Tag: Seattle

Chance the Rapper says, “Hey, Seattle.”

IMG_3347For the past four years, I have been pretending to be a reluctant father who gets dragged along to rap concerts in Seattle. I don’t know how many shows I’ve been to, but let’s just say dozens. That time is coming to an end. Rap music isn’t coming to an end, but it won’t be long before my daughter moves out, starts going to the most expensive college she can find, and begins attending rap concerts with college friends. One of the good things about getting older is knowing that things do end, that experiences don’t happen again, that time will not allow for the perfect moment, so when your 17-year-old daughter asks you to see Chance the Rapper on a Thursday night, you go. You know ahead of time that it might make for a difficult workday on Friday, but you can sleep after your daughter leaves the house.

Who is Chance the Rapper? I don’t really know. I saw him on Stephen Colbert’s show. He rapped. He danced. He seemed like a nice guy, but I didn’t load his music on my iPod. He is young, he is from Chicago, and he likes to wear a Chicago White Sox hat. (That is the official end of anything resembling factual information in this post.)

When we arrived at the Paramount my daughter and I made our way through the heightened security checks, found a couple spots on the floor and sat down. My daughter was meeting some friends at the concert, so I did my job and took up maximum space on the floor. When my daughter’s friends arrived, I did my job. I grabbed everyone’s stuff and made my way to the back of the concert hall. This is when things started to go well for me. I noticed there were cushioned chairs around the side of the hall with signs on them that said, “ADA Priority Seating.”

I don’t park in handicapped spots. I try not to use the big stall in public restrooms. I’m an okay person…but I had a feeling I could get into one of these seats. I walked to the back and talked to someone who looked to be keeping people out of the seats and said, “Can I sit in one of these?” The person (I’m not a snitch) said that if I found a seat where no one could see me I was probably okay to go there.

I scored a great spot and was able to stretch out and really live life like a boss. (For the record, if someone in a wheelchair arrived, I would have given up my seat. I’m not an animal.) I felt pretty good about my seat for about five minutes and then something bad started to happen. Other parents (all of them moms) started sitting in the ADA seats. Hold on a moment. What has happened in the last four years? Parents–don’t take your kids to a rap concert. Don’t you know rap music is the path to drug addiction, drive-by shootings, and baggy pants? What are you thinking?

The concert officially began like all rap concerts; a guy came out with a computer and began playing his iTunes playlist called LoudAssBass. The DJ/Mixologist/Aerobics Instructor would play about 50% of a song; grab the microphone and shout, “Seeeaaaattllee” and then all the kids in the mosh pit area would scream. This is something I think authors should start doing at their reading tours. I would love to see Toni Morrison grab the microphone before reading a passage from The Bluest Eyes and shout, “Seeeaaatttllleee.” Maybe the only people who would get fired up would be the cartographies in the audience, but hey, we all need dreams.

The music was loud, too loud. So loud that if the DJ started playing a song I actually knew it would take my brain about 20 seconds to recognize it. This type of music distortion happens in larger venues and it is one of the reasons I would rather go to a show at a smaller club, but I’m sure Chance the Rapper is a few years away from doing living room shows.

After the DJ ran out of music on his playlist the real show began. Towkio came bouncing out onto the stage and began rapping…I think. I could not understand a single word he was saying. He could have been shouting recipes from a Martha Stewart cookbook for all I know. To me, it sounded like his mic was cutting out but after a few songs I determined that his rap technique was something new. New stuff isn’t for 50-year-old men, unless it is stuff that grows hair on your head, or makes you lose weight without exercise.

Then Towkio started dancing. You know those t-shirts that say, “Dance like no one is looking”? Towkio must have a few of them. Now 50-year-old men who live in glass dance studios have no room to criticize, but if you saw someone moving like Towkio as they walked down the street you’d think they had late-stage rabies. Think: Bob Marley meets Pee Wee Herman and you’ll get the idea.

Towkio wrapped up his set and then it was time for D.R.A.M. to do his thing. D.R.A.M. had long, neat dreads, and wore a green bomber jacket like he just landed a biplane at Boeing Field. He was not a rapper; he was a singer…kinda. You know the distortion thing I mentioned earlier? I was worse for D.R.A.M.’s set. I assume he can actually sing, but Nigel Tufnel must have set up the sound levels in the Paramount. I couldn’t even understand what D.R.A.M. was saying between songs. I think he explained his name and what is stood for. I think he said something about living on a couch last year, and I think he passed on something about following your dreams, I don’t really know. He sounded more like Charlie Brown’s teacher than Martin Luther King Jr. but I don’t believe it was his fault.

Then D.R.A.M. did something foolish. Maybe his bomber jacket inspired him, maybe he spent the afternoon watching a concert video of Nirvana at the Paramount, or maybe he was caught up in a moment. Why isn’t important, what happened is. D.R.A.M. decided to do a surprise stage dive. There are two vital parts of a stage dive:

  1. Let people know you are jumping into the crowd.
  2. Trust they will catch you.

D.R.A.M. jumped. The crowd parted like Donald Trump’s hair. I was too far away to see if he hit the ground like Humpty Dumpty or if he bounced around like a Plinko ball, but he jumped and then was gone for about two minutes. For me, it was the highlight of his set. Yeah, that’s not nice, but sometimes the truth hurts as much as hitting the Paramount floor.

There was a little break between sets and then Chance hit the stage. I couldn’t see the whole stage from my ADA seats, but it looked like Chance did not have a DJ. I think all the music was played live: Drums, synthesizer, trumpet, and guitar. His sound is unique, more Jazz than Rap, and his show was as tight as oil filter after 10,000 miles. The lights, the video screens, the musicians, everything was planned out to the microsecond. The sound was still too loud and my eardrums were like little canastas, but I was entertained by the spectacle. I like bright shiny things just like other simple-minded beasts.

Chance ripped through a 90-minute set and had at least one t-shirt change that I noticed. The crowd rapped along with Chance, the moms sitting in front of me knew his lyrics, and once again, I was feeling like the oldest man in America.

Near the end of his set, Chance had a message to deliver which was, “Hey.” I don’t want to make too much of a big thing out of something simple, but I do think Chance wants us to make a big deal out of it. “Hey” is one way of recognizing others. I don’t want to get all Immanuel Kant about this simple message, but Chance is right: All rational beings deserve respect. It doesn’t matter if they grew up in the south side of Chicago, or Syria, or anywhere else in the world, human dignity is a simple message that should resonate with all of us.

Our human experience is a shared experience. We all bring different perspectives, but in the end, much of how we experience the world is through the decisions we make. For me, the best way to experience the world is by saying, “Hey” and “Yes,” two simple words with more power than fear.

But if you are going to stage dive, make sure you say, “Hey, will catch me?” Then listen for an answer before jumping.

Bambu’s a Party Worker, but Conner’s a Piece of Work.

Bambu and his Party Worker album landed on stage at the Crocodile last week. If Bambu and DJ Phatrick had produced this album in 1950 (highly unlikely since the hip-hop scene in 1950 was limited to the guys who produced Refer Madness) they certainly would have been called before Senator Joe “I see a commie” McCarthy (R Wisc.) and his House on un-American Affairs Committee. (Wisconsin has a history of electing idiots to office, for example, the current republican governor, Scott Walker. A diet of cheese and Packer football does have side effects.) Party Worker is an ambitious thematic album set at an organizational meeting where each guest rapper represents a different member of the working class, in other words, communism. (At least this is how Faux News would view the show, and since I am currently slipping closer and closer to their primary demographic–old, white male–I thought I should start using the proper verbiage.)

Bambu was in Seattle to perform and sell albums (more capitalist than communist, but a man has to eat), and I was in Seattle on a school night because I am a bad parent and my daughter (Emma) has spent the last six weeks of my son’s chemotherapy being largely ignored, so when she asked to see Bambu’s show I could not refuse. (Bad parenting is full of sentences that end with…I could not refuse.)

The Crocodile is a Seattle landmark club in Belltown where everyone who is anyone eventually performs, so Emma and I have been there several times. We had a plan, and it was a good plan: eat dinner, get tickets, hang out at the dirty coffee shop, see the show. The plan got derailed right away as I spent 40 minutes driving around in circles looking for a place to park. Belltown is a popular place and unlike Capitol Hill where everyone rides a fixed gear bike, people in Belltown drive cars and so by the time we got to the restaurant I was a little grumpy.

As we entered the restaurant we were confronted with a question from the hostess, “Are you here for the show, the thing in the back, or dinner?” We were there for dinner. “Well sit where you like then.” Emma and I took a booth against one of the walls and within 30 seconds I was ready to leave. There was a small group of people testing a sound system by saying, “Test, test, test…” while walking up to the speakers and getting Jimi Hendrix levels of feedback. It was annoying, but not as annoying as the group of people who were arriving for karaoke (aka ‘the show’). There are two types of karaoke, regular drunk karaoke where everyone knows they suck, and then there is the type of karaoke where people show up in costumes and think they are the next Susan Boyle. People were showing up in costumes. I turned to Emma and said, “If these people start to sing, I’m leaving. I don’t care if we haven’t eaten yet.” One guy, in a full length Liberace jacket, was walking around the restaurant randomly testing how loud he could sing high notes, I don’t know if he was trying to psych out his karaoke opponents, but I do know that people who “warm up” for karaoke have an emptiness in their hearts only matched by the emptiness in their heads.

Liberace continued to roam around looking for attention, but what started to interest me was “the thing in the back.” Youngish guys wearing backpacks kept coming into the restaurant and telling the hostess they were here for the thing in the back. They would walk by “the show,” past the bar, and through a red curtain covering a doorway. These guys fit the profile. There was a disaffected, lost quality to all of them; outsiders not accepted by society and forced to meet secretly in a Slavic Belltown restaurant. Had I fallen into a secret meeting place for terrorist cells? Were these guys plotting? Were they falsifying passports? Should I call the FBI? These questions lingered until my food arrived and then I forgot about the burgeoning terrorist plots of losers in the back of the Slavic restaurant.

The food was good, the bill came, and we escaped the restaurant before the singing officially started. As Emma and I walked around the corner, I saw two of the karaoke singers hiding in a doorway smoking a joint like they were Miles Davis preparing for a concert. Their attempt to hide made it obvious that they were doing something naughty and when I looked to see what other nefarious activities could be taking place in the vicinity, I saw what the “thing in the back” was. A curtain was drawn back just far enough for me to see the disaffected group of young men huddled together. They weren’t plotting, they weren’t falsifying passports, they were playing video games.

We arrived at the Crocodile, got our tickets, and were let into the venue. This was an all ages show, so anyone under 21 had to stand in an area the size of an elevator to the right of the stage and the rest of us were free to wander to the bar and drink beer from plastic cups. I found a dark corner with a seat and did what I do at concerts, waited and watched. As 10 PM approached, the crowd grew and my personal space started to shrink. This is when Conner came bee-bopping into my life. Conner was a little guy, we were never formally introduced, but because of who Conner is everyone within ten feet of Conner got to know him. Conner was wacked out of his gourd. He was smoking something from one of those vapor pen devices that caused him to have an excess of energy; whatever he was smoking caused his buddy to vomit in a nearby trashcan. Conner didn’t vomit though. Conner jumped around, bumped into people’s drinks, and generally annoyed everyone. I don’t know Conner, but I am going to guess a few things about Conner: 1. He rides a motorcycle, 2. He carries his motorcycle helmet wherever he goes so people know he rides a motorcycle, 3. Conner spent a good part of his high school years getting stuffed in lockers. At one point, Conner sat next to me. He had a girly drink from the bar. How do I know it was a girly drink? It had a straw and ice. After Conner finished sipping his drink, he began taking the ice cubes and tossing them at people’s legs in the crowd. This gave Conner such a charge of joy, he looked over at me for approval, I gave Conner the “get off my lawn” old man look, and he got up and ran away. Of course, Conner spilled the remains of his drink and ice on the bench before leaving so the next four people who sat there got wet pants.

While Conner focused on the “party” portion of Party Worker, Bambu took the stage and left no doubt that his allegiances were with the workers attending his show. His lyrics bend towards issues of social justice and equality, and his performance was a celebration of his working class roots. The set began with tracks from the Party Worker album which I am certain won’t be played at the Mitt Romney for President 2016 rallies. Well, to be honest, there probably won’t be any Party Worker tracks played at any of the democrat rallies either, unless Elizabeth Warren wants to attract the hip hop demographic to her campaign.

My favorite part of the night was when Bambu was joined by DJ Nphared and Prometheus Brown on stage. For those of you not as hip as me, this trio is known as The Bar. I saw The Bar at my first hip hop concert, so when they began their song Rashida Jones it was like a little journey down memory lane for me. Bambu and Prometheus Brown have mastered the art of emcee stage presence. There are some standard movements for all emcees: pointing with non-mic hand, non-mic hand raised above the head, march across the stage to the left or right non-mic hand pointing at crowd, and then there is the jump straight up and down while bouncing the non-mic hand like you are patting a dog on the head. The more difficult mc moves are combinations of the above moves, but also involve spins and Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation chopping motions with the non-mic hand. (Don’t try this at home if you are too white, or uncoordinated, you might put an eye out.) I have begun to believe that 1/3 of the show is stage presence and both Bambu and Prometheus Brown have that 1/3 down.

After the set by The Bar, another emcee came out, but she did not want to be known as a lady emcee, she just wanted to be known as an emcee, so I won’t assign a gender to her. She also said that everyone should love each other for who they are and I was feeling all warm inside…then she began to rap. Let me just say, her message to the audience and her rap lyrics didn’t seem to be from the same person. Maybe this was a paradox, or irony, or maybe even a juxtopositioning, to hyperbolize her situation, but her set confused me. I’m not saying she didn’t have energy and a message, I’m just saying that I am probably not her target audience. My daughter liked her, so there you go.

Bambu closed the show by telling us to go out and change the world. Don’t wait for the change to drop by and invite you over. Go out, organize, and change things.

Taking my 17 year-old daughter to a hip hop concert on a school night might not get me the Redbook Father of the Year Award, but when I think about what I want my daughter to know about the world, I am happy that she has these experiences. True learning isn’t something that takes place only in a classroom, it isn’t something that can be boiled down to a few stupid test questions, it isn’t something that can be learned through reading, it is something that must be experienced.

Where We’ve Been

Today, makes two weeks in Swedish Hospital in Seattle, it seems longer. I know all the nurses by first name, I know when blood draws are, I know that Dylan’s once distended belly hasn’t grown noticeable, and I know he feels better, but I also know the cancer fighting has just begun. Yesterday, before Dylan and I had our Bro-Down, we spent some time talking about what beating cancer might look like. We talked a little about five-year survival rates and the future of cancer treatments, about what “cancer free” really means, and about the really scary prospect that all this progress is just a tiny step.

When we started chemo, Dylan needed help standing when getting out of bed, today he stands on his own and needs hardly any help getting up at night to empty his bladder for the five bazzillionth time. He discusses his treatments with his nurses and decides which pain killers and sedatives work best for him. He spent thirty minutes talking to Nicole about what cancer is and how it works. Things are better, but…but…but…

Yesterday, we knew Dylan would be starting a new chemo treatment and everyone indicated it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. He might get a headache, he certainly would pee a new shade of yellow (day-go), and depending on how he reacted, we could get a few days to spend outside of the hospital. Our plan was a simple one, all dude stuff all day.

We kicked off DudeFest 2015 by watching the NBA skills contests on my iPad. I recorded the event on my DVR in Sequim and through the interwebs I could contact my DVR and watch it on my iPad. I grew up holding a television antenna to improve the picture and turning a knob to change the channel, so sitting in a hospital room in Seattle and watching something on my DVR two hours away took a little getting used to. We laughed, cheered, and it all felt pretty normal except Dylan had to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes because they were pumping him full of bicarbonate to get the ph level in his pee to reach seven before starting chemo. (I don’t know what any of that last sentence means, but that is what they were doing.) After the dunk contest, Dylan hit the magic ph pee number and Nicole came in with the chemoimage

There is an odd ritual that takes place with each chemo treatment. The lead nurse arrives with the chemo drugs in a sealed in yellow bag. The lead nurse then puts on a Tyvek gown and opens the bag. A second nurse comes in and they read the labels on the patient’s arm and match it up with the chemo drug. I suppose this helps prevent mistakes. Then the bags of chemo drugs are hung on the tower and we go back to doing whatever we were doing. Every 15 minutes, Dylan’s vitals are checked and everything seems pretty normal, other than the fact that Dylan’s blood is being filled with deadly chemicals…another day in room 1266.

After this treatment, Dylan and I did a few laps around the ward and snuck into a couple empty rooms to compare their view versus our view. Some of the rooms have a pretty righteous view of the entire Cascade Mountain Range from Rainier to Canada, but our room is larger and closer to the important things like free coffee and the family bathroom. After five laps, Dylan sent me out to find two good Bro movies at a nearby Redbox. I picked Fury and The Equalizer. Dylan ordered a hamburger from the cafeteria and I went down and picked up one for me too. The rest of the night was spent watching two violent movies and eating unhealthy food. It was petty good, it would have been better if the tv screen was a little larger than 21 inches and we didn’t have to put on the subtitles to see/hear what was being said, but all in all, watching the movies was really good.

The only mildly troubling part of the day was when Dylan was weighed. Two days ago he weighed 226, today he weighed 207. His weight has fluctuated like Anna Nicole Smith’s in the past two weeks and now that his guts are back to intaking and outputting, he has cleared out a lot of stored materials, so dropping twenty pounds isn’t shocking, it is just something for me to worry about.

It’s 6:35 AM, the sun is rising, planes are drifting up from SEATAC into the clear skies every twenty seconds, the top of Rainier is pushing above the morning cloud bank, and my son is sleeping soundly.

Which Circle of Hell is this?

After the diagnosis there was relief, this is probably hard to understand, but knowing it was leukemia made things easier. The doctors knew this thing, they treat this thing, they cure this thing, while this entire ride was going to be new for us it was a path the doctors and nurses had trodden before, it felt like entering a haunted house with people who had been there before.

One of the first decisions we had to make was how to let people know. Family had been kept in the loop, but there were many people who had no idea why we had all disappeared from the Olympic Peninsula in the middle of the night. We talked to our son, who has always had a hate/hate relationship with Facebook and decided the easiest way to let people know was through social media, at least then we wouldn’t have to talk to people and everyone would get the same message. So we posted this:

Our family has had a tough week and we have been pretty quiet about what is going on because we haven’t been sure. Dylan has not been feeling well for a couple of weeks and we have spent the last week in Swedish Hospital in Seattle with him. The doctors are pretty sure he has an aggressive form of lymphoma. He will be starting chemo tomorrow and there are challenging times ahead, but the doctors here are confident that they will handle all of this. Treatments like this can take some time and there will up and downs, but we have a great support system around us and so does Dylan. Days now are busy with tests and soon we will be focused on treatments. Cancer research has made great strides and Seattle is one of the leading centers for care. We certainly encourage prayers, thoughts, and love. Dylan doesn’t want a firestorm of attention, but we just wanted everyone to know what we know and that is we are going to kick some cancer ass.

Dylan was then put on NPO (No food or drink) from midnight until he had the port installed. The doctor thought we would probably be taken in by 9:30 AM and we would start chemo in the afternoon. The port is another one of those medical miracles that no should have to know about. Instead of continuously poking Dylan with needles for blood and fluids, the port would be installed under the skin just above his right pectoral muscle, a tiny tube would run under his skin into a major artery where he could get the chemo without destroying his minor blood vessels. At the same time the doctors would draw some spinal fluid from his back and shoot an equal amount of chemotherapy into his spinal canal.

The next day started early and by 10 AM Dylan was already begging for a drink of water. By noon he was ready to call the whole thing off. Between noon and two, I spent most of my time working on a crossword puzzle and staring at a small blue rubber band that the cleaning lady missed. I began to wonder about this little blue rubber band, where did it come from? Who dropped it? Where was it made? How much energy went into creating this tiny object that was now sitting on the floor no longer meeting its intended purpose? Our world is filled with objects like this, things made in far away countries, shipped to the United States, unpacked, driven to the hospital where it was unpacked and delivered to a storage room until it is needed and then dropped on the floor. What would the people in the factory think about their hard work? Would they be happy their little rubber band had escaped and was now free until the cleaning crew came back in the evening?

Eventually the surgery crew arrive to wheel Dylan downstairs for surgery. It was almost three when he was finally taken in. It seemed unnecessarily cruel, but one doesn’t have to spend much time in a hospital to realize that these places are busy and unpredictable; this was made clear as we waited in the pre-surgery room. An older lady was placed on one side of the curtain and an older man was on the other. Both of these poor people had been shipped in from accidents at home. The older lady was having difficulty breathing and the older man was having difficulty with everything and had the voice of someone who was lost in the fog of life.

Dylan was taken in and two hours later he was returned to the room a little doped up and with a shiny new access port for chemotherapy. Two of Dylan’s aunts brought requested Gatorade and lactose free chocolate milk. He drank the chocolate milk with gusto and declared the milk as the best thing ever.

During the surgery, my wife and I took advantage of having the aunties in the room and walked to the 8 OZ, a local burger joint that has words like “free-range” “locally sourced” and “grass-fed” all over the menu. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything all day, this was not an intentional action of solidarity with my son, it just happened, there wasn’t time to think about food, but the grass-fed-holier-than-thou burger was the best burger I have ever eaten. While we ate, we talked about how we might manage the atomic bomb that had dropped into our lives. I had 120 days of sick leave stashed away, I knew the exact amount because I had been thinking about cashing in 68 of them next summer. (I won’t go into the inequities of why I have so many sick days and why my wife has so few, but some day the United States will figure out that pregnancies and child care are not social ills.)

We got back to Dylan’s room with a rough outline of what to do, I would stay with Dylan through this and Cheryl would visit weekends and other times when she needed to be in Seattle. We didn’t know how the details would work out, but sometimes details are for chumps.

The nurse, Nicole, came in and said that Dylan’s chemo would start around 6:30 PM. The aunties and Cheryl packed up and headed back to Sequim and then I talked to Dylan about what he wanted to do during the chemo administration, he said he wanted me to read a poem to him during the process and selected one of my favorite poems: Ode To A Nightingale. Then just as things were getting about as somber as things can get, a surprise arrived: Gabe, Jared, and Tim. Gabe had made a second trip from Spokane, Jared had driven down from Bellingham where he is going to school, and Tim came over from UW (on the other side of the city). It could not have happened at a better time. I left the boys with Dylan so they could talk about the nurses and other things young men talk about in a hospital when avoiding talking about why they are there.

Gabe, Dylan, Tim, and Jared.

Gabe, Dylan, Tim, and Jared.

When it was chemo time, the Nicole cleared the boys out of the room and they went down to the family room to watch NBA basketball.

I sat on the side of Dylan’s bed and held his hand. Nicole took out an enormous syringe from a sealed red bag and hooked it into Dylan’s chest port. I began reading Keats’ poem and made it through about two lines before I was pretty much an emotional train wreck. Keats wrote the poem after his younger brother Tom died from Tuberculosis and it is not one for reading to your son as he stands in the circle of hell called cancer. The lines, ” I have been in love with easeful death”and “now it seems so rich to die” are not lines parents should read while their child is getting chemotherapy. At one point, Nicole stepped in and read a chunk until I could get it together. All in all, it took about 30 minutes, 15 of which I spent in various states of distress, but Dylan got through it remarkable well.

I walked down the hall and told the boys they could come back to the room. Once again they raised Dylan’s spirits and I gave them some time alone. By the time they boys left we had seen one more medical miracle: bright orange pee. The chemo drug made its way through his digestive system and came out the other end. One at a time, we all looked at the toilet bowl filled with bright orange urine and laughed.

After the boys left, Dylan and I watched one of our favorite movies, Raising Arizona, and did the thing that annoys the lady members of our family, we talked loudly, laughed, and recited dialogue before the actors spoke their lines. It was a great way to end the day and there can be no better sound than laughter in a hospital room.

Seahawk Fever: It’s like the Flu

About halfway through this year’s NFL season I bought a Seahawks t-shirt. Each time I wore the shirt the Seahawks lost. I’m not saying I am the primary cause of their losses, but I stopped wearing the shirt and they have been on a six game win streak. As they say, “It’s only stupid if it doesn’t work.” Here’s the thing, I have never really been a Seahawks fan. I am a Bandwagoner. Longtime Seahawk fans want people like me to go away. They have endured years of pain and now those dark winters have turned into a spring of football championships. Not me, I haven’t really cared about the Seahawks until last year when they won it all. I understand. I support teams who lose every year and if they ever did win, I would…hold on…I’m a Cubs fan…that isn’t going to happen, so I’m not even going to entertain the thought.

The 12th man is everywhere.

The 12th man is everywhere.

I have a few addictions and one of them is sports. I realized this while I was traveling through New Zealand. I started watching the World Championship of Lawn Bowling. If you can get excited about lawn bowling…enough said. (NASCAR is not a sport. You couldn’t pay me $100 to watch an entire NASCAR race.) Betting on the games I watch is a threshold I know not to step over because it wouldn’t be long before I was selling my extra kidney to get some spare cash. There was one time I put money ($20) on a game and it killed me to watch it. I was screaming at the television like I do when watching Dick Cheney interviewed about why the US invaded Iraq.

Seattle has Seahawk fever. Walk around downtown and 50% of the people will be wearing some form of Seahawk gear, cars are flying 12th man flags, and every business is trying to get in on the Seahawks thing. The Burke Museum has brought the tribal mask that inspired the Seahawks logo to town so people who spend their weekends screaming at large men in tight shorts and padded shoulders might venture into a museum and learn something other than which Seahawks have expiring contracts.

Yep, you can really see this in the Burke Museum.

Yep, you can really see this in the Burke Museum.

The funny thing about catching Seahawks fever is that you don’t realize how obnoxious it is to anyone living outside of the infected area. I am certain that people living in Denver don’t think that Russell Wilson is one of the nicest, most humble, and awesome humans ever to walk the surface of this planet. People in San Francisco are not enamored with Richard Sherman’s swagger. People in Boston are not in love with Marshawn Lynch’s one word answers to the media. But, if you live within 300 miles of Seattle, there is nothing Seahawks can do wrong. This band of brothers, these few, these special young men are the best and brightest America has to offer.

And on the 8th day God created Russell Wilson.  (Photo stolen off the internet.)

And on the 8th day God created Russell Wilson. (Photo stolen off the internet.)

On the cool side of the pillow reality waits for Seahawks fans. If the team loses this weekend the entire Pacific Northwest will go into a deep depression that will last until May (traditionally known around here as “when the sun comes out”). I will be disappointed for about four hours and then get on with my life, which will annoy true Seahawks fans even more than me joining the bandwagon as the team crossed the finish line.  If the team wins this week I won’t be surprised if the entire PNW shuts down for the two weeks leading up to the SuperBowl. It really is that crazy here.

For me a SuperBowl victory will mean one thing, I can take my $12 Seahawks T-shirt out of the closet and wear it without fearing my actions will cause the mighty Seahawks to lose a game.

Seattle= Rain, Cold, Stay Away!

I live in a remote area of the nation in an underground bunker designed by the NSA. (Some of this is not true, but some of it is.) Every now and again, I like to venture out of my bunker and see what is happening in the closest metropolitan area. (I actually live closer to Victoria, BC, but Canadian cities are subsidized by the government so they don’t really count as real cities like the ones in the mighty USA.)

In a non-scientific poll conducted by the person writing this blog, Seattle, Washington, USA, was voted the most beautiful city in the world on a nice day, and the fifth most beautiful city when the weather is terrible. There are some nice other cities out there, but Seattle’s combination of mountains and water set it apart from the pretend pretty cities.

Today, through the magic of the inter-webs, I will be taking you on a quick trip to Seattle to see the touristy areas in the downtown. You don’t even need a raincoat (don’t ever, ever, ever bring an umbrella to this city) to enjoy your trip. So, sit back and have a sip of coffee while we visit the most beautiful city in the world. (Think of the blurry photos as “artistic.”)

We will be leaving from Bainbridge Island. Park your car and walk onboard. There is no charge for foot traffic heading into Seattle, don't worry they'll stick it to you on the way back.

We will be leaving from Bainbridge Island. Park your car and walk onboard. There is no charge for foot traffic heading into Seattle, don’t worry they’ll stick it to you on the way back.

If you want to visit more of Seattle than the downtown area, take your car and drive it on the boat. It isn't cheap and parking is outrageous, but you can get around Seattle pretty easily.

If you want to visit more of Seattle than the downtown area, take your car and drive it on the boat. It isn’t cheap and parking is outrageous, but you can get around Seattle pretty easily.

Now find a place to sit. I like to sit upfront so I can pretend to drive the ferry.

Now find a place to sit. I like to sit upfront so I can pretend to drive the ferry.

On a nice day, this is what it looks like before leaving Bainbridge. On a not nice day it looks like a grey blanket.

On a nice day, this is what it looks like before leaving Bainbridge. On a not nice day it looks like a grey blanket.

As we leave the dock there are lots of things to see: Water, people, mountains. This is on the upper deck, which is usually less crowded.

As we leave the dock there are lots of things to see: Water, people, mountains. This is on the upper deck, which is usually less crowded. That is Seattle in the distance. Those are the Cascade mountains. The water is the Puget Sound. 

This is Mount Adams. It is up near Canada to the north. On a clear day you can see Adams and...

This is Mount Adams. It is up near Canada to the north. On a clear day you can see Adams and…

Mount Rainer! Rainer is named for some stupid white guy who nobody really knows about and why they don't call it Tahoma is a mystery to me, but at one point in my life I walked all the way around Mount Rainer. (The Wonderland Trail is pretty awesome if you like backpacking and smelling like BO.)

Mount Rainer! Rainer is named for some stupid white guy who nobody really knows about and why they don’t call it Tahoma is a mystery to me, but at one point in my life I walked all the way around Mount Rainer. (The Wonderland Trail is pretty awesome if you like backpacking and smelling like BO.)

Now, turn around and see the Olympic Mountains. This is near my underground bunker.

Now, turn around and see the Olympic Mountains. This is near my underground bunker. Those are the Bainbridge ferry docks. Yeah, I live in a pretty awesome place. 

Okay, now take in the full panorama. There is a lot to see even if it looks tiny. If it looks too small you need a bigger computer.

Okay, now take in the full panorama. There is a lot to see. If it looks too small you need a bigger computer.

Find a nice seat and watch the city get bigger.

Find a nice seat and watch the city get bigger. To the left of center is the Space Needle, to the far right are where the Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders play. The Sonics play in some terrible city in Oklahoma. 

As we get closer, stay seated. It is a rookie mistake to line up with everyone to disembark. (I would rant here about the word disembark, but there isn't enough room for me to really get into a froth.)

As we get closer, stay seated. It is a rookie mistake to line up with everyone to disembark. (I would rant here about the word disembark, but there isn’t enough room for me to really get into a froth.)

See? Here they are all lining up like lemmings. YOU CAN'T GET OFF UNTIL THE BOAT IS CONNECTED TO THE LAND!

See? Here they are all lining up like lemmings. YOU CAN’T GET OFF UNTIL THE BOAT IS CONNECTED TO THE LAND!

Okay, now follow the lemmings.

Okay, now follow the lemmings.

Keep following them. (Yes, I was taking a lot of pictures. Each time I said, "This is the last one.")

Keep following them. (Yes, I was taking a lot of pictures. Each time I said, “This is the last one.”)

Look north to see the waterfront. There are lots of great little touristy places to visit there, but you can't get to any of it right now because they are digging a tunnel that is supposed to be done in March...or November.

Look north to see the waterfront. There are lots of great little touristy places to visit there, but you can’t get to any of it now because they are digging a tunnel that is supposed to be done in March…or November.

That's where we started. Keep moving or somebody will ask you for change. That's a joke, you're going to get asked for change at least five times on this trip.

That’s where we started. Keep moving or somebody will ask you for change. That’s a joke, you’re going to get asked for change at least five times on this trip.

Keep following the lemmings until you come to   1st Ave and then hang a left.

Keep following the lemmings until you come to 1st Ave and then hang a left. Walk a few blocks and then you’ll be at our first stop…

The Seattle Art Museum. The Hammering Man swings his little hammer 24/7 and never gets anything done. SAM has undergone a pretty significant renovation and is turning into a decent museum.

The Seattle Art Museum. The Hammering Man swings his little hammer 24/7 and never gets anything done. SAM has undergone a pretty significant renovation and is turning into a decent museum.

Get your tickets under the suspended cars. Don't worry no one has had a car fall on them inside SAM yet.

Get your tickets under the suspended cars. Don’t worry no one has had a car fall on them inside SAM yet.

This is the only picture from inside the SAM because the POP Exhibit did not allow any photography. I don't break these rules because I am not an animal. Oh, this is a statue of a red Ghandi with an iPod...

This is the only picture from inside the SAM because the POP Exhibit did not allow any photography. I don’t break these rules because I am not an animal. Oh, this is a statue of a red Ghandi with an iPod…

Oh, I lied. I took this picture too. It is a motor scooter made out of gold buttons.

Oh, I lied. I took this picture too. It is a motor scooter made out of gold buttons.

Okay, now cut back across 1st and go into Pike's Market. The far end, by the Pike's Brewery, is usually pretty empty and it is inside so you don't have to walk in the rain, or sunshine.

Okay, now cut back across 1st and go into Pike’s Market. The far end, by the Pike’s Brewery, is usually pretty empty and it is inside so you don’t have to walk in the rain, or sunshine.

Walk by all the fish throwing nonsense and walk in the road. If people drive down this road they are tourists and deserve to drive at walking speed. The sidewalks are always crazy crowded so my walk in the street thing isn't rude, it is just good advice.

Walk by all the fish throwing nonsense and walk in the road. If people drive down this road they are tourists and deserve to drive at walking speed. The sidewalks are always crazy crowded so my walk in the street thing isn’t rude, it is just good advice.

Cut through Pike's Alley.

Cut through Pike’s Post Alley.

Keep walking.

Keep walking.

Look for this pink door on your left. Open the door and go in. If you show up at an odd time (2, 3, 4) you can probably get a seat.

Look for this pink door on your left. Open the door and go in. If you show up at an odd time (2, 3, 4) you can probably get a seat.

This is what is inside the Pink Door.

This is what is inside the Pink Door.

The Pink Door is an Italian restaurant. It is okay to drink the olive oil.

The Pink Door is an Italian restaurant. It is okay to drink the olive oil.

Deluxe cheese plate? Thank you very much.

Deluxe cheese plate? Thank you very much. I didn’t take a photo of my main course because I was too busy eating it. 

When you are done with dinner walk by these clowns. This is the first Starbucks and there is ALWAYS a line, so if you want to stand in line to get a drink you can get in 105% of the world, knock yourself out.

When you are done with dinner walk by these clowns. This is the first Starbucks and there is ALWAYS a line, so if you want to stand in line to get a drink you can get in 105% of the world, knock yourself out.

This is where we are going...the French bakery on the corner to get...

This is where we are going…the French bakery on the corner to get…

This.

This. 

Head back to the ferry dock filled with sugar, coffee and pasta.

Head back to the ferry dock filled with sugar, coffee and pasta.

Take one last picture of the ferris wheel thing and head to the boat.

Take one last picture of the ferris wheel thing and head to the boat.

The waterfront is a mess of construction right now, but someday all this traffic will go underground and the waterfront will be a walking paradise. This is a joke. On one who lives here thinks the construction will ever be finished.

The waterfront is a mess of construction right now, but someday all this traffic will go underground and the waterfront will be a walking paradise. This is a joke. No one who lives here thinks the construction will ever be finished.

Sit back on the ferry, you'll have to pay to get on this time, and remember how awesome the vanilla macaron was... Hey, it was a great day to visit. Thanks for coming along.

Sit back on the ferry, you’ll have to pay to get on this time, and remember how awesome the vanilla macaron was…
Hey, it was a great day to visit. Thanks for coming along.

Food and Sh*t Potluck: How Many Lumpia Can I Eat Before I Get Asked To Leave?

Six lumpia, that’s how many I ate Saturday night. I’m not bragging; I could have eaten six more if someone said, “We have six lumpia left, can someone please eat these?” While I stuffed myself I vowed to work out Sunday, which didn’t happen, but I thought about working out while I sat on the couch watching football, so that kinda counts. Why was I eating too much, making promises I knew I wouldn’t keep, and hanging out in a hip-hop dance hall in Seattle’s Chinatown/Beacon Hill Saturday night? Well, my daughter had been invited to attend a potluck dinner with Food and Sh*t.

What is Food and Sh*t? That is a good question which is harder to answer than one might think, in fact, one might think that they could sit down at the computer and write a blog piece about Food and Sh*t and it would be easy, but it isn’t. The easy part is relaying what happens with Food and Sh*t: Every month a family takes over a restaurant on Beacon Hill (Seattle) and makes pretty awesome food. What is harder to explain is why this happens, why my daughter gets invited to stuff like this, and how I end up tagging along.

About two and a half years ago I took my kids to a rap/hip-hop concert thing in Seattle and now here we are, each month since then I have found myself at a rap concert or event put on by the people involved in the Seattle rapping and hip-hopping scene. These events were not in the parenting books “What to Expect When Your Daughter is a Teen,” so this has been a kind of learn as you go experience for me and I have learned a ton.

So when my daughter got the invitation on Friday morning she did a little squealing dance and I knew I would be spending my Saturday in Seattle instead of parked in front of the television watching Gonzaga choke away another close basketball game to a ranked team.

Most of the time our event planning is done months in advance but this one could not have happened at a better time because a week before the Washington State Ferry system canceled our concert; they could not figure out how to connect the boat to the land. I would have given a hand to the ferry workers, but I think they knew they needed to lower the land part onto the boat part.  We sat on a ferry looking at the Edmonds’ ferry dock for an hour before they ferried us back to where we started and said, “Oops, you thought you paid to get to the other side, silly you.” I did promise my daughter at that time, mostly to stop her crying, that I would take her to an event in December even if it was on a school night. (Poor parenting should have no bounds.)

Geo Quibuyen (Blues Scholars, The Bar, Rappers w/ Cameras, aka Prometheus Brown) and Chera Amlag are the motor behind Food and Sh*t. I don’t know much about the entire project, but I do like food. I like food that tastes good better than food that doesn’t, so I don’t mind driving to Seattle to eat food that is killer.  If you would like to attend one of their pop ups, show up early and stand in line.  It is worth it: http://www.foodandsh-t.com

On Saturday, we arrived at the dance hall around 6:15 and I did what I do during these events, I sat in a corner far away from everyone else and tried not to look too much like some homeless guy who snuck in off the streets; my new Charles Manson beard doesn’t help. Pretty soon people started to fill the hall and I watched, I like watching, not in the Bo Radley way, but just to see what people are doing. This allows me to make observations about others while ignoring the fact that I am uncomfortable in most social situations. There were little kids running around the two tiered dance floor having a great time being kids, some of them discovered the wall of mirrors lining the eastern side of the hall and did what kids do in front of mirrors, the adults stood around talking and eating, and pretty soon it was like almost every potluck I have ever attended. There was music, there was food, there was sharing, there was community. I don’t want to get all mystical or anthropological, but these are the things that have always drawn humans together, and I have the impression this is what Geo and Chera have been trying to accomplish through their Food and Sh*t project. Some of it is about food, but most of it is about community.

The communities we live in today really aren’t communities. We live in places surrounded by people we don’t know well and don’t really care much for. I’m not suggesting we have all become Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino, but many of us have become Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair at the RNC, lost in a world that exists in our head and not living in the world that surrounds us. This inward movement has coincided with losing our reliance on others. Why do we have to know our neighbors when I will never need a cup of sugar from them? I’ll just have an Amazon drone deliver it to my door. If I need to know how to fix a box and rotor, I’ll watch a YouTube video on how to do it instead of asking my old neighbor to help me. This Self Reliance is not what Ralph Waldo Emerson had in mind when he asked us to search our inner lives for truth. Instead of every heart vibrating with trust thyself, our hearts are vibrating with leave me alone I have to update my Facebook status so people know how great my life is.  Our casual relationships have become barter relationships and we spend more and more time avoiding the “new” because it can be threatening or unusual. These walls we are building around our lives are becoming easier and easier to construct, and as we move inward we become more selfish and lose our empathy for other people, especially people who don’t look like us.

It is troubling to think where our society is heading, but (if I may borrow from Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy) we must remain hopeful in the face of the overwhelming, and that is what Food and Sh*t is doing. Sometimes building a community isn’t done with bricks and wood, it is done with good food and music.

The little kids danced, the adults sipped pineapple cider, the DJ played a few songs I knew, I sat in a corner talking to a bus mechanic from King County, and my daughter floated around the room talking to people who welcomed her into their community. Then I had a realization, I didn’t feel like an outsider sitting in the corner of a dance hall in Beacon Hill, I felt at home. Don’t get me wrong, I still felt like an old dude who wasn’t sure if I should tuck in my shirt or leave it hanging out, but I don’t think anyone looked at me and thought, “Did Ted Kaczynski get out on parole?”

As we prepared to leave, we were invited to go to the new Starbucks roaster on Capitol Hill, but the ferry schedule dictated we head home and so we did. I drove home in the dark, between the tall cedar trees of the Olympic Peninsula thinking about my daughter’s future and how I needed to update my Facebook status to make sure everyone knew I was still super cool.

 

 

 

 

Summer Solstice Fremont Style: Put on Some Pants Old Man

The annual Summer Solstice Festival in Fremont (a small neighborhood in Seattle) is well-known in the PNW because it is a kooky gathering of strange people celebrating the longest day of the year. How is it celebrated? Well there is the street fair, and a concert, and a parade, and…what am I forgetting? Oh yes, the part where a few thousand people take off their clothing, paint their bodies, and ride naked through the streets of Fremont.

This was my first Solstice Festival but if you live near Seattle you know about the festival because it is covered annually on every news channel. Why is it news? Well, it isn’t really, but if you take a big camera to a parade of naked bike riders you probably don’t look like a pervert, but having spent a little time in a newsroom I can say that is exactly why it is covered each year.

I was not in Fremont to see naked people I was there to see the concert because I am a cultured and responsible member of society. Did I accidentally see naked people riding on bikes? Yes, I tried not to look, and I tried not to take pictures, but somehow it still happened. Will I post pictures of the naked people? No. Okay, I will post one.

There you go. If you want to see more show up next year.

There you go. If you want to see more show up next year. If you click on this picture to enlarge it you may go blind. A notice will also be sent to the NSA.

I was expecting about 50 naked people who would zip by pedaling like they were chasing Lance Armstrong but that did not happen. There were hundreds and hundreds of naked bike riders pedaling like grandmas on a Sunday afternoon, maybe even thousands, most of them with elaborate body paint jobs, but there were also a few old dudes who put on a Viking helmet (and only a Viking helmet) and just started walking down the street.  These old guys didn’t seem to get the whole point of the parade and I’m sure haven’t looked in the mirror in about 25 years. (If you feel the need to be naked in public do everyone a favor and eat a sandwich while standing naked in front of a mirror. If you can’t finish eating the sandwich, then you should put some clothes on and never expose your body to the fresh air.)

I don’t know how long the parade lasted, but since everyone was crowded around the parade route we (yes, I took my daughter to the parade because I am an excellent parent) figured  this was the perfect time to get something to eat before the concert started and avoid the long lines at most of the food booths.

With our bellies full we headed to the main stage area to watch the opening acts. My daughter headed to the front row barricade and I found the beer garden was a great place to kill time.

Cascadia 10 opened the show. How would I describe Cascadia 10? Jazz? I think jazz. I don’t know, there was no singing but there was music so I guess that means it was jazz. My attention span was challenged so I started watching the sparse crowd and this is where I decided that Cascadia 10 was a good jazz group. (Who can really tell these things?)

Dance like nobody is watching.

Dance like nobody is watching.

Cascadia 10 dance party.

Cascadia 10 dance party.

See the guy in the green and yellow shirt? This guy was dancing the way everyone wishes they could. It wasn’t beautiful dancing, it was joyful dancing. The music was flowing through him and he let himself go. I have never been there, the place where your body says, “We are dancing, stop thinking and just dance.” When I dance, which is not often, my brain is usually concerned with telling my body what to do, and then it is also saying, “You look ridiculous moving this way. Move your arms less. Try a little swaying. Just stop. Please, just stop!” Maybe it is me, but I don’t think so. We spend our lives controlling our impulses so allowing our bodies to be released to the wilds of the id feels unnatural. I was a little sad when Cascadia 10 finished up their set and this guy left, but as John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” I am happy right now by just looking at pictures of this guy.

The Flavr Blue (I am sure they know that blue is not a flavor and that flavor has an o in it) was next on the main stage and I was looking forward to hearing them. I have never been a huge fan of the synthesizer/techno music even back in the 80’s when everybody else was listening to Flock of Seagulls, but there is something fresh about The Flavr Blue’s music. Hollis certainly can belt out a tune and the energy of the band got most of the growing crowd moving. About halfway through the set I began to wonder what sport Hollis plays. This may not be what musicians want audience members thinking about, but there are people who just move like athletes and there was something about Hollis’ jumping around that made me think she would be a good athlete.  I decided after some consideration that Hollis is probably a very good tennis player. Her footwork looked strong and I imagine she can cover the net like a boss. Her overhead game probably needs some work, but that is what tennis lessons are for. Hollis, if this singing thing doesn’t work out, I suggest joining the USTA and winning some Grand Slam tournaments.

Hollis, Lace, and Parker: The Flavr Blue

Hollis, Lace, and Parker: The Flavr Blue

It is difficult to put a simple tag on how The Flavr Blue sounds but they are a fusion of electric, hip-hop, and pop. What does that mean? Go here: http://theflavrblue.com/ and see for yourself. Do your ears a favor and download some of their free music. Hollis’ vocal range reminds me of Kate Bush and that is about as good as it gets.

The Physics took the stage as the sun started to finally dip in the sky. If you live closer to the equator, you really don’t know how awesome summers in the mighty PNW are, but let me say the summer day exchange rate makes one Seattle summer day worth four summer days in LA. (This does not mean that I want more people to visit Seattle in the summer. It just means I am lucky and you should stay home and not make it hard for me to find a parking space.)

This was my third Physics’ show and they did another fantastic job, in fact, this was my favorite show so far.

Sun setting, Physics playing, crowd putting their hands in the air.

Sun setting, Physics playing, crowd putting their hands in the air.

I recall how confusing everything was the first time I went to a rap show (you can read about that here) but these days I know a little more about what is going on. (I still have no idea what the computer/DJ guy does, but mysteries like that should never be solved.) Thig Natural is a great lead showman and by the time the sun set he had run through a pretty tight set of seven or eight songs. There is a lot to like about The Physics, but I like their R&B backing sound best. (What does that mean? I’m not sure but you can listen for yourself here: http://thephysicsmusic.com/blog/) There is something Motownish about the their music, but there is also a modern twist that mixes the synthesizer and rapping that doesn’t really sound like anyone else I have heard.

Once The Physics wrapped up their set I turned around to see that I was no longer standing in the back of the crowd, I was surrounded on all sides. Maybe people were waiting for the sun to go down so they didn’t have to slather on sunscreen, or maybe the crowd knew that the Blue Scholars had not performed in Seattle in over a year and did not want to miss the show.

Geo and  DJ Sabzi

Geo and DJ Sabzi

What makes the Blue Scholars great? For me, music with a social consciousness is always better than music about pouring sugar on people, and the Blue Scholars have intelligent lyrics that challenge the status quo. Art must challenge people’s thinking and that is what the Blue Scholars do.

DJ Sabzi and Geo took the stage and put on a fantastic show. I don’t know enough about rapping to enlighten readers about what makes Geo’s style appealing, but here is what I do know, Geo writes poetry that can be rapped. There is a natural iambic rhythm to his lyrics along with creative rhymes that are backed up by DJ Sabzi’s beats and samples. It is everything music should be.

The show had a hard curfew of 11PM (which was too early for those of us attending the show but I suppose the people who live in Fremont 11 was about right). I was left wondering why these two guys are not more widely known. Maybe the lyrics are too PNW-centric, maybe there are things I don’t know about music, but in the end I cannot understand why the Blue Scholars are not famous and Kim Kardashian is.

It was a long day (therefore the extra long blog post) and well worth the hassles with parking, long lines at the bathrooms, and naked people.

 

Rappers + Cameras > Wrappers + Cameras

It was the rainiest May day in Seattle history and where was I? Seattle. I like to attend all the historic weather moments I can. There was the record-breaking heat wave I attended in Europe, the 40 days of 100 degrees when I toiled at the Lemoore Cemetery, and then there was the coldest winter in Spokane history. I have been to them all, and I survived.

I was in Seattle on my Father of the Year tour with my daughter to see the latest Rappers with Cameras show. What is Rappers with Cameras? Well, there are Rappers who take pictures and then the Rappers (Prometheus Brown/Geo and Thig) display the photos and people who like photography and rapping come together and hang out. Stuffed bears are also allowed to attend.

Bear

I’m pretty sure this bear felt awkward. He stood in the corner the entire night and spoke to no one.

My daughter and I arrived early, after spending 12 unsuccessful hours trying to find a free place to park on Capitol Hill on a Saturday night, so that she could interview Geo and Thig for her school newspaper. The event was being held in what I think was a clothing shop. (The shop also sold dishes, plants, knives, books, backpacks, and stuff any hipster would need to be cool.) I am naturally uncomfortable in any retail clothing outlet because I am…how do I say this…a freak of nature and cheap. I am 6’6″ and I only buy clothing that fits and is on sale, so being in a store where you know that everything there is made for normal sized people with money is a little like a Vegan looking at the menu at a rib shack.

Photo Wall

Yes, gentlemen, that’s what a lady’s legs look like.

Anyway, when we arrived I walked around looking at the pictures and price tags on the clothing while my daughter talked with Geo and Thig. I found a rubber raincoat from Sweden for $400, some super ugly shorts for $120, and lots of other stuff that confused me, but since I have lived in a state of confusion for well over 20 years I did not panic, I just went with the flow.

When my daughter finished her interview she introduced me to Geo and Thig. For those of you who are not as hip as I am let me fill in the gaps for you: Geo is also known as Prometheus Brown and he raps for The Bar and for Blue Scholars; Thig is also known as Thig Natural and raps for The Physics. I talked to Geo about photography, his life as a Navy brat, and the Seattle rap scene. Since I know little to nothing about any other city’s rap scene, Seattle’s situation strikes me as unusual. The people involved in music in Seattle are incredibly supportive of each other. Geo thought the cohesiveness was due to the outstanding music programs in local schools and the fact that geographically Seattle is removed from the rest of the country and is able to do their own thing.

Black and White Poloroids

Black and White Polaroid’s of the guests.

It is a little odd that about a two years ago I was a little concerned about my kids going to a rap show at Neumos so I tagged along to protect them from the dangerous world of rap music, and now I find that the concerts and events are one of my favorite family activities. This probably makes some people think I am one of the worst parents in the world.

Geo and Thig

Thig (on the left), Geo (on the right).

More Poloroids

More Polaroids

The crowd at Rappers with Cameras continued to grow as it got later and this is when I realized that if The Smiths (the 1980’s/90’s musical group) were to show up on Capitol Hill they would fit right in. The hipster haircuts and clothing are exactly what Morrissey wore circa 1987. This took me on a circular thinking tangent about whether these people knew who The Smiths were, whether Morrissey knows that the entire hipster movement can be traced back to the video There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, and if Morrissey knew he was responsible for the hipster movement  would it make him sad enough to write really depressing lyrics? (For those of you who don’t know the Smiths, all of Morrissey’s lyrics are depressing.)

Is that Morrisey?

Is that Morrissey?

Around 10:30, the agreed upon time of departure for catching a ferry back to the boondocks, I found my daughter talking to Hollis. (Hollis is one of the featured singers on the Macklemore album and member of the group The Flavor Blue.)  My daughter was attempting to hitch a ride to Corvallis with Hollis for an upcoming show. I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed by my daughter’s initiative or upset that my daughter was acting like she was in a Jack Kerouac novel. I explained that picking up my daughter would probably add about four hours to the trip which, for some reason, did not strike Hollis as the best plan.

We left Rappers with Cameras and ventured back out into the downpour. The drive home was quiet as I thought about how rapidly my daughter has gone from the little girl to young lady. I’m sure my daughter was thinking about something similar, or she might have been thinking, “If I could just get to Portland, then maybe Hollis will pick me up.”

 

 

Tangerine Is Playing Here? Really?

Seattle, like most cities, is a collection of neighborhoods. Most people who visit the city see very little of what makes Seattle Seattle. Tourists will see Pike’s Market, the Space Needle, and most of the downtown core, but people who live in or near Seattle have their favorite neighborhoods. About 25 years ago, I loved the U-District (the area abutting the University of Washington). There was a Tower Records on the “Ave” and it was not difficult to find a place where young people gathered to imbibe and socialize. I recall standing outside a bar named REDACTED wondering if I should go in. I looked in the window and saw a young man standing on a table pretending to surf. The table broke sending glasses, beer, and the young surfer crashing to the ground. It was a cool neighborhood. I don’t visit the U-District too often these days because there is no longer a Tower Records and because it is where young people gather to imbibe and socialize, but when my daughter asked to attend a concert in the U-District to see Tangerine (a band I really like) I could not refuse.

I asked where they would be playing and my daughter said, “Heartland.”

I was not familiar with Heartland, “Where is that?”

“It’s an art studio.”

“Oh, that sounds nice.

Where is it located?”

“It’s on REDACTED, next to REDACTED.”

This is not the entrance to Heartland. The entrance is a secret. These are the Elephant gates in Copenhagen.

This is not the entrance to Heartland. The entrance is a secret. These are the Elephant gates in Copenhagen.

People always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and I would like to think that life is better lived by not judging things by their covers, but once you reach a certain age (right around my age, I suppose) judging things backed by years of experience can save a lot of time. I will also save anyone looking for Heartland time too, it is located at REDACTED in Seattle. Don’t look for a sign, don’t look on the internet or try to use Google Maps because Heartland exists in a parallel universe. All you have to do is go to the building with REDACTED, open the REDACTED, and  step across the threshold and you will be there. This was not really what I was expecting. In my head I thought the terms “art gallery” meant a place where wine and cheese are consumed and people talk about how the artist used the negative space in the paintings, Heartland is not that type of “art gallery” it is more of a place where you bring your own sandwich and you wonder if the string that the dog pictures are taped to is hemp. We arrived early, even though we were about 45 minutes late, and were told that there was a five dollar donation for the show. I am certain there is some tax related reason to call it a donation, but if my donation went to the bands or to the cleaning bill for Heartland then I am completely cool with the “donation,” but I felt like I was back in college paying for a red cup after the keg was empty. There were about a dozen people standing around talking, there were free jelly beans (I am a germaphobe so I didn’t eat any), and I did my best not to acknowledge the strangeness of it all but I felt like I was in an episode of Portlandia directed by David Lynch. My daughter and her friend (one of the many nice people who my daughter has met through this whole Seattle music thing) gabbed about stuff while I spent my time trying to figure out the rules for this alternate universe located behind the blue door. There were rules, they were listed on a poster.

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Can I comment on these rules without breaking them? Probably not, so I will leave it at that.

And there was art to examine.

Dog pictures on string, dangled from dead branches...ahh.

Dog pictures on string, dangled from dead branches…ahh.

I spent far too much time trying to figure out the dog pictures. Here is what I discovered: There were pictures of dogs, the pictures were attached to string with black duct tape, the string was attached to branches (which might be significant to a botanist) at the top and bottom of each “artifact,” and after 30 minutes I knew nothing more about the pictures than before. Maybe this “art gallery” was a tax-exempt organization that needed to have some art so they put this stuff up to keep the feds out of their pockets. It is the only explanation that makes sense to me. Finally, about an hour and fifteen minutes after the advertised start time, the opening act (Mr ______ Saltpeter) took to the stage carpet. He gave a very brief and incomprehensible explanation as to why he was there and not the expected band, and then he began to play. There was a song about denting a car and writing a song instead of leaving a note (which is against the law in Washington State, but apparently not in Heartland), and then there was a song about having a short attention span, and there was some nice banter with the audience between songs which was really easy because they were standing right next to him. The banter made the set enjoyable. Mr. Saltpeter thought that his fly might be open because people were laughing, but I think they were laughing at his funny lyrics. His set went for six song because he stated that he had only written six songs and as he started his last song I began to think about art and performance and the need for humans to express themselves. This guy was probably not going to get enough money from this gig to cover the cost of his Big Gulp and parking, but nevertheless he showed up to play to a small group of people who enjoyed his act. There was something satisfying in the emptiness and impermanence of a small man who resembled George Constanza playing songs that no one had ever heard (and would probably never hear again) in a small garage in the U-District. The Yellow Dress was next to take the stage, and by take the stage I mean they walked around the cinderblock and began setting up their stuff on the stage carpet. The Yellow Dress is a band who traveled all the way from San Francisco to play in a garage in the U-District. I know rents are pretty high in the Bay Area so maybe this was a step up for them. They might have been able to only book gigs in single car garages up to this point and Heartland is a two or three car garage, but if I traveled from San Francisco to Seattle to perform, I would have been a bit bummed to see I was performing in a garage, and that is why I am a jerk and the members of The Yellow Dress are better people than me because they were very entertaining. The band was comprised of a drummer, a bass player, a saxophonist, and the lead-singer who played a small guitar which looked even smaller than a small guitar because the lead-singer was a big fellow, if pushed to further describe the lead-singer I would say take John Cleese and put an epic Grizzly Adams beard on him, then give him a little Toys-R-Us guitar and you would have it. The lead-singer (I suppose he has a name, but if you Google search The Yellow Dress you will find lots of opportunities to buy yellow dresses) was a character. He belted out the songs, played with a wildness, and was very funny between songs even though someone had stolen his jacket earlier in the day. He insisted we all partake in eating jelly beans (I passed again), had us singing along to songs we had never heard, and offered sweaty hugs after the set (I passed).

Tangerine then took the stage carpet. Framed photographs like this gem can be purchased for $9.99.

Tangerine then took the stage carpet. Framed photographs like this gem can be purchased for $9.99.

By the time Tangerine got their gear set up and were ready to begin the tiny garage was packed. If the Fire Marshall dropped in I am certain he would have had some concerns, but if Heartland were to burn down it would be a pretty quick fire and everyone could easily escape through the garage door. The problem with the crowd was that they started to get pushy. Usually I can avoid the whole push toward the stage thing by standing in the back and looking creepy, but there wasn’t much space and looking creepy in a garage isn’t as easy as looking creepy in a club because everyone in a garage looks creepy. (Is looking creepy against the rules stated on the poster, or is there a difference between being creepy and looking creepy?)  Anyway, the crowd all pushed forward, held back only by the carpet and cinder block, and then Tangerine started cranking out the tunes. It was loud. At one time in my life I was a big fan of loud, but now that I have a limited amount of hearing left I try to protect it, so when the songs started I felt my ear canal begin to swell as it attempted to protect my damaged tympanic membrane. There was no escape from the loudness of it all, but I will say that Tangerine is really, really good. I think the song writing is wonderful, their sound is  unique and lovely, and they put on a great show. They blazed through a set of six or seven songs and left me wishing they would play a bit more. If you enjoy music and have a chance to see Tangerine, you should do so. Until then check them out on iTunes or on their webpage: http://tangerineband.com/

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