What's up with all the freakin' rain in this town? Sure, I'll be singin' another tune come August, but I didn't move to the middle of the desert to live in Seattle south. Now I know why everyone in the Pacific Northwest does heroin. Damn, if I have to spend another night holed up at home watching The Surreal Life while the bottom drops out of the sky, I'm gonna cop me a kilo, paint my windows black, and do my Kurt Cobain impersonation.
So when it began drizzlin' on a recent Tuesday, I was all ready to dust off my copy of Trainspotting and treat my forearm like a pincushion when I remembered that I'd been meaning to pay a visit to my man DJ Seduce's night Paint at the Paper Heart, 750 Grand Avenue (www.thepaperheart.com). Paper Heart's a chill space, a converted car dealership with an art gallery, a bar serving beer and wine, and a performance space, where folks lounge about on couches and stuffed chairs grooving to whatever happens to be unfolding on the low stage before them. On Tuesdays with Paint, that means spoken word, live music and art, and Seduce spinning jazzy Brazilian Afrobeat joints while the coolios sip Stella Artois or a little house Cabernet.
The vibe is so welcoming and kick-back that it feels like someone's giving your gray matter a Swedish massage. "We're a rainy-day kinda place," Seduce, 26, says, by way of explaining to Jett and myself why there's a decent crowd of about 50-plus on an evening when most club-hoppers are in the crib painting their toenails or bobbing the bologna to something they rented at the Castle Megastore. Seduce, who also answers to Miguel Ivery, is a burly, gregarious cat with a cherubic face. He breaks down how the 6-month-old Paint came to be:
"I came in here on a First Friday and was checking out all the art, but there really wasn't anything other than bands playing in here. So I thought of having a night where we have art, music as I spin it, and spoken word. I called up a bunch of my friends and asked them, 'What do you think?' We decided to call it Paint as a metaphor. When you look at art, it's often a painting. Music is a painting in sound. And in poetry, you're painting a picture in words for people to imagine what your thoughts are. Music, art, spoken expression, it all equals Paint."
The crowd is a chessboard: black, white, and a little brown around the edges. The spot jumps off at 8 p.m., with Seduce makin' them decks purr and moan like a hot mamacita between satin sheets. Hence the turntable titan's nom de wax. By the time we arrive, a little after 9 p.m., master of ceremonies Even Steven (soon to be slingin' drinks, we hear, at Scottsdale's AZ 88) is about to introduce the first set of rhymers and verbalists. Since Valentine's Day is recently in the rearview, ES opens with the recitation of a love ditty by Browning, and announces that the theme of the eve is amour.
A series of word stylists follows. A Caucasian dude named Eric, in jeans, sneakers and white collared shirt with the tail out, starts reading -- screaming, actually -- from a black three-ring binder filled with poems about relationship angst: Ben Folds minus the piano. Another fella steps to the mic to spit some lines about having a "love jones" for some chicklette; and then my fave of the bunch, a lady named Divine with light butter-pecan skin, hoop earrings and a blue doo-rag, dedicates a piece to hip-hop, and raps about riding around her hometown of the Bronx and smokin' a spliff, back when "hip-hop was the best friend that I had." Rhymer Apollo is next, and the J-girl and I recognize this fella from a performance at Jackson's on Third way back. He rages against some of the ills of the 'hood, then makes way for a brother named Showcase, clothed in a State Property sweat suit, who tells us, "I love Paper Heart because it brings out that creative spark in me/Otherwise I'd be committing grand larceny."
There's a break between sets, and I order the brown-skinned Gwen Stefani to the bar to fetch me a Red Stripe, and her a glass of Chardonnay. Nearby in a red booth, the delectable Divine is tending to her 5-year-old son Elloheim, a very well-behaved little gent, who's engrossed in Finding Nemo, which they have playing on one of those small, portable DVD players.
"You know it's bad when you've seen the movie so much that you don't need the earphones to make out the dialogue," laughs the Divine One. "He's starting to follow in my footsteps a little bit, though. We just did a poetry jam at ASU West, and he actually bebopped behind one of my poems. So I think I'm motivating him, which is good."
"How long have you been doing spoken word?" I ask the lovely, classy lass.
"I've been performing for 11 years and writing poetry since I was 12," she relates. "I moved to Arizona from the Bronx in '89 with my mom. I go back every year, but most of my exposure's been out here instead of back home. I've built a lot out here. I do open mic, and I do workshops with high schools and juvenile correctional facilities."
"But you still consider NYC home?"
"Oh, yeah, always," she insists. "I miss the culture. You know, there's still not a lot of culture out here by comparison. But while I'm here, I'm going to bring it, and help create it, as much as I can."
I'm beginning to wonder where my Red Stripe's gotten to, as listening to poetry is a thirsty job. Nearby, I espy artists Jason Rudolph Peña, Baron Gordon, and Glenn Allen, each working on some live canvas-work, as Seduce lets the Afrobeats flow. I amble to the long, crooked bar, and see my Red Stripe gathering dust there, as the AC/DC Amber Valletta is blowing off a male admirer.
"Gee, thanks for getting me that beer," I state, taking a sip of my no-longer-cold brew-ha-ha.
"No problemo, Kreme-o," replies Jett, oblivious to my sarcasm. "Gawd, I hate getting hit on. You guys, especially, are sooo obvious."
"Don't hate me because I'm beautiful," I mock, with a head toss.
"Huh?" grunts my clueless comrade.
"Shush," I tell her, as another round of Valley Mos Defs takes to the stage. (Seduce is silent while the poetics are in play.) A blond gal named Anna dedicates a poem to the Greek god Pan, telling him he's "hairy, stinky, and sweet," or something like that. Freaky-deaky, girl. To steal a line from 50 Cent, "I'll take you to the candy shop, and let you lick the lollipop . . ."
J. Christ takes the stage next. For real, that's his show-biz name, but no miracles, alas. Instead, he advises us to "take out those paper hearts and throw them in the trash can." Uh, okay. A button-down dude named Kevin rhapsodizes about sheep's testicles, Chinese chicken feet, and "the smell of a used Russian whore." Cool. Following him is LC (Larry Childers Jr.), who reminds me a little of Bionic Jive's Ako Mack. LC freestyles about his trials and tribulations with ease and humor, whether it's visiting a member of his family in stir, or doing 12 days in County himself. A talented, relentless man on the mic.
Funniest piece of the night comes from this dude Danny Mele who reads a poem about sitting on the toilet at Home Depot, while the guy next to him is having a rectal eruption. That's wack, Danny! A luscious, curvy honey called J.T. (Jennifer Terry) then does a breathy, sexy poem that has the Jettster squirming on her barstool. Eric gets back up there and hollas about how "My mom won't let me love you!" I feel your pain, dawg. Eventually, the poetry part of the evening ends, and Seduce gets back at it, while local rock band Thirte-FS readies the stage for its acoustic set.
The Jettster and I keep our elbows on the bar, as Paper Heart proprietor Scott Sanders serves us up some more liquid refreshment, and it's in this pose that we make the acquaintance of Joey G., a thin, hooded figure in blue-tinted aviator glasses. Actually, Baron Gordon, the Morpheus (you know, like in The Matrix) of the Alpha Monster Artist Collective, introduces us, and after clasping palms with him, we ask Mr. G. what his story is . . .
"I'm a writer, poet, artist, but the term I prefer is 'imagineer,'" he says, grinning. "Actually, that's in all of us to do, to be all those things, and that's what I want to make people realize. In our culture, we can do whatever the fuck we want to do. We just have to start doing it and make it sustainable for each other."
"So, um, what kinda art do you make?" asks the J-unit.
"I have sort of a travel diary/manifesto in paperback called Traveling America Broke: The Life and Crimes of Joey Grether. I'm out of them right now, but you can normally get it through [the Web site www.mobaction.com]. I also have a Mob Action clothing line. I try to do socially aggressive, provocative ideas with design. I also do a girls' clothing line called Heroine, where I celebrate the woman as hero, but also play on the idea of the drug war. The drug war is super-fucked! I'm not down with it at all. I'm all about self-medication."
"You know, that's the first thing anyone's said all night that I can get behind!" exclaims my rarely sober sidekick, as she lifts her wine to us. "Bottoms up!"
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"I'd like to get behind your bottom up," I growl. "Joey-boy, her idea of performance art is puking in my back seat after one too many Pinot Grigios."
"Whatever, Kreme," she slurs back at me. "No matter how many penises I taste, yours will be the one my lips never touch!"
(Admission to Paint is just $3. For more info, see www.paintfusion.com.)