Monday, October 18, 2010

Arkham Cafe

The back of her neck reads…

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends

There's a fourth line, but I couldn't make it out on a suddenly slowed brisk walk to the Spyhouse. She sat at a table outside the coffeeshop studying, Fifth Element in the background, beautiful October day upon us, and "...way the world ends" in plain sight. The barista's looking at me like she's just seen a ghost. Staring me down patiently on my trek toward the register, as if she'd been waiting all day, knowing this moment would happen, like Bill Murray trapped in the ever-looping Groundhog's Day, or a samurai who always knew this moment would come. Her sword replaced by cash register, my backpack in place of any shogun weapon I should've brought to the showdown. Her face absolutely motionless. I don't even know how she got the words out her mouth without it moving, as if she telepathed the english to my brain and we simply made the transaction through thoughts.

I want to take a moment to look at the word "odd". When I type odd, I don't mean Hogwart's odd, that'd be an understatement, I mean odd like American McGee's Alice in Wonderland odd. Call me schizophrenic, but everytime I walk into the Spyhouse on Hennepin Ave. I get this sudden awe of displacement, as if there's a portal at the door, where you're immediately not in Minneapolis anymore, and have somehow entered into the realm of a who-dun-it mystery. Everyone seems suspect.

I drop into my seat, where the gentlemen next to me is watching something on his laptop that appears to simply be a screen saver. Ok. Yeah. Sure. I guess those things are entertaining nowadays. Sometimes we get hypnotized by the moving color-burst in step with music streaming through our laptops, but perhaps screen savers are the new hypnotic... yeah. I break my bag out, notebooks, pens, parking tickets- kick my feet up in the chair across from me, and begin to write. The barista, not the same one that served me, phantoms from behind the cash register. When I say "phantom", I mean she quietly stealthed from there to here ( Really trying to kill the urge to say "teleported", but we'll go with "stealth"). Call me the one that flew over the coocoo's nest, but this chick straight phantomed/Quantum Leaped to my table. She put out her hand as if she were going to break the news to me that the hospital called and said my mother isn't going to make it. However, without effort she delivers... "Could you please take your feet off the chair."

We look at each other for what felt like a millenium, soon broke by her turning away to work on whatever crime they're trying to cover up behind the counter. I get it, these chairs cost cash, and perhaps manners should be in order before someone has to tell me, but it was her delivery that got me... The way she said it with her eyes more than her voice, almost as if to intimidate if I didn’t take my feet off the chair, some method of witchcraft would be conducted to turn me into a pastry they’d throw into the day-old discount bin for tomorrow.

So, as I’m skeptically looking at the newly purchased day-old donut on my table, I remember the days of slaving at a coffeeshop, the ungrateful professors that would tip quarters to your efforts, the women that treated you like a peon from the nearest ghetto, the people that’d take a day and then some to decide what they wanted from the menu, the schizophrenics… Christ, the schizophrenics. One guy asked me to take a copy of his version of the bible and read it right in front of him. 48 pages of what seemed to be a finals paper written by Glenn Beck, I kindly declined the offer.

It’s situations like this that make me question what the f--- I’m doing spending 4+ hours a day writing in a coffeeshop, and if I’m headed to footnoting biblical text to a stack of 40+ pages, The answers never added up to a pat on the back or hand shake from the people that should matter most, but usually results in a random encounter of “Hey, are you that guy from that ____ (insert “Band”, “Commercial”, “Play”, or “Video” here). Wow, keep at it dude. You’re gonna make it someday.”

“Someday”, I assure you, will never come. And as cheez whip as it sounds, its due to the irrefutable fact that that “someday” is “today”. Staring across the street at Fifth Element, there’s flowers and cards in memorial and remembrance of the late great Michael Larsen, and on my hard drive is a freshly uploaded video in memorial and remembrance of the late great Joe Sodd III. The point I’m getting at is, just perhaps I’m going absolutely insane, and the umpteenth day of writing songs and uploading content is beginning to make me feel like the baristas at this coffeehouse are conspiring to cloud the city with black magic. Don’t think anyone who’s written, performed, or created anything has ever conceived their labor of love with a smile on their face the whole way through. I’ll simply blank out sometimes and stare at the computer for what seems to be a few seconds- next thing I know, an hour’s passed. Maybe I and the guy sitting intently eyeing down the screen saver have more in common that I thought. 

Joe and Michael left behind a legacy of performance, moving works of art, and a life of commitment to the craft and their people. As artists, we’re all at the mercy of our work and somehow constantly creating the diorama for our memorial service. Tell me what’s the end you have in mind for the next move you make with that pen? What do you want to leave behind?

I couldn’t tell you the answer right now, but I’m going crazy for it at the moment. If life is worth dying for... it's also worth losing every bit of sanity in the process. 

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