Halloween didn’t officially begin for me at Saturday night’s rap concert at Mendocino’s Crown Hall. It more or less kicked off at the Laundromat in Fort Bragg that afternoon when a doughy, busty white thing in questionable black jeans and cheap teal toy sunglasses asked me if I was Woody Harrelson’s brother.
“You look like Woody Harrelson. Are you Woody Harrelson’s brother?”
I had shades on whilst stuffing three flowing sacks full of fermenting clothing into two double load terminals, exhibiting a bit of concurrent Caucasian Laundromat shame from being in my late 30s without a home washer/dryer of my own. “Naw, I’m not,” I told her. “I’ve heard the ‘you look like Woody thing’ before though.” I filled the detergent zone up as the lone girl in the corner carried on.
“God these cycles are takin’ so long,” she said with a long sigh. “I wish I was at my house. My sofa misses me right about now.”
I put in a plethora of quarters, speechless as to what a man says to that.
“I have a really comfy sofa. It’s so nice. I can’t wait ta get home an’ get back on it.”
I left mid wash cycle with the far more difficult than I’d imagined task of finding a sticker of the United States of America flag for my costume in Fort Bragg (ultimately finding none and having the realization that time has flown a fast track since the red, white and blue kitschy days of post 9/11). I repeated that girl’s lines aloud in a gruff male trucker’s voice while I drove across town, and laughed to myself at how creepy such a reversal of genders in the Laundromat would have sounded. “I have a really comfy sofa. It’s so nice. I can’t wait ta get home an’ get back on it.”
Back at the ’mat, two little kids were in the parking lot playing around a big truck with its doors open and presumably their genetic sources blasting Eminem while their laundry spun around in loops. As I transferred my loads to the dryer, the teal shades girl reappeared to finish folding some items of her own. I remained silent next to her, firing up two dryers with plenty of change, but she picked up the pieces.
“Aww almost done. Then it’s back to my house. Back to my sofa. It’s so feathery and smooth and nice.”
“I bet,” I said, rushing out the door. Was I blushing? Well it is certainly time in this country for women to start being the perpetrating creepers. Men have dominated that field long enough.
The forwardly female trend carried over to bassbooming Ukiah Street in Mendocino that night for Nykety-Splits’ Mendo Magick Masquerade. “Tricks Treats & Hip Hop Beats” featured some dude from some hip hop group Blackalicious named Gift of Gab, plus some other “emerald conscious” rap artists. If I sound non-authoritarian on the state of underground urban music in California, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve never even been to a rap concert in my lifetime. Double that with this being the first Halloween I’ve celebrated in over ten years. Maybe my ex wife provided enough fright for all my days (and then some), but my most decorated observance of an October 31st up until this year had been a wined out, Haagan Dazs slathered solo viewing of The Shining. But lo and behold I am in love — new love at that — and along with that comes social commitments, as common as being ordered to dress up like an astronaut to complete one’s Space Girl agenda and go out dancing.
With a white Tryvek suit on, cellar boots, cellar respirator, and a Walden Skateboard US Flag theme sticker across the right of my chest (plus glittery Space Girl kiss marks on my face and neck), I thought it was pretty clear what I was for the night as we entered a nearly empty Crown Hall at 10pm. We paid the $20 door price and traipsed inside to the scene of a woman dj’ing onstage for a mere gathering of 15. Our collective thoughts swiftly turned to alcohol. Fifteen plus different wine varietals at $5 a glass from Frey Vineyards were at the bar along with Fat Tire beers and a promiscuous punch bowl potentially full of the kind of pharmaceutically enhanced juice you hope your daughter never comes across someday. The Noyo Roots Collective with their Jun and delectable beverages were on the other side of the hall by the makeshift kitchen dishing up vegan fare. All bases were covered, except for the attendance it seemed.
“What do you think guys? What do you think? Should we stay? Should we go to Caspar?”
My friend sat in one of the velvet, royalty-worthy chairs along the wall as the three of us pondered the path for the evening. Soon enough a strange girl was lapdancing on him, culling forth his partner to extinguish the situation, in which the amateur pole dancer said “Oh fuck” and swiftly moved on.
A big, scary, bandanna-wearing dude with dark sunglasses took stage, backed by a laptop blaring an equally intimidating, angry, evil and sonically hectic mix that was purely undanceable. The few attendees there tried, but I didn’t know what you physically did to that music. Maybe play videogames on Oxycontin? Rob a Taco Bell drive thru? Shake your head maniacally like you just chomped an heirloom Oaxacan pepper as fiery as hell itself? We weren’t feeling it.
My girlfriend investigated Gift of Gab’s performance time: midnight. We left the show but got sidetracked by some acquaintances outside. While standing there, a pack of very Mendo local women were talking in a circle, and a cowgirl who possibly wasn’t even in costume sized me up and circled me from behind to goose some Astronaut anus. I couldn’t believe it! Right in front of my partner. She walked back over to her group, with that being her only little mission, and carried on with her night. “That girl just brushed me,” I said to my girlfriend. “She grabbed my ass!”
“No,” she said in disbelief.
“She totally did. Why else did she just walk out here and circle me? She did nothin’ else but walk behind me to grab my ass. Ha!”
We drove towards the Caspar Inn in hopes of something more populous. I was yawning. This damn seven ayem working schedule has made a premature senior outta me. “So that girl in there just started giving you a lapdance?” our friend’s girlfriend asked him.
“Yeah!” he laughed, driving us to Caspar.
“And what did you do?” my girlfriend asked him from the backseat.
“What do you do?” he said. “I was tripping out.”
Again, what does a man do in this modern age when the tables are turned?
The Caspar Inn appeared more packed, but the music coming from the venue sounded just like what we’d left behind. The doorman informed us of the 12 dollar cover. Can we look in?” we asked. He agreed and we saw a variance of age groups seemingly having a festive enough time.
“The first firedancing show just finished, but the next one’s at midnight,” he attempted to sell us on the ordeal. No dice.
And so clubhopping Mendo style (between two establishments, if you will) continued, back to the Crown. As we walked up the dirt alley beside the venue a group of people were smoking what appeared to be an extra dark Scharffenberger chocolate bar set on fire. “Whatever gets you through the night that’s all right with me,” Neil Young once sang. On the deck of the hall an inebriated dude tried to lay into me and my costume, asking what bugs I exterminated.
“I’m an astronaut,” I said, seeing in his glazed eyes a road I didn’t wish to ride down with him.
“Then why don’t you fly out of Mendo,” he said.
“To where, man?”
“I don’t know, the moon?”
Back inside with a fresh grapey glass of dense Frey Syrah, a husky white rapper was just getting offstage. More bodies were grooving on the dance floor as the dj returned between acts. The production company did do a cool job decorating the hall. Some ’80s themed couples were in the house, a caveman, some vermin, Munch’s The Scream, etc… A lot of stony dudes in just hooded sweatshirts and jeans at the fringe of things as well.
RadioActive rapped next, who had enough of a connection to the county to have his catchiest song boast a Mendo laden hook that glued together shout outs to all of our scruffy little burgs. We danced a bit to his more polished set, and truth be told his beatboxing was impressive.
Just after midnight The Gift of Gab came on with his own dj, and just by posture and presence alone you could tell that this man has been touring for years. More dancey, more groovy, and the whole hall was getting into it. He interrupted his set and screamed “Do y’all know a group called Blackalicious?”
The crowd: “Yeah!”
“Do y’all know my first solo album ‘Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up’?”
The crowd (with less intensity): “Yeah!”
“Do y’all know my second solo album ‘Escape to Mars’?”
This time it became clear that maybe the full-length album format, especially on a small venue performer’s scale, is truly dead. The Gift of Gab was not stoked on a mumbly response to question number three, and did this little act of pretending he was going to get off stage, half hiding behind the curtain as the crowd roared for him to keep on keeping on.
I was asked to grab a glass of Frey white at around one A.M. only to discover a shut down bar. I was percolating in my faux-space suit and had to retreat outside to take in some cold night air and the starscape. The touchy feely cowgirl appeared and I tensed up, leaning off the railing, minding my own business. She gave me a knowing, hungry look and moved on.
Back inside I sat on a chair next to a catatonically mellow black dude, and we looked on as The Gift of Gab asked the audience “Do y’all wanna hear some new shit?! Say ‘New Sheeyit’!”
The crowd: “New sheeyit!”
“Say ‘New sheeyit’!”
A good chunk of the crowd dispersed at the mere mention of new material. I was beckoned by my space girl back out onto the dance floor for some more. The Gift of Gab eventually concluded his set with a sincere, heartwarming thank you to the residents of Mendocino County and called for us to applaud our freakish selves, before the DJ finished off the night with a lively, old school set. Grandmaster Flash’s classic “White Lines” practically turned the woman’s restroom into a reservations only establishment. And my tired, sexually assaulted ass must have looked like hell by that point in time.
Back out on darkened Highway One at 2am and you couldn’t tell what night of the week it was, nor if these lands were even lived on.