You know in you’re into some real hipster shit when you can’t find the front door.
“Where is this place?” I texted our WMI editor “Q”.
“120 S. Division.” He responded, “around back. It’s The Mexicains Sans Frontieres Gallery”
Where the fuck is this place?
Through a parking lot, behind the building, and up a flight of steps I saw people smoking on a deck that overlooked more parking. I walked into a huge light green flat complete with art-deco furniture. The Mexican Sans Frontiers is the gallery and home of artist Hugo Claudin. He opens up his space on a regular bases for musician and artists to perform and display their work. Numerous large watercolor paintings of people in bondage garb adorn the walls and there was at least 80 people milling about. A small bar positioned right by the door featured complimentary New Holland Brewing Co. beer and liquor. I have been hearing about their bourbon. It is delicious. A sushi chef busily rolled at a table a little further in; I got myself a couple rolls.
I arrived just in time to see the tall bearded Rick Chyme stand-up in front of video projected on the wall. He asked everyone to sit down. I saw Q cross legged near a group of musicians that worked on the project. Part hip-hop artist, part inspirational speaker, and part master net worker; Rick gave an occasionally rambling and often brilliant introduction to his latest project entitled “5iveit”. Springing randomly from a night of gambling with friends, the term 5iveit was initially a chant to call the dice to land on winning combination of fives. It became a code word among friends representing positive life events or achievements. “You had a date last night. Great! Did you 5iveit?” Since then, 5iveit has evolved into Rick Chyme’s personal mission statement and he wants to share it with the world. “Push it past potential each day. Manifest your dreams. “
And he’s not kidding. Rick’s personal positiveness and and generosity is evident in his own actions and the people that surround him. A jaded old hipster might expect this room to be full of pretentious douche-bags sipping wine and feeling superior, but nothing could be further from the truth. As I sat and listened to the new CD, I looked around at the people sitting, smiling, and grooving. I’m not a hip-hop aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but on first listen I could hear levels of sophistication in this work. Complex lyrics about personal struggle and social commentary backed up by jazz riffs and blues back vocals. I need to spend some more time with this and I suggest you do as well.
My back started to hurt and and I wanted another bourbon (did I mention that New Holland’s bourbon is delicious?), so I stood up and sauntered over to the bar. Standing near the back of the short line, a light skinned beauty named Chaina looked at me and said sweetly, “Your smile lines are adorable.”
“Your smile lines; well, I guess some people call them crow’s feet, they’re beautiful.”
“Thank you.” I said, “I do try to smile a lot.”
“I can tell.”
Her drink was clear. It could have been water or a seven and seven. She wasn’t drunk, but I’m pretty sure she was high on something. Regardless, she was very sweet. She told me she was server at a restaurant in Ada. I don’t make it out there very often, so I didn’t recognize the name. “Nobody does,” she said, “except a bunch of Amway people.” She told me that many of her customers found her exotic. She was black, Haitian, Native American, and something else I can’t remember. She had a tattoo of a treble clef on one wrist and a bass clef the other. “I’m not a musician really.” She said, “I used to play string instruments growing up, but I stopped playing long ago.”
She told me a story about an older white customer who saw her tattoos and assumed aloud. “You must sing right?”
“No, not really.” she said.
“Oh,” he responded disappointed, “But, you can dance right?”
White people are crazy.
Outside on the deck, the existential kid was smoking and waxing on. “It’s like so many people are so ingrained in the problem that they can’t even see the problem. They don’t even know to ask the question. The problem can be solved. Anyone can solve it. But, it’s like we’re so institutionalized that we can’t step outside of our perspective to recognize what needs to be done and begin steps to change things.” I stood and listened for a while. Normally, I would engage him and tell him he’s full of shit. But, for some reason (maybe it was the contagious positive nature of this event) I was feeling good. I just hung back for a while and then went inside.
The CD finished and Rick Chyme stood back up. He called up the rest of the artists that contributed to the work and introduced each one. The theme of his talk concerned how people could connect to contribute to each other in a positive way. He gave examples of how he met everyone and how they have worked together to help each other and create this work. The speech was funny, endearing, inspirational, informative, and a little to long. But, it’s your night Rick Chyme. You talk on my man! I thought it was great.
Darkness had finally fallen on this July evening. Rick called everyone outside into the parking lot afterward where they found about twenty paper lanterns in a variety of colors. Everyone separated into groups of three or four, and lit one off. We watched them all rise slowly into the night sky. It was quite striking.
Q went back into the apartment to set up to record the fiftieth episode of the West Michigan Indie with as many members of the band that wanted to play. I had to get going, but I’m looking forward to hearing it. It should be posted this week. Rick Chymes CD release party is this Saturday, July 20 at Billy’s Lounge in Eastown. Go check it out. Did I mention that New Holland Bourbon is delicious? 5iveit
Follow Jack on twitter @jackcalamyne