Monday, February 14th, 2005

Week 1 Is Done

Whew folks, whatta week, and not in expected ways. It was an emotional roller coaster. Two members of my extended family suddenly passed away as I was going out to do the damn thing. I think they shed great light and luck on me, though, because all the dates to date have been spectacularly good.

First things first–in just one week, I’ve reconnected with so many old friends I’d fallen out of touch with over 10 or more years. Old roommates came from far and wide to hang! I’m talking Minneapolis, Austin, Los Angeles, and Livermore. Folks I really cared about a lot and whom I often wondered if I’d ever see again. Thank God for the internet. Or Al Gore. If the haters shut this tour down tomorrow, it’s all good.

But they won’t, cause the other thing that’s happening is this unbelievable outpouring of support. It’s incredibly gratifying to be able to bring some of these stories out into the world and see how they touch and move people. I don’t want to attempt to imitate Chuck D’s call for 5000 leaders, but I honestly and really do hope that I am able to catalyze other storytellers who can tell their own stories and the many others that desperately need to be told.


2/8, Fat Tuesday kickoff in San Francisco:
The Element Lounge rocked. It’s a great venue and definitely worth peeping. Lourdes and Kristina secured great food from Tu Lan for our reception. The extended fam was in the house and extra loud and proud. The sudden reappearence of my college roommates were the night’s rock-shocker. I still haven’t recovered! Mike and Kristina sold mad t-shirts. The books sold out before 9pm. My friends at Media Alliance got maaaaaad love in the donations dept. And if right-wing terrorists had put a stink bomb in the club, the media would have been much less progressive for a day–hip-hop and celeb journalists from wall-to-wall!

When the crowd’s energy waned about 11pm, Lyrics Born declared, “OK, now I got enough alcohol in me” and proceeded to Eddie Cheeba the crowd into a hands-in-the-air frenzy. Luckily he kept his pants on this time. Icewater, Cool Chris, and the extra brilliant Tomas Palermo left me so hyphy that I forgot to do a reading. Yo Lateef, hope them mooncakes were worth it!

2/9, Cody’s in Berkeley on Telegraph:
There’s no place like home. Mad Changs, Cal-SERVE, Students For Hip-Hop and South Berkeley crew in the house! Really hard questions from a crowd that ranged in age from 16 to 64. The Cody’s staff was wonderful, and let us linger for a long time after the event talking Berkeley stuff. The oh-my-god moment of the night: being at the podium upstairs, looking out at a ton of friends who are pretty much the best and brightest in the progressive movement in the Bay Area, and then looking up for a second and seeing large framed pictures of Alice Walker and Angela Davis and folks like that. Given that momentary overwhelming sense of puniness, I think I was able to maintain some composure. Yes, I was far from Kanye Westing it.

2/10, MACLA in San Jose
There’s also no place like San Jose. If you didn’t know, now you know: S-A-N J-O-S-E is the S-H-I-T! The crew and crowd at MACLA showed enough love for a decade of Valentine’s days. Public Allies opened with a b-girl/b-boy routine that got everyone really hyped. More long-lost roommates! We got to show old Bronx video on Tommy’s dope makeshift screen. Golden Child straight killed it on the 1s and 2s. Everyone I met I wanted to have hour-long conversations with. We sold all the books and went home with promises to do it again very soon.

2/11, in Los Angeles:
DJ Kool Herc says rain was always a good sign for him. It was storming Friday afternoon at my second alma mater, but we had a great time. Shout out to Tony Silver (Style Wars) and Lee Ballinger and Black Rose (Rock and Rap Confidential) for coming through. Big thank you to Benji Chang, Irene Soriano, Marji Lee and all Asian American Reading Room employees past and present and the APC staff for always going beyond the call. Thanks also to the German A/V guy who interrupted my talk to let me and everyone else in the room know I was about to go over time and that he pretty much wanted to go home.

Divine Forces Radio
Fidel, Ruben, Icey Ice, Counter Stryke (with a Y), and everyone from the KPFK crew got it going on, folks. Big shout also to Aziatic Rhythms and Denizen Kane. Fidel had Luis Rodriguez on to speak about the fact that his classic autobiography/gang peace inspirational, Always Running, has been banned from schools in Santa Barbara. In my outrage and star-struckedness, I gave Luis my personal reading copy by accident.

It was fundraising week, so I threw down 100 bones and we got three matching donations. The thing is, I would have loved to raise a lot more for them. Fidel is one of the most politically sharp, engaging radio personalities anywere in the country. In light of the way the ongoing Hot 97 fallout continues to deteriorate into reductionistic Asian v. Black v. Asian thinking (see comments in the entry below), despite my best efforts to try to turn the discussion in a different direction, I appreciate folks like Fidel, Weyland, Anita, and Davey so much more.

2/12, LA Release Party:

So I went back the next day to Luis’s cafe cultural Tia Chucha’s to exchange books, met Victor and talked about doing something there in March, peeped all the great programs they were running, and came out with a stack of great road reading.

Then I got up to Imix, run by Fidel’s partner, Sol. Along with Tia Chucha’s, this has got to be one of the best bookstores I’ve ever been to–Sol has a knack for getting exactly the kinds of titles–whether hip-hop, political, cultural, art–that make you tremble when you hold them in your hands. I’d never seen or heard of half the books in there, and I thought I knew my books, so I had to hide my wallet from myself before I spent my entire food budget there.

Jennifer brought yummy food for everyone. Many long-lost friends came through, my cousin Ryan rolled through thick with his UCSD street gang, Kyle and L.A. mean-mugged me from the corner, Arash brought by sick Bush-Major Threat and Prince Jammy shirts, Ruben captured it all on DV, Ben Higa declined to state, Kristina and Mike represented with the 0rigin/Can’t Stop shirts and brought the Bay vibe down. Erica brought down the great Ariel Fernandez Diaz from Cuba (folks, he’s at Thirty Three And A Third, talking about the Cuban Hip-Hop Movement on Saturday). I heard that lots of folks left because it was too crowded. I’m really sorry about that–I promise I’ll come back down to Imix soon.

Egon had to leave before spinning because we ran really late and he had to get to his next gig. But B+ got about 3 records in and chilled really hard, Mike Nardone rocked about 10 or so (after missing my great tribute to him), and out of nowhere, a bearded J-Rocc swooped in with his needles and a crate of goodies to bring the house down. When he left, he took his needles with him and we wound down.

Oh, so I did the reading thing too a little bit before that, and at the end of that, an older white gentleman in a blue blazer and red v-neck sweater stood up in the middle of the crowd to say that he really enjoyed the book and thought it was quite scholarly, but that he was disappointed there wasn’t more about the west coast. I thanked him and apologized. I told him that there were actually at least 3 chapters on the west coast, including a whole chapter on Straight Outta Compton and a whole chapter on Death Certificate. I then told him what I really think: I never intended this to be a definitive history–I could never write a definitive history, and that he had a good point. He nodded his head and began to wax poetic about the comparative gangsta aesthetics of Public Enemy and NWA. By this point, everyone in the room was bugging out and wondering who he was. “Oh, by the way”, he said, “my name is Jerry Heller.”

Week 2 begins in 12 hours. Hooooweee.

posted by @ 7:49 pm | 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Week 1 Is Done”

  1. ronnie brown says:

    Jeff, it was good to step out of the shadows of cyberspace to meet you face to face…looks like the theory of “six degrees of separation” (Sheri and Michael Berry, B+, Lee Ballinger) has proven itself true once again…I offer my condolences for your family members who recently passed. Continued success for the rest of the tour…

  2. andrew says:

    sounds dope so far! looking forward to the nyc release party.

  3. Grace Su says:

    Great presentation (UCLA)! I would’ve liked a signed copy of the book, but you guys were sold out!

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