Jazz, fast and punchy, plays from my stereo. Mood music for the night. It’s from the community AM station, so it sounds like it’s tuned in from Borneo through a tin can, but I listen anyway. Hi-fidelity is for when I’m listening to my private music collection or I’m at a show, not for when I listen to the radio, and hardly anyone listens to the radio anymore. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone else.
But the jazz is on and I’m going out tonight. Also, I know the DJ who is playing this righteous music. I count him amongst my closest friends. It’s the man, the legend, the phenomena that is the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs. During the course of his show, although he’s made no mention of our plans for the night, he’s dedicated songs to those of us he expects to see; Rio and Kisshandra. He hasn’t gotten to me. Not yet. I don’t take this as an insult. Jazz-Cat Hobbs gives his shout-outs to the ladies first. That’s just how it is.
I actually catch myself thinking of Kisshandra, more than Hobbs, as I’m getting ready. She’s the reason I know everyone. Back when I first moved here, I was wanting to do the whole reset; new place, new life, new everything. I’d grown my curly blond hair to that perfect length before it became an unruly mess and got back in habit of wearing my glasses again, because I always felt fake with contacts.
There was the matter of the African show. Thinking back, that’s how it all really started. When moving, I had been listening to my daddy’s copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland almost non-stop. I remember something in the liner notes about the producer working with a group called Juluka and thanking an artist named Johnny Clegg. I got curious. Where I came from, there wasn’t a lot of acceptance of music from other parts of the world, let alone access to it. But I came from a small town in the rural south nobody would ever hear of unless there was a murder there that somehow earned national attention.
So, I got into Johnny Clegg and Juluka by way of an old Paul Simon record. The African stuff sure was cool, but there was so much more I discovered during trips to late-night record shops, stuff from Israel to Cuba, from Hungary to Indonesia, and just about anywhere else between. I found this to be a great layer on top of the classical and gospel training I’d received growing up against, which I’d rebelled with the raunchiest of blues and blackest of metal.
It was through one of my trips to the late-night record shops I found out about the African show and decided to check it out. The audience was an interesting mix; curios, like me, those who were either out for some cultural slumming or wanted to be another type of person than what they already were, native supporters, and those who just sincerely liked what was being played. It was my goal to one day be more like the last bit of demographic.
I was getting a beer when I met Kisshandra. Her mother was daughter of someone important in some African country nobody would ever hear of unless the Big Man was savagely murdered in a bloody coup or the genocide stories were ever proven to be more than myth, and her father was Sherpa who could walk up the grand Himalayan peaks backward while blindfolded and carrying a couple hundred pounds of gear. Somehow, out of this union, Kisshandra had spent some formative years in England, giving her the kind of clipped and clean accent of which Americans imagine being spoken in Buckingham Palace. There was also the fact she was covered almost completely with rather intricate and expensive tattoos, giving one the impression of worldly punk rock.
And really, what could’ve been more punk rock than being at an African show drinking beer with a blond-haired, blue-eyed southern boy? Instantly, I was in love. Well, probably just lust. In the heat of the moment it’s hard to tell and even harder to figure if it really matters.
Instantly, we got along. Clicked, on some primal level. Perhaps having the commonality of obscure places in our backgrounds at some point made us kindred spirits. Maybe it was luck. It’s only rarely we try to find a reason and then decide to forget about it until the next debate.
We did try to be a couple at one point, but that wasn’t us. It would play out we were incredibly close friends, who would just happen to fuck once or twice year. Given I find myself thinking of the ink-work running along Kisshandra’s perfectly sculpted stomach and getting a little excited in other-than-platonic-ways tells me we’re getting close to one of those times of year.
It was through her I met Rio, Kisshandra’s other on-again, off-again. Rio runs a housekeeping business and does my place for no money, but the price of advertising pictures to potential customers. It’s a fair deal, I think. I keep her, and a few of the others in free food, from my cook’s gig, and books, from my other gig at the used bookstore a block from my place.
And, of course, Kisshandra introduced me to the phenomena that is the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs. He would make fun of my southern twang, but I’d fuck with him from being from Toronto. Despite our own north/south dichotomy, we get along famously. I know he’s had a history with Kisshandra, but he’s never gone into much detail about it. My love and respect of both of them has prevented me from asking.
“Well, now, it’s Johnny Hobbs, the Jazz-Cat, getting ready to sign off” his voice tells me what time it is. I begin to roll a cigarette. “This last song goes out to my Stormy boy! Joshua Storm! I know you’re listening before you go out on the town! And for a cool, hep-cat, I want to give you something really cool…”
Miles Davis. Off of Birth of the Cool, no less. I light my hand-rolled and, after the first drag, toast the empty air between myself and the radio, thinking how Hobbs certainly knows what I like. I’m smiling as I finish getting ready. Life is good. We’re going out tonight.