Friday, May 9, 2008

Omnibus Old Days Blog

(In order to draw out the Anonymous Commenter From My Past, I'm doing as instructed and blogging about the "old days." Welcome to "Jonny: The College Yearz.")

My first year of college is a haze of depressive moods, suicidal urges, loneliness, and occasional LSD hallucinations. I genuinely remember none of it, apart from occasional brief flashes of me sitting alone in my room listening to Morrissey and crying about how nobody understood me. I imagine this makes me like every single college student ever but man, did it seem profound at the time. I dated a girl named Karla with bleached blonde hair cut into a severe crew cut, and we made out to Nitzer Ebb every night. It seemed properly existential. Our first date involved me throwing up on her.

Once I met Marcy, my situation began to improve. We were in Russian class together (note: I got an "F"), and showed up to class wearing the same Bauhaus t-shirt/cardigan sweater combination (that pretty much sets this in an era, doesn't it?) and became fast friends. Later, after a complicated situation involving her dating my friend (CENSORED) and me making out with her behind his back (sorry, (CENSORED)!), we started dating. At the time, I still half-lived with my parents, and after a rather difficult and annoying summer spent back at the folks' house (imagine, if you will: tripping on acid while watching "Easy Rider" with your dad), I decided it was time to friggin' move already, so Marcy, my best friend Trevor, and I got a place together in Dinkytown, the area of Minneapolis right around the University of Minnesota, also known, in the late 80s and early 90s, as the Hub Of Everything Cool.

Oh, sure, Uptown thought it was the hub of everything cool, but Uptown always fucking thinks its so great. Sure, it had Rocky Horror Picture Show every Friday night which attracted every half-punk and neo-goth ever to its welcoming embrace, but Dinkytown in the late-80s was Where It Was At.

Dinkytown in the late 80s was arranged around three main centers of gravity. Note, please: this is if you were remotely cool. If your memories of Dinkytown in this era involve you getting totally WASTED at Sally's and heading back to your boyfriend's frat house for a wop party where you passed out and were gang-banged by the entire Delta Kappa Nu, you probably weren't cool. Just saying.

Ralph and Jerry's. This 24-hour groceria, a dirty, dismal little superette plunked right down on 4th Street, was, for some reason, the very center and hub of my life for five years. Marcy was general manager there, my roommate Trevor worked there, and eventually every single employee there -- each one cool as shit -- became our circle of friends. Anitra, the uber-hip tattooed waitress at the Triple Rock? Worked there. Rosemary Pepper, online goddess and member of the San Franscisco who's who? Yup, worked there. James Lileks, Minneapolis humorist/bon vivant? Worked there, but way before my time, but I suspect he's responsible for scrawling the lyrics of "Cowgirl In The Sand" on the walls downstairs. Everybody worked there. It was an astonishing confluence of hipsters and talented folks.

Of course, I managed to ruin it. I worked there myself at the tail end of its existence, usually on the overnight shift. One night, a con artist came in and pulled that one scam where he asks for change for money you've already given him and manages to confuse you into giving him change for money you haven't given him -- you know the grift, if you've worked in retail, somebody has tried it on you but you, dear reader, were smart enough to avoid it. I was so fascinated and hypnotized by his patter, and so totally blown away that I was basically being robbed before my eyes, that I stupidly and rather dazedly played into the whole scam. I think I lost the store 100 bucks all told, and was fired the next day, quite deservedly. Soon after, the store was sold. The end of an era. I blame myself and that hundred bucks.

Positively 4th Street / Northern Lights. If you were even cooler than the folks who worked at Ralph and Jerry's (i.e. cooler than me), you worked at "The Pos" (named after the Bob Dylan song named after the street it lived on) or later, once it changed management, Northern Lights, right next door. During the Positively 4th Street era, I spent all my rent money every month on records there, and bought my first bong there as well, a bright green plastic number I had for the next 10 years. Notable employees include: Linda Pitmon, drummer for Zuzu's Petals and now Steve Wynn, Ed Ackerson, Nick Tangborn of Jackpine Records. I kept vying for a job there -- I think they all secretly thought that because I listened to Yes, my musical taste was suspect.

One night, I was working at Ralph and Jerry's. A guy came in, a shabbily-dressed fella who smelled vaguely of urine. He bought a bottle of Listerine. "Jesus, it's about time you freshened your breath," I thought, and sold it to him. He left. He came back in five minutes later smelling even FURTHER of urine, and bought another. I sold it to him, wondering what the fuck was up. Ten minutes later he came in REEKING of THE OPRESSIVE STENCH OF STALE, ACRID PISS, and wanted to buy another. I finally cottoned to the fact that he was, in fact, drinking the Listerine. I refused to sell it to him. He paid me back by staggering next door to Northern Lights, pissing himself until completely sodden, and passing out in the aisle.

Cafe Giocco / Espresso Royale Cafe. Espresso Royale, or just "The Cafe" -- the definitive article, you might say -- was the hangout of choice for underage hipsters and pre-bar drinkers alike. Much like Ralph and Jerry's, just about everybody I know has worked at Espresso Royale at one point in their life (including me). The Cafe mainstay was Jay Hurley, my bandmate in Shatterproof and Landing Gear, who worked there for umpty-ump years before moving on to pastures greener. I met just about everybody in my life through the cafe, in one way or another, including at least one wife, several bandmates, best friends, and on one notable occasion, Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers, whom I gave a brief tour of Dinkytown, pointing out places his dad used to live.

Note to all concerned: THE ESPRESSO MACHINE AND THE DISHWASHER OCCASIONALLY BECOME INFESTED WITH COCKROACHES. We'd see those little suckers and kill 'em with the milk pitchers. Clean!! Also: I slept in the basement on more than one occasion, on the couch where it was rumored more than several lice-infested trysts happened.

Notable people from my life at the time:

Johnny and Christie. Johnny was the drummer for my first band, The Now. Folks: we sucked. I'm not even saying that to be humble, we just, completely objectively, sucked balls. Johnny was a sweet, sweet guy but he wasn't much of a drummer at the time, which was fine -- I wasn't much of a songwriter or guitar player, and Trevor wasn't much of a bass player, so we were evenly matched. His girlfriend was Christie, a stunningly gorgeous girl who was the first exhibitionist I ever met -- she had the intriguing habit of dishabilling in front of us, which wasn't something I particularly minded, mind. She was also the first stripper in my life -- she got a job at Deja Vu right when it opened; then, if I'm not mistaken, married one of the patrons, and disappeared completely. I kind of miss them both. After Christie, Johnny dated Becky, the moddest mod chick that ever modded. Ever. I could never tell if she liked me or was secretly laughing at me behind my back -- probably a combination of the the two, and probably deservedly. I was such a phony-mod it wasn't even funny, with my hairsprayed pudding bowl, stupid suits, and lack-of-two-tone-love.

Interesting tale: Johnny eventually moved into a house in Northeast. The upstairs neighbors were slightly scary punk rock girls -- at one point, some of the punk kids that were over there were busted for grave robbing. GRAVE ROBBING. Then, soon after, one of their other friends was busted for killing his aunt by drowning her in a toilet. We stole his records and his Nintendo. Whee!

Mischka. Mischka -- who I'm not sure had a last name -- was actually a faerie. I'm convinced. Spelled that way, too. I knew nothing about her at all, only that she kind of drifted into our life, this odd, beautiful girl who could easily have been a model, dressed in the strangest mish-mash of hippy, goth and alien, and then drifted out. I don't even know her real name, where she was from, what she did -- but she was over a lot, and we all liked her. She started the brief trend of braiding crystals into one's hair, which everybody adopted in Dinkytown for a while. She seemed like such an oddly ethereal presence that I still, to this day, can't quite explain her. She may have been a government experiment gone awry, or a presence from another dimension.

The Jello Arc. Jello was an odd hippie guy I knew who was Johnny's roommate for a while, then moved to Wisconsin. The odd thing was that Jello was in my life for such a short time, but his relatives weave in and out of my life constantly. Marcy and I inhereted Jello's cat Zoe, who just died like last week (RIP Zoe -- what a sweetheart). One of Jello's sisters dated my friend Ben, who introduced me to Chris, who is the closest thing I have to a brother (besides my actual brother of course, but we didn't grow up together!). Jello's brother Isaac was friends with Chris and Allison and about twenty other people I knew. I just bumped into his OTHER sister the other month at a restaurant where she worked. For some reason, these folks just weave in and out of my life constantly -- weird, for someone I only met briefly and played D&D with a couple times.

Deva. Deva was an employee at Ralph and Jerry's. Deva was also one of the most beautiful women I've ever met. She had gorgeous, shoulder-length, curly Pre-Raphaelite hair; plump, delightfully puckered lips; a smile that could have turned a tyranical despot into a pussycat; and eyes that bore straight into your soul. Deva was an artist. Deva was a bohemian of the Old School. Deva liked music. Deva photographed so well that the inventor of the photograph was heard to sigh in his grave. Deva was smart. Deva was charming. Deva never wore a bra the entire time I knew her, and didn't seem to notice or care. You may think, from reading this, that I nursed a wicked, wicked crush on Deva. You would be dead right. Did I ever do anything about it? I did not. Probably a good thing, since I was engaged at the time -- and an even better thing when you consider she wouldn't have been caught dead with me anyway!

David Beckey. I just got done playing with David Beckey in the Autumn Leaves. Oddly, I met David, like, twenty years ago. The chances that we wouldn't have played together are nearly nil -- we liked the same exact bands, had the same exact circle of friends, dressed the same, did the same stuff. Yet, for some reason, that crucial connection was never made. Explanation? At one point, I expressed a desire to play the rock with him while at a party. One of the people at the party said "Oh, man -- he's NUTS! His roommate came home and found him playing guitar COMPLETELY NAKED!!" And I kind of went -- oh. Uh. I see. And then forgot about this desire to play with him.

TURNS OUT THIS WAS COMPLETELY FALSE. So to whoever told me that story? Total, bald-faced lie! I coulda been in the 'Leaves years ago.

Okay, so if that isn't enough of an "Old Days" blog to draw out the Anonymous Poster, I don't know what is. Jesus. I have to get back to work now. Hopefully people who weren't there will find something to amuse them.


Jon Hunt said...

It was SO NOT A FUCK FEST OVER THERE. Or that is: it probably WAS a fuck fest, I just never got in on any of it!!

Jon Hunt said..., by the by.

Anonymous said...

I am laughing even harder now!

belsum said...

WOW. That was amazing and brilliant. It's so crazy because I know ALL ABOUT all of that...but met you *right* at the tail end of the R&J's era. You and Marcy were still in that house with the red trim and the morning glories out front. Such a long time ago.

Another Jello connection (I mean besides the zillions you already listed) is our cats. Sky, the resident tom in the Hippie House, was from the same lineage as Zoe. RIP Zoe, you were a good girl! And Sky was Mister Seymour von Billi's (RIP Smoe!) dad. Not often you know a cat's paternity.

So can I count the Cafe being that I'm married to the current manager? Dude, one of my favorite times hanging out with you in recent years was your drunken tour of the attic crawl space in there and where the pot was grown. You were so wasted!

Oh and PS - you so have to tell me who anonymous is in case I know this person, too.

LAP said...

See I lived near Dinkytown before the whole Espresso Royale coolness started, and all everybody talked about was how cool the bar/restaurant was that had a fire that I can't remember what the name was (it was where the Dinkytowner is now).

I lived off Como on 17th in a filthy house where we never locked the doors ever. After Billy and I moved from there Mike Nikolai and Davin Odegaard lived there, and I was still there often. I should have stayed nearer to Dinkytown instead of hanging around friends that got grandfathered into the 19 yr old drinking age that I missed.

As brave a cashier as I always was,(working full time at the Snyder's Uptown) I knew I would never be brave enough to work nights at Ralph and Jerry's.

Jon Hunt said...

Laura: THE UNDERGROUND? Or even before that?

Upstairs was the Valli, whose hospitality I totally abused by sitting there for 24 hours at a time while only buying a single cup of coffee.

trumpet sounds said...

great stories! I remember in '89 when the replacement's "don't tell a soul" came out and I bought a casette copy at Positively 4th Street and took it home and the mastering sounded like shit to me, I think it might just have been overprocessed in the studio on purpose, but at the time I just thought I got a bum copy, so I took it back to POS and complained about the shitty sound, the clerks behind the counter had a good laugh ("it does sound like shit") and gave me a new copy, which I proceeded to take home and listen too and it still sounded crappy to my ears...long story short, I must of taken copies of that cassette back 3 or 4 times, each time requesting another copy (I think I was high that day), each time the clerks laughing harder and harder, asking me questions (clerk:"what songs really sound bad?" me:"back to back" clerk:"you're right, that song sounded like shit on my copy")(other clerk: "the cover's shitty too") Finally I just asked for my damn money back...

Ashley! said...

I didn't know you then, heck, I don't even know if I was born, but wow--I'm sorta bummed I missed the Bobby D. guided tour.

LAP said...

No pre-Underground, it was the Underground after they repaired the fire damage. It was connected to the Valli, Mark Downey who managed the Gear Daddies used to manage it. I guess I don't remember because I didn't care, it was just many tales of woe about the loss of cool hangout. Bleh- it would have been in like 1985 or even earlier.

I love that Dreamhaven isn't mentioned in the context of anything cool- although I was sad to see they are no longer in Dinkytown at all.

LAP said...

Also, completely not-related, but I'd love to know your review of Iron Man before I see it. You were pretty dead-on about FF2

belsum said...

Oh the Valli! Wow. Yeah. The Dinkytowner just isn't the same. Though I do enjoy the free pool from time to time.

I really miss having a Dreamhaven there, though my friend's ex was a tool. It's still weird to have Magus there instead.

Spent part of the Polara show on the rooftop of the Varsity tonight. It was nice to view Dinkytown from above. So much has changed but wow. The memories.

Anonymous said...

Remember leaving the Phish concert high on acid, smoking pot in your apartment until dawn, and waking up to the LA riots?

Jon Hunt said...

Why yes, Anonymous Chris and/or Anonymous Ben!! I do!!

Jill said...

If you're talking Ben Berg - it's not him because as often as I've shown him your blog he has NO CLUE how to leave a comment. Remember...he's a painter and he smokes a lot of weed.

Oh, I love the history lesson too. It's so fun to hear the stories.

Jon Hunt said...

Then its definitely anonymous Chris Hill, because that's who was with me at the Phish concert!!!

belsum said...

I figured it wasn't Ben but I asked Chris and yes. It was him.

steve zahn said...

The "old days" in Minneapolis seem pretty funny. I was busy becoming famous at the time so I can't really relate.

Anonymous said...

Your answer is matchless... :)

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