Monday, July 30, 2007

Rock the Bells 2007

it was hot. it was hot in brooklyn as i walked down 7th avenue and it was hot when we got on the train going up to harlem. it was hot when we got off the train too, 125th street was burning and the line for the bus wrapped around the block. it was so hot that the street hustlers were dripping sweat as they peddled their wares up and down the boulevard. they made money though, thats for sure. i saw a few people wearing the bootleg tie-dye concert shirts they were pushing, smelled the weed i heard offered, even saw a couple kids getting beat for fake tickets. yep, they made their money. that summer heat didnt stop the hustle. it never does.

the bus took us to randall island and dropped us off at the entrance. we found our tickets and made our way inside. i had to take a leak so pushed my way towards the nearest port-o-potty. the line was hsort but it took forever. what do people do in there? it was the middle of the day, too early for cocaine, and i doubt they ALL had to take a dump. i didnt understand it. there i was, doing the dance of impatience, with only one person ahead of me in line, a male no less, and it took ten minutes for me to get a chance for relief. its a god damned port-o-potty for christ sakes! those things are disgusting. get in and get out. there is no time or reason for lingering.

we started in towards the crowd, which was large but not at its full capacity yet. the field was loosley seperated into 3 different sections. one large patch of grass towards the back, one slight patch of grass with random straw on it towards the middle, then a fence which blocked off the main area in front of the stage. along the sides were booths.

booths selling beer. booths selling fried foods. booths with concert tshirts. booths with album promotions. booths with energy drinks and random, disposable concert memorabilia that would most likely wind up in one of the very few trashcans they provided. private tents that you needed special wrist bands to get into. they played dance and rock in those tents. open tents that had huge HDTV's mounted in them playimng movies that werent yet out. booths selling ice cream and fruit smoothies. booths that told you where all the other booths were.

it was one of the few festival concerts id ever been too. ive been to plenty of shows, but multi stage more acts than you can count outdoor in the heat with no where to sit all age extravaganzas arent usually my bag. i like going to shows where everyone is on the same page. where all are in agreement that the main artist is who we sh0ould watch, and that the openers are just bonus material. this concert had no less than 5 headliners on any given stage [ok so there were only two stages but still...]. i wanted to see them all. i didnt.

the reason i was there were one of our artist were headlining on the side stage. otherwise i would have probably skipped it all together. but since i was there i planned on having a good time. making a day of it. i limited myself to just $50 in cash so i didnt drink myself out of rent this month. turned out that was all i needed as standing in line for beer became too much of a hassle and i hoped to see some of the performers, er, perform.

i gotta wrap this post up because duty calls. but here are the highlights in bullet format:

  • it seemed 90% of the crowd were there for Rage Against the Machine. which is cool, but left acts like EPMD and Talib Kweli with somewhat lackluster crowd responses.
  • Public Enemy were good, but i think Flava Flav pissed Chuck D off with his insessent chatter, cutting their time and leaving no room for them to do Fight The Power, which was disappointing.
  • Wu Tang were my favorite. not only because they seemed as if they rehearsed a bit before the show, but because they paid a fitting tribute to ODB.
  • Mos Def got sort of noodly on the mic, singing and shit. but he did Ms. fat booty, so all was ok.
  • it was hot.
  • Felt killed the side stage. Slug and Murs are really good performers
  • beer was $7 a bottle
  • it was hot
  • there was a mosh pit. i was this close to getting punched in the face

Thursday, July 26, 2007

dont get me started

we were at a bar in the mission district of san francisco. by this time id wrapped my head around the fact that everyone in the city was insane to some degree. i was nursing a pint of Blue Moon and FM was sucking vodka tonics from a straw. there was a girl, a woman, sitting at the bar. she had on one of those floppy hats you see fishermen wear, it looked cute on her. FM said, -I'm gonna go and talk to her. i wished him godspeed.

we made our way to the bar and he bought us a round of shots, including her in the ritual. She was already two sheets to the wind, and when you got closer her real age revealed itself. i guessed her mid forties, though she was still a sweet catch. they exchanged names and FM introduced me and we all ordered another round, this time on me.

within five minutes she was talking about astrological signs and which ones were compatible and what our rising was in and how the moon changes everything. im sighing to myself because it all seems so typical in san francisco, one of the few cities in america where you can be middle aged and still worry about your horoscope over a beer before the sun goes down. i can hardly take it sometimes, there is too much room for madness in that city. you can try finding your self until the day you die there. the urgency to get it together just never sticks.

FM is taking the conversation in stride, unaffected by the lunacy in her tone. his hormones were in the drivers seat at this point, talking, hearing, feeling, everything he did controlled by sex and determination.

then she goes in about how she hates the blacks and the jews.

just to be clear, FM and i are black, there is no getting around that. yet here we were, in a bar having a strange conversation with this woman who hated blacks. and jews.

FM, only slightly derailed from his mission, points out the obvious, -But you realize, I'M black, right?

she says, -Yeah, but you look sort of gay, and i like that. Him though, and she points to me, -if he was walking towards me down the street at night i would cross it. He scares me.

-Him? FM exclaims, thumbing in my direction, -that fool is gayer than me!

-Yeah, but he's black. so he scares me.

i just stared at her, unfazed. it figured.

-Well what do you have against jews then? he ask.

she throws her hands in the air in an exaggerated display of exasperation, -Oh! dont even get me STARTED on the jews! she says.

we ordered another round of shots and i went outside to smoke a cigarette. later that night FM was fucking her from behind. people in san francisco are fucking crazy. i tell ya.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

everyday summer ease

And there was the pool, clean and blue, on the lower edge of the property, past the driveway, beyond the horseshoe pit, surrounded by a fence to keep the deer out. It is shaped like a bean and has a small waterfall splashing from one of its curves. we waded in it with large, absent minds. Asking obvious questions only because we had the time to, then letting silence perform its casual deconstruction of life and its stupidity. The trees curled up and broke the sunrays. A hawk hovered then attempted to dive but hesitated above the trees. The fm radio blared a thousand oldies, every one we would love and remember. There was a mini-fridge filled with beer. We bought water guns and, after getting bored with shooting at each other, shot at dragon fly’s.

i would find myself alone and stand at the edge, playing one of the cd's i made of our music, modern and complicated and as my brother said, "almost too busy for its soul." i would stare up and out onto the land, beyond our house and into the distant landscape of northern california, noting how the hanging leaves fractured the day as it reached out towards me like the hands of starving children. i would wait until the song reached its peak, when it crescendos into its own purpose of emotion, then dive into the water, letting the sound drown into the whoosh underneath.

then i would climb from the pool and lay in a patch of heat, letting the warmth of my mothers home burn away all my worries, the memories of brooklyn, of manhattan, of home. then my brother would arrive and would ask what i was doing, and i'd say, "nothing," and he would say, "that sounds like a plan," and he would grab a beer and lay down in a chair and stare up to the calm blue sky.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

i'm sure you will...

it all happened at once. she walked up to the bar fumbling with her bag, a large, over sized affair that carried most of her whole life in it, all her make up, a change of clothes, hair care items, feminine products, every memory she ever had. she asked for a Coors light and when i told her we didnt have any she sighed in exasperation and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling. i told her we had Corona light and that maybe i could find some Budweiser, but she just flipped her wrist dismissively and said -Gimme a Malibu Bay Breeze, and plopped down in a stool, defeated. i shoveled some ice into a glass and slowly began forgetting she existed.

two regulars from the neighborhood sat at the end of the bar drinking pints of Stella. they struck up a conversation with her, or maybe she struck one up with them. she seemed like the type to talk to strangers often. she had an air of danger in her manners, hunched over her drink, looking directly into the mouth of anyone speaking, regardless if it was to her or not. the pain of jazz horns spilled down from the overhead. Mingus or Monk or Miles Davis conducting the sanity of ancient america. One of the regulars pushed their empty glass forward for a refill. -i drink alot, i overheard her say.

four kids walk in at the same time and i clock their childish faces and say, -i'll need to see all of your ID's, before their asses hit the chairs. one of them mutters something sarcastic which stings my nerves as im walking away. what did that kid say? i ignore it and take the order of an older man at the other end of the bar. Jameson on the Rocks and a Gin & Tonic. my eyes are sweeping the edges of the bar, watching the girl hunched over her bay breeze and the kids huddled together, heads close, whispering. there is no way they are old enough to drink. they know this and they know i know this. why are they here? what are they doing? what the hell did that kid say?

i give the owner a knowing glance and she closes her book, the newest Harry Potter novel, and gets up from her stool. she is managing tonight, she usually doesnt, and she prefers not to, but someone called in sick at the last minute so there was nothing else she could do. she walks over to the kids and gently ask for their identification. two of them have documents that say they turned of age within the month, one has an ID that clearly states he still needs a years growth before he can legally drink, and the other, the youngest looking one, doesnt have any ID at all. they are all pleasant enough, but something is dark and eerie about the whole situation. they are smiling too wide, their tones too forgiving, and one gets up to walk to the bathroom while another sits in a quiet, anxious silence, his cellphone on his ear but his lips unmoving.

i discount them, uncaring, and move to the other side of the bar polishing a glass, holding it up in the light, checking for streaks or fingerprints. the girl and the two regulars are still having a conversation but its changed directions into a dismal territory. the unhealthy spirit of drunken truth has taken hold and the snatches of dialog i hear fill me with dread and worry. one of the regulars is pleading with her while the other stares absently into his pint glass. in the dim light i can see the wildness in her look. -sometimes girls are bitches, she says, i get called a bitch all the time. the regular thats engaged rolls his eyes in frustration. i go to the other end of the bar, where the kids still sit.

-how much is a hennessey shot? one of them ask. the biggest one, with his hood up.
-seven dollars, i say, then i hold up a shot glass, and this is what it comes in.
-thats it? for seven dollars?
-yeah, or you can get it neat for eight. i hold up a rocks glass.
-whats neat? he ask.

they have never been in a bar before, so why are they here, at this bar, on monday night? it is none of their birthdays, they cant even afford one drink. why is that kid still pretending he is on his cell phone? why does that other kid have his hood up? where is the young buck that made that smart asses remark i couldnt catch, the one that sunk into my nerves like a sharp misery, why is he gone? why are the rest of them still here, what are they waiting on?

i dismiss them again, if they stay any longer i'll have to kick them out, and who know what size fire that move would spark. better to let them leave on their own. the owner looks nervous and worried, her eyes are darting from patron to patron. i take an order from a younger woman. two vodka and soda's with lime. Count Basie goes atomic on the stereo and the lights flicker from the old electrical wiring. the girl is still talking but by now no one wants to hear her. she has unloaded every facet of her wretchedness onto the bar, infecting any surrounding drinkers with her dull agonies.

she is not from the neighborhood. she grew up in brooklyn though. sheepshead bay. then staten island. now she lives in bay ridge and her boyfriends beat her. she drinks too much. she blacks out and doesnt remember and wakes up bruised and aching. she takes a swig of her drink and explains to us how she deserves it. how most women deserve it. how sometimes it is an accident and he doesnt want to but he has to. it just means he is jealous. he cares and she drinks to much and sometimes she gets out of control so he does what any man would do.

no one knows who she is or why she is here. no one ask.

the youngest kid comes back from the bathroom. he was in the bathroom this whole time? what was he doing? he walks up to the group and they speak in hushes, low whispers lost in the music and traffic pouring in from out the window. the owner hustles around them, straightening chairs and wiping down the bar and lining up the coasters and refilling the napkins. i polish glasses and let my sights wander around the bar. we are all hyper aware. me. the owner. the two regulars in the corner. nothing goes unnoticed. nothing unobserved.

The girl orders another drink and no one cares. -i drink too much, she says. the kids slowly begin walking out, one by one. Art Tatum leads a trio across a bridge of piano clangs and hi hat brush strokes. the block is still wet from the earlier rain and a patron walks up and orders another drink. a pint of Blue Moon. the wind from outside blows in a chill. the owner says, -we are closing early tonight.

Monday, July 23, 2007

you dont belong here

you dont belong in a window seat. you are too tall and the seats are too cramped to fit your length comfortably. the person in front of you doesnt care and reclines into your knees, shoving your tray deeper into your thighs, pushing into your shins which are stretched unsuccsessfully below. you dont even have the window shade up so you can watch the sky fall below you and the land, vast and empty from this high up, sweep by. the sun is hurting your eyes. you just want some sleep.

but your growling stomach wont let you. its been 2 days since you ate, sickness and shame sweat from every exposed pore on your body. a musty odor sits beneath your clothes, trapped in its own foul heat. the passengers next to you crunch on apples they brought on board, suck on juice boxes they clevery packed, munch on home made turkey sandwhiches, mustard dripping from the edges of whole wheat slices, that they save for when the seatbelt light goes off. there is a certain distance between you and them, a strangeness that is not ignored. you watch them eat from the corner of your eye, shuffling in your seat, trying to get comfortable while being invisible, but too large and awkward to go unnoticed. the stewardess brings by a pack of cheese and crackers and a small box of raisins. you order an apple juice with no ice and try not to make eye contact.

when the movie begins you puchase earphones and try to engage yourself in the fantasy. it is a comedy starring will ferrel, who you find funny in most films, and the guy from napolean dynamite, who you have still not formed a judgement on. the screen is small and embedded in the seat in front of you, the one that leans back on your legs, pushing you sideways, making you wince and grimace. you hope to fall asleep, that the movie will wash away the memories of all that brought you here and leave you in a blackness of unconscious. letting your head fall against the window, you take a deep breath, a long heavy sigh, and try to let your eyes relax.

there is turbulance and the seatbelt light flashes back on but you never unfastened yours so you ignore it. the cabin shakes and rattles and the captain assures everyone that this will be small and brief. you wonder if you will crash and if you will be afraid. all your worries are dull and foreign up in the sky. so close to space. the big black nothing of mystery. you wonder how long it would take to crash, if you would glide or fall, if there would be any survivors. you swallow and it hurts your throat and an anxiety swells up in you then passes. you hope you never land.

Monday, July 09, 2007

ghost await

im on a jet plane folks. leaving to san francisco. there is a silence in the country that needs to be heard and a city that needs its streets prowled. there is a plane that needs to be boarded and it is just a few hours away from take off. i gotta pack my bags and cover my positions. ghost await.

im on land and im trying not to lose my cell phone. my mothers fridge is filled with food. roast beef from the deli. thinly sliced spiced turkey. a jug of apple juice and some mac and cheese left over from the night before, its in tupperware, sweating flavor so thick the sides are all fogged up. at the club im being pointed at and my brother looks at the bartender and gives a quick nod and his afro bounces loosely and the bartender nods back. drinks are free for the rest of the night. in my meeting i am charming and casual and when it is over i feel confident the relationship is secure. i celebrate with a few drinks and a prostitute. i leave my cell phone in her hotel room and when i realize it think, fuck it, who cares?

i am going on a trip and i feel like writing and these are the secrets and stories of what it was that may have become.
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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at