I’m not a good dancer by traditional definitions.
“You’re really grooving tonight,” she says.
“I’m too drunk to know if you’re being sarcastic,” I reply.
She laughs and the sound races up my chest like an elevator on the way to the top floor.
“You liking your booze, Michael,” she says. “Becoming a regular alcoholic.”
When we first started dating we used to drink together and stay up all night kissing and talking. Somehow kissing her with booze on my breath feels like the beginning again.
“Keep buying me drinks and you might just take advantage of me,” I say.
“As long as you don’t give me the look,” she says.
The “look” involves staring down at her with the full force of my beautiful chameleon green eyes. Many would describe the look as demonic.
I consider it sexy.
“I can’t make any promises,” I say truthfully. “I don’t have the look, the look has me.”
I begin to shake what my mother gave me.
She joins me.
After a few drinks I lose my awkward mock dancing techniques and the white man’s overbite kicks in. (The white man’s overbite is whilst dancing biting your lower lip like you are so into the music that you have suddenly become so cute that you have no choice but to feast on your own face.)
Tonight is December, 26th and for me that means Duplex, a rap show thrown by my friends at the Khyber Club.
The Khyber Club is to my life in Halifax Hip Hop what Spartan is to my dining experiences. The place where a million memories live trapped in the grafitti covered bathrooms and piss stained allies where we smoked joints and lived the best moments of my childhood.
It closed a couple years ago.
Opening for the random show here and there. And tonight Duplex.
“Why are your friends watching us?” she asks.
“Because they’ve never seen me with a girl that looks like you do,” I reply.
“You are not using the look are you?” she asks.
“That attracts attention,” she says.
“Don’t I know it.”
The performance area is barren of the art that usually adorns the walls of the massive studio. My friends in Something Good take the stage. Two MCs with an amazing band to back them up.
Boy Ill catches my eye. Points at me with gun fingers and fires.
“Khyber you in the house?” he asks. “If you remember those Wednesdays, say hell yeah.”
Only a few reply and we scream really loud. Me especially.
“Kimber remembers,” he says and winks.
Duplex used to take place in the bar downstairs where Hali Hip Hoppers use to meet every Wednesday.
A lot has changed in what was once the home of Hip Hop in Halifax.
When my brother began rapping the turntables were held down by Buck 65. When Buck left, Scratch Bastard took over. When he left, AlphaFlight took the reins and it became my friends turn.
Wednesday became my favorite day of the week. Drinks from the beautiful bartender who always thought I was ordering wine when I was asking for water. Joints in the back alley with the likes of Classified, Jay Bizzy and any mother fucker willing to pitch a 5 on it.
Gangsters, backpackers and wannabes performed side by side, each taking their turn on the stage. One time a recently released prison inmate tried to fight Nerdcore rap legend Jesse Dangerously and found himself face to face with 30 dudes ready to beat the shit out of him. In a hip hop scene divided by race, genre, economic and philosophical borders we had the Khyber and on Wednesdays we were family.
Duplex used to be on New Years, where I never got kissed and always had the best time drunk as shit freestyling with my best friends. My friend Jusrock his first rap show in front of a live audience, minutes before the new years countdown with best friend Litterbug backing him up. Adam Bowes threw his fists into the air, shouting the lyrics with me. Somewhere in the back of his mind Adam was preparing to tour the country with a punk band. Hip hop expert and party girl Krysia got the crowd amped with dance moves and hype calls from the crowd. In less than a year she would take the city by storm when she released her own album. My childhood best friend Apt conquered the stage, going from a new name on the scene to the next big underground rapper to come out of the city before leaving rap to become a sound enginner and a husband to one of the craziest funniest girls I have ever met.
Back then I wasn’t a rapper just a committed fan.
I knew every lyric and shouted them in sync with the performer. Proud to be the best hype man in the crowd. Screaming my heads of with my fellow fans, as we secretly made plans to take the stage and conquer the city.Going to every performance, slowly developing my drunken dance skills until I was referred to at our local indie bar as that “Dancing Fuck.” ( Towards the end of the video I dance. You'll understand how I got the nickname.)
Then one day things changed.
I was ordering a drink at the bar. Waiting to see if my friends would show up and no one came on this particular Wednesday. I wanted to make sure everyone was okay so I wasn’t willing to leave on the off chance that they would show up. The bartender was my brother’s childhood best friend. He gave me the drink free. He couldn’t charge me on the day that I lost my first friend.
In February 2005 one of the best guys I have ever met took his life and changed the scene forever. Instead of kicking freestyles, we were getting drunk and helping each other survive the loss of a man who had the best smile any of us had ever seen. His death pushed us to our outer limits, Dave became the best rapper in the city and left it. Jus seized his dreams of becoming a rapper and would later produce songs for the next generation of kids looking to get in on what we started. A lot of us took it as a cue to change our lives around. More than one my friends had been abusing drugs and got out of it.
A lot of friendships were born because everyone looked like they might fall and we all made a pact to hold eachother up no matter what. PRD, the freestyle rhyme crew that brought us together, in the days before those Khyber Wednesdays, came together one last time for a funeral session worthy of the best freestyler I ever knew. We battled topics, pop vs orange juice, the pope vs religion and the cold winter air was filled with the last dying cries of a golden age.
A eulogy in freestyle for the boys we use to be.
As our time passed, the best moments came in the fall. Inspired and terrified into the realization of how wonderful our world was, we screamed into the dying night and created the best music we ever made. Filling with the world with his echoes, inspired by what we lost we made something. Some would make careers in music, following that last surge of laughter into a sound that was uniquely inspired by those incredible people, torchbearers carrying our words onto strangers who would only hear legends of freestyles kicked by the library and a city that supported its artists.
Within a year the Khyber had closed and the scene I loved was gone with it.
Tonight the boys are back if only for an evening. Dave has his beautiful wife with him and she is working the door and lets us in for free. Adam has a financee. Jus is in Montreal, mostly having sex with a very attractive nineteen year old French girl. Chandler has become a realtor and in his playing his last gig on this very night, moving from childhood into some sort of sensible future. Ghettosocks is back from a European tour and is slowly building a buzz that will become an explosion. Within the confines of the Khyber, we’re kids and today is just another Wednesday.
The fans are out in force, ready to pretend the scene never died and Wednesdays don’t only happen once a year.
The acoustics are shitty, the drinks are overpriced and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.
Holding her close to me.
Trying to be a good dancer. Realizing that in some ways this very second was the best moment of my life.
A breath of fresh air never tastes as good as when you are drowning.
I’m off medication.
She performed the miracle of getting me to sleep without a pill. Tonight I’m drinking and a little later I’ll smoke a joint before I go to sleep.
I’ve decided not to let my insomnia dictate my life.
And here we are.
I’m giving her the look and she’s giving me a smile that says she remembers how things use to be.
Before I got sick, when we kissed and our worlds fell away. When she was the cure to every problem I ever had and I was that mysterious feeling in her stomach that pulled her back into the moment and grabbed a hold of her heart and promised to never break it.
Touching that feeling as I sneak a kiss in between shouting lyrics to my friend’s songs. I spin her to the sound of banging bass as hipsters take a step back and watch us dance, making room for Fred Astaire and the most gorgeous blond anyone had ever seen.
This is my place.
Even when it’s gone, I remember what it was. What we were.
She spins and laughs and the night is a fantastic one. Filled with freestyle sessions, long lost friends and the promise of a new day.
I can remember what it felt like when we lost him. That free drink. Those hectic days where we somehow kept eachother sane.
That first smile when I somehow woke up happy and ready to live again.
The day was coming.
Until then I would dance and scream into the night.
Lost in love with a girl more beautiful than I could ever imagined.
Knowing that no matter what happened, I wasn’t going to leave.
This was my place.