Rain, Radishes, and Transvestites

     The music world was slow this week. Rain had bloated the river to the point where bike paths were cut off and City Commissioners were left remembering that they meant to fix that problem, and it made the usual Monday Jam Session at Island park fail to materialize. Glen had the more exciting week. Sometime back in March or April we were playing, knit hats and numb fingers and all, when a young lady approached. She liked whatever we were doing, and asked us to play at her co-op. She promised us more carrots than we could eat. We said “okay” and she got our information. Sometime last week, she wrote Glen.

     Glen and I were jamming in his apartment when he told me she wrote, although apparently the deal had been changed. She was offering radishes. I wasn’t sure at first, but said I’d go. Glen said “okay.” Come the rainy Monday, however, Glen forgot to call, but later he filled me in on the details. He said the potluck was fantastic, and they loved the music, and that they want him to come back. This time for carrots. In turn, I sent him many helpful computer links on why radishes are a helpful wonderfood that cures all ills, and basically prevent cancer, germs, and the common cold, and asked why I wasn’t let in on this. Because apparently I could die. Of cancer or non-radish vitamins. Glen was pretty unconcerned, and sent back a bunch of pictures of him smiling by his radishes. He said they also tried to get him to join their “hippie commune” and about the beautiful girls that were there. Glen’s a cool cat, so I cursed his next time on the street to be filled with drunk idiots requesting Pearl Jam.

     Later that week, we donned our jackets and went to open mic night. Dempsey’s, some Irish pub on Broadway, isn’t too bad of a bar. Once I was talking to a friend of mine from college outside the then-History building. He was a real life Bohemian who wore this funny Robin Hood-like hat and was majoring in English.

     “Do you like Dempsey’s?” I said.

     “I think I like the idea of Dempsey’s better than I like Dempsey’s” he answered.

     Dempsey’s is a narrow bar, dimly lit and full of booths on the left and a counter in the right as you walk in the main door. It opens up a bit towards the back, where there is a stage and some tables. The whole place is dimly lit, and has all sorts of decorations and paintings, the most notable being a more-than life size painting of a nude woman laying on her side along one of the walls. Two of my friends used to have pictures of themselves there: one of the guy who used to host open mic and died two years ago of a drug overdose, and another of one of my best friends one can have in life, Mike Mullaney, who coincidentally died of pneumonia the same day. In the photo, he was standing outside a lingerie shop in Ireland wearing a “Dempsey’s” shirt, although that particular picture disappeared after his death. I once asked one of the managers about it, and he said the owners either took it back or someone stole it. Mike would have probably liked the idea of someone stealing it, so I sort of hope that’s what happened. My other friend literally had his guitar and shoes enshrined above the stage.

     At any rate, Dempsey’s is one of the places where I got my start in music. My host friend, Cody, had been the first host I met, and when sober, was always helpful and a very soft-hearted and kind gentleman. That saga had begun two years ago, when I was between semesters of college and travelling around the U.S., the result of which, coming back to Fargo, I looked for something to do. At any rate, I now hadn’t been to an open mic in awhile, so Glen and I walked into a bar (ha!) and took a booth facing the stage from a sideways angle. The smell of stale beer, which always seems to fade into the background, got mixed with the smell of dishrags.

     Some of the acts were okay. It was a quieter night. A guy came back who synced up Gameboys with some sort of sound system, and played whatever “instrument” that could be called. A young, scrawny bearded gentleman with a “newsboy” hat, who I only had ever known as “Dancing Guy” (and had always been pretty nice to me) got into it, and he could really dance. He was very light on his feet. Travis, Bud, and Matt, three of the guys who made up the band known as the “San Haven Chuckle” were on next. They went under a pseudonym “Dead Nixons” (or something like that), and played. They are always pretty solid. Travis is a leading man to the core, and yells out science facts between songs.

     Glen was up next. He played his “hit” song “Coffee Cup,” which drives me crazy, because the tune gets in my head for weeks. He had a good set. Some girls were dancing, and thus got hit on by some drunk guys, as usual. Why women want to go to bars, I will never know. It has always looked like a terrible experience to me. At any rate, one of them luckily discovered that she had toilet paper stuck in her pants, and went with the whole “Embrace the Embarrassment” tactic, and danced with it. The drunk guy didn’t seem to mind, and sort of made like he was eating it. What this means, I also have no idea. Even some advanced courses in anthropology, which prepared me for bonobos, did not prepare me for this. I don’t know what sort of guy sees toilet paper out of a woman’s pants and thinks “She’ll like me if I eat this” but then again, I’ve never really been that drunk. However, I digress. Glen’s set went well.

     I had been having a bit of a tiff with the host, because I had been wanting to play my own guitar, and he said my equipment wasn’t up to par. I thought it was fine for open mic, and I had always played with a pickup before. Also, I just hadn’t felt like it. I also wanted to let some other guys play, because I figured I had spent enough time on stage over the last year or two. However, I got talked into it, and did so. My set went fine. It was before the Fourth, so I finished on “This Land if Your Land” and sung all the versus, just because I liked the song that way. And that was that. “Simply Bizness,” a rap group, came on after me, but Glen and I headed out. Usually, it’s polite to stay for another group, but you can make exceptions.

     The Fourth of July fell on a Friday, but the residents of Fargo clear out to the lakes and elsewhere, making the city a relative ghost town. Glen, my brother, four other people, and I went out to the local minor league baseball team, the Redhawks, for a game. They had fireworks and a rain delay, but overall was nice. Glen’s phone ran out of power, and his girlfriend called me to ask about him. I said his phone died, but that was okay, but he got “Gigi’s” number before that. Gigi, (aka Ginger) was new in town and Glen offered to show her around. I had more to that story, but his girlfriend didn’t write back. Some other time I’ll decide if Gigi was an “actress” or just working a bar job until she could get out of Williston. I told Glen he might have some interesting messages when he got his phone back. He called me an ass. I told him he should have given me radishes.

     The final attempt at music this week came tonight. It was storming, and the city had that perfect heat lighting that I’ve only ever seen in the Midwest. Even in Fargo it feels like you can see farther into the sky, certainly more than a big city. I happened to see Glen in his spot outside Dempsey’s where he liked to catch the guys taking a smoke break (due to a recent city ordinance, now fifteen feet from any establishment). It was an interesting spectacle. Glen filled me in on some of the details, but by the time I got there, a large, very drunk Native American woman with a face tattoo was telling a African-American man (forgive me for mentioning race, but it is indeed relevant in this context) in no politically correct terms, about how he shouldn’t treat women. She was backed up by another Indian, a middle-aged, butch transvestite, who under normal circumstances I would think was a truck driver or steel mill worker, but in this case, sported a blond wig and a tank top. It he hadn’t been serious, he wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Powderpuff game. He told the man off as well, and a middle aged Indian woman with rolls of fat and a bikini top told him not to mess with them. When a slang that I probably should not write was starting to be thrown around I had arrived, and Glen looked at me.

     “This is a good time not to become witnesses” he said, and I agreed, so we left. He asked if I wanted to go find something to drink, and I said sure, so were headed up the other side of the street. Unfortunately, Face-Tattoo and Blond/Girl/Guy had migrated over to the hotdog stand, where they were picking a fight with the black guys over there. They were being pretty civil for someone throwing the n-word at them for kicks, the extent of his criticism was that he told her she was “intoxicated,” on drugs, and “retarded.”

     “You think you KNOW me?!?” yelled Face-Tattoo, “You think you KNOW me now?!?”

     I think he probably did; for that matter, probably half the block knew her by now, but I was pretty sure the question was rhetorical.

     A cop car drove by, and Glen flagged it down and waved him over. We went north to get drinks.

     The point of this is, it was going on fifteen minutes when we left a very quiet “Wurst Beer Hall” without getting service, and went to a new place called “The Boiler Room” in a basement that was actually very pleasant, and I think I’ll recommend it. Then Glen and I discussed “Star Wars,” drank a beer, and called it a night.
And that’s the news of the music world this week  in Fargo, my hometown.