Easy Street Piano Bar in Little Rock

Trip Start Dec 19, 2006
Trip End Feb 22, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Arkansas
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

(Little Rock, Sunday, January 28, 2007)-My main connection in Little Rock, early home of my late great friend and mentor Robert Palmer, is a wild woman called Dottie Oliver who's the editor & publisher of the monthly Little Rock Free Press that expels a welcome breath of lunacy and liberation in this old bastion of the Southern way of life. Dottie is a restless streak of energy and activity who keeps her nose deep in the on-going business of every sector of her community and knows her way around wherever she wants to be.

I've probably told you the story of the night I met Dottie and her traveling companion, Laurence Hall of Memphis, at the big table in the back of the 420 Café early in December 2003. The month before I had just determined to move to Amsterdam and try to establish a base there, but I was operating strictly without a safety net and certainly without any sort of housing budget, living on the largesse of my handful of friends there and trying to find a way to remain in this incredible place where I wanted to live out my life.

On this particular night I had just returned from a week in Florence, Italy as a guest of the film festival where Steve Gebhardt's film 20 To Life: The Life & Times of John Sinclair had been introduced. My train to Amsterdam had been held up in Italy while we slept, and when we made Centraal Station the train was seven hours behind time.

When I got to the 420 Café to smoke a big joint and get myself together it was already 11:30 pm and I was getting pretty nervous about a place to sleep for the night. I'd been scheduled to arrive around 4:30 in the afternoon, giving me plenty of time to arrange for emergency lodgings, but now my potential human resources were unavailable and I might even have to spend half of my 100 Euro bankroll on a hotel room.
To top it off, I smoked too far into my joint of pure Dutch weed after a week of near abstinence in Florence and all of a sudden I was just too high for my own good. I leaned back in my chair and the top of my head felt like it was about to lift off. My mind started racing and I was overcome with worry about where I would spend the night. I worried and worried at the problem with no reasonable solution to result.

Then I came down just far enough to enter the mental zone where I generally reside, and with a great sigh of relief I realized-as usual-that worry gets one nowhere and has absolutely no effect on the outcome of one's problems. Now I was properly high for the first time all week, and my mind & body began to relax into the positive, expectant state where I try to stay at. Everything would be all right, or either it wouldn't, but in any case I could deal with it.

Just then my attention was drawn to the cannabis counter where two Americans were talking with Greg behind the bar while scanning the room for a place to sit down. I was sitting by myself at the big table and motioned for them to feel free to join me there. The woman came over, sat down next to me and said she was Dottie Oliver of the Little Rock Free Press and she was looking for John Sinclair. I allowed that I was him and we began a friendship that is continually being renewed.

Then her companion sat down at the table and introduced himself as Laurence Hall of Memphis, Tennessee, president of Skinny Dipping in America Inc. We had a few laughs while they toked up and then I started bemoaning my present situation without a room for the night. They laughed and said they were staying around the corner in a funky little hotel, their room had three beds in it and I was welcome to claim one for my own. That settled everything, and we were free to have as much fun for the rest of the evening as we wanted.

Before she left Amsterdam Dottie asked me to write a column for her paper, and that's where I began my current commentaries early in 2004 under the title On The Road, of which this Travelogue is an outgrowth. But I'm particularly beholden to Dottie and her wonderful friends in Little Rock for helping me out last summer when my daughter Celia was having a difficult time in New Orleans and I was determined to find her a place where she could rest for a while. Dottie and her friend Wes took her in for several weeks until Celia decided she wanted to go back to Detroit and seek help from her mother.

So I was happy to see Dot and her peoples in Little Rock. They put me up in my customary room in the back of the Free Press offices over Juanita's restaurant and music showcase where I had a solid wireless connection and lots of time and space to myself. I was pretty beat up over Dorothy's problems in Staten Island and, the previous Friday night in Oxford, I was out for a walk when I tripped over a curb and fell flat on my face on the sidewalk. By Sunday night my facial cuts and bruises were starting to heal, but my body was whacked out and my left hand was aching from where it had partially broken my fall.

Dottie came and got me Monday morning, took me out for a big breakfast, drove me to a friend's house and ushered me into the bathroom, where the tub was filling with hot water for my bath. I soaked for an hour while Dottie made me an appointment with her chiropractor, then got dressed and went in for a treatment to put the bones and nerves in my neck and lumbar region back where they belonged. When the doctor finished with me Dottie drove me out in the country to her masseuse and talked my way onto the massage table.

By the time my therapeutic course had been completed I was feeling like a new humanoid. I got a bite to eat, took a rest and got mentally prepared for the evening's work, which would take place at a joint called the Easy Street Piano Bar. It turned out that the Piano Bar was only the first of three rooms at Easy Street, with an open area with connecting patio in the second position and a jewelbox of a little theatrical space in the third.

Michael, the proprietor, had secured the three storefronts in turn as each became available, installing a grand piano in the front window and a full bar in the initial room, connecting to the next space and making the world-class patio lounge as he went along, then converting the third storefront into an intimate black-box theater and performance space.

I was going to have the privilege of performing with my man Thomas Jones and his superb blues trio, and the extra kicks was that the estimable East Coast poets Eero Ruuttila of New Hampshire and Simon Pettet of New York City would be joining us on stage for the night. I'd run into Simon backstage at the St. Mark's Poetry Project Marathon Reading on New Year's Day, and he revealed the two bards' plan to travel by car from NH to NYC, Baltimore, Springfield IL, Kansas City, a small town in the Ozarks in Arkansas, Little Rock and New Orleans.

Simon and I compared timeframes and it turned out that we could be in Little Rock at the same time, and wouldn't that be a gas? I had been thinking about motoring over to Little Rock from Oxford to pay Dottie a visit, and this clinched it. Dottie lined up the Easy Street for the Monday and Tuesday nights at the end of the month, alerted Thomas Jones to my projected arrival, and started talking it up. Eero and Simon wended their way across America to show up in Little Rock on the appointed day, and everything went more smoothly than could have been expected.

Our Monday night audience was small but fiercely attentive, and the proprietor promised a big turnout for the next night, claiming that his phone had been ringing off the hook all day. Eero and Simon offered spirited and moving performances of their works, and Thomas and the cats played the sure-enough blues for me that night.

I spent all day Tuesday catching up on my e-mail at the local coffeeshop and bakery and went back to Easy Street for a full evening of music & verse with Thomas Jones, Billy and Cecil. Thomas made a recording of this delightful concert which I'll share with you when I get it. The big audience that had been calling the joint on the phone turned out to be no more than a cruel joke, but we had our fun just the same with those who were there.

On Wednesday I drove back to Mississippi by way of Brinkley, Arkansas-home of Louis Jordan-and Marvel-home of Robert Lockwood Jr-and Helena, and Clarksdale Mississippi, then on Highway 6 over to Oxford and continuing up Highway 7 to Holly Springs, where I would spend the night at the new home of Wallace Lester & Shannon McNally, two of my favorite people in the whole world. The next morning I would drive back up to Memphis, pick up Dr D at the airport and drive us back to Oxford to resume our residency at the Two Stick.


While I was in Little Rock Henk Botwinik posted episode #120 of the John Sinclair Radio Show on Monday evening:

John Sinclair Radio Show #120
Paradiso, Amsterdam
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 @ 8:15-9:15 pm [20-0644]

One of our favorite venues for the radio program is backstage at the Paradiso in Amsterdam where we have our own special little space to do our broadcasts from. This time we met and talked with Wayne Kramer & Michael Davis from the MC5 before their show with DKT/MC5 went on stage, and also spoke with the great vocalist Lisa Kekaula, who joins Mark Arm in singing lead with DKT (Davis-Kramer-Thompson) on the classic works of the MC5. There's recorded music from the MC5 archives and some things I cut with the Blues Scholars featuring Wayne Kramer in the 1990s.

Playlist #120

[01] Opening Music: MC5: Head Sounds (Part Two)
[02] Intro, Comments & Opening Tokes with Andy Adkins
[03] MC5: I Can Only Give You Everything
[04] MC5: Looking At You (Instrumental Version)
[05] MC5: Motor City Is Burning
[06] Comments & Conversation with Wayne Kramer & Michael Davis
[07] MC5: I Believe to My Soul
[08] MC5: Black To Comm
[09] Comments & Conversation with Wayne Kramer & Michael Davis
[10] John Sinclair & His Blues Scholars featuring Wayne Kramer: Consequences/Blues To You
[11] Comments & Conversation with Wayne Kramer & Michael Davis
[12] DKT/MC5: Over and Over
[13] Comments & Conversation with Lisa Kekaula
[14] Closing Music: John Sinclair & His Blues Scholars featuring Wayne Kramer: Double Dealing

Produced & Hosted by John Sinclair for Radio Free Amsterdam
Engineered & Recorded by Larry Hayden
Executive Producer: Larry Hayden
Sponsored by Eat at Jo's at The Melkweg & SuperDude
Special thanks to Adam Brook, Margaret Saadi Kramer, Dennis Thompson, Mark Arm, Adam Pearson and the management & staff of the Paradiso

©(P) 2007 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

Podcast by www.RadioFreeAmsterdam.com on January 28, 2007

-New Orleans
February 19, 2007
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