Illadelph Basslife: Keytars, Karma and Fancy Trash Cans
by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh
I was in Philly for a few hours yesterday. My train got in around 9:15AM and I had to hightail it (yeah I said that.) over to the University of the Arts for orientation. It was predictably boring. I don’t do well in settings like that because my mind wanders all over the place. I either have to record it and listen to it later or just hope I didn’t miss anything important. I chose the latter. I did hear a few things that gave me pause but in the interest of learning not to be too personal, I’m not going to talk about it.
After orientation, I had about 2 hours until my bus left. No one seemed to be around so I had to find ways to entertain myself. I called Tarana and she was busy with budgets or something but told me that one of my favorite vegan restaurants was not far from where I was. She specifically said, “Ask someone how to get to South Street, it’s not far.” All I heard was, “It’s not far.” So when I got off the elevator and headed outside on Broad Street, I made a left. Why the hell not. I was going to run into South Street sooner or later, right? Wrong. I’m not sure where I was headed but I never did hit South Street and it was too hot to be running these unpredictable Philly streets. I decided I was just going to locate a Starbucks, a vanilla bean frap and some free wi-fi. I’m not sure what Narnia section of Philly I was in but I didn’t hit a Starbucks for another 5 blocks. At this point, my decision to forgo shaving my legs in favor of just wearing jeans, became the dumbest idea I ever had. And trust me, I’m full of dumb ideas. I was pretty sure I was going to have heat stroke before I found some place, any place to put down my bag and just sit for a minute.
Philly makes me nervous. Jumpy. It’s that place in your nightmares where all your medium fears go. Not the big, monster, murder, mayhem fears. Not your little bugs and spiders and worms fears. No. Your medium ones. The ones that leave your heart racing but make no real sense to anyone else. How do you explain that every time you see a shiny black car, regardless of make or model, your heart stops. Or when you’re rounding a corner, for a split second your heart catches you in your throat and you forget how to breathe. Philly is that for me. All kinds of ridiculous little things that add up to medium things that catch you dizzy and breathless.
I’m not sure how to fix that. I’ve never had any of this last quite this long. I’m the forget you before the door closes kind. The weeks later, don’t remember what I ever saw kind. I am not this months of this and hours of that kind. I don’t recognize her. I don’t like her too much. She takes up too much space in my brain.
Walking fast and furiously in the wrong direction, I started seeing people with Starbucks cups coming at me. There must be one near by. Soon enough, the next block, the far corner sat a Starbucks. I have never been happier in my life to see anything. The place was empty save the boy in the corner frantically flipping through a textbook. He had that, “must cram for this exam” look I recognized but don’t miss from college. I walked in and asked if there were any outlets. My phone was dying. The girl behind the corner pointed me towards the rows of chairs facing the window. “Only on that wall”, she said. Great. The very last thing I needed or wanted was to face the window. I didn’t need to watch for cars or people rounding the corner. I didn’t want to see anything I didn’t need to see. My brain tends to get ahead of itself and if I were to tell you what it was thinking. The images it had conjured up. The narrative it was currently writing, you would wonder where I come up with stuff.
Blame my broken brain and overactive imagination.
The stools facing the window was all I had. I was a nervous wreck. I plugged my phone in and opened my laptop prepared to do work to avoid staring out the window, writing and rewriting this story in my head. There was no wi-fi so no Google docs. My heart wasn’t in writing anything new. I should have brought a book that was about something other than how to write a book proposal. I was stuck and still had over 90 minutes to kill. I decided to break my Twitter moratorium just so I would have something else to focus on.
That’s when he entered. This man, around the same age as my father. I hadn’t noticed him when I first entered but now I’m not sure how i could have missed him. He had a set up at the far corner of the store. Laptop, headphones… keytar. Yes. Keytar. That 80s ode to bad hair bands and a video staple. He picked up his keytar, (I’m going to type this at least 5 more times because it is hilarious), strapped it around his neck, put on his headphones and started jamming! Because of how it was set up, I couldn’t hear anything. I just saw him rocking out with his sweet keytar without a care in the natural world. I looked around to see if anyone else was seeing this. No one seemed to be as engrossed in this man’s solo jam session as I was. Maybe this was par for the course. Maybe he was some Philly legend. Keytar Keyon. He just shows up at random locations and entertains himself. For the first time, since I got off the train, I could feel my shoulders relax. The tension in my neck melted onto the floor. My heart began to keep a worthwhile rhythm. And my breath returned. I was so transfixed by this man and his keytar and his not a care in the world, that I forgot my nerves and questions. I couldn’t hear what he was playing but in my head it was Part-time Lover by Stevie Wonder. And I allowed myself a smile. The first one since I left Boogie to make the train. I didn’t realize how tight and tense and worked up I was until I wasn’t anymore. I started thinking about how I let things bother me. All the weight I put on myself. All the worry. When really, there was a dude in the corner, rocking out with himself.
I want to say that the rest of the time I spent in the city was easy and breezy and I learned some great lesson from Keytar Keyon. And I did, momentarily, but the first shiny, black car that caught my eye, froze me again. I’m still working on this. I’m still trying to figure out why and how and when to just quit it. I’m giving myself the space to do this so that when it’s done, it’s done for good.
I left Keytar Keyon and his concert and headed to 30th Street session. I couldn’t afford to miss my bus so I wanted to be there an hour early. I hopped into the first cab that would have me and kept my eyes fixed on my phone and tweeting. Avoiding anything racing past the window as I sat in this cab. The driver was friendly. Asking me questions about where I was going and where I was coming from. I’m usually better at this polite chit chat but right then, I had to focus on Keytar Keyon and twitter and avoiding anything racing past the window. I needed no further reminders.
30th Street Station is busy as always. It’s another place I like to avoid but I had no choice this time. I sat as far from anything that would move me in any direction as I could. Put on my headphones so I wouldn’t hear announcements and made use of their free wifi. I tweeted and facebooked and chatted and distracted myself as best I could until it was safe to make it to the bus stop. I forgot the heat and the skinny jeans that were plastered against my leg. I needed out of the station and away from Philly ASAP. I packed up my things and threw everything into my Balenciaga knock off. My lovely, lovely bag. Went first to Cosi for a bottle of water. Then to Au Bon Pain for sandwich all to eat on the bus. I was focused on home now. Walked outside of the station onto 30th Street looking for the Megabus stop. I saw it across the street. Well, I saw a line of people who also fell in love with $5 tickets to DC and made my way towards them. I got in line behind a dude playing with his phone. It reminded me that I needed to call one of my brothers to pick me up at the train station. I put my bag down and reached for my phone.
It wasn’t there. Not in the phone compartment. Not in the zipper area. Not hidden in the bottom of the bag after all the laptop, magazines, books, make up were emptied out. My phone was gone. I couldn’t have left it with Keytar Keyon because I had it in the cab. I know this as fact. My heart sank. I asked the guy in front of me if he could call my phone, he did. It was ringing but I couldn’t hear or feel it. I left the line and asked the attendant if I had time to go look for my phone. He said, “yeah. Take your time.” I raced back into the station and made a beeline for where I was sitting. The phone was gone. I noticed a woman on her netbook in the same row and asked her, “Did you see a phone here?”. Before she could answer, I made a quick request to the universe, a reminder of all the phones I’ve returned from the back of cabs and in gym lockers. I’ve called and made arrangements and returned brand new phones that were mistakenly left behind. For once, I needed my good karma to kick in immediately. Usually, when I do something fucked up or not right, that karma is swift and quick. But the good karma seems to meander and take its time smelling roses or whatever the fuck but I could not would not leave Philly without my phone. And if Philly took my phone, well, the grudge would be back on. Philly and I would have beef.
“Yeah. My boyfriend took it to Amtrak Customer Care. You should be able to catch him.”
I thanked her a dozen times. Thanked her boyfriend. Thanked God. Thanked the universe. Thanked my psychiatrist. My hood…
My phone is my life. I headed to customer care to retrieve my phone. After a half assed game of trivia to determine it was, in fact, my phone. I raced back outside just in time to see the bus rounding the corner. I was so ready to leave. When I boarded the bus and sat down. I allowed myself a look outside Philly as it was racing by on my way out of the city.
Philly and its strange beards and solar powered fancy ass trash cans and wrong way on the right street and keytars and disorientation and feeling like this place is just one big anxiety attack waiting to happen. I’m jelly here. I’m newborn calf here.I’m suddenly worried that I won’t fit in here. That I won’t create home here. And if I don’t, where will I be. Suspended in some Brooklyn wish and DC reality? That’s not going to work. Brooklyn was brazen, bravery, bullheaded stubborn. It was also youth and no responsibilities and no Boogie boy with big eyes and a lot of questions. I was so much braver then with much less at stake. I need to relocate that fire and that “fuck you” I’m here now. I have less than a week to get it or inch closer to it.
I’ll be damned if I don’t get it by then. I”m starting to get on my own nerves.
PS. I will learn to have shorter entries.