Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Laundry, Laundry, Big Hair...Underground Club?!

Parma Heights is dead, man. Everyone in the Greater Cleveland area knows it's a hole. Parma is what people outside of Cleveland think Cleveland is really like. Dying businesses, citizens who are tragically stuck in the 80s, pierogi enthusiasts, flamingo-decorated lawns.

I work in Parma, part-time, and one afternoon on my lunch hour I passed an old non-descript, defunct building with a home-made paper banner on the side of it that read "JESUS LOVES PARMA" in dot-matrix print. I tried to remind myself to bring my camera the next day I worked so I could photograph it, but when I got back the following Monday, the building had been completely demolished--reduced to a heap of concrete rubble. It must be a sign.

Still, there's hope for Parma, Parma Heights, and its surrounding communities. The key is never to leave The Davenport.

My mom actually discovered this two-week-old club by visiting the website of a band with whom we're (oddly) mutual friends. The venue was listed simply enough, and we decided to check it out.

Located at 6287 Pearl Road in Parma Heights, the Davenport is hidden securely beneath a Marco's pizza shop, in the same building as Parma's Arabica coffee house. We later found that all of these fine establishments are owned by the same kid--a prodigy of an entrepreneur, it seems.

Stepping down into the Davenport after being exposed to miles of laundromats, decaying strip malls, and seedy fast food joints, is like being pulled into a hipster's oasis. There's a classy, sprawling wooden floor, an elevated yet unassuming and personable stage, a bar stocked with over 45 different beers, and, yes, a comfy collection of davenports that feel like home.

I'm still in shock. When my mom told me that this place was located on the same street as my place of employment, I said to her, "But I work in one of the creepiest places in the world!" Did I mention that the Davenport has over 45 different beers?

There are good things about the Davenport. For one, it's a big enough venue to draw in a variety of different performers. The owner has his choice of bands. Last night, a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar tried to channel the Decemberists before bowing out and letting an alternative-looking (think Crispin Glover) comedian do five minutes. Then a piano-driven pop/rock trio (Return of Simple--my band) took the stage. The final act of the night was an alt-country band called Ghost Town.

I don't want to ruin anything by saying this, but since it's on the Davenport's myspace (myspace.com/davenportbar), I feel okay letting the ten readers of this blog know that smoking is allowed, despite Ohio's recent smoking ban. While I'm not a smoker, I was oddly excited for those around me who gleefully lit up. I felt like I was in a speakeasy.

There's a cover charge to get in (at least, I assume there is on all live music nights), and that's okay, but the drinks are pretty pricey. My mom was upset that they didn't have any wine (just beer and liquor), so she ordered a Smirnoff Ice, and I had an oatmeal stout. Our bill together came to $9.00 before the tip. Harsh.

Another problem with the place is that the acoustics need a lot of work. With the wooden floors, and the size of the place, there are some major problems with sound bouncing off of everything and echoing to a distracting degree. By the owner's attentiveness to the sound board last night, though, I'm sure he'll have everything ironed out in time.

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes things are worth searching for. Or that seedy and creepy things are sometimes nice of you flip them over. Or that if you build an indie rock club that's got 45 different beers and a jukebox with Pavement in it and a bunch of cushy couches and an eff-you-smoking-ban mentality, hipsters will come.

Or that maybe, just maybe, Jesus really does love Parma.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Remorseless Pleasure

I've come to hate the term, "guilty pleasure."

It's made many appearances in my life lately, as a new season of the Canadian teen melodrama, "Degrassi," begins to "go there" once again on "The-N" (or "Noggin", before 5:00 PM). Every time I try to explain to somebody why I really and genuinely enjoy the show, the person I'm talking to will invariably chuckle and then muse, "so it's really just a guilty pleasure."

No. Not at all. I love the over-the-top, at times surreal predicaments that the same ten characters will get themselves into every year. Eating disorders? Check. Student-teacher relations? Check. Panic attacks? Check. A boy getting shot, paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, losing his best friend (who actually got him shot), playing funk guitar in a terrible wedding band, becoming a struggling artist/t-shirt designer, having trouble getting it up, being oppressed by his father, and totally crushing on three girls at the same time? Check.

I'm sincerely trying not to feel guilty about any of it.

When I was a kid, I preferred the Monkees to the Beatles, and my favorite 45 to listen to was "Henry the VIII" by Herman's Hermits. That song made me the happiest. The Monkees were easier to dance to than the later Beatles era records that my mom owned. It was okay that I liked the Monkees and Herman's Hermits back then.

Now, if I told anybody that I really like the Monkees better than the Beatles, I'd be judged. People would respond with a) "ha. that's funny." or b) "are you an idiot?" For some reason, it's now regressive behavior for me to enjoy listening to one set of poppy mop-tops instead of the other collective-approved set. Listening to the Monkees was never a "guilty pleasure" until people out there made me feel guilty for doing it. And now all of these snobs are in my head, blocking out the lyrics to "Porpoise Song."

Chuck Klosterman says what the term, "guilty pleasure," should mean:

"In and of itself, the phrase "guilty pleasure" seems like a reasonable way to describe certain activities. For example, it is pleasurable to snort cocaine in public restrooms, and it always makes you feel guilty; as such, lavatory cocaine fits perfectly into this category. Drinking more than five glasses of gin before (or during) work generally qualifies as a guilty pleasure. So does having sex with people you barely know, having sex with people you actively hate, and/or having sex with people you barely know but whom your girlfriend used to live with during college (and will now consequently hate). These are all guilty pleasures in a technical sense."

Although I've never actually participated in any of the aforementioned behaviors, I'm sure I would feel hundreds of times more guilty for doing those things, than I do when I watch anything on E! Why not save my guilt for the big old nasty stuff and simply immerse myself in the God-given pleasures of Patrick Swayze, or John Woo, or "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody", or Cowsills records, or Ring Pops, or roller derby, or the Oxygen network?

I read today that Seneca recorded an inscription from the gates of Epicurus' garden, where his first followers once met to learn and philosophize:

"Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure."

And so, I shall tarry for these two days, until the newest episode of "Degrassi" airs. I shall escape the oppressive thoughts of my judgemental snobbish bretheren, and excitedly watch the fate of Marco, the show's token gay kid/addictive gambler/class president, unfold. And it shall be good. It shall be so, incredibly, deliciously, and gloriously, illuminatingly good.