Monday, November 21, 2011

Watch The Cockpit

I’m still waiting for that modeling check to come. Posing on a summer deck at a mansion in Wayzata for a national Target ad should pay more than you think. Perhaps it does in other cities, but in Minneapolis it pays just enough for you to get anxious for its arrival. A dollar less and you’d forget it was ever coming.

The check, the check, the check- it’s the only thing on my mind whilst driving through an oddly balmy November evening in Minneapolis. Barreling Honda down an uptown backstreet, jam packed with cars parked in every legal facet of street curb with the occasional vehicle scrunched next to a stop sign, a couple clutched close to one another made visible beneath the street light. The two didn’t hesitate with the passing of Honda and I’s incredulously loud belts, slowly dying engine, and axles heard squeaking around the world. Nope, they just went on kissin’ the hell out of each other.

Wow, when was the last time I saw two people kissing? Christ, can’t even remember. Minnesotans are pretty stiff about their public displays of affection. The entire Midwest in general can account for it, with the exception of Wisconsin & Iowa. People seem to breathe a little easier in certain parts of Wisconsin and even more so in Iowa. PDA and even lewd groping runs seamlessly thru the streets of Ames, Des Moines, and Iowa City… it’s just a quality we prude Minnesotans haven’t mastered yet or come to terms with.
Still passing by, I notice not only are there two people making out, but it’s two men. Hmm, when was the last time I was privy to witness two men make out? Honda & I make a full pass… onto wherever I was headed which clearly didn’t matter at this point. More importantly on my mind now is “when have I last seen two men make out?” Shit, I know it was at least within the past year…

Ahh, yes- I remember it now. Twas summer, coasting southward down Hennepin Ave. in uptown. Honda was in tip-top shape back then- smooth as fresh oil change, quiet as a Prius, in traffic I let my arm hang halfway out of the open window. Traffic bickered at a snails pace down the block, approaching 20-something street,  the corner of the Hennepin Ave. Spyhouse Coffeeshop and the Savoy Pizzeria, a man with a camera eagerly snapped shots of something on the opposite side of the street. Now, as I was eager to see what was being eagerly shot, I crept my head out of the window a bit while trafficked slowed on to watch. Two men in leather vests stood in front of a store called “The Cockpit” embraced in each others arms making out drastically. Whether it was for the camera, attraction, or both, it was no mistake the make out session was with a purpose. One man, clad in a studded leather vest, smothered his partner, who I couldn’t make out in wardrobe- just don’t remember it while trying to recall it. Honda & I still in stop-and-go-rolling-down-Crenshaw-style traffic made sight of a tag in the couples background. On the wall of The Cockpit, next to the entrance door was a bold lettered graffiti tag which read “FAGGOT”.

In a split second I thought to myself, “Mother of Mercy! Someone needs to alert The Cockpit and these men that some bastard has vandalized their place of business with derogatory bullshit!” Mind you I was voted “Most Gullible” my senior year in high school. I don’t catch on too quick, and am almost always the last to get a joke. Most times I laugh first, and understand later. I’ve found it makes me look less stupid in public. A split second later, I see the cameraman again. Snapping shots of the couple in full-throttle make-out session, making sure to get the tag in the background.

Very rarely are we privileged enough to witness beautiful response to ugly action in its purest moment and form. “Traffic can move as slow as it wants to today”, I thought to myself.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

I was going thru an existential faith-based crisis, disgruntled at a fork in the road if theirs is more to you than just your tangible body. Screw religion, God, Buddha, Muhammad, everything… if you don’t believe there’s more to your tangible body, then there is no discussion. While coping thru the question of “where do you go when your body perishes?”, I snapped out of my 7 mile stare towards the coffee table to revert my attention to my current environment of UFC fight night at Adam’s parents house. Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping had just finished their season run of The Ultimate Fighter and were now fighting each other. The Ultimate Fighter is a reality TV show where two teams of amateur mixed martial artists are pitted against each other, and coached by veteran UFC fighters. Bell rung, the two trade jabs, test each other out, covet the mood of the other opponent- the movement, the silhouette, weighing the risk of going in for a takedown verses a counter-attack. It was then I noticed Dan Henderson, a past decorated NCAA Division 1 wrestler turned MMA fighter, now a hulking elderly 30-something UFC fighter, plotted his stance amazingly unorthodox. He prepped his right hand as if this were some kind of video game- as if he were manipulated by some kind of outside Player 1 XBOX Controller and charging a kinetic energy in his fist- what the f--- are you doing Dan Henderson!?!?

Fending off Bisping with his left arm, Henderson looked as if he were stiff arming the offense out of Bisping- simply one-arming the man out of attacking. SWOOOSH! A long looping, hip-pivoting, right hand from Dan Henderson connected with the left side of Bisping’s chin. Bisping’s body dropped to the mat followed by Dan Henderson aerial diving with right-hand prepped to Donkey Kong punch the fallen fighter. BLAM! The aerial driven right-fist of Henderson slam Bisping’s head not only into the mat, but into a double ricochet off Henderson’s glove and again back into the mat.

Quickly pulled from the body of Bisping, Henderson clearly winning the fight, the attention quickly turned from the ultra-violent one-two combination that has just rocked Bisping’s entire solar system to the state of livelihood Bisping has been left in. Sitting on Adam’s parents couch, I figured it had to be right then and there… I’ve just seen a man murdered in cold blood. Bisping’s neck stretched back, arms locked into perfect 90 degree angles, and toes stretching as far as biologically possible. His body was in shock- never have I seen a man go down in such a fashion or go unconscious so swiftly. Veins, tendons, muscles all bulging and sweltering with blood clotted in place. Flesh easily frozen by the brain’s control panel shutting down every function of the body just to keep it breathing.

During that small “what the hell does it all mean?” fiasco of mine, watching Dan Henderson nearly kill a man with one hand furthered me to feel outside of my body. Here lay this guy I’ve never met, only watched on television in bloody MMA fights, and I felt severely hurt and sorry for him.

Bisping soon came to, and was assuredly not dead. He’d go on to win his next fight even. However, the right hand of Dan Henderson remains at large. Even more so, it happens tonight against the highly skilled multifaceted Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The two will potentially go down as UFC hall of famers, but still to be sorted out is the business of tonight’s clash, and potentially Hendo’s right hand of God- right hand of Allah- right hand of Fuck-Your-Life.

Rua and Henderson fight tonight amongst the toughest MMA division on the planet, Light Heavyweight. The top 10 is staunch filled with jobbers and killers that could flip to top 20 or escalate to top 3 within the stroke of 5 quick-fought seconds. At the top remains the still unscathed and/or matched Jon “Bones” Jones, however, I say again, these things can change very quickly. My usual go-to, Ugly Mug, isn’t showing the fight, so it’s on to Sneaky Pete’s where the cougars roam and the collars pop.

I don’t care to see another man struck out of his conscious existence, however the skill and art of MMA plays on my interest too much to avoid. If Dan Henderson is to win this bout, him and his f’ng right hand just might strike up more faith-based crisis than championship talk. Risking body and livelihood for a legacy and personal path can be attributed to one of those unquantifiable things beyond flesh & blood.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Raki Road

Pyrros Dimas entered Spain in 1992, freshly 21 years old, hailing from Greece, and dawning his country’s colors he stepped into the Olympic arena as a weight lifter. Young to the games, Pyrros held the weight over his head for a few seconds after the buzzer rung for pictures to be taken. Upon his Olympic gold winning lift, he shouted "Yia tin Ellada!"; meaning "For Greece!". Pyrros won the gold medal and the hearts Europeans everywhere.  The kid had defeated men in a match dominated by elder experience and long-withstanding muscle.

Reclining to the sofa, scrolling thru the channels of NFL live bludgeoning and forecasts of Gaddafi’s newly declining regime, it struck me: it’s Sunday, and I’m not working at a restaurant. For the past 3 years, I’ve diligently sped the wheels to the tour bus, or Honda Civic, to get to Minneapolis in time for my Sunday shift at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Upon my initial hiring at the Spag Factory, I made it clear I could work most Thursdays, few Fridays and Saturdays, and all Sundays. After several debacles and schedule snafus, my tenure was solidified as the Sunday shift. The manager at the time, Chris, thought nothing of it as I was able to cover shifts for those who couldn’t make their weekend schedules, or just wanted a night off. I was a ghost, disappearing from the sight of my co-workers weeks at a time, and then showing up four nights in a row to cover several shifts and take the usual Sunday. Quite the job for a touring musician.

Aside from schedule flexibility, what worked best was the management’s personable attitude towards the staff. Never had I respected a boss more than Chris and the management beneath him. Rounding my 3rd weekend of work, Chris asked to see me in his office. I had strolled in 8 minutes late, and knew I deserved whatever punishment Chris deemed suitable. Usually the messenger of a jolly smile, cheerfulness, and chuckle wherever he walked about in the restaurant, the demeanor dropped as we sat in his office.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to fire you, but we sat your section with Laura before we even opened because we knew you’d be late. And here you are, 8 minutes late. This is the kind of precedent you’ve set here with us. It has to change.” From that point on, I was never late for work again under Chris’ regime.

Punctuality has never been a strength of mine, at least back when beginning at the Factory. Chris’ simple meeting had turned that around for me. No need to threaten, scold or shame. We understood what the problem was, and it was up to me to turn it around… or find a new job. Thank bejeezus I did.

Enter Atlanta, 1996- Potentially one of the worst Olympics of all time. Bombings, disorganization, and well- the U.S. Pyrros distracted by none of it and riding off of two world championships, was the heavy favorite to take the weight lifting gold again. Still a youngster in a man’s event, at 25 years old, Pyrros dominated the field, shouting "Yia tin Ellada!" after his gold medal winning lift. By the end of the games, the phrase had become a slogan throughout Greece.

2.5 years passed, and the Factory had become one of my longest standing employments outside of working with youth. My tenure with restaurants had never been that of long-term. The Bayside Grill lasted several months over the summer, until the 2 hour bus ride from the city to Lake Minnetonka became turned into no-call no-show. The Glockenspiel worked from about a year until the schedule got so out of whack that staffing became day-to-day. You’d have to call in to find out when you worked. In the end, I’d take my schedule into my own hands and respectfully decline employment at the Glockenspiel.

The summer was winding down, veteran servers and bartenders began moving out with the incoming fall season. Along with the in-and-out wave of staff, came Chris’ goodbye. I can’t say exactly what it was that influenced his departure, perhaps the longing of more time with his daughter and a less time-consuming job schedule. Whatever it was, it changed the entire face & feel of the building. Less Chris’ departure, but more the arrival of the new general manager… Raki. God knows what the origin of it is, but I heard a few staff pronounce it as “Rocky”.

Having worked at OSF years ago in 2000, moved out to California to manage an OSF in San Diego, Raki took the opportunity to take over the general manager position in Minneapolis. Quiet, somber-faced, and all seemingly too calm, there was an edge to Raki. Not the cool Jeremy-Renner-Hurt-Locker type’a edge, but more of a Jeremy-Renner-The-Town type’a edge. Something was off, and verifiably not cool about Raki. He’d looked the kid that jocks and cheerleaders took target to in the cafeteria and had successfully hit with one sandwich too many turning a na├»ve & feeble minded freshmen into a cold hearted grown man.

I watched my back, but played it cool. Didn’t need the job, but didn’t want to get into it with this guy. So went the spaghetti, so went the factory.

Long past the age of youth, bordering 30 years of age, and now a married man- enter 2000, Sydney, Australia. Pyrros had recently taken Silver in the weight lifting world championships the year before in Athens, and was now facing a new cast of youngsters in the game. To win these Olympics would mean a legacy, to lose would potentially end his career.

There’s something to the Olympics that legitimizes the term “Here all, and end all”. The stretch of 4 years between each ceremony, the gathering of the best of the best of the best on the planet, or the shared human spirit of competition- to assert one’s best not amongst another, but to him or herself. To display to the world your personal best- whatever it is to the Olympics, Pyrros embodied it. Shouting "Yia tin Ellada!" once again as he raised the bar over his head to win Olympic gold in Sydney 2000.

Falling to the new regime & general management of Raki, several key players had put in there two-weeks notice to leave the Old Spaghetti Factory. It was becoming a consorted circus staff of faces without names, and some schmuck who happened to show up every now & then on Sunday… me. It wasn’t worth it, rushing from Milwaukee, Ames, Chicago, anywhere in the Midwest to make the Sunday shift. Shows were paying enough to bypass the stress and Raki wasn’t helping. Usually the gen. manager jumped in, rolled up the sleeves to help out when the going got busy and the restaurant was slammed. Raki, however, positioned himself in certain corners of the kitchen and dining rooms to survey who was slipping, not up to code, and/or falling outside of the standard in his eyes.

You see, Raki at heart is a micro-manager. The perspective is great when in the position of micro management, but when employed as a general manager… it turns into the relationship of a paranoid insecure lover. Raki, however was more surgical than this- more tedious- an overpowered useless satellite of sorts, if I may. Raki was a paranoid schizophrenic insecure lover. The only ones to accept his general management would be the newly hired females and teenage boys that knew nothing outside of his law. Chris’ previous staff realized the unnecessary work load they were incurring under Raki’s legislature and wanted out. However, for me, I ran the course of an old dilapidated car under the advice of NPR’s Garage Talk… run it into the ground. I drove the job into the dirt, and never looked back.

The secret to running it into the ground was very simple though. I knew that if I went about my job long enough, and simply did what I had always done, Raki would find a way to detach me from the staffing list. I was more interested in how he would do this than anything.

So, checking my schedule online after returning from another Midwest tour speeding from Milwaukee at 8am to make Minneapolis by 2pm (at the latest), I discovered my shift had magically disappeared. I called into Jay the shift manager underneath Raki. Jay, not the coolest fruit in the fridge, was still damn cool relative to Raki. I hated the guy after several meetings with him, but came to like him later on. Jay started as a dishwasher at OSF, and moved up to management. Humble beginnings, made for a humble manager. Once upon finding that I had to be at a show at the Triple Rock while still at OSF, Jay told, “Get outta here, you gotta make your show, Toussaint. Clearly, this is important to you”. No bullshit, no sarcasm, the guy saw my request and let me leave the building right then and there… and retain my employment.

Speaking with him now, under the Raki regime, the game had changed. He light-heartedly suggested I schedule a meeting with Raki that Tuesday. I did, we met, and it wudn’t purdy.

“Wow- when I saw that I had a meeting with Toussaint, honestly I was surprised! Didn’t know you worked here anymore…” Raki slung about, leaning his play-doh like slouched body into his twirly management chair. “Did you get any of my messages?” he asked. “Umm, I don’t believe anyone called me” I responded. “No, my emails- the messages online” he retorted. I stayed firm. This was it, this was how he was going to cut the employment. “Umm, no I check my online schedule about once every two weeks when the schedule is made, and na- haven’t seen any messages”, I responded, no smirk, straight business. “Well, what it comes down to is if you can you work 4 days out of the week- it’s a new rule- everyone’s gotta work 4 days out of the week”. I’d heard of the new rule, but never got a memo or request to subscribe to it. Never had I been stopped by Raki in real-time, by phone, or online to subscribe to the new rule. In the end, it led to my firing… for not responding online to Raki. Although I’d given him the 4 days he’d requested, it was not to be.

Now, a father, a legacy, a monolith to the Greek community, Pyrros had not won a weight lifting title since 2000 in Sydney. With an knee blown out, an injured wrist, several other injuries pending, and the pressure of an entire continent to compete, Pyrros took the challenge to defend his Olympic title in the 2004 Beijing Olympic games. The 33 year-old Olympic legend entered the arena one final time where no human being has ever reigned a 4-time Olympic champion, however Pyrros Dimas would rival it.

Failing several weight lifts, Pyrros took his last try. With several men ahead of him in ranks for a medal, Pyrros pulled… and dropped the bar to the ground. "Yia tin Ellada” would not be heard at these games. However, the entire audience at the arena would stand for several minutes to applaud the former-champs exit from the games. Seconds after dropping the bar, Pyrros swiftly took off his shoes and placed them to the right of the stage. The gesture was a signal of his retirement, and in the more literal sense to challenge the future of Olympic weight lifters to fill his shoes.

Still reclined on the sofa, bathing in the lap of the Day of Rest, I took a break from television watching Bud Greenspan’s documentary of Pyrros Dimas and the Beijing 2004 Olympics to glance over at the dining room table. There lay my work shoes next to a dining room chair where I’d last left them. Empty, torn, laceless, and reminder to the years served at the Factory. Soon moving to Los Angeles, and employed to a full schedule of music, the shoes were useless to me. Even the most evil of intention in me wouldn’t wish someone to return to work at that building. I’d wish no one to have to fill those shoes. I stood up from the couch, grabbed the old pair of black suedes off the floor and walked them out to the garbage next to the garage.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rebel Without A Clue (3/3)


I dressed as dapper as I possibly knew for the meeting. The said “name” I was meeting with was Toki Wright. Activist, writer, youth worker, rapper, spoken word artist, Toki was (and still is) nothing less than a renaissance man of proactivity in the community. I’d signed The Blend onto its first show under his company, Yo! The Movement, saw him as a pillar in the Minneapolis launch of hip-hop and somewhat an inspiration to my first steps into live musicianship- but here I was. I’d fucked up, now. Not only had I insulted an entire brand name in the city, I’d made it personal.

Thinking about it now, sipping 151, headed to an open mic brazen as a national slam poet, and referencing someone’s name in a slam poem at their company’s own open mic… could’ve possibly been the worst idea at the time. Attending this meeting was the best I could do.

Dressed in a bright yogurt-lemon-yellow sweater with a polyester, flannel, cowboy-collar popping out of the neck, I looked like the illegitimate son of Kanye West and Bill Cosby. Enter the University of Minnesota Black Student Union. A few students turned toward me as I entered. I had gone from who-the-fuck-is-that-guy-he’s-talented to beloved to hey-it’s-toussaint-someone-sharpen-a-shiv-quick-I’m-pretty-sure-I’m-going-to-stab-him-this-time. Again, I had perfectly fucked up. Between the 151, sweeping thru classes without showing up to lecture, and performing shows from Illusion Theatre to 7th St. Entry, my ego was defenseless to the euphoria and presumed invincibility. I was addicted to this-this thing-this craft- the motion of taking a stage, captivating everyone’s attention and walking off smirking like I’d robbed a bank. I’d always felt undeserving of an audience and anything positive that came from performing arts. If you’d met me 8th grade, you’d’a thought I was a pre-cursor away from living in the attic of a church and avoiding sunlight at all costs. My social skills were deplorable, I was a negative bastard, and didn’t really see the point in plotting a year down the road. Now, I’d still take the social skills accusation, but not the latter two.

Two gentlemen were sitting at the table. None of them were Toki. Christ, what if this is an ambush. These people mean to kill me in the Black Student Union on a Tuesday! Sweet Jesus, not even La Raza would save my ass, and they’re right across the hall. Wait- if I scream bloody murder maybe someone from the Women’s Student Activist Union will hear me. Cool it dammit. They just wanna talk. Toki should be here soon. The kid who called the meeting, who we’ll refer to as Jumpy, sat at the table with another fellow who I kinda recognized. Jumpy’s shoulders shifted soon as I sat down. A constant shift, as if he had to get to the bathroom stat, but somehow he translated that urgent energy into a dictator-ish Giraldo cadence. Fuck, I’d walked into it, didn’t I? Before Jumpy said anything, I knew I’d walked into a meeting on his selfish behalf. I wasn’t called here to squash beef… Jumpy had set up a verbal lashing.

In came Toki, and it was all too apparent what was about to transpire. The universe worketh in mysterious ways- fucking strange, mysterious ways. Although young Jumpy was in the terrible wrong for instigating between two artists with miscommunicate beef, I probably deserved worse. With absolutely no clue what was next, we began to talk. They wanted to hear the poem again. Christ, the thing was long, I’d unraveled the papers from my bag, read every word of the poem I’d slammed at the open mic and at Voices Merging. Going thru the poem was painful. To look someone in there face and say what you’d said to an audience without them present… well- it sucks, but again righteous retribution for your actions. What transpired next isn’t important, but can be well summed up as- well, a verbal lashing. In the end, Toki stormed out, an image I’ll never forget. The discussion wasn’t worth having anymore for him, which was potentially the smartest decision of the whole debacle. The image of him getting up, walking away, deep red baggy t-shirt swaying in his exit as he slammed his gum into the trashcan at the door. I wasn’t worth it.

I still sat there until Jumpy and his friends dropped red in the face from arguing. If there’s one thing about me, I’m a fucking Taurus, and I will stand ‘til the bitter end if it’s brought to my doorstep. This also not being one of the brightest moments of my life, judgment skewed, and perspective selfishly shifted towards blaming everyone else there was no backing down for me. I was dead set to give Jumpy his much wanted encounter. The kid was a few years younger than me, rapped from show to show, but in the end might’ve been a bigger Taurus than me. Shit, he wanted blood, and my and the rest of the personalities swirling my delusional psychi gave’em what he wanted.

It was over, I exited on the discussions end. Never gave Jumpy the time of day afterwards, but also had to give damn good time to repeat the question “what the fuck am I doing” to myself. As stubborn as stubborn can get, the moral compass of me was so out of whack I couldn’t tell what the hell I was writing for anymore. I had severe issues with the institutions around me, my circumstances, and my own actions- but somehow turned the blade on the exact community that gave me a foundation to start with. I was a backstab and rebel without a crew, clue, or cause… not the way I wanted it. I was so far gone, making things right was outta the question. I’d have to walk away from this one and shut the fuck up for awhile. Sometimes you gotta do that. A wise man once said, “Shut the fuck up when grown folks is talkin’.” And no, I wasn’t acting like a grown folk, so clearly it was the right time for me to take heed and sit down with my thoughts.

6 years later, I’d facebook Toki with an offer to do a show at The Varsity. We dialogued back and forth for a little bit, and finally met at the Spyhouse Coffeeshop on Hennepin. I walked in a tad hesitant. There’s a cadence, air, feel to Toki that’s intimidating and welcoming at the same time. I’d wronged him, publicly slandered his name at his own open mic, and was somewhat bewildered by what I was getting into. I’d been promoting shows in the past few months, sold out The Varsity and almost sold out The Cabooze, however I was doing well with the profession and wanted to work with Toki in the scheme of things. Circumstances had provided me with the opportunity to not only do a show with him, but to also take a step towards some kind of amends. Whatever it was, despite the past, working with Toki was a step in the right direction professionally, personally, morally- whatever it was, it felt the right direction.

I believe he was reading the City Pages when I sat down at his table. “Hey, sup”, I shyly murmured unraveling my backpack next to my seat. “Ay”, he replied, put down his paper, organized whatever belongings were already dispatched on the table, faintly smirked and said “So, what were we arguing about again”. Looking me in the eye now. I faintly laughed… “I- uhh- I don’t know” with a smile on my face.

There it was, the conversation began ahead of where I thought it would. Toki had brought me up to speed further along than I thought I already was. Beef wasn’t his liking, the dispute was old and meaningless, it had been long time to get down to business- as if he’d been waiting at the Spyhouse on Hennepin Ave. for 6 years waiting for me to get over myself, get past myself, and screw my head on tight enough to withstand manning up. I’ll say it took me some time to get to that moment, but there was a reason my mother read Leo The Late Bloomer several dozen times to me as a child. I’d never came into my own soon as predicted.

“So, what do you require backstage?- I mean, what’s your rider for the green room?...” listing off every inch of the show to be covered to make sure it went off without a hitch. The dialogue continued, and the show did go off without a hitch. 300+ attended the night, and Adam J Dunn was able to make a music video for Toki’s single outta the performance.

The rebel, the street fighter, the blind swordsman all have their times, it just has to be honed. The liquor and youth in me made for a reckless loose cannon, relative to the fool who breaks his own heart. It was learned that when in the process of only hurting yourself, you either continue the self-sabotage or own up and say “Hey, I fucked up.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Honda Chronicles 3

Double Bogey here. Toussaint was thinkin’ to take this next chapter up, but t’hell with it. Might as well leave it to the professionals. I was the bus that saw it all. Ahem- where was I…

Jan. 18, 2010
The ground swirled beneath me. I’d never driven this fast in my life- this heavy. I’d trafficked hundreds of pounds of music equipment, a trailer on its last leg, and a drunk’n disorderly band before, but the weight of this was the most of all. It’d been a 2 weeks or so since Dana’s father had emailed Toussaint the options on Honda: either pay’em 2200 dollars and Toussaint keeps the Honda, or 1900 and the Honda gets trashed. Honest to God, sounded like a lose-lose to me. What fucker tells you to pay’em 1900 for a car that was already on its last leg? The Honda incurred damage in Toussaint’s care, but it wudn’t nothin’ but cosmetics. Hell, I could dress up a turd in a tutu, but that don’t make it any more than a turd- na’what’umsayin? Course ya do. Either way, we’re talkin’ two weeks later after the option had been laid out to ol’ Mr. Morrison.

You’ll have to forgive me for the fast forwardness, but I like to get to the meat of a story. As a wise man (Arthur Plumby) once said, “let’s cut the veggies and mash, I wanna get to the pork of it”. That line was taken from one of Toussaint’s old swim coaches back on the Richfield Swim Team, Mr. Hamren. Don’t ask me how I know all that. Again, I’ve heard it all, and seen mostly some of it.

Back to the deal, Toussaint had no intentions of “losing” this one. The kid was in the literal sense, down and out. Broke, nothin’ but a restaurant job he worked one day a week, and not a damn means but me (a short bus used for band touring) to get around the sub-zero winter of a city. We parked. Toussaint jumped out and walked towards Dana’s house. The strut of a man with layers of faked confidence. This was the break-up, the nail in the coffin. When a man approaches the end, even if he fears it, he’s gotta find a way to retain dignity, pride, or some kind of face in the eye of it all. Men’ve spent an eternity practicing not giving the power to women. Toussaint was about to engage in it. Although, what he wasn’t ready for was... the other side of Dana. A woman well practiced, herself, in the art of not-giving-a-fuck. It’s sad, these humans. Th’way they play this point-of-least-interest bullshit. Personally, as a vehicle, our lives are short. Gotta cherish every spark, every foot, every inch, every sunset you get- and her Toussaint is like a jackass, tryn’ta walk into a situation we all damn well know he cares the world for but’d rather put a game face on to retain that ol’ pride and shit. Malarkey, if you ask me.

On a sidenote, you should know Toussaint and I made a stop to Dana’s two days before this venture. He’d taken all’a his stuff outta her apartment and packed it up. S’pose the guy wanted to strike first- maybe he saw it comin’. You tell me what kinda girlfriend sticks with ya after she lets you borrow her car and it gets busted up on your watch? Potentially not your fault, perhaps some jackass backed into ya while you were parked! But still, what kinda woman breaks up with ya over that?... the one ya don’t marry! Ha-ha! It is the truth! Seen’a lotta couples, fightin’, fuckin’, fightin’ again. Don’t matter what the situation is- long as there’s a common understanding that when the goin’ gets tough, the relationship get goin’ as a team. Like a unit, if I may. Dana and Toussaint were beyond that. They were in the midst of quite the opposite of a unit and/or team. They were borderline rivals, oppositions, different pagers if I may. Either way, Toussaint’d  already picked up his shit from her apartment two days ago, and now he was walkin’ into crash land that son’bitch into the ground.

I wanna take a moment to the side and say that it’s never a good idea to crash land a relationship when you know its ending. Have some diligence y’all. Give her farewell, accept the end and take it like a champion. For more information on the whereabouts and moral costs of crash landing a relationship with another human being, consult Shane Hawley;) That son’bitch right there’ll tell ya alllllll about it!

Wudn’t more than an hour, Toussaint returned to me. Started the engine, hit Blaisdell Ave, and made a straight shot for home. First thing he did was punch the steering wheel and curse the air. That conversation with Dana couldn’t’ve gone well. See like’a told ya! Can’t go into these things actin’ like you’re made of titanium. He called a few people, no one picked up. All’a sudden good friend by the name’a Fatima answered back. Toussaint asked her a few points of advice, hopin’ she’d appease him by telling’em he made the right move, that it’d all work out in the end. By the reaction from Toussaint laying his head on the steering wheel, while the vehicle’s in motion, and hanging up the phone- it could be assumed she didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.

And there, it was done.  Now, I understand discussing all this mumbojumbo emotional shit may deter away from the entire point and/or story we’re here to tell about Honda- but I feel this is an important part of the story to include. It gives validity and some kind of history to the life of Honda and how the relationship between Toussaint and itself grew from improbable circumstances.  The idiot that half broke his own heart lay in a driver’s seat of bad luck and uncertain opportunity. Dana and Toussaint had known each other for over 3 years, come be together for a little less than 2, and were done swift as a flat tire. Now, outside of “committed” and “official” their relationship had began long before that, but at this point… it was done. No more, no nothin’- done.

One thing that’d transpired from the break-up discussion was the realization of Honda’s price. Apparently Toussaint had been under the assumption that Dana’s dad would be charging him 2200 to fix the car and Dana’s family would keep it- which was not the case. Dana’s dad had made a list of what was to be fixed and how much fixing all of that would cost for the car. Again, Dana’s dad is a business man and you can’t blame him for trying to make a buck off of the Honda, BUT the question to be asked is: who was/is responsible for Honda’s condition and where the f*ck in Jesus H Christ do you get priced that much for a hood, alternator, and front bumper? I mean- these people must’ve been shoppin’ straight from a Cleveland drug dealer.

Lastly, to make sure he wasn’t crazy, Toussaint polled several women around the city ‘bout it. Heard’em on the phone, “If your boyfriend borrowed your car, and it got damaged while parked, and the damage was only cosmetic, would your father make him pay for it?” The resounding, overwhelming response was “no”, but then again what Toussaint failed to leave out was the relationship between himself and Dana’s parents. Lots’a women responded “Hell, my father would tell’em to grab a wrench, let’s fix this son’bitch, mow my lawn, do a few chores, and we’ll call it even!” No matter what the answer was, it didn’t change the reality of the situation.

Eyeing up The Blend’s schedule, and a list of parts for the car…. Toussaint made a move. First thing was first, he emailed Dana’s father and told him he could get the car fixed for 1100. Dad agreed, told’em it’d be 1100 for the damage and 300 or so for the title. All in all, it turned out to be 1500. Next, Toussaint arranged for an all-star repair crew. The folks at 4-star Auto Repair off’a University Ave. were the only saviors for Honda in the city. In the arms of the skagbaron auto shop in St. Paul Dana's parents had shipped it to, Honda didn’t stand a civil chance in makin’ it to Minneapolis outside of a junkyard. Mr. Morrison forked over the 70 bucks to have the car towed to 4-star, and had’em repair the alternator for a whopping… 300 dollars. Lastly, was the tour schedule. Somehow, The Blend was lined up for several weekends out of town that paid not-so lucrative, but the combination of it all and the restaurant job would pay Dana's dad the 1500 in a matter of two weeks.

And for the final move, the car had to be paid for sooner than later. The quicker this car got outta Dana's dads hands, the quicker he could start driving into the sunset... or the next deathtrap. Toussaint called his best friend in the whole wide world. He’d never borrowed money before, just time. The phone picked up, “Hey Liam- Yeah, hey this is Toussaint. I’m going to ask you a question, and it’s the first time I’ve ever asked this ever of anyone, but I need to borrow 1500 bucks.”

To be continued…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

3 Strangers And A Friend

Saturday, Oct. 22nd, 2011

“When I get fat, the weight either goes to my neck or my legs”, I smirked to myself amongst the brunch table of five. “Liz, where do you wish the weight would go when you gain it?”.

“Ugh, I wish it would all go to my ass”, replied Liz. “What about you Jeff? Where do you wish the gained weight would go?” Jeff, took a moment, glared at the extra large cheese burger he just ordered, looks up at the table, “When I get fat, I wish it would all go to your face.” I almost spit my water out from laughing so hard. It seems everything this man says is absolutely made-for-reality-TV and/or the caliber of comedy writers throughout. What’s off is Jeff isn’t trying to be funny, this is his actual cadence. This is just him; an eccentric, bi-racial, twenty-something, ex-cheerleader from Madison, WI on visit in Milwuakee our mutual friend’s birthday weekend.

Since I landed late last night, Jeff and I have developed a strange animosity. Directly after our introduction, Jeff made it clear he didn’t like me. “You think I’m fat!” he announced right after our handshake. Given he’d be drinking a bit, as well as I, I knew I was in the gutter with the guy right away. After several hilarious banters back & forth over the brunch table, at Ma Fischer’s in the heart of Mke, Jeff turned toward me, “So wait, what’re you doing here?- like, I mean why are you in Milwuakee?” Ahh yes, the golden question even I don’t have a straight answer for. Everyone at the table slowly meanders their food to their plate to pay audience to my response. I look down to the eggs and cholesterol fest on my plate, crack a smile.

My rationale begins to twerp of the looming thoughts to answer him with; it’s The Blend’s 10-year anniversary in a few days and that should mean something to more people than just myself if at all, my car shakes like a Tito Fuente’s maracas in his prime and to answer your question I’m f*cking stranded and currently looking for a serving job in the city, or hey- I f*cking love this city and wish my relationship with music, modeling, and acting were tight as a drum rather than acquaintences you only see when your drunk some weekend at some bar.  I’m stuck, and maybe I should’ve stayed in Ames before coming to Milwaukee, however last night was epic in the sense I would not have been able to live it down if I’d missed Kid Cut Up spinning at the world’s most bougie bar (Dick’s, downtown Milwaukee) and bluffed on a birthday promise to a friend.

Since landing in Milwaukee, taking time to breathe has ranked at the bottom on the list of things-to-do. I don’t even want to get into the night before in Ames, IA(which I’ll talk about later), and right now having brunch with people I just met is taking my mind of the certain death my car and/or wallet may reach in the next 24hours. This trip has definitely been something of cathartic, but also high-risk. My better half wants to stick to that last statement- “high-risk”. However, the other half want so say my circumstances were unnecessary, however this trip is simply to bring purpose to a shitty circumstanced weekend from past. My band, The Blend, was given a check for x-amount of dollars from a club in Ames, IA after performing a show… several days later, the check bounced. Within that same weekend, I promised Liz I’d make it out to celebrate her birthday in Milwaukee. Her and her ex-cheerleader friends were making the trip from their hometown of Madison to do it big in Milwaukee. I’d only seen the west side and Brady St. of Milwaukee. Never had I attended a club in downtown.

Now, eating brunch with 3 strangers and a friend, even this cannot hold the moment where I don’t have to answer to someone. For as long as I walk the path of traveling musician, every now & then Target model, and film actor- there ain’t a chance in hell at someone recognizing, “Hey there’s the guy from the coffeeshop” or “Hey, there’s… that dude.” Na, simply won’t happen.

“I’m here to promote a show. We’re in town two weeks from now and I’m just promoting while I’m here.” I answer Jeff. “Oh, coooool, when’s your show?” he asks. I fill him in, we chat music for few minutes, the even more popular question of “What do you do?” circles the table as we all brand our duties in everyday life- meh, but what’s missing is what the hell are we doing at this table hashing out qualifications while hungover. Jeff, must’ve read my mind in breaking the mode of bullshit cubicle chatter as two well-to-do white guys passed by in Abercrombie & Fitch- “Ooooh, that’s my boyfriend. I am definitely going to say something to him”, Jeff declared as he began to egg on Liz’s sister to wingman for him and ditch her hashbrowns

I bid adieu to my friend and three strangers, waltzed it back to Sherman’s house where I’m staying for the weekend, and sat on the steps for a moment… yeah, I should be able to get rid of all these posters and fliers tonight. Although my car, wallet and many more forces of nature may not agree with me, that’s what I came here to do.