>For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

>From Oct. 2006
Revised Jan. 2009

The Meaning of it All:
John Cusack has made it impossible for any guy to up the ante in the arena of wooing a woman. Cusack, whose quintessential character figure for love lorn teenage angst, Lloyd Dobler, who he made famous in “Say Anything” and who every guy that comes in contact with every 20 to 30 year old straight woman is measured upon, states in “High Fidelity”, when discussing the process of a mixed tape hit it on the head;
“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. That is why the making of a great tape has to take considerable thought, precision, and one should allocate precious time in deciding exactly what song to choose and where it should go.”
Making a tape for our own personal enjoyment aside, creating a mixed tape is a risk. It is not as big of a risk like Russian roulette, playing chicken at the top of a cliff or even climbing Mt. Everest but in certain situations and on occasion it can definitely feel like, if its not legendary, the barrel of a gun is pulling back its Lay-Z-boy and making itself at home while permanently making an ass print on the side of your temple.
If anyone has been living under a rock the past number of years or has never before attempted to mix a tape and you are asking yourself, what the fuck would make one feel this way? It is simple, to make the person they like like them back without saying the actual words I like you. Its the teenage, young adult and quite often the adult equivalent of a boy pulling a girls pig-tails or making a boy chase a girl around the playground. Its basically flirting for the musically inclined, the introverted loner or even the extroverted wild-child.
Look, not to say that Im a true expert in the art of mix tapes or anything, a tape-mixatologist if you will; but I would hope that I have some kind of authority because if I can remember back correctly I may have concocted a mix tape for almost every single girl that I had a crush on or wanted to date. I cannot remember the exact number because it was a shit load. Want to know how I made out? Well here are my essentials as of today: I am a 29 year old, single white male living alone in a one-bedroom condo the size of a small sardine can and I spent the better part of the entire weekend writing to you fine people. How bout them apples?
Damn you Lloyd Dobler!

The Disclaimer:
Realizing that it is the year 2009 and that the majority of the teenage population in America possibly has yet to ever hear the word Tape let alone see one; I want to assure them that I am using that word in a more general context. Do not fret younglings, I will distinguish between a mix tape and CD soon enough.
At the risk of bombarding you all with, what I deem my top secret recipe and I-can-tell-you-but-then-I-would-have-to-kill-you formula, I have finally come to the realization that perhaps if I finally divulge then maybe, just maybe the one person out in the void who actually is reading this will be successful where I have been confidently mediocre.

The How To: The Format, What Type Are You?
Well boys and girls, let us now begin the exciting journey of how to mix a tape. There are numerous components that you have to consider even before choosing a list of songs:
The Tape Guy:
As we all know by now, CDs, digital music and their technological advances have flooded our society and popular culture. Yet, I have to believe that there is that Uncle Rico clone somewhere out there in the great wide open, living vicariously through the glory years of 1980’s high school and heavy metal hair bands with their long protruding locks and enough spandex to suffocate King Kong, yet who is still rocking out to Dolby cassette tapes. This one is for you Uncle Rico, for those about to rock (We salute you)
With mixing a tape, because there is no skip to next song button, one has to be cautious not to over populate one side and have a song cut in half. I dealt with this problem the same way I dealt with the broken gas gauge of my used 91 ford escort; I guessed. When the needle was nearly ½ or ¾ empty I just filled it up again neverminding what was left. Therefore, if you are left with space full of annoying and awkward silence right before the end of Side A and/or Side B then so be it. It is better to have the entire song then being left wondering and half satisfied. Am I correct ladies, no woman wants that!
The CD/IPOD Guy:
A CD can be either seemingly simple or treacherously hard. Simple, for the primary fact that the new and improved Extreme Makeover: Uncle Rico edition does not have to suffer through another painstaking and embarrassing guessing game of being left wondering whether the unlucky soul recipient of his tape was satisfied or is now sitting shotgun in Jake Ryans Porsche.
For that reason, the art of burning a CD is so much easier because the maker finally knows how much space there is and how many songs would be able to be on one compilation. Yet the treacherously hard part comes into play when, in the process of downloadable burning, you lose everything you so diligently worked all of 24, 48, 60 or 72 hours straight for, only to have stopped for bathroom breaks, coffee breaks and intravenous shots of Redbull, because the reliable and unbreakable PC and/or laptop that youve had since college spontaneously decided to take a shit. Dont you hate when that happens?

The How To: Songs and Who to Make Them For…Decisions Decisions!
Now that we have gotten the nitty gritty aspect of mixing tapes out of the way, I can focus on the more enjoyable choosing of songs. Wait, did I say enjoyable? Forgive me; this is when the barrel of that gun that is waiting ever so patiently, protruding on the side of your temple would come in handy. The process and decision making of song choosing is an art all to itself. It is like what the knight at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade said when Indiana and Donovan, the bad guy, were trying to decipher what the Holy Grail looked like; You must choose, but choose wisely. For as the true Grail will bring you life- the false Grail will take it from you. That is why this process is risky business; a truly great compilation of songs can bring you a potential relationship a failed one can potentially take a relationship from you. Or so I assume. But really what do I know? I had made a countless number of mixes and yet nothing came of them. I can only imagine that all of my mix tapes that I had made for my middle school and high school crushes are collecting dust and/or are being used to prop up a table with one leg shorter than the others. This leads me to the question of which songs and how to decipher between audiences?

The How To: The Mixes
Once again, I refer to John Cusack’s statement in High Fidelity, You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. My formula for any tape that I have compiled has been quite similar in the way Cusack describes: Lead off with a killer, heart-pounding track, push it into second, third and fourth gear with similar sweet tracks, then pull back leaving the listener time to recoup and cool down with great low-key tracks. The next couple of examples I feel represent the only reasons for truly making a mix tape (excluding our own enjoyment and family member birthdays):
The Crush Mix:
Heed these words for life boys and girls: “You think you know, but you have no idea.” Look, we all can attest to having our musical preferences, whether it is: alternative, the blues, country, Emo, heavy metal, hip-hop, R&B and the like. We love music-I would not be writing this if I didnt and obviously you, my lone reader, would not be reading this-but the fact of the matter is, if you want to be freed from Duckie-ville and have your crush finally acknowledge that you exist then pander to his or her musical choices however popish, gothic, electronic, metallic it may be. Secondly, being that this tape is for your crush, you want to be as subtle with your chosen songs as one can. The entire purpose of this tape is to show, through songs, how obsessed you are for your crush without blatantly and overtly demonstrating your Duckie-type behavior. Thus, there should be no problem if your subliminal love songs are woven throughout regular killer tunes.
*Crush Mix Disclaimer: If you only take one thing from all that I have taught you today, let it be this: Never, when making a tape, fill up the entire Side A and B with only one song. I learned the hard way, when in 1992 my mother requested that I make her a complete tape of her favorite song-notice that is not plural- at the time, Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You. To this day, I still cannot listen to Whitney Houston. I was, am and will always be traumatized.
The Significant Other Mix
Let me dispel any quandaries that you may have. Yes, this tape is for the girlfriend or boyfriend, yes I do realize that my relationship track record after having given a barrage of mixed tapes is not so impressive (0 for I lost count). And yes, I know that I should be a member of the Official Duckie Fan Club. Yet, what I can do is acknowledge the fact that, in the eyes of the women I so dearly wanted to date and be boyfriend material too; my tapes were only seamlessly mediocre so you can keep your significant other while I can keep my record intact. Being that I am single but yet have had the opportunity to make a tape for an ex-girlfriend of mine, I am happy to report that she enjoyed it,… well at the time that we were going out she did. I can only imagine, at the present time, the tape that I gave to her has taken its proper place, propped underneath a slightly shorter coffee table leg.
Making a tape for someone that you are already involved with, once again seems so simple yet treacherously hard. Simple, for the primary fact that the one making the tape would not have to worry about being subtle with their subliminal love songs, just as long as the songs that he or she chooses send a clear message about the state of their relationship. The songs Ugly Kid Joe’s Everything About You, Nazareth’s Love Hurts, R.E.M’s Everybody Hurts or even Johnny Cash’s Hurt would probably not sit well with your significant other, unless the message that you wanted to portray was of disdain and contentment ultimately leading to a break up. Yet, the treacherously hard part comes into play, for example, when I am reminded of a scene in an episode of FRIENDS where Chandler and Monica, while planning their makeshift gifts for Valentines Day, are both mentally stuck in neutral of what to give. In a panic, Chandler seeing a mix tape presents Monica with it. With Chandler seemingly in the clear- -having Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight playing in the background- -a sudden blow to his ego knocks him on his ass as the voice of Chandler’s ex, Janice, screams in her irritating and annoying high-pitched voice from the stereo “Happy Valentines Day my Bing A Ling, I love you Chandler Bing.” Do not let this happen to you or you are sure to be one of those unlucky, failed relationships.
What Lloyd Dobler has taught us is to never stop looking for that dare to be great situation. True, I had my pitfalls, my trials and my tribulations going through this mix tape process, all along believing that maybe just maybe one girl would have accepted my tape and view me in a different light, both daring and great. That, I thought, would be my situation. Yet, the fact of the matter is, that is not it at all…it never really was. I have come to the realization, that with as much time and effort that I put in to those mix tapes for other people, I found the process equally if not more rewarding for myself. Needless to say, inasmuch as those relationships were concerned…well there were none, but all in all I sure learned how to make killer mix tapes.
Thank you Lloyd Dobler!

>Starbucks: Still Progressing Culture One CD and One Cup At A Time

>From 2005:

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee: Short, tall, lite, dark, caf, decaf…lowfat, non-fat, et cetera. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self. Tall…Decaf…Cappuccino!”
—- Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail

Feeling like a life-sized prune from the constant and seemingly torrential down pouring of rain that has ferociously graced the Emerald City, I enter my local Ballard Starbucks, all of which is no bigger than my 500-square-foot studio condo with the Rolling Stones rocking out in the background, conversations galore flowing back and forth and with enough stampeding action through the doorway to make even people-watching seem like a fulltime job, I keep pondering to myself how this miniature cubicle of a Starbucks can constantly succeed, pack the crowds and gain even more speed-racer momentum on the much smaller coffeehouse competition? I have found that combined with their stranglehold on the coffee industry and in true Starbucks fashion, which mind you could be deemed ‘go big or not at all,’ has been their entrance and more precisely their impact within the music industry. Like many in the entertainment and sport business who decide to accomplish two professions at once, Starbucks has become another fixture in the ‘two sport profession.’
For that reason, it may be possible, when devoted coffee drinkers of the Seattle-based coffee connoisseur order their usual combinations; they may as well soon hear “Would you like Alanis Morissette, Coldplay, Ray Charles or the Rolling Stones with your double tall venti peppermint latte?” Starbucks, who have proudly made drinking coffee much more complicated for the entire world with their hundreds of arrangements of sizes, blends and syrups, finally have made the lives of the indecisive much more difficult. The coffeehouse behemoth, who started out selling one cup of coffee at a time back in the early 1980’s have now, twenty three years later, begun to sell one CD at a time. In many ways, one could say that the largest coffee company in the world has drifted more and more into the media age and that according to an article from Mediabistro.com, “Is rapidly becoming a media company that just happens to sell beverages.” On the other hand, according to Michelangelo Matos of the Seattle Weekly, “Its perfectly logical that Starbucks is the biggest comer in music retail…For one thing, there are more of them than there are most music chains.”
Now, that does not suggest that we will be seeing the Starbucks mermaid in any scantily clad bustier and g-string outfit, grinding on the leg of what would be deemed a perfect specimen of a man, in her own music video on MTV or TRL anytime soon, but the sounds of ka-ching have already been heard resonating in the ears of much of the popularized world for a number of years now. With the foundation of their own independent CD label, Hear Music, Starbucks is the first to have developed a way to combine both coffee and music without the use of live instruments that was ever so prominent back in the late 1950’s and ‘60’s, especially since the beginning of a tall, grande and venti size which practically has made ordering only black or cream nearly obsolete. Coffee music (or coffee AND music) has indisputably become a 21st century phenomenon. As a result, the coffee goliath has attained the ability to figure out a way for customers, myself included, to proudly, excitedly and more importantly, impulsively not only sip on their $3.00 hot chocolate but at the same time be able to burn and buy an entire CD from their numerous media bars, where one can download an eclectic collection of digital Mp3 songs of their choosing all in one fluid motion with their rapid borage of musical merchandise. Mr. Matos similarly reacted, “And when the rest of Starbucks’ customers wanted to know who sang the song that was playing while the barista prepared their vanilla lattes, the clerk only had to point to the CDs standing in front of the register. Point-of-sale impact: immediate…By catering exclusively to impulse shoppers, Starbucks created the most successful cross-marking venture to hit the music business since MTV.” In the immortal words of the men in those Guinness commercials, “Brilliant!”
Starbucks has not only become an icon in business but within the realm of popular culture a force in the music industry as well. Therefore, together with the 9,500 or so stores worldwide ranging from: North Pole, Alaska, a small town where it is literally Christmas 365 days a year to Moscow, Russia; and with forty-five coffeehouses with media bars in Seattle and Austin, Texas; it seems only fitting that Starbucks, with its metaphorical fangs already dug deep in the meaty coffee industry, expand into music. With their record label prominently expanding, specializing in various compilations, and mixes compiled by numerous artists like; Coldplay, Dave Mathews Band, The Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow, and Ray Charles; artists who keep churning out multiple five figure albums, Hear Music has ample prosperity. Plus, if the results from this past Grammy Award show is any indication, with Ray Charles’ final album, Genius Loves Company, sweeping all categories, I can only imagine what their next move, not only in music, but all media will be.
As someone who confesses to not like the taste of coffee (hence the hot chocolate references) but who can confidently admit to truly being an addict of, in the words of Starbucksgossip.com, “America’s favorite drug dealer”, and is all but one more relapse in introducing myself at a twelve-step meeting for anonymous Starbucks devotees; it is still quite surprising that the colossal franchise can still provide its customers with a sense of community and a small town feel. While I have shown much love and announced my own addiction to the mermaid label, I have no intention to scale Howard Shultz’s home anytime soon. My admiration stems from, not only the scrumptious concoction of my usual peppermint hot chocolate, but also the atmosphere and ambiance of what Starbucks brings to drinking coffee. While many stores may seem crowded with: people, with merchandise galore in lieu of standing room and almost no seating unless, either you come at the break of dawn or you bring your own lawn chairs; conversely, how I view the coffee king of Seattle is as the Central Perk of the real world. I understand that many may not share in my viewpoint, but what I have come to realize in being a regular customer is that, while numerous people are minding their own business, hovering over and rocking out to the silent humming of their laptops – like myself at the moment – and even if a number of their coffeehouses could be confused as another Sam Goody, the type of environment that they offer, once again, provides customers with a feeling of community and relaxation. As Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks, so eloquently stated in his book, Pour Your Heart Into It, “We try to create, in our stores, an oasis, a little neighborhood spot where you can take a break, listen to jazz, and ponder universal or personal or ever whimsical questions over a cup of coffee.” In that sense, one could view a Starbucks as their home away from home, be able to take a break and converse with friends, family and or co-workers. Talking about life, love and the pursuit of happiness; and along with employees that know the names of the regulars that peruse the delicatessen counter with the soothing sounds of smooth jazz, classical and modern rock in the background, they have become the place where everyone knows your name, the Cheers of the 21st century.
With that said, I doubt that it will be possible for one to see live soap-box speeches, literary debates, poetic auteurs or Bob Dylan or Joan Baez singing acoustically without a WI-FI connection but with the progression that Starbucks has made I would say nothing is impossible. Even with its: progressive powerhouse mentality, their own record label and radio station on XM Satellite, media and downloading bars in more coffeehouses than there are music chains; the impact Starbucks has left digitally, musically and more importantly, culturally still resonates as they dispense considerate, complex and progressive culture one CD and one cup of coffee at a time.

>Pin-Ups, Tattoos and Rock N’ Roll: The Suicide Girls and "The Most Dangerous Burlesque Show Invades Seattle

>Boheme Verite Magazine
Seattle Editor
From Nov. 2006

“Tattoos are f***in’ Ubiquitous, like you have to have one even before you come here (to Seattle).” A bartender with tattoo-adorned arms, told me as I sat looking seamlessly adoringly at his intertwined artwork. This was made even more obvious to me later in the evening as I stood waiting patiently outside Nuemos on the 18th of September as the infamous Suicide Girls brought their “Most Dangerous Burlesque Show in the World” to the Emerald City. With a line outside already forming around the block of the darkened, nearly bare looking bar and concert venue, I could not help but wonder what was in store.

What makes the Suicide Girls unique, beyond their obvious beauty and burlesque show, is the fact that, according to Missy Suicide, the creator and founder who started photographing, back in 2001 as an art project, the girls that she knew whom were part of the tattooed, punk rock, pierced and Goth community, “My photography wouldn’t feature the impossibly perfect bodies of the blonde bombshells of soap operas and the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. If I was going to present images of female beauty, it would be my personal vision of femininity. These girls, I thought, could be the next Pin-Up girls.”
Already feeling awkward about going to see the show by myself and standing in line surrounded by couples and their friends, my anxiety quickly subsided as the line began to move and we all filed into the venue. Having never been to Neumos before I quickly got my drink and, like Farmer Ted and his cronies in Sixteen Candles, I leaned back against a wall and watched as others began to make their way into the bar and onto the concert floor eagerly awaiting the arrival of these scantly clad tattooed beauties. An hour after the doors had opened action ensued as Rocket, an all-girl glam/pop-punk band from Los Angeles, whose members ironically all have the same “Rocket” surname just like the “Suicide” Girls, began to entice the crowd; which had already filled up with, to my surprise, a different variety of people but with one common interest… topless tattooed women. Yes, I must say watching beautiful women dance around topless is always fun, but as the Suicide Girls made their way onto the stage, and with only enough room for my eyes to peek through the sardine can-filled crowd, the most attractive part of the show for me was trying desperately to catch a glimpse of the tattoos that each girl was sporting and admiring their personal permanent artwork. That is what makes these girls standout; their tattoos I feel are what makes them even more attractive. Amina Munster, a Suicide Girl and tattooed model, who recently was featured in Savage, a tattoo magazine, I believe stated it perfectly, “I always thought that tattoos on female skin only enhanced their beauty.” I am beginning to feel the same way.

That is what drew me to Missy Suicide’s photographs and ultimately why I was interested in seeing the show. The artistic way that she and the other photographers present the girls and their tattoo-adorned bodies in such a seamless Pin-Up style way, and within their own varied personalities , in many ways takes a back seat to the fact that they are nude and presents them in a way that displays each girl’s own individuality. Having tattoos myself, I have found that my mindset has changed in a way with regards to how I view female beauty. They have demonstrated that girls of any size, stature and lifestyle can rock out with their tattoos out and still look beautiful.

(Published in Boheme Verite Magazine Issue 6; Nov., 2006)

>My Music is My Life and My Life is My Music

>From 2008:

Just recently, as I was reading Rob Sheffield’s memoir, Love is a Mix Tape, which is about his relationship with his late wife all told through the making of a cornucopia of mix tapes they had made each other, it got me to think about how music has influenced my life. If it weren’t for music as a constant, I don’t know what would have gotten me through each and every day.

I remember my younger years having been rambunctious, talkative, and always curious, while at the same time enjoying the confines of my four-walled bedroom and taking pleasure out of listening to my music blasting out of my headphones and stereo. I was in love with my music, I still am. In many ways, the same way one recalls a vivid dream, my dream-states consisted of, reminiscent of Mitch Kramer at the end of Dazed and Confused, covering my ears with my headphones and feeling as if I was living vicariously through the words and beats of the lead singer and his band mates. All of which had intoxicatingly seeped into my subconscious. Now, older and wiser in my late 20’s, indicative of the author’s single years, I am still enjoying the music of both my youth and today. Having the music saturate my life and know that at any point I could escape, not only in my dreams, but also from the realities of life, I could not be happier.

Music, like with any other artistic medium, can extract feelings and emotions. As the author admitted in his book, “ In my headphones I led a life of romance and incident and intrigue, none of which had anything to do with the world outside my Walkman.” I too lived a life of incident and intrigue all within the confines of my headphones. With each song that I wrapped myself around, similar to a book lover’s imagination I was able to: live alongside Guns N Roses in their concrete jungle and experience Motley Crue’s wild side, I was able to love Blondie’s gentle heart of glass and Def Leopard’s wild Hysteria, I would cry for Pearl Jam’s Jeremy while singing Hallelujah with Jeff Buckley, and die alongside Metallica as they faded to black beneath Sonic Youth’s Diamond Sea either one beat at a time or all at once.

In the vein of his own admiration for this medium, for example, Sheffield recalls a moment with his father, in the spring of 1979, while having had listened to the Beatles record “Hey Jude” the two of them wondered whether it was possible to loop that one song onto both sides of an entire cassette. After a few hours of trial and error he explains, “We had a ninety-minute tape of ‘na na nas’, along with many ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ and a few ‘Judy Judy Judy wows.’ We listened to the playback, and I could not believe what we had accomplished.” Then again he goes on to say, “I listen to Hey Jude now, and I never want to hear this song again.”
I cannot remember a time whether my father and I had a similar experience but I do recall a circumstance with my mother that was very comparable, back in 1992, when I was thirteen. The movie, The Bodyguard, had just come out and my mother was fascinated by the theme song, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. She had asked me if I could make a tape of just that one song. Seeing as how I enjoyed the song at the time and did not wish Whitney Houston any ill will, I obliged. After compiling the entire tape exclusively of just that one song, like Sheffield, fifteen years later, I still cringe every-time I hear it or any other Whitney Houston song for that matter. Despite the fact that both Sheffield and I could happily live out the rest of our days without hearing “Hey Jude” or Whitney Houston ever again, these two moments in time speak less about the mix tapes that were made and more about what was shared between the author and his father and me and my mother. They are moments we remember.

Accordingly, my own admiration for music has resulted in the creation of many of my own mix tapes throughout the years, tapes that delved out lives and escapades that I had always yearned to live but was too timid to experience. Similar to Patrick Fugit’s character in Almost Famous, I was experiencing life one band at a time and loving every single minute of it. I didn’t mind that there was life outside my headphones, yet alone outside my very own four-walled atmosphere because for moments, the mix tapes and the music that inspired them were my life, my reality. I felt good about the life that I was living and the escapades that I was imagining. With each beat and lyric I felt I could relate with what I was hearing, they were songs for life… for my life.

>Plus One is the Loneliest Number

>By Jeremy Tolbert
Seattle Editor
Boheme Verite Magazine
From Feb. 2007

Let me preface by saying that I make no qualms for having an introverted personality. This is just who I am, and I am ok with it. I’ve known it, my family knows it and my friends, god-bless them, are not bothered by it. Therefore, when I went to support a friend and fellow artist who was exhibiting her art work at the Columbia City Theater in Seattle, I had no fear attending my first art show alone. Yet, after observing the scene, I quickly came to realize that there are certain events that, in the immortal words of Carrie Bradshaw, require a so-called plus one… and an art show opening is definitely one of them.

Having popped my art show cherry this one evening, I can only relay what my first experience was. With an array of anticipation flooding over me when I came through the theatre doors, I was not really sure what to expect beyond what I had seen in the movies. The Columbia City Theatre venue, where Jimi Hendrix used to frequently play in the 1960’s, along with its occupants, was both bohemian and upper-class in style. One side of the room, there were those who looked like they had just come from a week long climb in the Andes with dreadlocks, North Face jackets and backpacks; on the other side, there were couples sipping alcoholic beverages in Chinchilla fur coats. The walls were lined with works done by other local artists and it wasn’t until I squeezed my way into the bar, that I finally saw my friend and her art.

Cynthia, who has stenciled only six months, creates stenciled pieces ranging from her take on well known works of art to famous faces, to personal photographs. This night her work displayed images of Jimi Hendrix, Al Capone, Tupac Shakur and several other pieces of her and her friends.

The evening was not only a momentous one for the artists that were exhibiting; it was also significant for me. Having ventured out to music concerts, museums, restaurants and outdoor events many times all alone, none of those had heightened my anticipated anxiety quite like this. Not only, in my opinion, does an art show opening require a plus one but it truly tested my shyness. Thus, while others drowned themselves in beer, wine and mixed drinks with friends, I decided to embark on my own and drown myself in the different assortment of art work that was presented.

Gliding sideways in-between one body after another, I scanned all the art as to appear fluent in conversational skill. Beginning in the bar, I did my best to get up-close to Cynthia’s variety of work. Continuing on while trying not to bother each person’s place at the bar, I slowly inched my way through the sea of bodies into the wide open space of the theatre where the display continued.

After over an hour and a half of acting as an art connoisseur analyzing fluid motion and artistic meanings, my anticipated anxiety turned tiresome. And with no one to talk with, I found Cynthia, congratulated her and left.

Having had experienced my first art show opening with anticipation and nerves, I was comforted by the fact I supported a well deserving friend. Even if, on this particular night, a plus one may have been the loneliest number… it turns out, in the end, it wasn’t half bad.

(Published in Boheme Verite Magazine Feb. 2007)

>OKOK Gallery: Popular Seattle Neighborhood It’s Doing Better than OK

>From Jan 2007:

Whether driving or walking through Ballard, the Scandinavian neighborhood on the Northwest corner of Seattle in which I live, I still crack a grin when thinking, beyond its neighborly normalcy which include for example: a packed Denny’s on a Sunday morning, a Safeway grocery store that at anytime could insight a riot with the amount of people that walk in and out, and a Starbucks so small and congested that it could be confused with a bedroom filled to the brim with clothes where the only way in or out is a landing strip of carpet; that perhaps this small area, with its constant flow of visitors and unique store fronts, boutiques and art galleries could be considered a possible modernizer within the art community.
Therefore, having had come across an advertisement in Juxtapoz, a nationally known art and culture magazine, of a local art gallery called OKOK I knew I had to make it my mission to go check it out seeing as how I am always fascinated when anything locally is presented nationally plus I knew that anything new in my neighborhood would be a sight to see.
OKOK Gallery is the brainchild of Charlie Kitchings and his wife, Amanda both 26. The couple who were owners of a revolutionary toy store of the same name in Capitol Hill, another Seattle locale, decided last June to expand their developing toy and retail empire into a gallery and move to my own expanding Ballard bohemian district.

My first thought as I came upon the gallery was that if I blink I might just miss it. Unlike many of the other galleries in Ballard and the surrounding Seattle metropolitan area, OKOK Gallery, even though situated squarely at the corner near the end of Ballard Avenue in a renovated auto body garage seamlessly huddling away from the rest of the other boutiques and stores like a high school outcast, does not stand out until you enter it.
Once I made my way through the open garage door, I felt as if I had been transported to an art gallery that would be more appropriate in New York City, rather than my small neighborhood. With its spacious half store half gallery presentation which provides generous roaming room both in front and in back with its three-walled white box gallery which I thought could rarely be possible for an auto body garage; yet they ultimately have made it work.
I then continue meandering around viewing the walls on both sides which displays rows of Kitching’s unique toys – if you could call them toys – that includes a Lego boxed set of all four members of the Sex Pistols, three-dimensional loony form action figures by Jim Woodring and Jeremy Fish ostensibly yearning to be bought. Along with a near life-size figure of a black teddy bear, by an artist solely named Kubrick, with a skull and crossbones on its stomach with the phrase “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die”. Beyond the abundant amount of collectable toys and figurines, OKOK also sells tee-shirts with artistic prints, distinctive house wares, stationary and a variety of urban art books discussing the works of a cornucopia of artists which includes the likes of Andy Warhol, Jeremy Fish, Stephen Short, and the Japanese pop art revisionist, Yoshitomoto Nara, just to name a few.

Currently featured inside OKOK’s white box this month is paintings by Seattle artist Tra Selhtrow (aka Grant Barnhart). According to the gallery’s website, Selhtrow’s “Sincere Intentions” exhibition, draws out art where “Each work features a central animal protagonist surrounded by graphite rendering of fleeting thoughts, memories and text, collectively becoming a sort of botched mythology, or Darwinian nightmare.”

In as much as I would like to think that Ballard has reached the top artistic tier for a real gallery like many other major cities, the truth is that this up and coming Seattle neighborhood is a hard place because not many in the art crowd consistently visit beyond the occasional opening. However, as an intermediate art connoisseur who loves experiencing and learning about art and understanding the different facets and mediums art has to offer, both Selhtrow’s work and OKOK elicits quite the presentation.
As a result, I believe OKOK Gallery will succeed where its neighborly predecessors have tried and failed. This gallery is definitely a sight to see.

Tra Selhtrow’s “Sincere Intentions” (www.traselhtrow.com) 5107 Ballard Avenue NW, Seattle, WA 98107 (www.weareokok.com) Hours: Tuesdays – Thursdays noon to 7 pm; Fridays – Saturdays noon – 8pm; Sundays, 11am – 5pm.