Friday, January 19, 2007

January 20, Milwaukee, WI - 1:32AM - central time

Last night (Thursday) i had my official Milwaukee book release at Mecca, a bar on Milwaukee's west side. This bar is owned by Dasha and her husband Kendall and they do a weekly open mic set which often has a featured poet who this time was me.

It was a great time and in what is probably this country's most segregated large city, i was really happy to have done my book release engagement in "the hood" as it were. Folks bought a lot of books and of course it was Dasha's joint so i drank for free all night - not necessarily a good idea but whatever...

Mecca itself is worth the time for a small bar with cheap drinks and a small dance floor enclosed on two sides with mirrors, you know for like... dancing. All sorts of folks bought my book, and when a sister with a weave extension and two gold fronts bought my joint, i knew i had mass appeal.

mecca also has one of those digital juke box thingies that comes up on a TV scren that you can randomize and hear all the eighties R&B you need to hear. it's a good time. add to that, that the bartender, Bowie, a six foot etc dreadlocked dude who is funny as hell is a fly-ass bartender and it's a good time.

Tonight i read at Woodland Pattern bookstore on the east side (more white side of town) and before we read we had dinner at Nessun Dorma - i do not know what this means - but they have about 512 different beers, a very cozy vibe and a waitress who is a roller derby athlete and there is nothing sexier and more violent than roller derby women.

Afterwards we went to Polish Falcons which has Jack Daniels for $3 - what?! - this is actually a Polish fraternal club so that one can also buy 6 packs to go. there is a six lane bowling alley in the basement where leagues are mostly played and there is open bowling night on wednesdays. nothing of particular interest happened there but i haven't been in so man-heavy a dar for a long while, not since andi and kendra took me to an italian fraternal after-hours joint in chicago about 4 years ago and we played pool in what seemed to be a bedroom in another time on the third floor.

tomorrow i head to madison. then i head back to chicago and who knows what'll happen then.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saturday January 13, 2007 - 1:30PM - Pacific Time

Olympia, Washington.

So a prosecutor, two public defenders, a psychologist and a poet walk into a bar... thing is, i'm not even joking. The Brotherhood is a large, warm, clean, homey-feeling bar in downtown Olympia. It is on Capitol Way and was in the past a biker bar. Of course its clientele is now predominantly... hipster!

What strikes one immediately is not that folks seem to want to have long unneccessary conversations while standing at the urinal - though this too is alarming; i'm not your "bud" while i'm taking a piss - but the undue numbers of velvet wall-hangings depicting matadors in various poses. As if to make sure that one stays off-guard, the opposite wall is adorned with floor mat art (this is the only way i can describe this); small rectangles of carpet about the size of doormats with pictures of the Kennedy brothers... and Martin Luther King.
Perhaps more importantly though is that on the tables are advertisements for the Brotherhood's upcoming shows. Because this week is the annual international Elvis impersonator championships, the reigning champion is in town, performing his show - and i swear i'm not making any of this up -

"ELVIS Back 'n' Black - Elvis is Back. And he's black. He's Robert Washington. #1 Elvis in the world. See his story in the award-wining film ALMOST ELVIS, then see him live in concert!"

Because Washington State has been having some abnormal weather and because they do not know what to do with snow (even the meagre 2 inches they received), they have been not leaving their houses so the Bro-Ho was not as packed as i am told it can get, but we are hoping for excitement so we decide to leave. One of the public defenders; his name is David, an affable chap with a laid back sensibility, goes home -something about work the next morning, cases... pleas... blah blah blah - as does the pschologist. Again something about work and the next morning. She too is delightful and i wonder how much more trouble we could have accrued if this was a Friday night. So Eric - public defender number 2, originally of Vancouver, Can and Gwen - Thurston County prosecutor, and my connection to this whole shebang, and I head for Frankie's. originally the plan was to go to Hannah's, described to me as a redneck karaoke bar. Just before we leave the Brotherhood, someone says "we should go to Frankie's. that's even MORE redneck". of course i need to be told nothing more. off to Frankie's we go.
Frankie's is a two level establishment and it is huge. Becuae of the aforementioned bad weather, there are about 5 folks in attendance. There are two folks working the karaoke set-up, which is huge and features several screens all around the room. There are three folks up ahead at the bar and the bartender.

When we walk in everyone turns to the door. We occupy a booth, take off our coats and i make for the bar. From the point of our entrance, one of the bar patrons has been staring at us intently. He is yet to take his eyes off us in fact. He strikes me as being a 20 year younger version of Wilford Brimley (the Quaker Oats dude). He is wearing a leather vest over his denim shirt, which is tucked tight and fierce into his jeans which cover some sort of workboots. He is still staring when i begin the approximately 20 yard trek to the bar so i walk directly towards him without making eye contact.

When i get about ten feet from him, i turn to nod at him in a "Howdy Pardnah" sort of a way, because i'm well... well-manered. Old dude makes a sudden motion at me as if he's about to tackle me and says "Watch out there young fellah!!" Only thing is, i've been expecting any kind of foolishness from the time i started this trek and so i'm not surprised, which means i'm not startled and i don't flinch, and because i don't flinch, homboy momentarily takes on a look of utter consternation. His face says for an instant "oh shit, i think i fucked up this time!" of course, i just nod at him and say "good evening sir. how do you do?" just like that too, i said "how do you do?" Of course then i had to order Jack Daniels neat to keep up the tough guy image.
I return to the booth and head straight for the karako stand and order me up some Johnny Cash. I'm going to cover "i walk the line" becasue i love the fucking tune and because well... what better way to begin my karaoke career at this particular joint. Of course, my tough guy act takes a tumble when the next song i order up is by Sinead O'Connor. By then though, i think i'd made my point.

Meanwhile, Quaker Oats dude has gone up to order his song and the karaoke operator has to call out his name when his turn comes out. His name you ask? Drumroll please!... Red Dog!
Apparently (and i only find this out after we've left) Red Dog comes over to the table when i've left for the bathroom and gives Eric and Gwen chocolates!! Apparently, he hesitates before also putting a chocolate down in the space that i've vacated. I've no idea whether this is a peace offering or a fucked-up metaphor for the white folk who brought a nigra up in Frankie's.
Eventually i put a bow on the night by closing out my karaoke set with Roberta Flack's "First time ever i saw your face". i think the karaoke operator shed a little tear. Whether it is because of my full-of-pathos voice or because i butchered the song so thoroughly i cannot tell, but she was a little choked up. We left then, and headed back to Gwen's house where we closed things out with cheese sandwiches.

Last Night i went to Goldie's with several lesbians - because this is my life - and Daemond, Inti and Gwen, as part of a birthday party. Goldie's is in Seattle proper in the Wallingford section of town. Goldie's is garishly lit and pretty much features the colors red, gold and black throughout. However, there are 5 pool tables, 5 Dart Boards, 1 Air Hockey table, 1 PacMan table, Video Golf, Madden Football and something else, and really cheap beverages. Most importantly, there is a 3 minute photo booth, you know, the ones that give you that row of 4 pictures for 3 bucks.

I have to figure out what pictures i took, what is suitable for presentation to the public and then figure out how to scan them in and put them on this blog. Tonight my friend Koreen is going to pick me up. We're going to go boogie and then she'll take me directly to the airport for my 6 freakin' AM flight.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thursday January 11, 2007 - Olympia, WA - 7:13PM

I've decided that since i'm going to be blogging my road adventures that maybe i should find some way to categorize what specifically i'm blogging about in some way that is truly meaningful for the folks who might read it. and in thinking about what that might be i had to ask myself what i was truly qualified to speak on - aside from poetry and literature, because of course that would be hella obvious - and so i thought really hard and i've decided that in effect this tour's bloggin will evolve into a tavel memoir. and since i'm not always visiting very exciting locales, what could i blog about in my travels that might be interesting and useful to the reader at some point? and of course, i understood immediately that i had to blog about bars; you know, public houses, rum shops and the like.

so this is going to be a sort of weird Zagat's for alcoholics... and me. let's begin...

i'm in the Pacific Northwest which means first and foremost (cuz we're in winter) that it is dreary and grey and raining the whole time. what this means in turn is that one should stay indoors. however, if one stays indoors one's own house or place of stay, one contracts a virulent strain of cabin fever, but as luck would have it, i'm here on tour, to perform at venues throught the country and my tour begins, an hour and a half north of seattle in a town called bellingham. i am staying at daemond arrindell's place and daemond is extremely practical and organized so we set out well in advance of the gig and get there with two hours to spare. we are also hungry and i am... uhm... thirsty.

we call robert, the host of the reading series at which i will feature later and ask him where we can get a bite to eat and a beer. robert tells us to join him at The Beaver. now, the jokes we might insert here are way too obvious and i can hear them emanating from all your little brains so i will move on. daemond and i get to The Beaver, which in NYC would be called a dive bar. In Bellingham, it's just a bar, and the bartender (the only employee in the house) is a 20-something, pretty, white, woman who is bemusedly surly. i present her with my expired driver's license for ID and she says "...but this is expired". i'm flabbergasted. "Well Ma'am..." i begin, "here's the thing. the license is expired but i am not, and the information you seek - to wit, my date of birth - is still on this card, and since i am not presently driving and you aren't the police, can i have a drink?"

well maybe i wasn't THAT obnoxious, but i was obnoxious enough. this is a dive bar in bellingham, washington, with a bar that has fixed swivel barstools, two pool tables to the back, a juke box and really plain tables and chairs and they're trying to tell me i can't drink because my ID (which says i'm born in 1968) is expired. Kate - the bartender - explains that it's Washington State law and she's not trying to be a narc, but that she'll let me go since i'm with all those other guys whose IDs are valid. so in the end The Beaver comes through for me and the Beaver has really great french fries and the College Football finals are on and i get to pound two jack Daniels and two Sierra Nevadas before my feature.

After the feature we return to The Beaver, about 20 of us and we put on the jukebox and these fools play air hockey like it's the olympics. they take off their shirts and screma and carry-on and all in all The Beaver is good to me. The drinks are cheap (whiskey neat and beer together are $7.50) and the jukebox has a fairly good cross-genre selection of tunes. Add to that the free, very buttery popcorn and excellent steak fries and it's on to the break of dawn.

Tonight, i'm hanging out with my friend Gwen in Olympia, WA. We are going to two bars, The Brotherhood - known to the hipsters as Bro-Ho - and Hannah's which is a redneck karaoke bar. It should be a... hoot!