Home, Again

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Coming home after a trip can be a couple different things. For me, I clean my place before I leave. Not spotless or Type A extreme, just centered, even, without clutter. It makes it easier. I’m a minimalist in most areas of my life.  I was initially a bit edgy when I left the Airport last night. The damn automated machine wouldn’t take my parking pass, so I had to fool with that for 20 minutes. It cost 50 friggin dollars to park for the weekend. Total bullshit, but whatcha gonna do? I did flirt with the idea of jumping the curb.

When we landed, Knoxville was almost 60, clear skies, warm with sun beating down to recharge my tired bones. I threw on my shades and smoked a cig by the car. Took it all in, the air, the weekend, the weeks before, life, all of it.  After so much socialization and shared energy in Chicago, to be alone on my way home felt bigger than it would normally. I played Thelonious Monk, called my Mom to catch up, see how she was doing. We talked for a bit, told her I would be over in the AM to take her to the doctors, and run some errands. I had a new friend coming over in a couple hours, which was nice, we are getting to be quite close, bonding in Art, other things about life.

Walked in my spot and it felt good to be home, open energy, natural, mine, and mine alone. I’m grateful to have my independence, to have my home back as it should be, with taste, maturity, and peace. My friend got there, and we sipped a few drinks, listened to tunes, and I filled them in on my weekend adventure. We relaxed in the soft light of my two-dollar lamp.

Going to sleep, I was exhausted. Took a hot shower, fell into my lush king size bed which is covered in pillows. I use all of them in my sleep. Turn this way, grab three, turn that way, grab the other three, two between my legs, real G shit. Its wonderful, and I snooze it well with all this room to myself. Two blankets my Grandma gave me, cozy quilts that fit my general aesthetic, minimal, but cozy. I love my house.

Morning came, phone is ringing at 7am, it said “Facetime Call from Holly” which means, my sons are calling me. I hit answer and there is my youngest son, Valley (almost 4). His beautiful eyes and smile looking at me “Hey Daddy, why is it so dark?” I just started laughing; the smile on my face had taken ownership of my entire face. We talked for 20 minutes, giggling, catching up. I  felt grateful for this moment. The universe is telling me things constantly. Every time the poison pill of the past sneaks up like a back zit, the love in my life goes “pop!” the timing is almost eerie how quickly it sweeps the negative away.

The rest of the day was good. Mom and me hung out, grabbed lunch. I had a classic cheeseburger, french fries, and two delicious cocktails, proper post vacation food I think. We shopped for furniture for the new condo, its some real privilege, that condo. I have keys, I work out there, and crash when I want to, yeah…pretty dope. We talked about the future, property, airbnb ideas, how we can hustle together. I have a friend who doesn’t have either of his parents around anymore. Before I left for Chicago, he sent me pages of his book yet to be published. Its fantastic, I read the first half in a morning last week. I think of him when I’m with my Mom, I think about the phone ringing and seeing her name, or when I call and she answers. I think about how many times I have taken this space for granted. She is doing better, getting healthier, still a struggle but she’s going to be 100 eventually, I believe in her.

During the day I started reaching out to people locally I hadn’t spoken with in over a year. One of them used to sing in Jazz bands in Europe, and I miss seeing her.  I’m looking forward to getting back into their spaces, enjoying them. I’m also signing up for a class in December that will bring a big boost to my life. It’s the beginning of a new path, a way forward that will solidify things, keep me stable enough to move around, keeping creativity as my partner for life.

“The old things behind you are on fire, and will continue to burn away”

Chicago To Knoxville

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Slept about five hours last night. That’s an hr and some change more than my average all weekend. When you come to Chicago that’s how it shakes out in the end. Writing while being here has been a lot of fun, more importantly, what it did was give me a guide for discipline. If you’re going to be the thing, then you gotta be the thing. After the first day I thought, who cares, felt lazy, but those are the moments that test you. You do it anyway, for yourself. Big day today, a new song of mine went out everywhere online this morning. Perfect timing for this vacation to have so much output says something about how I feel as an individual. When it gets hard, you dig in and make something. No person will change that for me.

Walked up to café this morning with my boy, mashed a garlic bagel, chive cream cheese, and downed a cold brew coffee. We recapped the weekend, cracked up over a few things. Reflected on the folx who came over for dinner last night. It was a splendid evening, delicious food, great wine, capped off with pumpkin pie – a pre thanksgiving gathering done with ease. I got to meet a friend’s new partner. I was told we would hit it off. He’s an artist of many different things, successful and well-spoken, wearing the punk sensibility proper, but a father, a man, centered in his self it seemed. We chewed on giving credit to others when you work on a project. How important it is for everyone involved to get that nod, and essential for creativity to celebrate a collective energy. I like him for sure, and I’m happy for them, they deserve this love.

His partner is someone I met a few years ago through friends in the music scene. She is a fantastic DJ. I was really looking forward to seeing her. She is honest about where she is in the moment, thoughtful, deep, but funny as shit too. We spoke about the music scene, dance music. How it felt “bankrupt” right now and she needs to take a break to see where to go from here. She asked how life was, how my children were, what was new, and how music is going for me.

The other gal who brought the pumpkin pie (clutch move sister)  is another favorite to hang out with. She is full of life, colorful, authentic in how she talks to people, just a quality human being, and also off the chain funny. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years either. We all sat around the table during dinner, playing “I spy” with the kids. During the prep we chilled in the Kitchen while our hosts worked their magic getting things ready. The evening was filled with laughter, smiles, and good conversations – parenting, music, art, friendships, language, history, stories, progress, etc.

You couldn’t ask for a better end to a perfect weekend. My hosts were wonderful, their new home felt like being home. No pressure, no awkwardness, just acceptance and love. It felt good waking up in a house full of heartbeats. Nothing went wrong, no bad energy, just great times. Our circle keeps growing, and the new faces are perfect additions to it all.

I’m at the airport waiting to head back to Knoxville. Waiting for me is rest, and quiet – a future wide open. I have a lot to decide in the next weeks. Where am I going? What can I add to my life that is good for me? Its exciting, but also scary as shit.

Chicago, Day 4

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We have arrived to the last full day in this Windy City. I couldn’t ask for a better way to end it. In a few hours we will break bread with friends, a proper pot luck with creative types, families and Billie on the turntable. My friend is making two different pots of chili. One for the carnivores and one for the veggie heads. I’ll eat both. Some of the folx coming through I haven’t seen in a couple years. I’m looking forward to seeing these gals. They are kind, accepting, and just damn good people. I only want to be around those that get my weirdness, those that are complicated and dynamic enough to embrace their own level of weird. The best kind of people to know.

Last night was another late one. We got to smartbar around 12:30, guest list. As soon as we walked in the atmosphere was like Godzilla came up from underground and brought the edges into full view. If you’ve never been to a true “techno” party you might freak out a bit. Or think the devil had a birthday. It’s easy to think that. Once you let go of the borders put in place for society you start to get it though. It’s a ritual, being there says something about who you are. DJ Nobu plays some hard shit, sprinkled with drawn out psychedelic tones that flip your wig if you’re not mindful. I got lost in the sea of people and overdone smoke machine antics. Only complaint I had, way too much smoke machine dude. But it’s a vibe for the night. Old fashion rave culture done abundantly. I dig it. I said to one of my friends, “this fits my mood almost perfectly”. I’m in a spot these days, it’ll pass but dancing to hard techno is exactly what I needed, to be a freak in a pool of freaks. Plus, the desires of others radiating towards me was intense. I was stalked by a couple people, met a few others. I’m a tall dude wearing black so at times I look like I’m a bouncer or part of the team putting on the show. It’s funny, but a few dance shimmies’ and you’re in the community. I got down like I always do. I saw one of the most beautiful people I’ve seen in a long time. He was younger, short blonde hair, hoop earrings, just a pretty person. We walked by one another and made sharp eye contact, quick but deep. I felt love in that fluttering moment, or lust, who knows, it felt good. There were a few others I watched a bit, a beautiful black queen with short hair. Eyes like diamonds, subtle style, sexy – a woman. We exchanged glances several times. But I’m off the market. A self imposed hiatus from outside energy in my personal space – closed for remodeling. Right now I’m gonna love me, and make love to that space. I know how I like it. Throughout life we are required if vigilant to recharge ourselves. Its imperative to gain control of your set, create a new narrative for your growing self.

We came back to the crib, sipped a brew, played some hip-hop then crashed. Before we went to club everyone came to the house I’m crashing at, we drank wine, talked shit, took turns spinning house and techno. It was classic times. We dipped for some dinner at a soul food place a few short blocks away. I had the shrimp and grits, and then traded a bit for some fried chicken, the grub was fire. Period.

Walking in the cold air really saved my ass for the night. Blood flow, movement in the cold is a cure for just about anything dragging you down from no sleep. I’ve been quite mild in the intake this weekend.

I’d like to just get all gushy right now about how much I love my friends. Brothers – Twenty years and counting. You can’t ask for anything better. Nothing changes but each growing their own way, beautiful, intelligent, creative, and hilarious. We each bring a little different vibe to the group – Too soft, too hard, too goofy, too emotional. We all grown up now, kids, marriages, mortgages, big boy jobs, broke as fuck hustles. Personalities thick in opinions, culture – always some new knowledge being brought out. Everyone shares and looks out for one another. No drama, no bullshit…cuttin loose, hanging out. Then we do it again when we do. No pressure.

Friends, real ones. I love them.

Chicago, Day 3

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Studio day. We left the house around noon once we collected ourselves. I wasn’t feeling that creative to be honest but you show up no matter what and see if it comes. And it did. The space is in a five story building, alley entrance, most of which is rented out by other musicians and artists, walking the halls I chatted with a few people working in their spaces. My boys rental in on the top floor. Before we got there I was anticipating a sweat lodge from what I was hearing. Old building in the winter no windows where we were working. I was calling it the “keywest” studio. It was fine though. The other producer that works in the space has been producing and DJ’n for decades, well respected with his own imprint (label) under his belt along with gigs regularly around the world. I wasn’t nervous really, I respect the dude though so I wanted to bring something, anything. We worked for five hours, producing three tracks – house, techno, back to house. I played gear I’ve never heard of, lots of it, sang on two of the tunes, raw improvs, they were both on point and kept in the songs. Just getting over a cold my voice had a rasp to it which gave it warmth and edge. All three of us were weaving in and out of playing, directing the board, what worked or didn’t. I was the guest of the day so I got to really let loose and their support was unconditional. We talked a lot of shit too. Tons of knee slapping burns that were soft enough not to bruise. I love the North, it’s where I’m from. It’s speed and dialects are so fast and loud. Took me a few moments but I got some good shots in, but lots of love spreading between the homeboy chatter.

We had a lot of time to kill after that five hours. The club we would end the night at was 3-4 miles from the studio. My friend and I decided to walk the city. Stopping into a few spots to say hello to friends of his – bar owners, cafe owners, their people, others. We shares spirits and talked more shit. Had some grub at this new Greek spot my pal does nights throughout the year. Hung out with the owner, young cat into hip hop and house, big time. Met his wife, super nice and personable folx. From here we decided to keep walking to the club. It would be about 45 minutes. The weather was quite mild, wind chill brisk but giving vitality. We needed the pick me up.

The club was an extension of another bar I had DJ two summers ago. Super plush, curated to the max and packed. We got there right before my friends were going on. Over in the new club the DJ booth was up a level above the main floor. Behind the decks, a plush sofa, two big modern chairs, and two small round tables. Low lit candle lighting, small lights lining the back of the couch. That was ours for the night. More friends came – musicians, students, artists. The booth was made for 5-7 people comfortably, we had a steady 10 rotating throughout the night. We had three waitresses bringing drinks non stop, a few small plates to pass around. The boys were bumping deep house, classic house, and a few acid tracks – solid per usual. It was a laid back evening, just enough to catch up with people and hear good tunes. They were done around 2am.

We headed back home to play more music. By the time I went to sleep it was daytime. It had been awhile since we tagged vinyl so we did that for 3 hrs. Non stop laughs and goofing around, listening to old classics, and mixing quite good.

Woke up three hours after I went to bed. Not so good.

We are off on another adventure this evening. The original crew all in town. A reunion of sorts before our usual reunion in Detroit for movement weekend. Tonight is for techno at a place quite historic, smart they say. But we don’t leave for it until late. Yeah, I’m taking another hot shower after my 2nd nap.

Im feeling pretty raw. The last year has been mentally taxing to say the least. But this weekend is about being safe with the family I helped create. Not for the past, but now, and beyond.

My close friends are all here. Time to go!

 

 

 

 

Chicago, Day 2

I’ve had this on repeat all morning.

Chicago, what will you bring us today? So the internet was right, it took me 7 days to beat that cold. Woke up this morning and she was gone, no longer kicking my ass.

We are just getting around, set for a long day in the studio, and people swinging by to record with us, then off to a new club my two friends are opening tonight, other friends DJn. First we gotta walk to get some coffee though, then work up the energy to get there. A few short blocks away is small café, I just ordered an old fashion doughnut, and large black coffee. Its cold but the air feels rewarding, as do the steps over slippery ice, testing our athletic ability.

Last night we took in some house music DJs, one in her prime, killing the decks at a place we’re going to call “Slurp”. Its an inside joke now. I couldn’t remember the name so we renamed it. My friend introduced me to the DJ who was playing when we arrived. What a nice dude, very warm. The scene was what you’d expect in a bar on a Thursday. It’s a smaller place, old school kind of a “dive”, my kind of spot to kick back and sip a dark and stormy, even if they were too strong. I saw a couple folx I hadn’t seen since the last time I was in Chicago. I’m not much of a bar person these days (it is what it is) over time the vibe becomes too thin not to see the broken souls waiting around for something bigger, the desperation is loud in the night scene. There were a lot of curious eyes everywhere coming in. I had on a used red wine colored turtleneck, it felt damn good wearing it frankly, not sure how a turtleneck does that to a person, but it did to me. A friend said to me recently about the bar, “there is no evolution in those places”. She’s right. I did see some people that know the girl I met a couple years ago. They kept looking over, and I acted aloof to their presence, too much work to carry one of those conversations. And I’m not the person from then, or the person I was a couple months ago. So who cares? Just more ghosts in a long line of other shades of the past. Plus, I just wanted to dance. Let me die dancing; let me take off on the dance floor. When I move I feel alive. There’s a ritual experience to dance and if you can get through the first part of feeling like everyone is watching you, and your shaky with nerves, its magical. I was so full from dinner that I didn’t boogie for too long, but enough to show that I was feeling the music from the DJ. That’s how you show your respect.

A few hours before Slurp we went to an off the grid Korean BBQ joint… Wow! I haven’t eaten that well in months. We stayed for two hours. Our hosts were two lovely older women, as authentic as you can imagine. The place was quiet; we had a table surrounded by windows. The scene was lovely, sizzling fire for food, wind pushing the snow around a few feet away, a young family learning a way together. It was wholesome and honest, safe, and beautiful. When we left, each one of us could only think of sleeping because we didn’t stop much to breath while inhaling the kimchi, fresh greens, and a whole table of other things, including the grill sizzling the leanest cuts of steak and pork I’ve ever had. I felt grateful and honored. Back at the house we listened to vinyl, drank wine, and chewed the fat of parenting, old times, new possibilities, poetry and academia. My boy and I recorded in his home studio for an hour, it went well.  When I first arrived, we went for a late brunch. I ordered two eggs over easy, rye toast and a bowel of delicious poblano soup, with a flower on top drawn with cream. I never eat two big meals in a day; my stomach is pissed right now. Sorry dude!

Woke up this morning thinking about my Mom, wondering how she’s doing. I talked to God for a minute, in my head asking for “courage, wisdom, and strength”  to hear and see my path, to keep me from bad thing, and keep love in my heart. I thought about my kids, wondering if they are laughing like they do. I thought about my Grandma, and my Aunts, I thought about all the people in my life that have hung on. In this moment I feel blessed to have so many good people around me, and I want to be honoring that space today as we venture out into the world to create sounds, new experiences in art that will become (hopefully) part of another persons life, down the road when we let them go and they are flowing in the air, landing when they are chosen.

 

Happy Friday!

 

“Create a new narrative”