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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Donavan & Cold Ride

Corinna & I rode to the poetry open mic at Wilson's Pizza on Quindaro again Tuesday night. Donavan Gardner, the head cook and bottle washer of this open mic, is a self-disclosed mental health consumer. Which translates to what most folks call 'crazy people.'

Donavan may or may not be 'crazy,' but sure as shit he's a genius. He's like Ornette Coleman or Don Cherry with language instead of a saxophone or trumpet.

Then again, besides the ADD I've seen a psychiatrist for the past seven or eight years, making me a consumer of the same, I've come to realize that the main difference between most regular people and most card carrying lunatics is who decided to go sit on a couch and say, "You know doctor..."

So the self-disclosed 'mental health consumer' is really just the person you already knew who doesn't hide their diagnoses in the same closet 'queer' Uncle Tony got locked in back in 1975.

Robert Whitaker's Anatomy of an Epidemic has a cover showing a phrenology map of the head with a drug for each quadrant. The thing is, me or an immediate relative I can think of has had a prescription at one time for every drug on that cover.

Granted, the fact that the Poet Laureate and I decided to ride into this neighborhood on bicycles with the white skin we happened to be born with, to some people that's madness. Or the fact we rode these bicycles when the plows had barely cleared the main thoroughfares of blizzard snowfalls, maybe that's your barometer of nuts. Maybe it's how we then went riding for the sheer hell of it through Fairfax when it was all of 8ºF, there has to be a booby hatch for people who would do a thing such as that.

But Gary Wilson, the host of this event, is as nice a guy as I've ever met in my life, and clearly a pillar of his community, and he let us park our bikes inside.

Half the battle is gear, things I stumbled on like wearing my coat backwards so it blocks the wind from my chest and arms while letting my sweaty back breathe. Or putting chemical warmers in the toes of my boots or making arm warmers out of wool hiking socks by cutting thumb and finger holes in them.

The other half is just deciding to ride instead of driving. Traction is tricky, especially on side streets where the plows don't go much. See also where the main roads intersect with sides, the shit the cars drag out into the main road can be a real hazard to navigation.

On the plus side, the same drivers who will crowd you and honk on dry pavement seem to give excess consideration to the obviously daft cyclists on a night such as this. Their rage is transmogrified into pity as they, I think, try to figure out whether we had so many DUIs we're not allowed to drive or if we just hadn't heard of the internal combustion engine or were maybe some new kind of Amish.

In any case, I'm sure sanity wasn't the impression we made. But as we rode through Fairfax and Downtown came into crystal clear view in the cold, my regret was that the cold had sucked my camera battery's will to live, not that I was out on the slipsy streets.

I'm sharing the YouTube videos of Donavan here. I grabbed about thirteen minutes of his freestyling, and I feared that if I lumped it all into one video the play length would scare people off. So I posted each improvisation on its own.

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