow, or else that ass is toast.

I’m up, I’m up. Respond to a few old emails, shamelessly tag the promo vid on a few walls, and it’s on. Phone rings. Old acquaintance wants to get coffee. Luckily, I just cancelled the 2nd to last studio session with Reid, with hopes that I’m done by tonight and on point for tomorrow’s session. Sure, coffee sounds coo. Head out, and bam, here we are… coffee like it was yesterday, conversation nicely held, the holidays upon us. Several laptops on the table, several cell phones on the table, and a lone pen. Someone take a picture, this might not happen again.

Bordering on a year since we last spoke, discussion has never been the hard part for us… it’s the ending. The walkaway, the way you leave things. Clearly it hasn’t sat well with her, hence the email titled “truce”, the phone call, the “isn’t this awkward” rant, etc. We were horrible at endings, and something as simple as coffee has taken almost a year to come around to.

Streamlining through small talk, somehow the conversation turns to… the past. Passive bickering from both parties ensues. “Toussaint, I have no ill will towards you. I’ve never said anything against your name after the break. I don’t go on public forum and talk about these things.” A calm resolves the exchange… she grins, widens her gaze into my face, leans over the table from her casual posture (pause: let’s take a moment. True Blood? Yeah, before the vamps jump into a human neck, they take a slow approach and then the film editor fast forwards their move into the bite. I don’t think she’s seen the show, but at this point she’s already giving a clinic on it.)

The 2 seconds it takes her to position her phrase as she reaches over the table with a comforting hand (ref: barista woman at Arkham Café, aka Spyhouse on Hennepin), you can almost taste the attempt of manipulation in the air.  Still holding a half grin, it drops right before she says, “Toussaint, I’m not on any bad terms with any of my ex’s.”

I looked around the coffeeshop waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out, waiting for everyone to get up and yell “surprise!”, waiting for confetti to drop. And it’s at this moment, that whatever has manifested between her and I… isn’t important. It’s come down to the personal gratification of bridging a friendship. Personal, not mutual. Once you’ve invested personal gain into a relationship, connection, or anything between two human beings, you’re talking compromise of self-respect, dignity, and all things that make us genuine. Basically, she’s talkin’ business.

The way she said it, or the potential fangs that flashed when she smiled after it. Poor ex-boyfriends. Man eatin’, chewed up and left for self-esteem repair, a heap of mental scar tissue, and a reluctance to let the guard down.

To move forward, your guard must be down. We’ll get into it some other time, but the fact I genetically carry my father’s face looks like I’m wielding the biggest shield in Hyrule. My natural expression, of looking pissed off/over-confident, is out of my control and couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyways, getting back to the fangs...

Couldn’t help but smile back, “I’m sorry, but I’m not any of your other ex’s”. These jokers think civility means compromising more than it’s worth.

Here, let’s dial back to middle school…
When anyone on the playground disrespected you or your crew, there was always a moment of disdain, an absolute tarnishing of the relationship between you and the culprit. Perhaps you were the culprit, ran off with a kick ball in the middle of someone else’s game, it was still understood that respect has left the building and it was every kid for her or himself. As they say, “It was on”. The time of it “being on” could last for 5 minutes… or 5 months. However long it lasted, respect was in question until both parties resolved the issue and squashed the beef. The catch to the resolve is when someone returned for a truce, it had to be assessed by the other “is this kid just making things good to fuck up again?”, “can I trust this person?”, “is this person being friends with me again just to use my Sega Genesis?” Whether you asked these questions consciously or not, your brain still made calculations of the connotations that come with a reconnection.

After that, there was still one more catch! Say you made amends, you then had to ask yourself: is this fair? I believe in forgiveness. For love of a higher power, I believe in total, utter, selfless forgiveness. I still speak with my father, pray for his health, and am at coffee with a past dragon that set flames to innocent village upon village, but life is short, and the people in your corner are few and far in between. Is it fair to you to let this person back into your life? How much of you do they deserve? Your time is precious. There are no forms or request slips to hand to the supernatural, asking for just a few more days on earth. Been thinking about it a lot lately, but if go tomorrow, or my car spins out on an icy road and I bite it for good, what do I want to leave behind? Sounds disparaging? Good, it should. Have an end in mind.

Being fair can entail someone undeserving of any part of you… just as much as all fairness can entail a reconnection and the two of you deserving every bit of each other.

Of all the encounters across the country, of all the backstabbing, hand shaking, mutual agreements and disagreements, social hand grenades, back handed compliments, picking fights & blowing kisses, mornings-after, fires started, off-the-cuffs, of all the social vine swinging endured throughout this ridiculous and beloved life… give respect where it’s due. However, it’s not due here… yet. She goes on to explain she’s seen the blog, she doesn’t harbor any spite, she’d never advertise a public forum about me or the past… and that’s fine. I haven’t/wouldn’t do the same.

Writing is for me. It’s my selfish means of organizing the world as I see it. Some people pick up guitars, some people take to pianos, some people pick up a bottle of jack and oxycontin… we all let it go, one way or another, but in the end we’re forced to deal. Whether it’s a healthy means of dealing or not, the universe will balance it out… one way or another.

Coffee? Sure sounds great. Friends? Eh, give it a few years. Sometimes dust on the playground never settled ‘til high school.

Besides, the pen isn’t moving today, grandma’s heart is arhythmical to the point I call the woman just to hear her voice, mom needs a peace of mind only a six-digit number will suffice… it’ll balance out… one way or another. All this, but absolutely no ill will for the old flame sitting across the table, none at all… just a bit of disappointment. She was the means to put the pride down, stop time, cut the bs, rush to the ER, place in the realms of Unconditional, Everything, & Anything… and now it’s deafly sad and obvious, the friendship she wants has nothing to do with terms of the mutual… just business.

It’s gotta be for more than this.

“Was good seeing you. Have a good one”. Left the table, moved it to a different shop. Gotta figure out how I want to spend this time with my grandmother, the next chore that’ll make my mother’s life just that much easier. It’ll all figure itself out… right?... one way or another.

If there was anything taken from the meet, it was the distant memory of the old flame saying something. She said it during one of the several breaks. She cried, “Toussaint, several years from now I’ll have a career, and you’ll still be sitting in a coffeeshop, writing.”

I laughed out loud to myself, sipped my coffee… and began writing. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

4am Phone Call

Feels like something let loose in my throat and split open the scar tissue from utilizing improper singing techniques (aka screaming at the last show), paired with the sensation of my heart beat through my ears and brain… the remote control is going to be my God for the next few days of agony. Every fiber of me is shut down, due for renovation, and in sleepless pain. I’m sick. It’s the night before Thanksgiving, and several million chores have yet to be done. My mother’s house is less than spacious, even less-so in the face of 15 guests for dinner. Gotta get this thing up to code for tomorrow. Gotta… do… chores… (sleep).

(Phone rings!) Holy, sweet Mary Magdalind. Who- what time- 4am? What!

Sprung awake, unexpected, to a Thanksgiving Eve/Thanksgiving 4am phone call. Sloppy to get to the dresser, I make it just in time.

I don’t think, in these moments. These moments aren’t meant for thinking. 2am is understandable, bar-close, drunk, lack of better judgement, etc. 3am, meh, you can kinda apply the same logic, that’s a little more desperate than anything. 3am is almost more suitable than 2am, though. People are lookin’ for parties after bar-close, somewhere else to self-destruct, escape themselves, find a fight, who knows. 3am suits better because it says “Hey, I found somewhere or some people that’ll put up with my ass for at least 60 minutes, do you have any better offers." 2am, on the other hand, is like “Of all the low-lives on my list, you’re at the top. Entertain me…now.”

We’re not talking about either of those. We’re talking about 4AM!

The witching hour, the span of time where bad decisions, future pregnancy, long-term addiction, and dirt hill champions are made. When ambulances are called, super-heroes are summoned, and disaster has already stricken twice. This is the hour of the blackout, the dismembered, the moments of your life your brain will struggle to push through the paper shredder. Remember that time you lost your pants, tried to steal the keg tap, barely evaded the cops, never got that person's name after intercourse, ran off with your best friend's ex-significant other, and woke up naked on a couch? Yeah, that all happened between the hours of 3:30 and 4:30am.

I digress, a call at 4am in the morning could still fall into the booty-call realm of 2am or 3am, but 4am is on some other shit. 4am is almost degrading. It says, “I know we broke up months & months ago, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to touch someone elses genitalia, and I’d like to go with good ol’ familiar tonight, and not have to deal with you the next morning. Deal?” But then, a 4am call could inquire, “I hate you so f----ng much that I want to sleep with you to spite you... now” Which in that case, is almost a little more endearing. (Perhaps you've been the recipient of one of these calls in the past, or the culprit dialing out. Either way, these types of things go without saying.)

In retrospect, these are all easy and plausible notions to think while a phone is ringing in the dead of night, now…a week after the fact. However, in the moment, none of these come to mind. My first instinct was someone’s hurt, in trouble, thinking of doing it this time and ending it for good, arrested, or in a situation where their livelihood is at stake. I come from a family of healers and nurses (jea, they synonymous). I’d say worriers, but these folks have been working in the hospitals since Ireland, came over here and continued. If worrying was the verb to apply, I don’t think the tradition of working with the sick with pending anxiety attacks would be encouraged. Mom, Grandma, Great Grandma, all consolers of the soon-to-pass away and folks fallen to eyeball-deep in the gutter.

Thinking someone would need my assistance out of a ditch… it wasn’t. Far from it. Someone called for the potential opposite… to put me in the gutter. Not even thinking, I picked up the phone… it’s (anonymous name, I won’t even announce her already-given moniker, seeing that would drive her incensement further. I don’t know the code of a blog, but just for this one, I’ll leave’er out.) Didn’t wanna sound like an asshole, but it was the night before Thanksgiving Day, “Are you fucking drunk?”. “No”, she answered gladly. Which then brings me to a realm I didn’t even want to step into, I ask myself, “Then what the f--- is she doing calling me at 4 in the morning!?!?” First , I was worried that she was about to be Taken, like the chick in the Liam Niesen film, and with the only split-second she had to call someone, she accidentally called me before destined to a life of Prostitution and involuntary drug use in the dirty bloks of Eastern Europe.

Not even close, she goes on to quote something from this blog (my blog), and correct me on something I had written a month ago. Thirty days ago. 4 weeks ago. Please, I hope you’ve had enough time to absorb something someone said 1/12 of a year ago, for you to make proper critique at four in the morning (and it’s at this point, I’ve realized just how many times I’ve typed 4am, and am now thinking of different ways to spell the bugger.)

Drop my throbbing skull in the hand not holding the phone, wipe the ducts of my eyes, take a breath… Of all the things to call a man at this hour for, you call to correct a blog. Usually I’d have the decency to explain it a bit, but at this point, we go back & forth several times- “Ok, please. Call me when the sun is out. I’ll deal with it then. Goodbye”, my departing words. One of those hang ups where you can’t tell if it’s mutual or not, but could care a f--- less if it was.

The moments with women where you could easily stab the words in the air “Bitch please!”… but don’t… I believe is a higher power’s means of testing your tolerance and ability to proceed into the big picture.

I wanted to tell her so many things, wanted to tell her how she’s going to become a great nurse sooner than someday, how she weathers like a f’ng champion in moments her siblings and parents go at it like rabid dogs & republican pundits, that her smile can light up the shittiest dive bar in Milwaukee to bring a glint of future hope to any pass out drunk fortunate to get a glimpse before blacking out, that she broke the mold a long time ago and won’t have any problem exceeding future expectations. But I don’t… I don’t tell her a piece of it, because it’s f----ng four in the morning, I’m sicker than an ER, and I’m pretty sure I’m not getting back to sleep  ‘til the tryptophan kicks in from the Turkey… 15 hours from now!

Messaged her the next day, but forgot to include the part where I say get new friends and siblings, if they’re going to take online text as word of God before consulting you. In the heat of adversity, including a measly blog, the people in your corner won’t need any delineation from you to know what’s what. Chalk it up to miscommunication, and unless you are the chick from Taken, and a split-second away from being forced into an Eastern European whore house… please don’t call me at 4am. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Going Thanksgiving Alone: Heroine, Gorillas, & Mixtapes

“Yeah she prolly put in work, then go to sleep with that heroine”- “Seriously though, tell me the last time you met a ho that was smart? It just don’t make no got damn sense… see some women want to be treated like a ho, and man… I just don’t got it in me to do it”. The barber shop was less than asocial this particular Black Friday. Freshly jacked of a giant flat screen tv, all their entertainment, and a gumball machine, somehow the brave barbers of Nicollet Ave. manage smiles and conversation about ho’s and heroine.

When my mother snatched my sister and I, up and took off for Minneapolis, we stayed at my grandmother’s for a year or two until she got on her feet again. Possibly get on her feet for the 2nd time in her life, the woman had dropped out of the U of MN in the worst way, wandered the Twin Cities, and finally found her niche in politics. Ran for governor, garnered over 10,000 votes, didn’t win (in the subversive sense as we know it to be), and moved to New Orleans to work with the Socialist Activist Worker’s Union. Moving back, things were Up In The Air like George Clooney coming to find out his pseudo-girlfriend was married with kids (which btw, absolutely blew my mind when I saw it. If you saw it too, you can’t say you were surprised, but damn were you disappointed.) Mom didn’t get hit with it as bad as Clooney, but nonetheless, things were in the air. Out in Richfield living with the grandparents, my mother didn’t know a f’ng thing about black people’s hair, let alone what to expect from the skulls of two bi-racial kids. My hair was curly, then straigh, then started to curl again. Annie’s was still growing, so God knows what was coming from that girl. Mom played it safe and took me to a nearby barber shop where my grandfather would get his hair cut, Ray’s Barbershop.

Framed Norman Rockwells, old bottles of lather and after shave, and again a Norman Rockwell calendar decked the walls of the strip mall hair cut store. Ray’s Barbershop was a stomping ground for old white men all across the 1st and 2nd ring burbs. Enter 4 year old brown kid, fro down to his ears, walking hand in hand with a tall white graying jazz musician. Doc, my grandfather, would always take me to Ray’s. Mom would partake sometimes, but there she goes again, off to school, clinicals, work, one of the several institutions feeding her resume and bank account for fam survival. Mom had more hustle than the average single mother, and somehow above all made time to be a mom. Christ, we wound up on the cover of a magazine for her graduation picture. “Husband crap all over your life? Have two kids that look like you stole them from an adoption agency? Need a graduate degree? Shiiiiit, you can do it too!”. Completely kidding, of course. But yes, we were on the cover of a magazine, Annie wearing mom’s graduation cap, mom smiling bigger than life, and me somewhat hiding behind the grad gown. Twas a shy kid back then, still am.

Either way, Ray’s was always jumpin’... well, in the sense of “how much can four senior citizens get it poppin' in here” jumpin'. Vikings, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Twins (always with the friggin’ Twins), World Series, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Highways, we discussed the whole lot. Well, they did, not me. I could chat here and there about some of the stuff as I grew up, but usually smiled and watched the arguments and passive debates ensue on what to do with Frank Viola in the 8th inning, how Reagonomics is going to save the middle-class, who the hell is Jesse Jackson, “Michael Jordan’s a free agent next year. The Knicks would be idiots to not pick’em up.”. “Wow, this new gal Oprah’s really cleanin’ up, isn’t she.” and so on.

Always loved the griots-natured cat at the barbershop that felt it necessary to jump on his soap box and tell it like it is. Reality tv shows, movie scenes, entire movies, entire tv shows, entire media displays based around the concept of the African-American Barbershop. Gossip, rants, rambles, debates, everything… f--- the community newspaper, get it all here. To interject the hype, my two cents: the same shit goes down at a white barbershop. Not even just a barbershop that cuts a majority of white people’s hair, a barbershop full of Caucasian geriatrics with nicknames like “Rusty” and “Doc”. Gather a handful of people together that have a basic understanding of the headlines and a bit of the variety section, and boom… it’s on.

If the place where you get your hair cut, did, or done, doesn’t have a good conversation you can observe or participate in, then find another facility. Any place that can hold up to thick small talk, is a happy place. Same for friendships, relationships, and family-time-dinner-table discussion. No one takes it personal, we all walk away from it a bit more understanding of the other, and perspective stretches just that much further to hear someone out.

An old friend of the barber cutting my hair steps into the Nicollet Ave. shop. They burst in laughter, discuss Thanksgiving. My barber, somewhat reserved, “Aww na, man. I didn’t do much for yesterday. Just laid low, had a dinner by myself”.

The friend talks on with another customer. I ask my barber, “Got family out of town?”. “Na, man. See my daughter every now and then. My  mom and sister live way out there, though”. “Like far as Chicago?”, I ask. “Na. Way out in the burbs. I don’t drive though”.

A few moments of necessary silence pass. The mute air explains more than enough history he’d rather not go into. Daughter, doesn’t travel further than a few miles to see his mother and sister, takes Thanksgiving alone… reminds me of my dad. Except this guy is my age. Mom left Ricky around his 35th year, decade older than myself and my barber. However, barber boy sounds like it’s a mutual fault on both sides of the fence his Thanksgiving has gone solo, curse of circumstance, or the way he likes it. I don’t ask. 

Do you wanna go it alone? Better yet, like barber boy here, will we have to go it alone? I’m sure at some point, but for God's sake, any day other than Thanksgiving. 

F---, I’ve gone it alone more than not already. However, I’d rather not wind up referencing my kids as the “now & then”. I’ll sacrifice the last penny in my pocket and grain of sanity for my kids just to be with them (here I am talking about "my" kids...when I don't even have them. Good-Will-Hunting disorder of looking several thousand miles down the road before making a move...diagnose me please). Let’s be realistic, I know absolutely jack shit about having a child or children- but it’s fair for anyone to know what they want. I damn sure know my children would/will be my solar system. Again, the family man declaration. Always wanted to be, still aspiring to be, and when things work out… I will be. Self-Assessing what it takes to be a family man is damn discouraging, butterfly-in-the-gut exciting, and eyes-closed-deep-breath-before-the-marathon calming. Knowing what you want is one thing, acting on it is another. Barber boy’s been caught between the two, rightfully so, as we all have at some point, and perhaps still are.

The silence resumes until a blast of laughter breaks out at the entrance. Again, barbershop totally robbed less than a week ago. Speakers, Tv, remote, cds… gumball machine, all gone. Gumball machine, are you fucking serious? Who the fuck steals a gumball machine. Have mercy on the poor bastard that runs with a barbershop’s gumball machine, and lives to count the cash at the pawn shop. A sense of humor still runs alive in the roots of the building, and gets the best of several small talkers at the entrance. “Hey nigga, who the fuck would win though. I say the fuckin’ gorilla, I say the fuckin’ gorilla”. “Na, nigga you serious!?!? A mufuckin’ bear would rip the shit out of a gorilla”. “Hahaaaaaaa!!!! This nigga say the bear”. Collectively two grown men shout, “Awww HELLLL NAWWW”. (Yes, you are correct, this barbershop IS far from Ray's in Richfield...geographically and culturally).

And we’re back. First it was ho’s and heroine, now we’re on to Bear vs. Gorilla. Personally I’d root for the Gorilla, but deep down inside expect the Bear to shred the poor monkey to pieces.

Sometimes circumstance does us in. Does us in bad. The homelessness, the poverty, the cancer, the untimely death, the arm pit of it all. In a shitty analogous way, perhaps we’re all the gorilla, and it’s absurd to assume we’d ever get the best of a bear. Or, as I’d like to think, we fear success so much that we bet against ourselves to feel comfortable with failure. Excuse the French, but absolutely no-fucking thank you.

Mark it “selfish”, but I left the barbershop counting my next steps away from the circumstance of “now & then” with my future family situation. “Full-time” is the goal, and the next few steps are to my rugged-ass beat-up Honda Civic. In the grand scheme, the next steps are to flier outside of every poppin’ venue tonight and the rest of the weekend for the even bigger procession in December: The Local Mixtape Release Party @ The Triple Rock. It's all part of the plan; future fatherhood, family man, husband, son, business partner, Damaged Goods, call it what you want... as long as you know what you want to call it:) 

You know what you want. Great. Now get out of your own f----ng way and go get it. This is me doing the same.

God willing, I sell out both nights. To better put it, WE sell out both nights. Both nights involve key players to make it do what it has to do.

Have an end in mind. The local release is a small piece of the puzzle, but it still counts.

Friday, Dec. 17th
9pm at The Triple Rock (18+)
$8, free mixtape w/entry

Sunday, Dec. 19th
5pm at The Triple Rock (All Ages)

$8, free mixtape w/entry

Only good ending I can think of at the moment is an excerpt from my grandmother's prayer book she gave me. Handed it over after the first time I joined her for church, just her and I. Notes, pictures, all types of writings fell out. One in particular stuck with me:

Watch your actions; they become your habits
Watch your habits; they become your character
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cut The Bs. Took Her To Church.

Yeah, that didn’t go as planned. I think I traumatized several women in the front row and forced the phrase “no homo” out of 2 dozen guys. Which by the way, I fucking hate the term “no homo”. If you use it, try wrapping your brain around something a little less insecure. Heterosexuals… we say the dumbest shit sometimes. K, I’m back, but seriously I think I’ve done mental harm to these people. I intended to take off my shirt while performing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” at the Prof show last Friday, but kinda went with the flow and took my pants off as well. No worries, I planned on this. Wore an extra pair of underwear, so nothing flies out the boxers. Now THAT, would create an widespread fear of ever attending a show I have something to do with. Matter of fact, if something had flown out of those boxers (actually if anything had flown out of my boxers), people would be downright susceptible to leave a venue even if I was in the crowd, for fear that I might take stage and whip it out again thus sending young and middle aged minds into another downward spiral of disgust & disdain. Not that enough people don't already harbor that for me, there’s always better ways to do more damage.

And I’m glad Teresa didn’t make it to the show. Don’t wanna taint her already fragile mind and perspective on the way things are. Teresa’s cool people, but there’s always somethin’ behind that smile. I don’t know if after every time we bid adieu, I’ll ever see her again, or we’ll be back on the same page tomorrow.

If I mutter or even reference “white people” in our conversation, she checks out. Thinks I’m always taking stabs at her faith, the fact “I just want Jesus” is in her fbook bio, about me, or somewhere around there. She counters with a soft race joke, I tell her she’ll have to do better than that, and we’re back on to Teresa & Toussaint. For once though, I’d like to cut the bullshit. I made a bet with myself that Teresa and I could hang out for 60 minutes without one sarcastic remark. I knew it’d be damn near impossible, seeing as I’m gullible, overly curious, and always in a state of analyzing. I make the bull’s eye bigger than needs be for her to dart.

So, I decided to take her to church. Easy, right? Not so much. First off, I’m not the most religious guy in the world. If there were a set of life rules in front of me, I’d use’em for toilet paper. Fran always gave me rules, and I’d break’em just because she gave’em to me. Same with school, my mom, not nowadays though. Second hurdle in the way, my family’s catholic. The only church I know of is catholic. I’d feel way f----n weird to waltz into a giant Lutheran church, white people everywhere, smiling, staring at you if you don’t smile with’em. Been there, didn’t smile though.

Last hurdle, I’ve never taken a gal to church. It’s not like that with Teresa, strictly platonic, but just out of sheer curiosity, taking her to church had to happen. And… it worked. She usually goes to college churches, Baptist churches, singing-out-loud-with-it shoutin’ churches. I’m down with that, but I like St. Cecilia’s in St. Paul just off Raymond. Again, I wouldn’t call myself Christian, Catholic, or religious for that matter… more so spiritual. There’s a lot out there, and the second I start acting like I have a grasp on it will be the moment I stand for people murmuring “no homo” within hearing distance. But, end goal accomplished. A few times she looked at me waiting to say some snide shit or waiting for me to say some snide shit, but I resisted the temptation.

And for me, at this point in my life, that’s what church is for:, solace, sanctuary, time to cut the bullshit and be grateful for your own mortality, life, and people around you.

Now, sitting in Arkham Café (aka Spyhouse on Henneppin), watching Slug get into his Yukon and Ant jump in his black American-made car, snow falling, just having placed the Maria Isa & Cecil Otter presale tix at 5th Element, not a chance in hell I could do it on my own. Whenever Teresa and I finish hanging out, she runs off to more church activity, and I run into opposite direction to partake in non-church activity;)  More than that being the difference, perhaps it’s just she’s accepted she can’t do it all on her own either. Places her faith in a higher power, cosmic significant other, an imaginary friend, whatever you want to down or up play it as, I think it’s humble to do so. Humble to accept you won’t ever be able to do this on your own.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Prof @ The Varsity

“Good to see you, man. How’s your brother?”. “He’s not with us anymore. Hey, great job on the show tonight”. Of all the words and gestures exchanged last Friday at The Varsity, those stuck with me the most. I don’t think he teared up, but, sure as shit could have. Mike Frances, I remember being the absolute rock of Windom Open Middle School. The guy was Dominican or somethin’, you’d totally mistake him for just another black guy, but he spoke Spanish like it was his first language… I’m guessing it was. Bi-lingual home or somethin’. Again, he still looked tall as ever, could probably dunk on the entire southside of Minneapolis, as he could always make a basketball look so simple to handle, hair grown out into a tied bun like a straight-up g, and smile as wide as I remember it. Memories are always exaggerated, but Mike Frances lived up to the hype.

If I ever… were to lose someone as close as a brother (Adam, Mark, Will, Annie, etc.), I would crumble considerably at the whisper of the mentioning of their name. Mike Frances holds up. He holds up well.

The Varsity sells out, but what impresses one the most is the amount of familiarity that ensued at the end of the night. Could be due to the fact the last two acts all graduated from South High School, or simply because Omari, legendary southside dj, has a monopoly clutch on the joint, has his brother bartending and a steady southside audience every weekend for salsa at The Loring (just down the block, under the same ownership). However, faces I haven’t seen for years appear like it was just yesterday we went at it on the blacktop in a fatal game of kickball. It’s family, not in the 7th Heaven sense, but my reality of family. Broken, cracked, in some places would appear as “f----d up”, and connected by a past we never deny or shy away from. Ever see someone from your childhood, and purposely ignore them to escape the excrutiating moment of having to reintroduce yourself say “how’s life”, exchange stories, act like you care, and bid goodbye? Nah, we don’t do that. I actually embrace the awkward space of it. Lovely.

Nearly sweat a kiddie pool over remembering lyrics, admiring the deadline of 1230am for the show to be done or else they pull the plug, and making sure everyone was happy. Worries, aside, the concert went off without too many hitches. Girl fight broke out in the front of the stage, pre-partying never took such a toll on an audience, the bar might as well replaced the water in the faucet for tequila, etc. The substance and emotions got the best of a few folks, but not the entirety, I’d say.

We close out, move it to the library, can’t help but still think of Mike Frances. “He’s not with us anymore”. Christ, then where is he? Horrible moment to brew over where you go when you die, if anywhere, but I’m a wimp when it comes to curiosity. Something I’ll probably never know until I get there. Whatever, perhaps the closest we get to it is when we sing and dance. Nothing in my life has felt more correct and necessary than music, washing dishes for my mother, and walking my grandmother to church. Doesn’t mean I do it all the time, but it feeds the soul.

Best moment of the night: all throughout soundcheck, Jake (Prof), sustained this stonewall, hoodie up, game face. I don’t blame’em. He pre-sold 300+ tix on his name alone, I’d feel the pressure or the necessity to produce a calm before the storm.  I didn’t really see Jake until I walked down to the green room after it was all said and done. An uncontainable smile stretched cross his face. Lit up the room, forces you to smile a bit when you see it too. I congratulate him, he reciprocates. There we go. Once stubborn and naive over 5 years ago and on no means of speaking to each other, now clasped in a handshake after selling out one of Minneapolis' biggest venues. There we go. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How To Jump A Bombed Bridge

Sun’s up and the show’s about to start. I’m gonna call this kid. Not for me, but for him and everyone else on stage- Shit, I hate doing this stuff. Why me, why do I gotta tell the guy he’s not in the band. He’s x’d, ax’d, finite, over… Daniel should drop the hammer on’em. Ehhh, my luck, we’d run into each other and give those midewestern nice bullshit smiles like nothing ever happened. Fuck it, it’s goin’ down like the bonus round, he hasn’t shown up to rehearsal in 6 months, can barely ever get a hold of’em, what’s he think? He’s just gonna two-step on stage, rock the mic, take cred, and peace out? Wish I could do that. Took me the past 4 weeks of little to no sleep to put the show together, print the cd’s for the release, and deal with a dragon named Julie. Shit’s not easy…especially with a dragon in the mix.  

Update: I’m 21, it’s the Friday of final’s week (the only date the Kitty Cat Klub would let me have, unreasonable wankers), and The Blend is having their FIRST cd release show…problem is the two emcees that used to make up the vocal trio of the group haven’t been in sight for the past several months. They recorded, they started with us, they exist… but ¾ of the cd have them nowhere to be found. Just me, again. No clue how to put it to’em, but “hey, you’re credited as NOT IN THE BAND on the back of the disc. Cool with you? Great, glad we agree on everything (cheezy Jim Carrey smile, thumbs up, and I’m out)." Ya, not goin’ down like that.

Calling Jacob Anderson, and breaking it to him that he’s not a part of The Blend anymore, literally broke my young naïve heart in several places. And the only reason it sucked, was because I knew he wanted to do music more than anyone else in the group. Cole on the drums, amazing kid, but he was totally fly by night and had no aspirations to be with the group after the release. Ed, the guitarist, is more interested in producing a tribute album to Attrition than sitting down and writing original music for the band he’s already in… and I can’t wrap my feeble brain around “why?”. Then Linden, the weirdest m----f-----r I’ve ever met, yet the most talented musician I’ve ever seen live. Still in high school, I haven’t figured him out yet. Lastly, the asshole, Daniel. He knows he’s difficult, he knows he’s stubborn, and we totally say that to each others face…every 5 minutes, but he insisted on it. And that’s a total cop out. Even if Daniel didn’t lead the witch hunt to cut Tim and Jake out of the credits, and written in as features, I would’ve done it myself anyways.

Being in a band is like being in a relationship. If you didn’t hear from your girl for 6 months…shiiiiiiit, she’d be no where near the credits. Lo siento, but if you go despondent on the call, then the dial goes elsewhere. What  the f--- are several high schoolers and a late bloomer supposed to do? Swallow pride and spit out a record deal… with two kids who don’t even pick up their phones. Hell, even if best friends didn’t answer the call in 6 months,, you’d be on the outs, or severely dropped in rank.

Whatever… it’s going to happen, and at some point you gotta stand up for yourself and call “bullshit”. It’s just the worst when you have to call on the people closest to you. Maybe, somethin’ good can come of this. Maybe Jake’ll put somethin’ together for himself. He’s always talked about doin’ a solo act.

Years later.

The Blend, to hell and half-way back; me, a foot in to paying for a house with music; Jacob Anderson, also know as the uncanny and locally infamous Prof. Last time I called Jake was to kick him out of a band, and years later… the call’s to join on the same stage and sell out The Varsity.

Watch it happen:
Friday, Nov. 19th
The Varsity Theater
1308 4th St. SE
Mpls, MN
Doors 8pm, Music 9pm

350 presale tix have already been sold. Hope you get there before the others are gone. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sucker Punched

Before she left the car, there was something she said. It wasn’t the “you’re in lack of a relationship to the divine” part, although it could’ve/should’ve been. My relationship with anything higher than the IDS building is severely distant at the moment. I sleep a handful of hours a day, run in the midst of cold nights like I’m on the chopping block for the cross country team, my coffee addiction just doubled, numbness streaks across my lips every now and then, and the Vikings just lost to the Bears. None of it makes any sense, and that’s the least mysterious part of this past month. What should be most concerning is nothing has had to make sense.

“You can only do so much by yourself”, she said. True above anything I’ve heard this year. It’s on my shoulders , and whatever I can’t carry, I let the pen move the weight. Reid’s project is almost done, the mixtape is virtually complete, The Blend’s snagged a new guitarist, Lazlo could move like a serpent but realities of money and time are in heat, and amongst the thick of it all in this car, can’t help but ask “what the f--- am I still doing here trying to push music into ears for???”. Ever find yourself sitting or standing and thinking “F----n Christ, I could’ve given this up a loooooong time ago”? Every day, every day that streaks my mind. Not in the sense like “Oh I should put it down and sign up for a cubicle at American Express and start paying off that student  loan interest”. Na, think about it more in the vein of “What next, who next, where next”.

And she doesn’t stop at the “doing it on your own” chapter, she asks how much longer can I go without the help of others, the divine, the details. I don’t have an answer for her. The past three artists I’ve met with to book giant sold-out shows, I’ve had to go through their managers. Me, on the other hand, no manager, no LLC, just me. I’m sure she wouldn’t be inquiring all of this if she didn’t think I deserved it…I think.

However, the source of this Friday’s show (mayhem)…me. I had the dimwitted idea that I could get Prof, long time ex-bandmate Jake, and Maria Isa on the same stage. Never panned out. 1st Ave. wanted to take a percentage I couldn’t handle, The Cabooze had little to no dates available, and where else can you fit 600+ people in Minneapolis? U of MN (rent a room for 3000, no thank you), Fine Line (you could, but unless they know you, you have to start out with a Tuesday night show…work your way up, no thank you)…anywhere else? Yeah, that’s what I thought. In the end, I was able to maneuver Isa into a night at The Cabooze alongside Cecil Otter. The two of them, absolutely amazing together, and f’n class acts. Been a treat, so far, to work with’em. So then what do I do with Prof? Put’em in The Varsity date I had been hankering Josh for a half year ago.

Varsity and Prof together, and an undercard to jolt a burnt out Ford F-150 back to life. Enough undercard to rival SoundSet. Enough undercard to rival the Celtics. Stick with music long enough, befriend these cats from the open mics, and keep your eye on what an audience responds to… voila, undercard of the century. They’re scrappy, talented, hungry- I love workin’ with these folks because they don’t sleep ‘til Brooklyn, or Canada for that matter. Mnemosyne, Mike Dreams, K. Raydio, DJ Turtleneck, Lazlo Supreme, and myself. Prof can only pull so much, and The Varsity’s cap is 650. Bam, if it doesn’t sell out, it’ll be illegal for how many people will be crammed in the joint.

Back to the car, it’s true, absolutely true. So much in fact that I feel like taking deep breaths for the rest of the night. It’s sad. Not only have I not asked for help, I’ve consciously steered away from it. Before 2 years of taking stages in Minneapolis, I developed 2 rivalries, an entire side of the city that evil eyed even the spelling of my name, and a dis track online heard cross the country…about me (ref. Customer Service by Franz Diego). It’s good, I dig it, can’t find it anymore, so it goes.

Can’t travel into the future without putting the past behind you, I’ve done my damndest to mend the cracks and crevaces, reach out, and develop something beyond my own sight line. Still, she’s right… until Friday.

I’ll get into it later, but Jake (aka Prof) and I had a falling out years upon years ago. Happened at The Blend’s CD release show at the Kitty Cat Klub… The Blend’s 1st CD Release Show, prehistoric high school/freshmen college year days. Crazy far back, it’s not worth holding a chip on your shoulder about. So I said fuck it, and called him up. Not before running into his manager, Mike… and then his label, Stophouse…wait- Label, this kid’s on a label? Indeed. Sells out the Fine Line, participates in SoundSet, and opens for POS at the 1st Ave. Main Room. Can’t make moves like all alone…right? ;)  Meh, I reached out and made it happen… and here we are. Me, promoting him as a headliner in conjunction with Stophouse, and him assisting the young, dirty, scrappy undercard… actually they’re both helping each other, but it is what it is.

We bid goodbye. I turn off the radio. Get that short moment of silence that’s necessary after the truth’s reared it’s familiar smarmy-ass smile. I get it. I get it. I get the small notion to call Jeb, good friend out in LA, and ask him “Hey, wanna be my manager”.

Be there:
Friday, Nov. 19th
The Varsity Theater
1308 14th St. SE
Mpls, MN
Doors 8pm, Music 9pm

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Late For My Own Funeral

Who the f--- is Ricky, you ask? Ricky is an old man that lives in New Orleans, LA, fights for Charity Hospital after it’s demise, not due to Katrina but to the shallow pockets and greedy appetite of Louisiana State University. After Katrina hit New Orleans, it gave the government and powers-that-be, an excuse to shut down institutions they could have only dreamed of scraping from the picture.

Charity Hospital was one of few hospitals that took care of people without health insurance. The gamut between haves and have-nots, in New Orleans, is far enough to fill several charity hospitals, and to shut down the one that catered to an impoverished city, set a fire under Ricky’s ass. Veteran activist, protested the Vietnam war, lead the Socialist Worker’s Activist Union in New Orleans, dropped out of college to write for the Militant in NYC, didn’t get his driver’s license until thirty-something, ladies and gentlemen… I give you Ricky.

Aside from all the civil rights fighting, freedom fighting, and public speaking, the special thing about Ricky is…he’s my dad. We totally don’t get along, the fire under his ass is an eternal flame, if you Wikipedia “curmudgeon” (def: a bad tempered, difficult, cantankerous person) his picture pops up, nuff said. Ask either of us to speak ill of the other and we could go on for days, but at the end of every phone conversation we wrap with “Love you”. Crazy and off-the-wall as it sounds, we get along through the thick of it. We have to. For as many times as I’ve walked away, he’s walked away, we’ve written each other off, the fact is…I’m his son, and he’s my father and ain’t shit gonna change it.

When it comes down to it between any two people, there is the potential for love, given both parties have to chip in. Scratch that, sometimes to love you have to have faith, and I can’t count how many times I’d sit and pray in church, as an 8yr old, and pray for my dad’s health and safety. No clue who or what God was at that point… still don’t, but I’d kneel and pray for the man. Scary as he was, loud as he’d yell, much as he could be a prick, I’d pray for him. This. For me, became the roots and practice of unconditional love. Shit’s hard, but somebody’s gotta do it, and it’s the same regards I’d like him to hold me to.

Anyways, getting to my point, Jake and I finished a song a few days ago in regards to Ricky. I played it for my mom, Jane. She liked it. Volume’s gotta come down on the vocals a lil bit, but aside from that it might suffice as the front runner for the mixtape. We perform it next week Friday, Nov. 19th at the Varsity Theater, a show I put together with Prof as the headliner. Got the idea for the song from a story Abigail had given me, The Return by Roberto Bolano (squiggly line over the “n” of “Bolano”. Never really figured out how to do that. Result: numerous points docked in Spanish classes). Roberto Bolano wrote The Return as a hypothetical as to how he died, what it’s like on the other side, and everything he experienced. Loved it, had to try it myself. We’re all goin’ at some point, might as well start writing thanks.

Yesterday morning, after hearing the song a few more times, my mother, in tears, poor woman, weeps, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” “No mom. Roberto Bolano wrote it, why can’t I, it’s just a song”. “Who’s Roberto?”. Christ, the communication has come down to this. Yea yea, the song is dark, I get it, but not enough to pass the impression “I’m gonna end this thing today”. C’maaaaaaaaan. Check it for yourself here. If links aren’t your thing, you can jump to and click on “Late For My Own Funeral”.

Here’s the lyrics:

Ya see that thing up there, it’s called the sky
And I’m gonna give it to you someday, but only when it’s right
You see my time here isn’t long, matter fact I’m already gone.
They buried me yesterday with my backpack and a song
Well first things first, tell Carol she was my earth
I enjoyed the long talks over Szechuan after church,
The long prayers through it all, the long stares at the wall
Makin’ waits to hear your fate from doctors at the hospitals.

And we made it, well at least you did, so tell Jane
She’s the ink for those “World’s Greatest Mom” t-shirt templates
We fought like deadlines, set-backs, age and time
And worked out like deadliner, set-backs, and age and time
Rock on Janer, you last minute lane changer
Combattin’ cancer on the daily all love and no anger.
Tell your daughter, Annie, to take it easy on herself
She’s come farther than her father could ever help.

Yea, I dig that guy, but he’s a sketchy profile,
And I’ll be damned if I’m not the one to walk you down the aisle
I have a few words for Ricky, but we’ll save that for the end
So for now, sister, know your brother loves you after death
And I’m still lookin’ for Chase, Jerren Schaden and Doc
Maria Croix, Barb Jones, and Joe Sodd
It’s crazy up here, I’ve been in line since I landed
Fillin’ out paper work to make sure I am who I say I am, but

What I miss most is your voice
My memory’s still the same even though my life has change
Cos’ what gets me by are the simple joys.
I was late for my own funeral so I could spend the day as a ghost on your shoulder.

Anyways, over here the roads are pristine
I only wish I could’ve brought my Honda with me.
That things gonna out live your kid’s kids
So don’t forget, every 60,000 give the transmission fluid the business.
Drive it back to New Orleans, have a hand grenade for me
And kill the hangover with PJ’s in the mornin’
I wanna hear you laughter in the hereafter
Unconditional, no matter where luck steers the dagger

Smile, it may not feel like a lot,
But trust in the end, it’s the only thing you’ve got
I don’t mind that you don’t care, I don’t mind
And I’ll be late for yours too, so I guess it’s only fair
It’s clear you pick the moments you choose to be a father
And I’m guilty of lettin’ my mood determine what I call ya
Derek, Mr. Morrison, Dad whatever it is today
I’m your son, and even in the next that won’t change

But what I miss most is your voice
My memory’s still the same even though my life has changed
What gets me by are the simple joys
I was late for my own funeral so I could spend the day as a ghost on your shoulder.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Interracial Night Out

Four weeks ago, I had come across a dope-ass font named "Mexcellent". Two weeks later, in Cancun, I stepped into an elevator along with the rest of Mexico's Women's National Soccer Team. Yesterday, saw one of the gals from the elevator on ESPN jumping in the air after handing the USA Women's Team their first loss to Mexico in a damn long time. All events that have nothing to do with the following story...

So a Mexican, two Brazilians, and a racially ambiguous guy walk into a bar… meh, less a bar, more like a giant club fitting for a Michael Mann shoot out (ref: Collateral), but nonetheless we’ll call it a bar for the sake of simplicity.

More shades of brown than Photoshop CS10 Jesus Edition 3000, if the four of us were in New York we’d look like we knew each other, in L.A. we’d look like an out-of-work camera crew, in Minnesota we’d look like a drug cartel... and we’d totally get away with it, but for now we’re two Brazilians, an American, and a local (damn good running title for Michael Mann’s next film, as long as they hire Javier Bardem as the Mexican, I’ll sell the rights for less than 10g).

$50 wrist band and “free” shuttle ride later, this place wreaks of a Justin Timberlake music video. Ceiling high as a national bank, and lighting that’d make The Varsity look like a sideshow; all of which is a good thing, however that cold feeling happens to my gut on the minute every minute, translating this could be fun, or I could wind up in a suitcase just outside the Cancun City Dump.

Can’t make out a single word this guy is saying to me. “De donde eres?”, I ask. “Brasil”, he says, and that explains it. Nice, I could use a quick brush-up on my Portugese while I’m here. Perhaps he mistook me for someone who’s native to something closer to Brazil than plain ol’ U.S.A. Narp, not even. We hold what I wouldn’t even call a conversation… let’s go with neanderthalic sign language. We stick with the gutturals, short-Spanish, and hand gestures. Back in a theater tech class, professor Lance held an entire class on communication between director and lead set design. He said the best communication is guttural. Short gestures and grunts can go farther than a paragraph… and they do. Christ, we talked about Giselle, Jiu-Jitsu, the caliber of Brazilian women of which he couldn’t stop speaking about, how long we’re in town- ERRRRK! Dance circle twelve o’clock!

Quick note, when a dance circle breaks out, one of two things must happen: 1. Draw to it like a fly to neon lighting, white people to poll booths, cops to the north side of Minneapolis, etc… or 2. Jump in.
Even quicker note: never jump into a dance circle to show-off. You kamikaze that biotch to make a complete fool of yourself, and hopefully light a fire under someone elses arse who’s dream it’s always been to jump in a dance circle and break it down like freakonomics.

Love these things. Dove in hands first to eek out the two –and-a-half break moves I know. I’m no good, but put out just enough and you’ll draw out the real b-boys. Flashback: 15 yr. old Toussaint use to stand and watch dancers b-boy for so long at the Sunday danceteria at 1st Ave. that each breaker could’ve easily filed a restraining order on me. I’d just stand there, between “too afraid to jump off the diving board” and “enthralled enough to watch it all go down”. A few lessons, bruised elbows, and 3 of my top 10 most embarrassing moments later, I can do it like they’re the only moves I know… because they are. Half-break, half-gymnastics, it’s enough to draw this kid out lookin’ like Pharell’s younger brother. He takes the bait, shoulders me out, spins like a dreidel on his hands and heals. Folks gasp at his sneaks in the air, the crowd ooh’s at his simple defiance of gravity-Bam, I’m back in on the hands, absolutely no rhythm, but nonetheless feet don’t touch the ground, and it continues like that ‘til I can negotiate a shoulder to the ground and spin to a pose… enough to look like I meant it. He puts on another clinic, finishes almost on his face, and calls it. Thanks, I’m out of moves anyways. Shiiiiit, and if this were to haul on any longer we would have to resort to dancing on our feet. We clasp hands and greet. He says he’s from New York, the others with him are from Canada, my drug cartel introduces themselves from South America, a group of gals drop in to introduce themselves from London… and here we are, dancing like we’ve known each other since the California Achievement Test in grade school, border-line buzzed, and above all: smiling.

The alcohol sweats through your pours so quick, you’d think you’d been drinking Diet Coke the whole night. Trust, it’ll hit you at some moment though. These wristbands = license to binge. Too much is always an easy direction to start, although no one ever finishes. The fact we’re in Mexico, the authorities could make sure your picture doesn’t even make it to the back of a milk carton… I’m coo.

In a blink… it’s 4am. Buenos dias, I step out to snag a taxi. It’s raining like the storm to put the coast under for good is eminent to hit. If it does, at least we went down dancing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

This Is Fran Camden, This Is Sparta

(Read the previous entry here to actually understand what the f’s going on. However, quick brush-up: Fran Camden, ex from a year ago. Last we saw each other, the national guard was put on alert. Murk, Fran’s sister.

Bar-close upon us, The Nomad was more cryphy than Get Cryphy. People jumpin’ off the stage, dancing on, off, in, and around it, tables pushed all directions to clear the floor. The night’s dubbed “Soul Friday, the only dance party for and by queer women of color and friends”. Not a bad claim, and got damn do they get down. Twas off the cliff.

Murk showed me her new extension, ever so proudly. I made a joke, which is mandatory whenever anyone shows you their extensions, we went on to converse. Her bday’s next week, can’t make it to the show, etc. Enter the Dragon…Fran. She’s shorter than I remember. Touches my newly dawned beard. “What’s this…why are we growing a beard all of a sudden? What’s going on here?”. She’s not as good at condescension as the master, Ms. Shin, but she gives it a college try. “Growing it out for a music vid”, I say. Which as of now, is gone. Couldn’t stand the damn beard. Itched, itched and itched. Blonde, red, and gray hairs were sproutin’ out the thing. No clue what was goin’ on in there. Had to go.

She continues. Stares at me like it’s my turn to give her shit…but I’m all out. Game’s over, I’d rather talk about Tom Emmer’s day schedule than spar with the woman. I grin and look to Murk to continue our conversation. “Uhh, I hate that. I can’t stand it when you do that”, she says. And I just look back, smile, and continue the conversation with Murk. So she stands there and stares at me for the rest of the ten minutes I was around. Obviously drunk, she kept repeating "This is awkward. Isn't this awkward?" wanting myself and everyone else to agree with her and partake in the same feeling... but it wasn't. It was absolutely fine, with nothing awkward about it. 

Doting on a few more gestures I gave, as she persisted with the "awkward" accusations, I thought, "Why? Why even tell me that your uncomfortable right now? The best you have to contribute to the conversation is the overbearing obvious, then why even step here. You know absolutely everyone in this bar, you use to work in this bar, everyone would love to hear about your this bar, so why step to me, hold the smile, and play Queen Obvious. Tell me what your excited about for the future, where you're going next, do you think of Sex & The City 2 is anywhere near the 1st, somethin' more than thin discussion about the discussion." Yes, I'd rather talk about Carrie Bradshaw than hear more of the same from the same...but, it's cute, and although she wants me to agree with her, I can't... I don't feel awkward. This "Dance party for and by queer women" is too outrageously awesome to feel awkward. Shiiiiiit, I might just have to jump in.

After a few tries, she gave it a civil pursuit. She didn’t make the cut for GAP in San Francisco, asked about Jeb’s wedding in Cali… and I honestly couldn’t tell you the rest of what we spoke about. They say 90% of communication is done without words. I believe it. Fran and I quite possibly carried on an entire dialogue, just without words. What’s strange is the fact that I could be dead silent, and I’d still somehow piss her off. Had to have been several times throughout the conversation that she road blocked to say, “Uhh, I can’t stand it when you do that”. Do what? I’m taken back, here. It seemed that simple gestures, laughs, and details just lit a fire under her arse. And for what? No clue.

With Fran Camden, these little things use to set off Battle Royale Galacticas. Back when we were together, there was a definitive moment when she snapped on a moment’s sliver, gave me this look like a supervisor gives a late employee. This entitlement, sense of ownership, bravado was going to have to check itself, or find a different man to take the wrap. Wasn’t me. I plugged my fair share of mishaps and wrongs into the equation, but again, relationships are about problem solving (ref: Mallory). Twas the final snap, and it was either high time to deal or fold. When it came time, more than enough factors reared their ugly mugs and the entire situation folded. Ehhh, “folded” is an understatement. Let’s go with “mushroom clouded”.

However you cut the butter, seeing Fran again was refreshing. It’s not everyday you can put down the guns and gloves, and share a smile with someone that threatened to dial 911 last they saw you. Truly a special thing (half sarcastic, half sarcastic). I kid, I kid. What was nice about it was the little gestures that use to provoke the crazy in her weren’t half as devastating. At least not to me. Murk hovered in the background the entire time, making expressions at Fran’s expense, mocking, bunny ears, the works… I’d laugh, Fran’d turn to her and give her shit.

Finished my Abita beer, “Was good seeing you”, made my way to the exit. Not bad for a Friday. Just when I thought it was the end of a night that’d never end, in rolls a text from Mike Lipset. After Party... oh sure why not.