Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
The newest installment of Martin Douglas' short fiction, Purging the Treasure Chest, series features anxiety, therapy, and more excessive cannabis intake inspired by songs from Blake Anthony and SassyBlack.
In the silence of the dark room lit by the treasure chest full of gold coins – overflowing, no matter how many handfuls and bagfuls of coins I take – Daryl sleeps while I shovel these tokens into a canvas tote bag. His sleep is fitful and restless; he’s pawing the air in a not-so-playful way like he’s having a bad dream. I feel bass thumping through the walls, but I can’t hear it. Same for the jangle of coins filling the bag. For a brief second, I wonder if I’m losing my hearing, but I decide not to worry about it until I get to the next room. Daryl stirs awake and joins my side with a tired, unhappy look on his face, like the only thing he wants to do from now on is sleep.
But he decides to join me in my next adventure anyway. I think he sleeps better when I’m around.
It’s 5:30pm and the stars are lighting the street. Rush hour beckons and the cars in the sky are at a standstill. (Or a floatstill, perhaps?) There’s no grounded evidence of a collision, so Daryl and I head into one of the few Black-owned cannabis stores in the area, my feline sidekick grouchy and depressed from pot withdrawals. The shop’s front door is wooden and heavy. It looks like it was pulled right off a castle by an 18-horse war carriage, so my tired limbs have to dig deeper for the strength to open it.
In the foyer, two entrances are separated by a doorperson behind a podium. On the left is the main store and the right leads to a much smaller shop with more experimental strains; one requires a password (which changes biweekly) and the other is free to browse for anyone over 21. (I assure the person working the door that Daryl is about my age in cat years.) We recite the password (for now, it is the word “onyx”) and they check my ID and let us in.
The majesty of the room stops me dead in my tracks. Pitch black walls alight with glowing stars: green, purple, red buds like someone cut down a forest and stuffed the dead trees in shiny mason jars. Daryl shifts in the harness I’m carrying him in; he looked around at the shop’s elaborate presentation for a second but now he’s just bored. Not even Gary Payton holding Michael Jordan to 23 points in Game 4 of the 1996 NBA Finals — playing on a screen taking up the entire half of the south wall — can cheer Daryl up, so we head to the counter where there is a woman with deep brown skin and dreadlocks so long they drag on the floor behind her like one of those expensive wedding veils.
We’re chatting about the game while she pulls down mason jar after mason jar; she’s preoccupied by the game and talking about it like it’s happening in real time. I decide not to tell her how the series ends.
Emerging from the back room, a sprawl of bearded face and tattooed limbs, neck, and probably his torso too, the shop owner daps me up and asks what’s wrong with Daryl today. I mention he hasn’t smoked in a while, leading the life of a lonely office cat for the past nine months. “Withdrawals,” he says with more than a hint of recognition, “And the sadness from when home doesn’t look like home anymore. Here’s a treat for both of you; it’s obviously on the house.” He hands each of us two hand-rolled blunts; the odor smacks me in the face as soon as they pass from his hand to mine.
Back at the counter, I pick the mason jar I want — Barney Kush, with buds as purple as its dinosaur namesake — and the budtender tells me how much it costs. Daryl tries to hand her a gold coin. “Sorry, kitty,” she says while petting him. “American legal tender only.” He purrs from her touch as I pull out my wallet, for some reason as thick as my balled fist when I take a swing at a traditional heavy bag, and hand her my money. She smiles, thanks me, and resumes watching the game as Shawn Kemp crams a dunk and lands on Dennis Rodman.
A supermarket basket swings by my side like a hard, plastic guillotine. The shelves are organized by color, and they have transfixed Daryl since he’s feeling a lot better — and spacier — since he extinguished one of his gifted treats in the glow of the treasure chest room. Purple to blue to green to brown to orange to red to pink to white. The only black-labeled packages hold poison inside. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m pretty high too; a light cloud floats around my upper body like I’m a skyscraper.
“Excuse me,” I hear in the not-too-far distance. A high voice gets a little louder, as if it’s trying to get my attention. “Excuse me!”
I’m in the beer aisle, trying to find something that’s not an IPA. There are so fucking many craft beers to choose from, but not one brand makes a blonde, Belgian, or summer ale. Not the pecan pie porter I’ve been looking for since Fremont Oktoberfest 2018. Not even a chocolate stout, even though it’s a little too warm for such a heavy beer. I settle for a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon; the Newcastle was sold out and this particular store doesn’t sell Budweiser, the beer of choice of my late father (which I would happily drink in a pinch).
“Excuse me, sir,” a voice calls from behind me. “Don’t you have any manners?” I’m stoned and perplexed and trying to be nice to a stranger because my maternal grandma taught me when I was young to be nice to strangers. She was born in 1931; politeness was a measure of caution back in those days. “There something I can help you with? I don’t work here, but I used to.”
“I asked you a question; don’t you have any manners?”
“I’d like to think my grandma taught me exceptional manners. She was a Southern lady.”
“Do you think your grandmother would be proud of you? Smelling like pot in the middle of a supermarket? Families come to this store! Little kids!”
“I don’t think my grandma would necessarily be proud. She was super religious.”
“I don’t want to have to do this,” she said. Her hair tousled around as she reprimanded me for bringing my smell into public. It’s like Teri Hatcher when she had it in a bob? Wasn’t she playing Lois Lane or something, or was that from when she was on Desperate Housewives? When a white woman with a haircut like this says something like “I don’t want to have to do this,” that’s when you know a Black person is headed for trouble. “I’m going to call the police. I don’t want you to think this is a race thing. I have Black friends too. But you’re being disrespectful.”
So basically, my shopping trip is over. Daryl and I are pretty pissed because we hadn’t even made it to the ice cream aisle.
Numbers were dialed from a cell phone that looks like it was from the late-90’s. For each number key pressed, I could hear the dial tone and the sound of bullet casings hitting the ground. I haul ass with Daryl in the carrier to the front of the store, hitting self-checkout and trying not to be too chatty with a few of my fellow coworkers gathered up front. I wonder if the store’s new labeling system was subliminal advertising.
I’m standing in front of the supermarket, the sun high and bright in the sky; it’s warm enough outside to wear a flannel without a jacket. Sweat starts to glisten on my forehead, underneath the brim of my tweed porkpie hat. The two officers standing six feet away from me ask if I’m nervous. One of them is eyeing the protruding glow coming from my bag.
The truth is, most every Black person I know is nervous around the police, but that’s not what I tell them. I can feel it getting warmer outside, the sun feels as though it’s staring a hole into me. My six-pack of PBR tall boys is already getting warm inside of my tote, the words I AM NOT YOUR MAGIC NEGRO in big block letters emblazoned on its front side.
It’s painfully obvious the lady in the store was successful in her attempt to call the police. The thought of how quickly it took them to respond to a call from an annoyed white lady truly amazes me. She stands six feet away from the cops near the store’s entrance, facing me, where I’m standing on a curb with my hands to my side, tracing the length between where my chin ends and my torso begins. Daryl is sitting beside me on the curb, fiddling with his harness.
I remembered how green the grass was, just in case this is where I’m going to die.
“Officers,” the lady with the distinctive haircut said, “this young man has been smoking… marijuana, and the smell is really offending me.”
“Ma’am, we’re very sorry, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” the cop eyeing my bag says to her before putting his eyes back on the tote.
Genuinely bothered, I shoot her a glance before it softens into humorous pity. “Cannabis is legal in Washington State, and it has been for the better part of a decade. Do you know what calling the cops on a Black man could do? Don’t you watch the fucking news? Or do you just not give a fuck about Black people?” My feeling sorry for her fades away as I chastise her; my fist starts to clench and shake while my vision gets a little blurry, both telltale personal signs of legitimate anger.
The taller, stronger of the two cops — the one who hasn’t spent the past few minutes trying to decipher what exactly is in my bag aside from warm beer — approaches me, muscles me against the hard, scratchy brick wall and said quietly, “We’re not looking for things to get ugly here. You start raising your voice and balling up your fist and we might have to take you in for public disturbance and resisting an officer.” He smelled like an unappealing mixture of sweat and reasonably-priced cologne. The other officer is urging him to ask what’s in my bag, but he doesn’t listen.
I look at the police officer and smile. “Being as though you’re the only one of us with a gun, it’s up to you to not make this ugly, yeah?”
He backs off of me and tells me to take my cat and get going.
I’m in my therapist’s office, wearing a navy blue fisherman’s beanie and a white t-shirt bearing a deep brown Jesus Christ being hung on a cross, black and grey dreadlocks underneath his crown of thorns, his salt-and-pepper beard serving as facial hair goals even though I managed to outlive him by four years. On the t-shirt image, he’s surrounded by white people, the blood from his stigmata dripping on their arms as they extend their camera phones. There’s a portrait on the wall of Morgan Parker, giving the same stone-cold, badass look she does in her author photos. Her portrait is speaking to a nondescript white couple in the waiting room, quoting from her poem about Jesus: “Y’all know that nigger was a nigger. Y’all know those whores were whores.” I hear Seaan Brooks’ voice coming from another room, making sure this couple knows that nigga Jesus didn’t look like Drew Brees. They look at my I AM NOT YOUR MAGIC NEGRO tote like it’s got five beers in it.
My therapist steps into the hallway. An elegant, light-skinned woman wearing the coolest house dress I’ve ever seen, her natural hairstyle bouncing with every step. She looks at me and says, “Martin? Come on in.”
I bring my tote bag, full of gold coins and beer.
I lay in the casket-shaped couch as my therapist sits in her chair, looking at me with her notebook in her lap like she’s studying a corpse. She thinks my dark moods are parallel with my fear of success, that there’s a part of me that’s afraid of stepping into my power. We’ve been working on it.
“I see you’ve been visiting your rooms,” my therapist says, gesturing at my tote bag full of coins. I wanted to ask her if she digs the design, but I already know she would say it’s not part of her job to compliment my things. So I just answered in the affirmative. She asks, “What have you learned about yourself?”
“That I allow my emotional therapy cat to smoke way too fucking much weed.” I laugh to myself; she smirks lightly but mostly keeps her poker face.
After the moment passed and my giggling stopped, I continued. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how, even when I was a little kid, there have been such tremendous expectations placed upon me, like people always looked to me for what I could do for them. How disappointed they were when they found out I am incapable of going anywhere except my own path. But I try to give my all to people anyway. And people take advantage of it; energy vampires. But I’m not judging them, I know they can’t help themselves.”
“Remember when we talked about this? You’ve felt guilty for setting boundaries ever since you were a child. You don’t take well to the negative reaction, to feeling like you’ve let somebody down because you said no. You’re just now starting to learn boundaries are healthy.” It came a little late, but she’s right. Looking at the tall ceilings of the office, I’m tempted to get up and browse the dozen bookshelves in this room, to run my fingers along the Jacob Lawerence and Clementine Hunter paintings. But my therapist knows how often my mind wanders, so I know she’ll just tell me to lay back down.
My Black Black Black Black Black Black self often feels the pressure of having an overwhelmingly white audience, of feeling most of that overwhelmingly white audience is hungry only for stories of Black trauma and pain. I have a big concern my stories which have nothing to do with white people only hits a fraction of the regular readers of my work. As Daryl sips milk out of a ceramic bowl, my therapist urges me to continue to speak my truth and not worry about the expectations of people who read my writing, as that is another way of reversing all the work I’ve done as far as not being concerned about the approval of others.
As Daryl and I step out of my therapist’s office, I look down to see we’re on a cliff. Hills bustling with trees, big lake in the distance. I take a deep breath to take in this moment before I make the decision to jump, even though I have no idea where I’ll fall.
(Single artwork by Kyle Toda)
“Real Ones” is a song about distance. Of course, that’s maybe a little too convenient a critical read almost nine months into a pandemic, but the sense of separation is palpable on this new Medejin single. Songwriter and frontwoman Jenn Taranto could probably project deep longing singing housing listings in the newspaper, and her voice cuts through the build of piano as she sings of her heart being over 2000 miles away and the pledge of “I go where you go” which makes way for the lyric which holds the song’s title, “We are the real ones.”
Written as we began to settle into the pandemic, Taranto was unable to play music with her bandmates. Enter Tomo Nakayama, one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the city (and admittedly, a collective favorite of ours here at KEXP) and ever-present stalwart of the Seattle music scene. “Real Ones” is credited as a socially distanced collaboration between Taranto and Nakayama (with mastering by Rachel Field at Resonant Mastering), the latter providing the ultra-lush atmosphere augmenting the graceful melancholy of the former’s piano line and lovelorn vocals — and ultimately bringing the song to its skyward climax. “Real Ones” is lovers rock for the space between us, no matter how far that space stretches.
Here are a few words from Taranto about “Real Ones:”
“I think some themes that run through ‘Real Ones’ are about finding your way & letting your mind & self go where they go. For me, that's often going back to the people I love most. Thoughts of them, they're my connection.
The song came from a lot of frustration & uncertainty — what most of us are dealing with in one way or another. I was feeling depressed & in a rut. The music & melody were there, but lyrically I was having a hard time knowing where to start. I knew how it would end, but not where to begin. One day I woke up really pissed about that & decided to start there.
The process of working on this was different because I couldn't see my bandmates in order to develop it as a band song. So it became mostly a solo, piano piece. Once I finished writing, I knew right away I wanted to ask Tomo if he'd be in to producing it. I tend to overthink a lot, but with this, I went with my gut. Knowing Tomo's music & talking with him, I felt like his sensibilities would be the perfect fit & I trusted him pretty much off the bat. He got what I was going for without me saying too much & we both seemed aligned with the artistic vision & it felt awesome. He created this beautiful world for ‘Real Ones’ to live in & it was a seamless, socially distanced collaboration.”
Tacoma’s Bujemane has quietly crafted a majestic catalog of heavily blunted, extremely charming, and often riotously funny stream-of-consciousness rap for the past number of years. He hasn’t released a full-length project since 2018’s Cry & Mingle 2, but he’s been dropping a steady stream of singles and videos between albums. The newest of which, a video shot and directed by grxtty, finds Buje rapping his way through a photo shoot, showing off his impeccable fashion sense (peep the hoodie from his self-designed streetwear label Redzone). He calls out rappers for being light on the recording budget and trying to steal his cadence, he slides off with women straight off the runway and plays Patty Cake, he reminisces about hustling with his cousin. The gurgling synths and staccato 808’s end abruptly enough to trick you into thinking the video is a snippet as Buje flashes his trademark grin as it ends.
Would you like to send off this hellish year on the most bummer note possible? It’s safe to say Danny Denial’s 1-2 gut punch of “Totally fucked up” and fuck danny denial closer “you don’t want me” will do the trick just fine. The eight-minute video, directed by Toran Whitaker, finds Danny wandering and caterwauling around 23rd Ave, performing (i.e. deadpanning in a state of near-psychosis) in front of the projection curtain at Kame Hou$e (R.I.P.), freaking out in front of the mirror, spitting up blood, crying in front of their band, trying to lose themselves in a crowd, and ultimately being stepped over by a pedestrian as they’re crouched in the fetal position on the sidewalk. It’s a gorgeously shot video which emphasizes the ugliness of an emotional breakdown, the bright of daytime feeling even more violent than the dark of night.
I reached out to Danny about filming this arresting video, and here’s what they had to say about it:
"Working on the final video for 'Totally fucked up' was a therapeutic unpacking of everything that's happened to me since the summer. The release of the record brought its own themes full-circle, with all of the positive response it got and the all-too-familiar come-down that followed. I think every musician knows that post-release depression too well. All those feelings of being loved only to be left, and feeling abandoned and unworthy, they all came back after the high of the attention subsided and then I went through a bad break-up alongside that. So I re-interpreted the footage we shot for 'Totally fucked up' pre-pandemic (at the now-defunct Kame Hou$e in Central District) and turned it into a double video with 'You don't want me,' and more than anything this visual is me putting a lid on a period of my life where I let people's projections of me shape my own sense of self. I'm ready to move forward and tell new stories, in new and more expansive mediums. But as bad as this year was, I'm grateful to have gotten to make something that resonated with people and also helped me find myself along the way."
I’m sure by now you know the Crocodile is moving after a 29-year-stay to the Old El Gaucho building on 1st and Wall. But a lot of our hearts are carved into the walls of 2nd and Blanchard. I remember going to shows by myself for years when I first started going to shows, and the Croc was one of my most frequented haunts. I remember those long drives home at 1 in the morning, those late nights driving through downtown to get to the freeway, how the Town looked like the Ghost Town with its sterile skyscrapers shooting out of the ground like light-up pillars. I remember standing next to David Bazan at a Midlake show and being too nervous to talk to him. I remember (nervously) meeting Ish for the first time at a Toro y Moi show. There were maybe ten people there until the headliners took the stage. I remember getting caught behind the beam — or the joist — quite a few times. I remember in one of my earliest visits, maybe even my first, a very nice stranger with cropped blonde hair invited me to hang out with them and their friends; I politely declined and have regretted it for fifteen years. I remember the woman who graduated from PLU and served in the Back Bar after the remodel; I wanted to ask her out but never let on that I did. I remember beer and spit flying when Thee Oh Sees opened for Jay Reatard. I hung out with Larry Mizell Jr. and taught a young woman how to spell "blood" with her fingers. I remember seeing Thee Oh Sees play the Crocodile at least three times after that. I remember slow dancing with a stranger to Hunx and His Punx’s “Too Young to Be in Love.” We ended up being Facebook friends but never spoke again after that night. I remember Go! Machine 2009 and the lasting image of watching Macklemore crowd surfing while waving an Irish flag from the balcony. I remember being caught off guard that the members of Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts knew who I was. I remember the moment the door man first recognized me as a frequent patron; I’d give him fist-bumps as I ushered long-distance girlfriends and OK Cupid dates inside. I remember the Croc as a lively and enthusiastic place, with the exception of some rude punks yelling at me from behind in a big crowd that Total Control was a way better live band than Thee Oh Sees. That’s one way to tell a Pitchfork writer you read their shit.
Martin Douglas' local music-inspired short fiction series returns with flying cars and smoldering debris.
SassyBlack discusses how mental health and Afrofuturism feature on her latest album.
Tacoma's Buje Mane doesn't consider himself a rapper, but he's finding a way to pave new territory in the genre.