ChiTown Blues / by Cyrus

The temperature here would kill every single person featured on this blog within minutes, and some of the things I've seen since being back in Chicago might do the same.

I spent my first night back celebrating this country's greatest holiday, the Super Bowl, at the home of a young man who earned half the GDP of Kenya by dressing like a caveman in car insurance commercials. Next we hit an "Anti-Superbowl" Smiths dance party in a pleadingly trendy bar in Logan Square. The DJ jiggled in a Morrissey sweater, the girls wore fake glasses and gave the cold shoulder (could have been a dance move), and the meager sunken-eyed crowd reveled, proudly, in the jerky overly-enthusiastic white man dance moves that were so often the topic of embarrassed conversation amongst my Kenyan friends. Someone puked in the snow, a struggling thespian watched his girlfriend make out with another guy, my friend passed out with a half chewed taco in his mouth, and at some point I wearily took a cab home, wishing it was a tuk tuk.

But all is not vicious cultural confusion, inclement weather and oblivious hipsters. I've been speaking daily with members of the Raw Music family still stationed in the motherland, planning out how to get more music, translations, and a few of Emma's beautiful bracelets that I've agreed to sell in the US across borders. I've received a few requests for money, a few admissions of love, and a few party invites by people not in the loop. Wish I could take the good people up on all those fine offers.

Facebook is the main form of communication between myself and the Kenyan posse. It's amazing to look at my current newsfeed. It seems evenly split between Kenyans, Americans, and the Iranians I met while working in Holland. The Kenyans update constantly about love and the heartbreak, sleepless nights and endless beef that come with it. The Iranians and Arabs in Amsterdam are all about Egypt and "freedom coming to the Middle East" (we'll see). And the Americans are writing about grilled cheese sandwiches and TV. All seems about right.

I've gone from daily conversations with Ozzy, my earnest yet sarcastic 24 year old Kenyan dancer buddy, to daily conversations with Barry, a 56 year old former scrap metal magnate and current poet/painter who also happens to be my godfather, possibly hates the world, funds Raw Music, and lets me crash on a mattress in his art studio. We talk reggae and injustice and corn subsidies and Egypt. I come strong with the idealistic technology-driven pan globalism that I think fueled Egypt's revolution, as well as many of our conversations in Kenya. "The world doesn't have to be about self-interest and Africa doesn't have to be fucked. For example, Midwestern corn subsidies are the only thing that makes American corn prices artificially competitive with potential exports from places like Kenya." He listens and then reminds me that I was educated and fed off tax dollars paid to my father by the state of Iowa, tax dollars that came from Iowan farmers directly benefiting from the very corn subsidies that I claim are killing Kenyan agriculture. Continually reminded that my material comfort comes at the expense of millions who suffer due to forces beyond all of our (but mostly their) control, I retire to my room and wish I had smuggled a few bottles of Kenya Kane to Chicago.

And so, with that fitting introduction, it's on to phase 2 of Raw Music, a much stranger and more brutal phase--reality in America. In March I head to sunny LA to try to sell this beast, so I have to have something good to sell by then. From dealing with stoned rastas outside dangerous Kisumu clubs to dealing with amphetamine fueled executives outside of posh LA clubs (as I envision it in my starry mind's eye), it should be an interesting change. For the time being, look for video and audio I couldn't upload while in Kisumu.