Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Woman With The Tattooed Arms (1/2)

You wouldn’t be able to write “Love” on her arms… there isn’t any space. Two thick jagged lines streak from the bottom of her wrist to her the end of her forearm. The other arm has inch-long slices going the opposite direction, not as big, but too many to count- tiger striped almost. Last I glanced at the cuts on her arm, she was turning for the bar to buy me a drink… it’s been several hours since then and I haven’t looked at them since. If she were to catch me, it’d easily spark a conversation in the wrong direction- not worth anyone’s time at the moment. It’s one of those one-night rendezvous you have with people while on the road- strike a quick eye-to-eye-same-page gesture and any two people can link like they’ve known each other since 5th grade. It’s tough, you just gotta be open to it.

Hmm, how’d I wind up with the woman scars on her arms… Let’s start here:

Tesch, his girlfriend Beth, and myself had just left the Ben Harper concert at SummerFest. Hiked it all the way back Brady St. Tesch and Beth shared a few under-the-breath words while we made it back to their apartment. Their exchange consisted most of guttural gesture than actual words. Trust, any good relationship will comprise itself skillful communication. Blah blah blah, everyone says communication is key. To that I ask if you’ve ever watched a couple drunkenly duke it out with consonant and vowel over a which glass they pour the water into. Let me add, when I say “drunken”, I don’t just mean alcohol, I’m inviting the generality of “incensement” into the big picture. Drunk with frustration, manhood, estrogen, daddy-issues, PRIDE- you call it. Communication works…when it’s not used over a megaphone and list of 21 Questions: starting with “What the fuck have you done for me lately”. Luckily, and beautifully, what comes with aged and seasoned human beings in the trade of love & war is in their phrasing. The couple finishes their dialogue, Tesch turns to me “Alright, let’s hit Brady”.

“Let’s go to Jo Cats- never been there!” I geeked out to Tesch. “Meh, I guess. Imagine all the women you knew from college that couldn’t handle their liquor and lashed out dramatically after their 3rd drink… that’s Jo Cats.” Tesch informed. We pull up the SummerFest-crazed streets of East Milwaukee… and who would’ve guessed, the diviest of all dives is packed to the brim with a bouncer outside letting one-in with every one-out. You can see Jo Cat’s ceiling lit with cheap string-dorm-room-ish lighting-  gah it’s beautiful… to me, at least… but not tonight. I’ve never seen such a shitty bar packed with so many people… not since our last tour to Cleveland.

Tesch and I shoulder shrug it in-sync and trot it to Club Brady. “Yeah, never been here either, man! Let’s get it!” again with the tourist natured attitude, wide-eyed like Brady St. had just turned into Vegas.

Looking at the two of us, there’s no hiding the canyon-divide between Tesch and I. Tesch: devoted student to the very fiber of scientific detail, soon to become a doctor and beholder of a daunting PhD and resume that’d make your supervisor look like a errand boy; Me: neighborhood enabler, musician and actor on the run from old-dead-white-men plays and stubborn enough to write my own; Together: a simple common gene and life-philosophy in how to take it easy. I’ve seen Tesch under the gun & blade next to academic tests that’ll make or break his fiscal, academic, and professional existence… grab a PBR and call it a night. The man has New Orleans in his blood. Don’t know how it got there, but  it’s there. The book “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff” jus t might’ve been originally written by Tesch… in a day... while sipping Chiant, and watching a Brewers game at the same time.

Enter Club Brady. The light’s not dim enough to be a shoot from Sin City 2, but not bright enough to serve coffee and get a paper done. I have money, it’s been awhile, but I have it. I corner it to the bar and grab us two drinks- a man slaps me on the back- hard. Must be someone I know, or someone I don’t know that wants to say tell me something by slapping me on the back. I turn to see that it’s Tesch’s good buddie, Tony. Built like a brick shit house, and easily unbeknownst to his own strength against a simple 180lb frame such as mine, Tony and I shake hands. I turn to order him a drink as well. These are good people, folks that’ve put me up on the couch while touring thru, had it in them to make it to several shows within a year, and always meet & greet like a reunion. Flipping for beverages is the best I can do under the circumstances of dim bars and bass-heavy sound systems. When we’re older, I’ll double as a nanny or something more useful than a beer to express my gratitude. Tony and I unclasp, and the view opens up to at least several friends in the damn bar. Christ, how did Milwaukee become so familiar? Give it a tour or two, the right way, and it’ll begin to look like home… or something between that and a comfortable broken home- y’know the ones where everyone’s cool with the divorce, we all know the parameters of how fucked up relationships can be, the capabilities of everyone’s drama, but we still have the graciousness to kick it while we’re still above ground… yeah, that’s my fam.

Turn, turn, pirouette, twist sideways through two large white men, find a table, bam- we can finally sit. Several hours at SummerFest and a walk down Brady will bring back the niceties of pulling up a chair. I feel another touch, this time it’s faint. “Hey, are you Toussaint?” asks a shorter white gal with both hands holding a PBR. “Absolutely not” I answer, “My name is James”. Sidenote: I use the name James at any restaurant while taking reservations, or in line to wait. It’s easier, people fuck up Toussaint to the point it sets back their business, and I’ve never heard someone screw up James. Is just came out, I don’t know why. At midnight, after several  hours of taking in live music, humid weather, and large crowds, you might be susceptible to giving out the wrong name from time to time… like me. She believes me. “Hi, I’m Toussaint- umm, how the hell do you know my name?”.

“You’re TJ’s friend, right… from The Blend”.  Wow, the legacy of TJ rides far beyond his heydays at White Water, WI. TJ spotted our first show at the Mifflin St. Block Party several years ago… meh, more like over 5 years ago. Is 5+ equal “several”… who cares. We’re long time buds, and he’s potentially one of the coolest people Milwaukee has to offer, which leaves the bar high (pun intended?). We greet, we talk, we commiserate- “Hey, what’re you drinkin?” questions a direct voice from my close left.

She’s short. 5 foot somethin’, but has the demeanor of a pimp/general manager, the type that lets you get by with the small stuff at work, but still sticks to the program. On top of it all, she’s strikingly beautiful. “Striking” in the sense that I must’ve stood there a bit stricken by her quick intro for a few extra seconds, but was able to play it off, “Oberon- yeah, that’s what I’m drinking”. “Cool, I’ll be right back”, she points to my new friend, who’s clearly her long-time friend, and marches off to the bar. My new friend keeps talking to me, but all I can think is, “Who the hell is that damn resilient black woman that just headed off to buy my drink?”

To be continued…

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just For Fire Starters

Sunday, July 18, 2011

I’m blind. I’m staring down the row of coffeeshop booths at the Spyhouse on Nicollet Ave, and cannot make out a single face. The colors blur to large spots, the lights overlap the spots into fading details, and it all isn’t tragic enough for me to care- it’s the writing- the damn writing that has to get done.

With the mixtape almost finished, I haven’t been able to function on a normal schedule. Staying up ‘til 3am on the regular and waking at 9am hasn’t been kind to working out, photoshopping posters for upcoming shows, or garnering the ambition to go to the hospital and order new contacts. The contacts I had in were month-long… I think. The damn things turned rogue, started watering my eyes to red blots… meh, it’s the behavior that’s gone rogue, more so. Since the return from Milwaukee, my perspective’s turned from “gainful employment is the only answer to the next few months” to “let’s spend as little time as possible working for anyone else, and entrepreneur this bitch to the sky”. Websites, merch, an online hustle beyond any man-hours I could put in at the restaurant- the hurt is in knowing what you want, knowing how to do it, knowing where to go, but constantly facilitating a balance so as to keep the foundation from slipping out from underneath you. The foundation you built out of a sheer compassion for what you love to do, and being at the general mercy of your own work.

So as the contacts have already rotted out of my misshapen-stigmatism-ridden eyeballs, and I pass up several people I can’t make out (but would have had I been able to see), the only thing in front of me is the work- the laptop and the notebook. The song I’ve been writing/trying to write with a feature from Mayda and an array of clickable links to construct a wordpress site relative to a learning brail. Like I said, I’m blind.

The words come to me like random facebook friend-suggestions. The song’s title is “Freedom Cobra” and if that doesn’t make sense to you, then you’ll never get it (i.e. go watch Aqua Teen HungerForce… now). The past weekend passed swiftly. They all have since Milwaukee. When your work lies on the weekend, it seems to have an inverse effect than having a day-job. Your mind routes the days differently than if you were actually anticipating the weekend… as opposed to organizing it.

The words begin to dry-up. The process of assembling a song has been more daunting than ever. Not only are there lyrics I have reverberating off the walls of my skull, but there are too many stories. I’ve fashioned the challenge to myself to document at least one a day, as if to routine it into the frequency I’ve been running as well. Christ, a woman passed Henry and I on Lake Nokomis two days ago. I sped up to pace with her… but Henry dragged the leash like a reluctant car with a flat tire. The damn dog struggled. I caught fire in frustration for a moment, but then remembered Henry’s a straight g to the tune that we’ve run in 20-below weather, and 110 degree weather whenever I’ve asked it of him.

So as the writer’s block fits itself nicely between any connection I have to my pen, I let the lack of vision guide my next move… It’s nice like this. I’ll have to find my glasses later, but for now this’ll do.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Check's In The Glove Compartment

The temperature has hit such a number that the act of sitting down produces sweat in places you’ve only known to perspire during sex in a top floor apartment with no central air or  any athletic competition. The humidity has my eyebrows dripping at the touch of my neon-green sunglasses slightly pressed against them. Fuck it- dilated pupils are overrated- let the sun blind me while I drive- the glasses gotta go.

Switching cars is easy, like forgetting. I pull up to Colby’s back parking lot, nab the keys from underneath the front car seat, pack the merch in the back seat, and make the switch… and totally f----ng forgot the mini flip cam. Meh- I can do without. The weekend’s going to involve more moving than standing. I won’t have the time to shuffle around and record “brief” moments of immaturity.

My mild obsession with Milwaukee, and other cities outside Minnesota, bloomed into a full-blown geographic love affair within the past month. I can’t get enough of waking up on Brady St. after promoting a new event, booking a new event, or performing at a show. Aside from the segregation and multitude of bro-bars, I like the place. White people in Milwaukee aren’t like white people in Madison. Madison emotes an illusion of “acceptance” and grandeur “tolerance”, but really the only people of color I’ve seen amongst white social circles in Madison… are athletes. Black athletes are held in such a high regard in Madison, the deification leaves non-athletes of color (aka everyone else who’s not white) either to take to drinking harder than their liver can take or rapping & singing in a rock band for social credibility (aka me). Plus, Madison is like a phase. Remember that one time you were into NASCAR, or you wanted to date guys in cowboy hats, or when you actually bought 50 Cent’s music… yeah, that’s Madison: such a fleeting, passing moment-  a rights of passage if you will.

Driving 94E towards the promise land, there goes that giant bulb of a water tower with “Woodbury” tattooed on the side- Jesus Christ, I forgot that too! It hits me that I forgot to mail out the check for Rockmen’s bachelor party. His best buddy assigned himself to rally the troops for his bachelor party in August, notified everyone it’ll cost a few dollars, and I totally left that check in my car during the switch. It’s probably sweatin’ it up right now with the mini HD cam in the glove compartment as well, chattin’ about how long it’ll be ‘til I start forgetting to wear clothes in public.

This is a good time to throw an “Oh by the way” in. So, oh- by the way, Rockmen is marrying my sister. My cred with his best friend is within the likes of nil, I would assume, and it’s totally not his fault. I ran into Rockmen’s best friend on Nicollet Mall, once as I was heading into Target to buy a belt for work, and there he was- Hair dapper than Dan, polo shirt perfectly slung across his torso, and shoes worth more than your existence- “Hey Toussaint, what’s up?” I felt disheveled- I had only seen this guy at Rockmen & Annie’s Grand Old Days’ party, but this was different. This was pure daylight, class colors out in the open: Me in my server-boy-minstrel uniform and him in total swag attire, potentially for a job that pays more in two weeks than a year’s worth of serving tables at the Old Spaghetti Factory. “Not much, just buying a belt for work”. We exchanged a few more words, and then departed.

Those types of interactions don’t scare at all, however, I get anxiety for the other person’s feelings. Here, a lot of folks assume that me being out of town, doing shows 200 days outta the year, and acclimating online numbers would save me from serving tables once a week… and it doesn’t. So, in these cases when I appear human to people, I get nerves for the shock they might be going thru at the moment.

And now, the check being somewhere useless until I get back to mpls, it’s officially the first time I’ve done somewhat wrong by Rockmen. I like that guy. I’ll get into it later, but Rockmen could quite possibly be the slim sign that chivalry isn’t dead… in Minnesota.

All in all, I’ve got what I need for Wisconsin. I entirely will not make it in time for the Kanye concert, but definitely will for a brew with one of my favourite folk in the Midwest: Tesch. Old roommate, biology aficionado, straight common sense genius- Tesch is one of those people that will look at you funny if you’re actually doing something stupid. He won’t sugar-coat it, it’s not in his system to emote false impressions. Tesch, Brady St., Summerfest, the tattoo sleeved women of Riverwest Milwaukee… here I go.