Let me begin by saying that I am not a stalker. I do have a habit of obsessing over my heroes when there’s an off-chance I could meet them at the least and become best friends in my own delusional world at the most. Then, I realize I’m about to overstep and back off, because they are just working schmucks like the rest of us. Now, by overstepping, I would never do anything weird. I might just be a hanger-on or an awkward third wheel or whatever. But I’ll explain that all below.
So, as you know, we moved to Western Massachusetts. We live in Amherst (where J Mascis lives), next to Hadley (where there are farms, big box stores, and Frank Black), and across the river from Northampton (once the home of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in a grand, old house on a hill). It’s liberal heaven and beautiful. There are five fairly progressive campuses on top of each other and two of them are all-women colleges (which are either cooler or lamer than your school, the former in this case) surrounded by wilderness, rolling farm land, and mountains.
As I hinted above, some of my heroes live or have lived in the area. Kim Gordon is one in particular. I’m reading her excellent memoir Girl in a Band. So, I was sure Kim and I would hit it off or she would find my daughter reminds her of her daughter or my son would charm her the way he charms everyone or my incredibly talented wife would make quick friends with her as they discuss feminism over wine or… You get the picture.
It was nothing creepy. I, like any Sonic Youth fan, went through a Kim Gordon phase (similar to phases involving Kathleen Hanna, Kim Deal, etc.), but that was a youthful crush. I have friends Kim’s age with similar sensibilities. I didn’t want to have steal a piece of her soul or spy on her or her child. I’m just a fan who wanted on the inside, but I didn’t want to harm my hero in any way.
That said, I learned Kim Gordon was having a garage sale. How could I not go to Kim Gordon’s garage sale? Would I score some cool piece of art or a X-Girl t-shirt or some piece of Sonic Youth memorabilia? Something. And I would hand my cash to Kim and we’d strike up a conversation and she would ask that I bring the kids by sometime and maybe her daughter could babysit… I have an active imagination, but it hardly resembles reality.
Using my expert Googling skills, I confirmed that the address on the flier a friend sent me a pic of was indeed Kim Gordon’s residence. Not wanting to overwhelm her street with parked cars, I parked on a main strip and walked the last couple of blocks. At the corner of her street was another sign with that distinctive flier. Running down the hill was what looked to be the type of aging hipster who would be good friends with someone like Kim Gordon. You know the type. These dudes can pull off longish gray hair, a pair of Ray-Bans, Chuck Taylor’s well into the nursing home. He was fixing the sign. So, I hurried in case he was closing up the garage sale.
The house was old and somewhat stately. The landscaping was the typically overgrown New England jungle that somehow looked purposeful despite all the weeds. There were older foreign cars strewn along and in the driveway along the side of the house leading to the garage sale in the back.
I passed a for sale sign (same realty company we worked with) with more fliers covering one side and the other revealing an “Under Contract” add-on. This is when it struck me that this was more than an attempt at cleaning out some closets. Kim’s and Thurston Moore’s divorce had been known or in process for quite a while now. I guess I didn’t expect that she would leave Northampton. Rumor on the street is that Thurston lives in an apartment in Northampton with some rocker dude, but he’s rarely around as he’s been touring pretty steadily with his solo project. This was a divorce-caused-moving sale which is the saddest kind of garage sale. At that point, the sun felt a little more oppressive and the house began to sag a bit, but I was not to be deterred.
On my way toward the back, I could see some shelves, lamps, boxes of assorted stuff, and a couple of loaded bookshelves. A hipster couple walked in just ahead of me and an older couple was walking out with a newly purchased lamp. A few other people were perusing the piles as what sounded like a French woman oversaw the proceedings. And more aging hipster friends managed the merch.
The aforementioned hipster couple looked straight out of Singles. I guess grunge is back in style. They were raiding the racks of clothes. The woman was forcing a leather jacket around her torso, convincing her boyfriend that it fit. No doubt she was thinking it was Kim’s leather jacket, but the size made me think it was potentially Kim’s daughter’s, something she had grown out of years ago.
The lamp-carrying older couple looked a little less crazed grunge fan as they walked out with the retro metal lamp. We had a lamp like that once and I’m 99% it was also purchased in a garage sale. On their way out, the man turned to the screen door from where some loud music was coming on the side of the house and hollered “Goodbye, Kim” or some farewell message.
Kim Gordon was not actively supervising her own garage sale directly. However, I suspected that she might have been watching from her kitchen between packing boxes. Instead, a couple of dudes who were either in bands, owned record stores, or both managed some of the merchandise and took money from customers. The French woman wore a long, flowery dress and oversized sunglasses, encouraging people to look around and try things out.
This is when I started to shop. The racks were mainly filled with women’s clothing. I am terrible at shopping for women’s clothes, so I moved on. There were some nice shelves another couple was studying, but we just moved in and I didn’t know where we would put such shelves. Some card tables and boxes at typical garage sale junk. There was a box of framed art, but nothing hip of fancy. I grabbed a bicycle pump with a gauge. (However, in my haste, the pump was missing a nozzle necessary to actually pump up a bicycle tire.)
After browsing the bookshelves, I sauntered into the garage – one of those old, wooden, barn-like garages which probably got little to no use except to store some junk. The junk was there, but so were some Sonic Youth stacks or at least that’s what the masking tape labels claimed. Fifty bucks but you had to take the pair. I deliberated over this for a bit. I have a guitar with a pickup, but this seemed a silly thought as it’s an acoustic and I barely play. I then considered if the stacks would work for stereo speakers. Again, that’s ridiculous. Besides, we just moved into a smaller house and it was largely unpacked. I passed.
I clutched my bike pump and grabbed a bunch of kids books for my daughter. Kim’s daughter Coco was either an avid reader or she just had a lot of books. And they had all the right books from the last 15-20 years of children’s lit. I wanted some science books for my upcoming gig as a 4th grade math and science teacher, but it was mostly literature.
As I wrapped up my shopping, I still hadn’t found anything personal that screamed “SONIC YOUTH” or “this was Kim Gordon’s personal whatever.” Then I found a blank book or journal in the stacks. The cover was an Andy Warhol piece, one of those blank books you buy at Barnes & Nobles to use as a diary of journal. I opened it to see if it was still blank. However, inside the front cover was a collection postcards, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, etc. On the first page it read “Remember that Katie gave this to me.” I continued to flip through the pages. There were some crude drawings and comics, but most of it was blank.
There was a rush of blood to my head at this point. I had stumbled onto a tiny piece of Coco Gordon Moore’s childhood, but even worse, it was her private journal. Sure, it was unfinished and forgotten, but this was more than I bargained for. I am not a stalker. I do not need to be inside Kim Gordon’s or her daughter’s life. Despite selling her things on her driveway, she and her family didn’t deserve my snooping even if it was accidental.
I quickly shoved the book back into the shelf and went to pay for my items.
One of the aging hipsters came up with a price and I agreed to pay. (I don’t haggle.) The stack of books were a little unwieldy, so they offered me a tote bag from a bin of assorted tote bags. The French lady (not totally sure she was French, but it makes for a better story) grabbed me this “jazz in Paris” tote and I was on my way.
As I walked back to my car, I thought about Kim Gordan’s junk. I only use the word “junk” because that’s what everyone sells in a garage sale. There was an expectation of cool items that would connect to Kim’s celebrity, but that was unrealistic. Kim Gordon has junk in her garage sale like the rest of us.
And that’s when it hit me. The thing I like about the musicians I like is that they are all working stiffs like the rest of us. Sure, there are exceptions. There indie bands who have become insanely rich or down-to-earth megastars, but most indie rockers are often only a few months separated from a 9-5.
I’ve come to this conclusion on many occasions despite my near-worship of bands on indie labels playing the same shitty clubs my friends play. I remember chatting with a friend who was talking about his chance encounter with Tori Amos and how magical that moment was. As he searched for the words to describe his experience, he finally just turned to me and said, “You know how you feel when you meet one of your people.”
I didn’t know how he felt. My “people” are like me. They have to work really hard for a living – on the road or in a steady job to make ends meet. They have families. They have student loans. They have car payments. And they sell junk in their garage sales.
Yeah, there is the celebrity and often there’s a bunch of money they have from doing some rock festivals overseas or having one hit song. I looked for some clues online as to where J Mascis lives. I assumed he lived in a neighborhood like mine or closer to downtown, but it turns out his mansion with recording studio burnt down a few years ago. He doesn’t live in my neighborhood, needless to say. Kim Gordon’s house was listed as selling for 1.5 million dollars online. I don’t know how accurate that is, but she doesn’t live in my neighborhood either.
Still, there are all these moments where one rock hero or another demonstrated some bit of humanity that’s made me check my hero worship. There was that time when the guys from Archers of Loaf reminisced a raucous show they cut short because the crowd was too rowdy, stating that “they needed to be beat down with yard sticks or something.” There was that time Bob Pollard drunkenly talked my brother’s ear off about the importance of the teaching profession. There was just the other day when I was listening to the last Walkmen record and on the back cover was a portrait of the band members and their children. There are so many other moments, but the point remains that no matter the fame (or perceived fame), they’re all a bunch of working stiffs like you and me.
Kim Gordon sold her house and a load of her junk because she’s leaving the Pioneer Valley. She has to do all of this because her husband had a midlife crisis and hooked up with a much younger woman. They divorced and suddenly look as vulnerable as the rest of us. She played her last show in town and packed her car. Most of this move is documented on Instagram, much like the way I recorded my own move.
There’s some saying about how we all eat, shit, and fuck like everyone else or something to that effect. We have to remember this about our heroes now and again. I am the worst about getting wrapped up in celebrity. Luckily, people’s humanity shines through and I’m reminded they are people who are no better than I am. Conversely, I am no better than they are and I don’t deserve a piece of them, even if I pay for their junk at a garage sale.
Additional note about the book: Kim Gordon has a straightforward writing style that shows her story to be an interesting in worthy read. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we should have been hearing more from her over the years than her ex Thurston Moore. Gordon is sharp, politically aware, open-minded, and in-touch with reality. This memoir – although I’m not done reading it – is right up there with the Patti Smith book, Just Kids. You don’t have to be a fan of Sonic Youth to enjoy this book, but you should be a lover of the arts and a leftist.
Pizza Tree is back. For those of you who do not live in Middle Missouri, this means nothing. However, if you do live here or ever plan on visiting, this might be the most important news ever. Well, for pizza enthusiasts.
See, Columbia, Missouri has been dominated by a pizza juggernaut named Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s pizza is fairly conventional, but it’s sold in one of those college hangouts like you see on TV or movies. It’s got character and that goes a long way to cover up so-so pizza. Still, folks here feel nostalgic for their own college days and want to relive those days with a slice or whole pie from Shakespeare’s.
Shakespeare’s isn’t terrible pizza. They just haven’t had to make their pizza better over the years. Since I moved here almost ten years ago, I have wanted fresh garlic on my pizza. That entire time either their website or employees would assure me that they were working on getting garlic. Seems simple, but when no one is pushing you to improve your game, things like adding garlic go by the wayside.
So, there was a hole in the pizza scene here that needed to be filled. There was cheap, industrial pizza and several mediocre local alternatives. Plus, the aforementioned Shakespeare’s and its nostalgia. What we lacked was interesting, sometimes off-beat, but always good pizza. And that’s when Pizza Tree first appeared.
In what used to be a Jamaican jerk kitchen and sometimes the green room at local music venue Mojo’s, John Gilbreth was making pies. He make Detroit style, shipped in special pepperoni, created “pizza art”, and grew the mother of all sourdough mothers. Despite being named Columbia’s best new restaurant, the Tree had to shut its doors. Possibly due to high demand and an inability to meet said demand or maybe due to a lack of visibility… Either way, Pizza Tree was no more.
Then, they Kickstarted a new effort to move to the heart of downtown, into a space more suitable for a fully functional pizza joint. And the opening has been slow and steady with new hours and delivery services added. Now all they have to do is get the word out.
Why Pizza Tree?
John uses the best ingredients. I mentioned the insanely good pepperoni and sourdough crust, but it’s hard to forget Sriracha-glazed pork belly, truffled crimini mushrooms, and house-stretched mozzarella. These are decadent pies that border on gourmet. And now they are functioning like an old-school pizza shop.
Of course, the pizza to end all pizzas is the famous Bánh Mì. Imagine the Sriracha-glazed pork belly I mentioned before with kimchi, chile aioli, and fresh cilantro… It’s as good as it sounds. Hell, this pizza was good two nights later when I finished it. I am not afraid to say that it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had.
One thing a pizza joint needs is an aesthetic, some character. With a focus on 1980’s/90’s iconography, Pizza Tree is the pizza place we all wanted to hang out in when we were kids. The only difference now is that our tastes have matured to accept pizzas like Maple Butternut or Charredachoke. To add to this aspect of the mystique, local artist/musician Justin Nardy has joined the team to add his touch to the place.
Pizza Tree is yet another example in a long line of examples where someone’s ingenuity and craftiness creates something so unique. Corporations with teams of marketers can’t come up with what Pizza Tree does. And if they did, they would ruin it. While I’m sure John would like to make a living, he won’t be so greedy as to ruin his product for an extra buck. Even as much of a hard time as I give Shakespeare’s, at least they have kept it local and authentic.
A theme of this blog for a long time has been to celebrate businesses like Pizza Tree. I can’t imagine anything better than washing down a Pizza Tree Bánh Mì with a Logboat Snapper IPA followed by some Harold’s doughnuts and Fretboard Coffee (review still to be written). It’s a good time to be into all things epicurean and indie. May Pizza Tree and their brethren live forever!
2014 was the year of the doughnut for me. I mean, I’ve always loved doughnuts, but this year, I really sought them out. There was Strange Doughnuts in STL (and soon here as well) on a daughter-daddy weekend a while back. There was Revolution Doughnuts (twice) in Decatur this summer while I was there for a conference. I tried to detour my entire family vacation back home to Ohio just for some craft doughnuts, but was unsuccessful. However, we did score fresh cinnamon-sugar doughnuts at the Ohio State Fair. Then Harold’s Donuts came to town. And since Harold’s magically appeared, I’ve ordered boxes of their doughnuts thrice. I would eat more, but their shop isn’t yet open.
Last weekend, Harold’s (really, it was owner Michael Urban) was divvying out maple-bacon and pumpkin doughnuts at Logboat Brewery for a sort of after-brunch event. Also on hand was Fretboard Coffee, making it a hat trick of local foodcraft providers. Of course, the doughnuts were good, only adding fuel to my doughnut fire.
At this moment, let me step back and say a few words about all this doughnut madness before telling you more about Harold’s…
As my regular readers can attest, this blog focuses a ton on artisanal and craft products and the people who make those glorious consumables we love. I’m decidedly anti-corporate, a localvore, grassroots kind of consumer. I love to use this blog and other social media to promote my favorite businesses. Doughnuts just happens to be one of those craft industries that’s really taken off in the past few years. It started with Voodoo in Portland and quickly spread. Now, every city in the Union has a bacon doughnut of some kind. (Thank you, Voodoo.)
And how are these doughnuts better than run-of-the-mill industrial doughnuts? Well, first of all, they are typically made with the best ingredients. Plus, being local, there are not a lot of preservatives. So, eat them fresh. Throw in that the people who work at these doughnut dispensaries are our neighbors. People working in the community to provide for said community trumps corporate entities every time. Yes, our neighbors also work for Dunkin and Crispy, but those dollars eventually go back to their corporate overlords. I like my doughnuts steeped in the local flavor.
In terms of the doughnuts themselves, I am an equal-opportunity consumer. I have always preferred cake varieties, but the more yeasty cousins are winning me over. The best yeast doughnuts I’ve had on the planet are in Decatur, GA at Revolution Doughnuts. Yes, they have vegan versions, but why suffer? Eat the shit out of those living, breathing doughnuts! Our local Harold’s also does a nice yeast doughnut that writing about it makes me want another…
Toppings and fillings are secondary to the doughnut itself, but they are important. The aforementioned bacon doughnut is maybe the most revelatory thing to happen to the deep-fried dough confectionary. Of course, it’s not the only way to top a doughnut. There is simple sugar in its various forms or a variety of icings. What’s going on inside the doughnut might be the most exciting option as jellies and creaming fillings shoot out the other side as one bites into their breakfasty dessert…I could go on, but you get the picture.
All that is well and good, but the single-most important doughnut issue is the spelling. Now, I am not a stickler for ancient, grammatical dogma, but I have my limits. I mean, I do give a fuck about the Oxford comma. So, it should be stated here – in case you didn’t already notice – doughnut is spelled with “dough” and not “do.” The last time I checked, it’s made form dough as well. So, shouldn’t the spelling reflect this characteristic of breakfast gold? Just my two cents.
All of this leads to what I really need to write about: Harold’s Donuts. This is our new doughnut dealer. They are all about the craft aspect. They feature local ingredients when possible. There will be locally-owned-and-roasted Fretboard Coffee at their shop. Harold’s is the doughnut of choice in Middle Missouri.
While the doughnuts are great, it’s the business model that has me really stoked. In addition to the things already mentioned above, Harold’s is making a real effort to embed themselves in the community. Despite not having a storefront yet, they have made their presence known. Whether it’s through collaborations with coffee roasters, brewers, or ice cream parlors, Harold’s is not afraid to make friends. Again, despite no actual store, they deliver all over town. And business has been so good that one often has to order doughnuts several days in advance.
I tried to order doughnuts for today (Friday), but was sad to see they were already sold out on Wednesday. I politely made my feelings known on Facebook and Harold’s took care of me. Well, Doughnut Daddy Urban took care of me. Filling an order of two dozen various doughnuts so that I could say thanks to my co-workers for completing a huge job was the thing that helped me decide that Harold’s is where I will always go for a big doughnut order.
Long story short, doughnuts are king in 2014. I realize we are behind on this development in the Midwest, but I prefer to think of it as a sign that we know what’s what. I mean, we have doughnuts today and some on either coast have already moved on. How sad for them.
One reason I have blogged for so long (although not very often as of late) is that I enjoy the discussions that occur. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging, some of whom I’ve never met in-person. Hell, I have over 830 friends on Facebook, a high percentage I’ve never talked to face-to-face. I love that I have so many virtual friends. It’s kept me sane in times I felt alone.
Still, it’s nice to see a friendly face now and again, to shake an actual hand. And I was able to do a lot of that at the Bill Callahan show.
As soon as I entered Mojo’s patio preceding the actual venue, I was greeted with friendly faces chilling, enjoying the nice weather. There were friendlies at the merch table and every step between me and the bar. People I usually hang with at another bar were at the end of Mojo’s bar. On my way there, I passed friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. And more pals, acquaintances, friends-of-friends, etc. poured in from the back as Callahan’s set neared.
You don’t know how meaningful this is for a guy who once penned a blog called “living in misery.” Don’t get me wrong, I long for city-living, but if I have to live in Middle Missouri, I at least want to hang with some good people. It was a nice night to say “hello” and catch up with folks. I suspect the same will happen in the fall when Neutral Milk Hotel(!) stops here.
Speaking of friendly faces, Bill Callahan started early – which works for working parents like myself. He opened with “Sycamore” and danced around his catalog without moving much for the rest of the night. He brought with him a couple of players – one on guitar and the other on bass – both seated. The crowd was a bit ornery as the drinks flowed, but as soon as anyone realized Callahan was singing again, they politely stopped talking. I’ve never seen anything like it, but maybe all those people really are as nice as I think they are. You know the type: friendly midwesterners. And Bill Callahan was liking it, sneaking in a pleasant smile here and there.
I like friendly faces filling my favorite hangouts and occupying their stages. There’s nothing quite like a familiar smile, warmed with alcohol, and willing to chat. I had a little of this in previous lives, but not quite like this. In adulthood, there’s less transition as folks settle in for the long haul. Sure, people move, but adults know each other for decades. I haven’t lived in Middle Missouri for even one of those, but I already have found a community of friends, pals, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends to make an enjoyable evening with a wordsmith like Bill Callahan so much more enjoyable.
Last night I took my four-year-old to see punk and riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna speak for a Women’s History Month series held at Columbia College. While between projects at work, I decided to see what was written about the talk. The regular news sources summarized Hanna’s visit succinctly, but there was nothing coming from a local blog. There aren’t many good blogs in this town these days, but a void needs filling and I’m about to get back on that horse.
As I mentioned above, I took my daughter to see a woman whom I think is a great role model as she grows and develops. Kathleen Hanna is a strong, smart, and creative adult woman I want my kid to look to for inspiration. She has people like that in her life now, but it doesn’t hurt to find more.
My kid was in awe. First of all, she insisted on sitting in the front row. We skipped over a couple of seats that looked to be saved and settled in. It just so happened that one of those seats was Kathleen Hanna’s! When a woman began to welcome the audience, my daughter asked whether or not that was Kathleen Hanna. I promptly informed her that no, Kathleen Hanna was sitting next to her. It was all that four-year-old could do to contain her excitement.
She really loved any time Hanna referred to rocking and bands. See, my daughter loves riot grrrl bands. She’s particularly fond of Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag. (She just wrote a letter and drew a picture for Wild Flag to be mailed ASAP.) She loves the power and upbeat energy from that era of music. The fact that it’s all made by women doesn’t hurt either.
Hanna gave the kind of talk one would expect. She told her story, full of valley girl vernacular. She had slides of rarely seen zines and flyers. There were grainy videos of her various bands. She had great anecdotes of major indie and punk rock players. She told stories of inspiring young women fighting the patriarchy at every turn.
A running theme was her attempt to take back space normally occupied by males. There were rooms in a community center, rock venues, even the space in front of bands to be occupied. Underlying all of this was the space men and boys take up that can’t be seen, the space occupied by ideas and words. Hanna challenged these spaces and found room for herself and the girls who joined her in the fight.
At some point, a guy sitting in the back yelled out some fairly off-topic statements and questions. I won’t dignify either the content nor the deliverer of such idiocy as it completely disrupted the night by identifying or detailing what was said. Hanna was knocked off course a couple of times. Finally, she regained her bearings and told the guy to “shut-the-fuck-up.” Then she demanded he leave.
Instead of leaving quietly, the “heckler” continued to be obnoxious until college staff and a few audience members helped him leave. The debate over his comments continued today on Facebook, but I don’t want to spend anymore time on this as the dude was totally out of line.
Two beautiful things resulted from this conflict. First, the outburst demonstrated Hanna’s point about men always taking up space that wasn’t theirs, infringing on a woman’s chance to express herself. Second, it provided an opportunity for my daughter and really any young woman in the crowd to see a need for feminism as well as said feminism in action.
Fuck that dude and all the jerks and bullies like him.
Hanna recovered and continued to present her story. I geeked out over a video of Bikini Kill. My daughter geeked out over a Le Tigre video. We both laughed over the cabaret video Hanna shared.
It was a fun and empowering night. I wish my daughter could have met Hanna, but that will have to wait for the letter my girl intends to write to one of her newest heroes.
If you see this, Kathleen Hanna, know that you made an impression on our little college town and one four-year-old in particular.
For more on the talk, check out The Missourian’s take.