Monday, September 10, 2012

The Honda Chronicles 4

January 22nd, 2010

Toussaint here. While Honda lay at 4-Star Auto and Double Bogey sit somewhere in Dinkytown, I figure I have the best perspective on what happened next.

I have pride, but not enough that I couldn’t ask Liam for a favor. The only way to get the car from Dana’s father was in cold hard cash (a banker’s check). I knew I would have the cash from The Blend’s show in Cedar Rapids within the next week, and would soon have money from a modeling gig I’d done to pay back The Blend as well. All in all, I needed an advance. I felt like a low-down dirty vagabond. The world around me would affirm that feeling, but a part of me was still fighting hard to ignore the scrutiny.

Liam lent me the cash. From there I made the payment to Dana’s Father. The only thing left was to pull off The Blend show in Cedar Rapids without a hitch or hiccup- no easy feat. The Blend was already unthreading itself at the seams with cocktail stewed of alcohol, lunesta, ego, and lack of spirit. The group had the chutzpah & talent to kill a football stadium stage opening for U2, but didn’t want to hand out a flier for a local show to save their lives… let alone click “invite” on Facebook. Team morale was at an all-time low and you couldn’t blame a single person in the group (well, maybe 1 or 2) for it. A band that’d never received a single handout, pulled off a grossing tour, or fell into the lap of luck- we folded. We’d made our own luck, and by the grace of a higher power we’d be back in the future (5 years or so later) to prove ourselves as the greatest band the country’d never heard… but not now. Steam and time were running out, and I knew it.

We pulled up to Volume, the club in Cedar Rapids we’d perform at. The night wreaked something awful and empty. I stepped out of the bus into dark downtown that'd recently been flooded, now overrun by startup businesses and bar-close bar fights. “Just get through this” I told myself. I’d brought Lazlo Supreme along with Jimmy & The Threats to the venue as well to cover the night front to back with music. It’d do no positive that night. The crowd was more interested in covers and would have none of the a capella/hip-hop of Lazlo and Jimmy opening.

The Blend was up next, however what would take place then was a nightmare on stage… at best. Three songs into the set, the guitarist broke a string but would continue to play as if it’d never happened. I looked to him while still performing and gave him an evil eye as best I could. He didn't read. He just kept on like a kamikaze pilot, except in this case there were four others aboard the flight other than just him. He was going to crash this motherfucker as deep and fiery he could before we'd officially call it quits. Cedar Rapids, The Blend, and the soul of music would suffer a blow that night. The clash of flats and sharps would run through the set and into the end of the night. Again, the audience would have none of it, not even during the few covers we played.

Linden, the piano/sax player, sat off-stage peering toward the ground while a few of us packed up equipment. I didn’t need to ask, rather just knew. Something else had to be done, just not with this group. The circumstance was no longer ours to have.

I collected the 1500, paid out the dues due to the performing artists, and vowed to never insult the game in such a manner as was wrought that night. My spirit was at a low. Not an all-time low, but a God damning low.

Carefully, I steered Double Bogey through a treacherous wind of snow and freezing temperature. The path bore no favor in our travel. Icy roads, snow blowing sideways, it was a deathtrap as much as the bus was. I’d manage the over-sized vehicle four-and-a-half hours bordering on Faribault… and then it happened. The absolute worse thing that can happen at 5am in sub-zero cold just outside of Costco and a closed gas station.

“ReeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” went the engine. The sound became louder and louder paired with a smoking scent of burned rubber. The smell stung the air worse than the high-pitch screeching sound. What was happening, unbeknownst to all of us on the bus, was the slow melting death of the bus’ serpentine belt. I coughed profusely, Linden covered his mouth with a giant mitten. “SHIT!” I cursed the air helplessly. The wheel seized up on me like rigamortous. I could muscle it a tad, but not enough to make it back to Minneapolis. We were 45 minutes outside of the city and would have to pull over at the next exit.

Coasting on momentum, it took two hands and all of my weight to steer the wheel off onto the next exit to a gas station that’d just opened. From God damn low to here. This was the all-time low. Everything Dana had notioned, everything her family had thought, every evil thing my mother or father had muttered while questioning my career in music or on stage… all came true. A prophecy of sorts I usually shrugged off with a faux smile, as if I were to nab the next bus to downtown and schedule an interview for a big boy job I never intended to have, I laughed in the face of post-graduate norms and 9 to 5s. However here, the joke was on me. A sad, sad joke indeed. The little musician that never could. Feeling bullied by the universe, I had no one to blame for the circumstance. "Get it together" I demanded of myself. There was no blame in this situation. Shit happens, now it's time to fix it, move on, and get our asses back to Minneapolis. 

A cover of frost glazed over Double Bogey cementing its uselessness. It could best serve as a popsicle to a homeless giant or ice cube to God… but nothing to us. Nothing but circumstantial failure and a clear symbol of The End of something.

Linden, Todd, Pat and I barreled into the gas station. “When does the Costco open?” I asked. “Thirty minutes” replied the cashier. Fucking Christ. Our lodge would be the coffee shop built into the Costco, but not before we’d spend 30 minutes standing in the tightly packed gas station pretending to read magazines. It was still dark out, 20 below, the day hadn’t started yet and I was already done with it.

“Hello”, my mother answered the phone. “Hey, we’re stuck in Faribault. Our bus broke down.” I stopped right there. My mother isn’t going to leave her slumber, leave her comfortable bed in the dead of winter to come pick up her son’s band in Faribault. Although it may come or seem as an indictment to my mother, there was just no way she was going to pick us up. I knew it before I called her, she knew it before I called her, and I just wanted to call her to make sure nothing had changed. Ever since my mother sat me down as a 10yr. old and said “Look, if you ever wind up behind bars for doing something stupid… I’m not bailing you out”. From then on, it has always been known that this is on me.

We were stuck until someone was actually willing to bail us out of Faribault. Some sort of cruel punishment & karma was being doled out and I didn’t fucking like it one bit. The cold had set into our bones long before the trip took place- Double Bogey being without heat and all. We were sick, hurting, and in no shape to rally. The one man in our camp that could potentially get us out of this shit hole was the one that had bled the most cash and time up to this point… Linden.

“My parents are on the way” muttered Linden. “Fucking kidding me?!?!” I said. “No” he replied puzzled. He’d taken my question literally, which was usually a credit to our misunderstandings, but this one would breeze over. We’d wait for another hour or so, Robin and John packed our things into their van, and we’d abandon Double Bogey to the Costco lot for the next month or so. I wanted to cry, but the elation of being rescued from the depths of a frigid hell in St. Elsewhere blinded me for the moment. “Get the car”, I thought to myself. “Just get the damned car”

Money returned to Will, money returned to The Blend. I was square with everyone except for 4-Star Auto. Honda still sat upon the oily turf of the lot. I didn’t have the cash to save her right away, and the longer she sat, the more it would cost. There was more money coming in from another acting job I’d picked up, however it would pay for a month or so. I didn’t want to deal, at least not for the next week. Double Bogey would have to wait to figure out if it’d be buried in Faribault or Minneapolis. A proper goodbye seemed in order, I just didn’t want to wrap my brain around it now.

I’d divulged this entire story to a friend of mine, Tes. He was something like Linden, an eternal optimist, forever seeing the bright side to everything. “Ha, perfect!” Tes laughed. I wasn’t impressed, not even humored by his reaction. “What the hell’s that supposed to mean”? I asked him. “You’re absolutely free now. Think about it. Dana can’t tell you what to do anymore, you bought the car so you don’t have to hear from her dad anymore, and- well, you’re free to go wherever you want.” I’d already knew the latter, but didn’t really strike me until someone outside of my own head said it.

He was right. The book was closed. I was a free man.

I had been stalling out on answering a friend’s invitation to New York for the past few days, focusing on the car and all. I emailed her, Gale, that week upon returning to Minneapolis from Cedar Rapids, “searching for flight prices. Hopefully, I’ll have something worked out by tomorrow”. Cripes, the prices were so ass-low that I worked it out that night. A leap from Minneapolis to NYC, then to Milwaukee for a show with The Blend. We had a few more shows left on our tab. I would try to make the best of them as the talent distanced itself further and further from the basic function of taking stage. It was clear, I had to find a way to operate The Blend to the end of its tour schedule, begin maneuvering a solo career with more efficiency than a death-trap barreling the highways as a bus, and finally to pay Honda’s way out of 4-Star Auto.

There would be no mercy from 4-Star if I couldn’t get the money together by the time I returned from New York, but I’d bust out Honda even if I had to hotwire the damn thing. With liberation comes an even greater responsibility to one’s future. I could see it now. The entire thing rolled out directly in front of me daring my reflex to hesitate. Such a powerful a point and intersection to stand on that I couldn’t waste a moment. I’d never cared for the future as I did now, I had never recognized it- figured it’d always work itself out. I’d never seen it during the several years I had been with Dana, let alone the immediate days after the break-up. I had settled, become comfortable. The cruise control had to be dismantled, and what better place to do so than in New York under the tutelage of Gale, an expert in impulse and organized chaos. I was a wreckloose who subconsciously didn’t believe in himself, but always projected the absolute opposite. I’d bought into all the negatives that’d been advised to me throughout the past years and let the worst morning of my life (at the Costco) affirm it.

So, off I go to New York to save a license-plateless car sitting in the cradle of certain death. I'd rather it by my hands than not.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Never mind the edge of the stage creeping closer to your literal fall to public embarrassment. Before I could realize it, I had stepped onto a raised platform not intended to support the weight of 8 (or more) human beings. Just as FDR had finished his set to coronate a new album he’d released, Toki Wright and Carnage swiftly maneuvered a cypher to take place on stage. This is Minnesota, there are no swift maneuvers to co-opting over half-a-dozen musicians to get on stage at the same time- hence the brilliance of it all.

In a scene padlocked with passivity and great intention, getting to the point takes brute tough love. Toki wasted no time in assembling the mass and heading up a cypher that’d put the finale of the BET Hip-Hop Awards to a crying shame. The air came electric, ripe with possibility & talent, and a looming question of “Can it get any better?” Step one, Carnage mandated everyone take 4 bars each. This way you cut the malarkey to a minimum- keep cats on their toes- warm up to the idea of sharing the mic. Some went bashful at the forced peer pressure from Toki to take the stage, others pushed a stare into the ground something fierce searching for the next words they’d freestyle into the hearts of the audience. At a moment’s glance, one could fall from respect to rookie freestylist McGillicuddy. No one wanted the latter, everyone longed for greatness. Thus the beauty of the cypher; battling for rights to expression, building from the immediate past, sharing present thought without restraint to then laugh at how serious we all took ourselves soon after.

With so much testosterone and ego wrapped into one set, I could feel the gravity of each thought passing through my mind. “Don’t fuck this up” began to fade into a blur of white noise until Toki mandated the mic to me… we rhymed, we laughed, we closed house.

Talent gathering to one area, joining forces for a cooperative blast, and retreating with nothing but smiles is hardly a common instance in the Minneapolis area. The trick rest in the cojones of Toki and Carnage. Beatbox, vocal prowess, and raw talent aside, they remind me of a quote from a great actor I worked with by the name of J-Dub. At the end of my internship with the Penumbra Theatre, J-Dub handed me a key chain with a quote he would always voice in the midst of our acting workshops. “Always Do The Thing You Think You Can’t Do”. Going firmly against the city’s normative wallflower character, I couldn’t think of two people more suitable to revolutionize the wiring of Minneapolis music and business.

The catch to all of this was a common name- phrasing- title what have you- between each lyricist on stage. “Adam J Dunn” or “Adam Dunn” was referenced in the midst of the majority of freestyles performed that night. Not a record label, not a press figure, not a local blog, not a venue- just a guy… a guy who directs music videos responsible for the majority of Minneapolis music turned video. If you’ve seen a Minneapolis artist on YouTube, then you’ve most likely seen the work of Adam J Dunn. It behooved me to ask if it be inches or miles we’d stand behind the curve if it weren’t for a local director to put so many musicians in front of the world beyond the bubble of our city- beyond the awkward silence disrupted by the bright lights of Toki and Carnage- beyond any stage.