Thursday, May 28, 2009

blast from the past

Don't know how I stumbled across this, but someone has old Camcorder footage of Marc's Funtime Pizza Palace, the low-budget answer to Chuck E. Cheese, where I attended numerous grade-school birthday parties that were spent eating greasy pizza and playing endless games of skee-ball by myself because I really wasn't friends with any of the kids but it was something to do.

I'd come home with prizes like cheap Chinese fans that always broke a day later or those necklaces they used to have that looked like seashells and contained bubble-blowing liquid that reminded me of the Little Mermaid, which had come out around that time. Back then, it was the best place ever, and it never seemed weird to me that the puppet show was out of sync and the moonwalk was always broken whenever I was there.

But yeah, this looks exactly how I remember.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'm one of those people who doesn't subscribe to the newspaper but faithfully reads it online with my cup of coffee, though I miss doing the crossword puzzle in the mornings and my daily dose of Pearls Before Swine.

And this morning, I see some familiar faces in an article about Joseph Gallagher School. They're the kids I see every Saturday, and two of them were in the tutoring program I was a part of earlier this year.

I got frustrated with the structure of the program and the bureaucracy of the education system in general because I'm still convinced that the best way to teach kids how to read is to work with them one-on-one and not put them in front of a computer, but it did give me a chance to get to know the families and understand where they're coming from. What gets me is that some of them speak more languages than I do, local dialects, Swahili, French. I wish I could speak that many.

Now they call me sometimes when they're stuck on homework problems, and I love when we're there and I'm showing the parents what they're doing so they can learn too and help them. The last time I was there, she gave me an ABC book and I began going over the basics of the alphabet with the little guys who aren't in school yet, hopefully to give them a jump before they get there so they know what's going on.

And to all those people out there who want to complain about people not speaking English, I'd like you to think about where your grandparents and great-grandparents came from and how hard life was for them. It's easy for you to say "just learn it" when you've had all the opportunities handed to you and you never had to pick between going to school and helping feed your family.

I can't remember not being able to read. I never realized until recently how much I've taken that for granted. I'm overwhelmed sometimes trying to explain something that I just kind of know.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This weekend...

Watched the 3rd quarter of the Cavs game with the guys downstairs, got depressed, decided to spend all night painting, found out they won the next morning. Did some basic grocery shopping between the West Side Market and La Boricana, which is the best store ever because they have Coca-Cola in glass bottles, beer from Namibia (that I haven't tried), Goya everything, and foods I don't know how to cook and really good plantains and tamarind candy.

One of the ladies shopping there took a look at the contents of my basket and was surprised that I cook Latin food, and I didn't have the heart to tell her that I really don't know what I'm doing, I just kind of mash everything together until it tastes good.

ESL class was cancelled so we picked up Muk and drove out to Whipps Ledges in Hinckley singing along to the Fugees and had a good time just being out in the middle of nature surrounded by huge rocks and lots of trees and vines that we tried to swing from.

It was such a chill weekend spent with good people... did a Saturday night drive to good tunes after the hiking, friends from Ethiopian church made us amazing food and coffee Sunday night, visited my grandparents, gave a friend of mine a crash course in driver's ed in the empty West Side Market parking lot using cardboard boxes and old beer cans as markers before heading up to Edgewater to walk along the beach. I know Edgewater's dirty and everything but it doesn't bother me at all.

Kent came up to the station this morning to play his demo and hang out and while my setlist is pretty scattershot, it was super fun, and evidently my incessant playing of Amadou & Mariam has won them some new fans. My playlist was too jumbled this morning but I can tell you that I played the Clash, the Pixies, Lupe Fiasco, Beck, and Massive Attack.

Someone at the station discovered this gem, the only album by the All Sports Band, which includes the cut "Turn This Game Around," which we dedicated to Lebron James. It sounds like the cover looks, bad 80's rock with guitar solos and lines like "I'll protect you from evil / with my heart of steel."

Not surprisingly, at least 2 of the band members are from our fair city though this is the first I've heard of them probably because we don't want to own up to this.

Friday, May 22, 2009

summer in the city's such a very special time...

Usually if I end up at the beach, it's Edgewater, due to proximity and the endless cast of characters hanging out there, but last night we drove out to meet up with some friends at Huntington, which looks a bit cleaner, but always seems to have higher bacteria levels than the much derided former.

We got ice cream and watched the sunset, digging our feet into the sand, letting the water wash over. The outer suburbs give me a little bit of culture shock now, I'm more used to old men smoking hookah, girls with big gold earrings and tattoos and guys smoking black & milds than tiny blondes with their lacrosse-playing boyfriends.

But it was beautiful and warm. And we could hang out there past sunset watching the lights of the city glitter in the distance. There is something so soothing about being next to the water.

And I picked up my tickets to see the Roots when they come through at the end of June. I missed them when they played at Kent State, and I missed them twice when they came through Cleveland, so I'm really looking forward to this.

I'm not sure what this Memorial Day weekend has in store, except for dinner with some friends of me and the roommate's Monday night. Everything else is open-ended, and I'm sure it will be good.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Current music kicks:

Silversun Pickups "Panic Switch"

My roommate in college had their first ep, and since Billy Corgan is too busy being weird, this fills that void for dramatic super-fuzzed alt-rock.

Metric "Help I'm Alive"

This one kind of reminds me of the Breeders, which is always a good thing and gives me a reason to post the following, which for some reason this sounds like something Nirvana would have written.

Art Brut - "Formed a Band"
I love the new Art Brut, but the song about discovering the Replacements is not on the youtubes, so the first one I heard is on here. Mad props to my former library coworker Tegan for having a British boyfriend who would mail her awesome CDs.
Click through for the link because it's disabled.

Rites of Spring - "End on End"

I dug this out last night because I was feeling all teenage-angsty and I haven't listened to noisy mid-80s punk like I once did and forgot how cathartic this record is.

Amadou & Mariam - "Masiteladi"

This couple is responsible for me diving headlong into the world of Malian guitars. I wish I could make music this good.

K'Naan - "Fatima"
This has become one of my regular car CDs.

Akil & Steve2k - "Regina"

So the video for this is pretty low-budget but this song is catchy in a Macarena but not bad kind of way. East Africa meets bhangra and good danceable things happen if you're into that kind of thing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

screw you, New York Times!

I don't like to argue about liberal/conservative media bias, but I do feel like our Cleveland sports teams get hated on. This might be some kind of regional paranoia, but how many times have we made it to the playoffs and it always seems like the announcers are hoping that the team from NYC or LA gets in?

Tell me if I'm crazy because I want to know.

Anyways, here's some lovely East Coast sportswriting to get you all worked up.

Cavaliers Have Been Dominant but not Intriguing

Whatever. You're just jealous.

On a side note, whenever I watch the Cavs play, I always think about one of my English professors back at KSU, a tiny Japanese man obsessed with erotic haiku, Lebron James, Theodore Dreiser, and Black Power, and would ramble about such things as I tried desperately not to giggle.

I know he's probably really happy right now.

playlist 5/19/09

alice russell - let us be loving
the bellrays - every day I think of you
fugazi - recap modotti
joe strummer & the mescaleros - tony adams
lloyd's allstars - dread dub
les nubians - el son reggae
boubacar traore - macire
ramata diakite - na
morcheeba - never an easy way
cut chemist - the garden
massive attack - teardrop
femi kuti - truth don't die / beng beng beng
akil the brain & steve 2k - regina
beck - chemtrails
sing-sing - tegan
martina topley-bird - need one
silversun pickups - panic switch
duke spirit - send a little love token
jawbox - mirrorful
throwing muses - shimmer
folk implosion - natural one
queens of the stone age - white wedding
art brut - the replacements
afghan whigs - citi soleil

Monday, May 18, 2009

bohemian like you

So I come back to the daily world and my head is spinning because there's just too much to think through and it's just so overwhelming.

But I try not to get too much into my own existential dilemmas on here. Let me just say that I'm still in love with my city and that I still find driving in the suburbs and the whole concept of guy/girl relationships frustrating.

Went up to the lake to chill. It's beautiful there, but I kept thinking about how everything is changing all the time.

I sometimes feel like the unofficial Cleveland tour guide, took a friend of mine to the West Side Market for lunch and then to the Glass Bubble Project.

I love the inside of this place and want to make cool things like this someday.

It was raining but we drove out to Cleveland Hts anyway, hung out in Coventry until the rain stopped, giggled at old records with fabulously bad covers. Picked up this gem out of the dollar section.

Once the rain was gone, it was beautiful so we walked down the hill to the Hessler Street Fair and I felt like I was back in Kent almost. I'm not really around hippies and other arty types much anymore, but we got to see Tarace Boulba parade down the street and lots of hippies dancing.

I ended up coming back Sunday with some other friends for more hanging out and yummy Caribbean jerk chicken and rice. There was nowhere to sit so we had a picnic on the trunk of Mukhtar's Crown Vic in the parking lot before heading back for hanging out and listening to Kent sing Kanye West songs opera/Broadway style.

Totally irrelevant random picture from the festivities:

As Muk says, "for all of your poster-sized Barry White needs!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

and we're out...

Upon getting a new car, I realized that I rarely left Cuyahoga County last year and that this has to change. I'm going to start small, and work my way up to something resembling a real road trip, hopefully before the gas prices get too crazy again.

Tonight I'm driving out to Catawba to meet up with the family for chill time next to the lake. Book reading and general chilling out shall commence. I need a retreat for the unintentional and wonderful chaos that is my life.

I've got a stack of CDs ready to go, and my bags packed in the trunk. I love it here, but it's good to have a change of scene once in awhile.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

heck yeah

So Neil Gaiman is speaking at the Cleveland Public Library downtown on October 4th (Thanks Christine!).

Needless to say, I am so there.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


So I met our potential new housemate for real last night. We sat next to each other at the roommate's brother's wedding but this is the first time we've talked. I'm showing her the house and I feel like a realtor ("look at the balcony! We have a dryer and washer downstairs! You can walk everywhere! My landlord is amazing! We're a mile from the lake! You can park for free in the lot across the street! The downstairs neighbors are nice! It's month-to-month so you can bail if you need to! etc etc"), but she seems awesome and we have mutual friends.

(UPDATE... she ended up changing her mind but we did let her know that as usual, there's 2 couches in the living room perfect for crashing on).

We got dinner at Brother's Lounge and listened to Dave play with the Mojo Big Band, and he was amazing, and that place is amazing, kind of like Nighttown for the west side. The food was good and the sound quality was perfect and the crowd was chill. I forget how much I love watching live jazz, seeing the interplay between musicians and really wishing I had an upright bass.

I've lived with a lot of roommates since I went off to school and subsequently moved back. I hate coming home to an empty apartment and having people around makes me feel more safe, and I know that I can always retreat to my room if I need to.

I had a roommate who loved NASCAR and southern gospel, another who was in a sorority and didn't understand why I didn't drink even though I was over 21, two social workers, two graphic designers, a roommate who spent all summer living in a tent in West Virginia leading whitewater rafting trips, and my current roommate and the incoming one who are classical musicians that are actually employed.

I love that I learn something from everyone and that usually we can all learn to live with each other, and learn that it's not easy to generalize by region, culture, political affiliation, or interest. I'm interested to see where this next chapter will lead.

playlist 5/12/09

So I left my spool of CDs at the house this morning and ended up playing a whole lot of Malian guitar rock and desert blues. This went way better than I thought it would.

common - time travelin'
gaspar lawal - kita kita
ahmad jamal - poinciana
abdullah ibrahim - ishmael
kandia kouyate - san barana
mariam hassan - megat milkitna dulaa
ali farka toure - goye kur
tinariwen - aldhechen mana
pharaoh's daughter - askinu
rodrigo y gabriela - ixtapa
erykah badu - in love w/ you
amadou & mariam - unissons nous
king sunny ade - ja fun me
lamb - gorecki
mogwai - summer
john frusciante - unreachable
mono mono tire - loma da nigbehin
marcia griffiths - band of gold
k'naan - fire in freetown
oumou sangare - yala
souad massi - ghir enta

Thursday, May 7, 2009

fight or flight...

My car was broken into a couple nights ago while I was house-sitting on the near west side of Cleveland. Thankfully, nothing was broken (the side door was forced) and as far as I can tell, nothing was taken either. Evidently no one wants my cassette tape collection and unlike one of my great-uncles, who used to keep $3000 in cash in the glove compartment of his red Chevy convertible with the top down, I had only a few spare pennies in my cupholders.

I thought I'd feel more violated but it's more of a "wow, I'm lucky" and a feeling of the inevitable. Given some of the places I end up, I'm amazed that more doesn't happen.

Some people told me I should get a CCW permit, but I'm neither a damn hippie or Ted Nugent, I just don't feel inclined to be a gun owner and I've never felt like my life has been threatened. Others said that I've finally seen the cold reality of life in this city and I'm this naive city kid who should flee for the exurbs where all the "good people" are instead of swimming in this cesspool. I don't have issues with the suburbs like some do, heck, I live in an inner-ring one myself, but the whole new houses named after things in nature that aren't there anymore never did it for me.

I am by no means convinced that there are more bad people within the city limits. There are more people for one thing, and in these times, more desperation. Maybe I've just gotten really lucky, but I've just met so many awesome people since I've moved back, and it made me remember why I wanted to fight so hard to stay. Someone rearranging the contents of my car in the wee hours of the morning isn't going to change that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It's imaginary boyfriend time again here in Cleveland.

What's creepy about this picture is how this almost resembles me in real life.

What's also creepy is how people kind of assume you're their best friend or that you might be a potential romantic interest even though they'd already graduated from high school by the time you were born. Yeesh.

playlist 5/5/09

morcheeba - tape loop
cutty ranks - the stopper (full moon 6 dub)
dj krush w/ zap mama - danger of love
massive attack - black milk
a.r. rahman - innisai
lamb - stronger
soulsavers - kingdom of rain
U2 - zoo station
metric - help I'm alive
kristin hersh & michael stipe - your ghost
cafe tacuba - tengo todo
blockhead - the first snowfall
ceu - lenda
charlie parker - just friends
regina carter - higher ground
robert plant & alison krauss - rich woman
calexico - crumble
d'angelo - spanish joint
erykah badu - didncha know
gutter twins - the body
k'naan - fatima
stephen marley - lonely avenue
enrique delgado - para elise
nina simone - i loves you porgy
AleÌmayehu EshiteÌ & SheÌbeÌlleÌ's Band - TashamanaleÌtch
habib koite - i ka barra
the sweet talks - angeline

Monday, May 4, 2009

i hate fast cars

By the time I reach the weekend, I am dead.

My ultimate ideal of a chilled out night is crashing on the couch and letting myself be enveloped with good music and I got to do that... waking up only when the phone rings and then to heat up some egg rolls and paint a little bit before crashing again.

I helped a friend of mine and his family move on Saturday, folding down the seats of the Sexy Saturn to pile bags and boxes up to move them a street over. The car is a mess now, with sharpie drawings and writing on the back seat, and I completely destroyed my side-view mirror trying to back out of the narrow space between the house and the fence on the other side.

Me & Alex patched it together yesterday with a combination of epoxy glue and masking tape, and I reinforced it this morning with duct tape from my future father-in-law. So far so good I guess, even though there's chunks of glass missing from the mirror and a good portion of it is covered in clear gunk.

Most people would be ashamed of this but I just laugh because this is what I know. My parents drove beaters for years, cars that stalled out whenever Led Zeppelin was on the radio, cars where the ceiling was ripped and dangling, the doors were patched with duct-tape, and bungie cords kept them from flying open. If someone hits your car, what's the big deal, you know?

And no one is going to steal it for sure.

My dad thinks I'm crazy for wanting another station wagon, the kids tell me I should get a convertible, the guys say I should get a sports car because "girls look sexy in sports cars." ummm... yeah.