10/10/09 Ace of Cups, Cairo IL
Matt Tobey (solo acoustic, dreams that fill a coloring book, IN)
Paul Baribeau (solo acoustic, passion, charm, facial hair, ocean pop, IN)
Letters To The Moon (me and lisa, POP, OH)
Eric Ayotte (song writer, thoughtful, you like The Mountain Goats? IN)
Hunger Strike Riot (folk punx)
Spoke Pants of the Flowering Skillet ( Missouri , 3 part harmony, mountain music, gospel influenced by the devil)
Gerd Dembowski (German, noise maker, story teller, politics/love/life)
Gadabout Films (Humorous shorts presented by Eric)
Cairo is a city that lies in Illinois where the Mississippi and Ohio River meet. Cairo , pronounced “Kay-row,” is America ’s only city surrounded by levees. It could be wiped out by Mother Nature easily. Once a growing place thanks to commerce from the rivers, the population is now down around 3,000. It is dwindling and collapsing on itself. The rivers may not have broken over the walls in years but the people do more and more. We, as mighty Ohio explorers in foreign land, needed to tread the empty streets; poke our heads in abandoned buildings with mold in the air, and find a dead raccoon somewhere. A sign when you enter Cairo prohibits smuggling cigarettes from out of town to sell.
Our friend Chris, founder of Plan-it-X records, was hosting the grand opening of his not for profit community space and coffee shop called, “The Ace of Cups.” He moved to the dying town to escape corporate America and it’s slimy, engulfing tentacles. He wanted to go somewhere with no hope for much of anything to hopefully build something different: A real community with human cooperation and interaction making it strong, out of the shadow of the Wal-world and Starbucks. He bought a building for less than a college education and with the help of his partner Adrienne and his friend Zak, fixed up the three floor brick giant to suit their living and ‘business’ needs. Their work thus far is impressive and inspiring. A powerful storm ripped off part of the roof one night and they had no choice but to learn a bit about roofing to save their place from rain.
The city was un-real. A playground of dilapidated buildings with any business wind blown out of them. Houses sit and rot on some streets. A stray dog that Andy called “Buck” showed us around. He took us to the wide river’s bank as loaded freighters dragged by. A man down by the water yelled up to us.
“JOE JOE. Der youarr. JOE JOOOO. HE about fideen blocks from home.” His accent was thick and southern. He was hard to understand through the few teeth he had but we knew he was thrilled to find his old pup. He had to be around 70 himself. He took off his belt, leashed up Joe Joe, threw him in the pick up truck’s passenger side, and drove off.
We walked on. We snuck into an old fashioned theater called “The Gem” and victoriously took the stage.
When hunger rose up, we went to the only diner in town called the Nu Diner. We were the only people there except for some motor cyclers passing through. The waitress identified us all on our separate checks. “Lip ring.” “Grey sweat shirt.”
Before the show began, we drove passed Cairo ’s 2 Mansions to a playground to mess around. Andy fell off of a teeter-totter as if he planned it. It was balletic except for the massive thud his body made slamming the ground. I just about pissed my pants.
Cairo is a place where there are so few people that you simply say exactly what people are and people know who you mean. The nuns. The gay couple. The artist. The missionaries. A man stopped us on our walk back to The Ace of Cups after exploring.
“I just have to ask. What is going on today? I’ve seen a lot of young folks walking around.”
We filled him in. He said he felt sorry for our friend making a business. He told us the city has just died out and that it was a sad shame to see the state of decay. You could see some memories hidden from us in his eyes. I could see him reconstructing a place he used to know as brighter. He was 96 and sharper than most of my friends.
“Well, I got the little lady in the car (93) and we are headed home. We were at the fried chicken dinner at the church.”
He invited us to the dinner. We declined with plans already made. One thing Cairo does have is a lot of churches, but not even religion could fix a city where you can down a bottle of liquor right outside of the store.
The grand opening was a success of sorts. Friends from out of town made up most of the gathering. Support is one of friendships biggest trophy’s. Some people from a wedding in town gave business. The gay couple came. Some city people interested and confused came in. Music livened the night and so did the potluck. It felt ceremonious.
Chris is twisting our arms to move in. There is something exciting about it in a mad way; pay money to own something- work for yourself and the city- build something up. But I get lonely. I need people around. Friends, aquintances, enemies, family, cats. And places to put my money somewhere. Things to buy and stuff in plastic. Americans enjoy the company of plastic. It wraps us up. The hum of Columbus keeps me for now.