JUNE 2nd 2004 Winstons OB, CA.
San Diego Reader - June 24, 2004
"That Scary Moment"
He prefers to sit against the windows facing Newport, what he calls, "O.B. TV, Channel One."
Feature by Barbarella Published June 24, 2004
I recently saw a show so weird it could compete with the opening night of the L.A. club Vibrator, at which an Amazon woman named the Queen of Raunch performed a topless-aerobics routine on roller skates. (She had cheeseburgers tucked into crevices all over her body, including underneath and around her breasts. Man, I'll have to tell you THAT story sometime.) The recent weird show was at Winstons, one of the oldest bars in Ocean Beach. As I readied myself for the evening, nostalgia tricked me into smelling patchouli. (In high school, I would buy gifts from the Black to impress Andre, a surfer and O.B. hippie wannabe with long, blond hair who collected anything resembling mushrooms and waves.) David and I met up with friends at their home, within spitting distance of Newport Avenue, O.B.'s main drag. Across the street from their place is Little Chef, where my father dines almost daily for lunch. He prefers to sit against the windows facing Newport, what he calls "O.B. TV, Channel One." The windows facing Cable Street are Channel Two.
On the walk to Winstons, we passed a young girl with hair so long she could have wrapped it around her body in lieu of clothes. There are three types of people in O.B.: hippies, surfers, and bikers. Half of the hippies have dreadlocks, half of the surfers are in their 40s, and half of the bikers are drunk at any given time. Exceptions to this rule do exist.
We traversed the sand-covered sidewalk until we reached Bacon Street, right in front of what used to be Java Joe's but is now an insidious Starbucks. All right, I'm not going to lie to you...on occasion I crave -- and even purchase -- a Frappuccino, but I still miss Java Joe's. I miss the poetry nights, the music, the scene. Those events used to bring me to O.B. at least once a week. Starbucks just seems so incongruous the way it is juxtaposed with homeless druggies and hippies eager to stick it to the same man who is selling them chocolate-covered coffee beans. Surreal.
But the surreality was yet to begin. We found the entrance to Winstons behind O.B. Bob's Hot Dog Cart. The bar was empty, save for a few barflies left over from an afternoon of drinking by the beach. I ordered a Barbarella. (Sandy, the bartendress, uses raspberry vodka and Bailey's -- different, creamy.) I staked out a seat up front, closest to the stage. Ted Washington arrived first. Ted is as famous for his spoken word and stipple-style art as he is for his appearance: a really tall, good-looking black man with shoulder-length dreads, always wearing his glasses and a smile. I've seen him perform at various venues, from a museum at Balboa Park to our own living room. Ted told us he would not be doing his usual spoken word, which consists of him speaking and another individual playing an instrument in the background; rather, he had created a spoken-word band, and this would be their first performance together.
Pruitt Igoe was his new band, named after a housing project in St. Louis that was built in the late '60s and eventually "blown up after ten years because the crime got so bad." I was excited to see something new (I like new things). Speaking and singing along with Ted would be Molly Whittaker, an opera singer recently seen in Turandot -- and I only recognized the name because my father saw the show and loved it (sometimes I can be so unsophisticated). What a treat! Playing backup "music" would be Matt Kerr, Jon Cordova, and Are Jay Hoffman (not to be confused with R.J.).
As more friends arrived behind us, Ted kicked off his show by sitting alone on the stage, reading notes and poems scribbled on napkins and flyers from bars he'd bounced at. Sexual, political, angry, Ted's words are one man's view of the world around him. I love poetry for this reason -- you get to hear what people feel. I've read my poetry in front of crowds before, and each time I felt naked...yet exhilarated. We listened attentively to every word spoken, and an hour later, everything changed.
After a short break and some instrument setup time, Pruitt Igoe was on...or was it? Molly and Ted were talking back and forth, a sort of dialogue, as electronic music and guitars blared behind them. At first, I couldn't decipher the noise. Despite the fact that I had no idea what they were saying, I was mesmerized by the cacophony of sound surging from the stage. If you've ever eaten a hallucinogenic mushroom, you may have experienced that scary moment when words around you seem to change and mutate into another language -- this is what I experienced. For a moment, I forgot what language I spoke, and I feared that if I attempted an utterance, I would embarrass myself among these speakers of another language.
I snapped out of my reverie as I began to recognize the random syllables for the words they were...Ted was repeating the word "asses" over and over, but he was pronouncing it "AAAAHHHSSSSSSESSSS." Molly was spouting a one-sided conversation, speculating as to why Ted insisted on repeating the word. Ah, SENSE! I could make sense of things, and finally, rather than being terrified by my own ignorance, I was intrigued, curious...where were they taking this? It didn't matter, really. I finally realized that they were talking over a conversation they had recorded, hence that sensation I had that there were more than two voices coming from the stage. Molly did sing (I would have liked to hear more; her voice was so fluid and lovely). There were few moments that the music behind the two stopped long enough for me to comprehend most of the words being spoken, leaving me exasperated and bewildered.
David loved it. Every time I looked his way I found him grinning broadly, eating up each word, swallowing each assaulting noise with alacrity. My friends also loved it. I felt confused, which is probably the main reason I can't tell you that I loved it as honestly as I can say that I found it interesting and hypnotic. Three long "songs," and Pruitt Igoe finished their first set ever.