I’ve never been good at writing about the past. I’m focusing on living in the present, and forgetting the bad memories seems to be vital to this process. It’s impossible though, to go on living as though something never happened. You ignore it long enough, until one day all of a sudden, reality overwhelms you. To persevere you confront your past self, face to face. The first time was after high school graduation. The impending decision of college and hypothetically, the rest of my life. As it turns out, I made the wrong choice and was in this situation over and over again.
Some people don’t face it. They just dance right by. They’re just listening to the rhythm, they’re not counting it, nor are they in time. It’s close, but not like fluid love.
It was another hot, South Texas Fourth of July. I was going to be attending a small local Catholic University the next fall. A musical friend from the Houston rave scene had invited me to a barbeque at his house in the Heights. It was my first real time spent in the Houston Heights, a neighborhood just north of down town past the first inner loop. I didn’t realize how close I would come to know this little creative cradle in the city.
I walked into the front door of John Dunnock’s fourth ward home and the house was empty with the exception of noise drifting in from the back door through the kitchen. The living room was filled with musical instruments from a full five piece band. Alone on the arm of a couch across from the rest of the set was tambourine meant to be added to cymbal stand of a drum kit. I heard some laughter from outside, which gave me a twinge of anxiety and I put that tambourine away in my car. I’m not a big kleptomaniac but I felt I it would be safe for future use. Most barbeques gave me anxiety, but at John’s we could play whatever records we wanted and there were vegan patties with Swiss burgers and barbeque sauce. That burger was a staple in my life.
It’s hard to say when I invited Motion Turns It On, the house band, back to my car for a bowl. I noticed Derrick looked like the person to smoke with. He asked if his friends could come, gathered up Little John, Steve and Bill, who shared a birthday with me. I felt I had just met the most real people at this barbeque filled with faces I had always seen but never known.
We got to talking about music when we were in my green SUV, passing a pipe. When they said they were all in a band together and had just played at Dunnock’s house, that’s when I realized the tambourine I had grabbed belonged to one of them. I pulled out the tambourine and said that it needed a friend. Steve, the bands drummer said that I could keep it, as long as I play it in their band for them. That seemed natural.
Throughout the next year I would meet them on the first floor, in room seven, of the Francisco Lofts just east of down town Houston in the industrial warehouse district.
I was familiar with this space, since I had been coming to this crevice of the city as a teen exploring the rave era. A friend had once thrown a party on the fourth floor, most of it was an art party for the artists there to show off their art. I saw Rebecca French and her dance company, Freneticore, perform. I went to an audition with Freneticore and joined the dance company for two years. It took me a while to determine which practice space was seven. But out of the maze of studios, two were filled with sound, and one with Motion Turns It On.
I memorized that door as a position in a star filled constellation that my heart kept as a safe space to always return to. I tried singing for them and I tried playing the piano for them. I couldn’t find that my melody fit with them. I was most receptive to Steve teaching me how to play the drums. I was a rhythm specialist with all my days spent dancing and counting music. I tried to bring my poetry to practice one day, but Little John was the only one who could read the rhythm in my verses and he was the one I felt confidence with I needed to share these feelings with out loud. I asked him to let me practice drums for him on guitar. He had some things he wanted to play that he couldn’t get out in MTIO and I had some things I needed to say but I didn’t know how.
I don’t like reading to people, I wasn’t comfortable, but I had to keep speaking. John put me in front of the drums and had me keep simple rhythms while he worked out his mind via the guitar. Sometimes he would compliment me so well, telling me the thing I just got out of my head was “just right,” and then “play it again, only faster and over and over again”. I know of making one recording on a simple four-track cassette recorder at the Leeland house late one night. I was impressed we had ever gotten something down as a finished song. Because of that recording, it’s the song we both can still remember how to play. It was my first real lesson in the importance of putting down your material for future reference, a tool I still don’t utilize as often as I should. Mostly, we specialized in incoherent screams and tribal grunge rock. We were often referred to Bauhaus for some reason I’m not sure, I don’t listen to them.
I was obsessed with The Vaselines, The Pixies, and The Flaming Lips at the time. All this was influenced by Little John. Every time I would mess up, John would tell me the right words to get it going again. Everything made sense. I had moved into the Leeland house, which was the cause of the unfortunate disappearance of my most prized kitten Shade. Every night we spent at the practice space or at that house, was like a 90’s music video to me, just ten years too late.
I know we did ok as a band because when we played upstairs in Rudyard’s Pub no one walked out in the middle of our set. I wore a fringed out disco wedding dress I had borrowed from Kelly Smelly and my authentic silver blue sky, Doc Martens. We had invited our friend Justin to help us with the crash cymbal to help keep me focused on the vocals and my anxiety low. When we finished I ran off stage and hid behind a stack and John played one final last song solo. The audience clapped and cheered after every song. There’s nothing like screaming your feelings out loud. There was nothing comparable after that. In fact, I experienced a long void of creativity. I felt all my means were incomparable to what I needed to express. The last show we played together was at Dean’s Home of Easy Credit on Main street in down town Houston. We were almost in a wreck on the way to the show when some one ran a red light. That night threw me and I didn’t feel comfortable playing again.
John and I had also spent lots of time apart before that set. I had just gotten out of the detrimental relationship with Shane also marking the beginning of my sobriety from cocaine. This was a new state of mind and marked the impending move to Washington, to explore life in a different view. Sometimes everything is dancing all around you. The people, the music, the lights, you go out in time for the street lights to come on and refuse to return home till they’ve gone off again. It’s the motivation to stay awake at night, and sleep during hot southern heat.