Saturday, May 29, 2004

Last Dance

Saturday April 7, 2001

Timothy Thomas knew he'd been spotted by two off-duty police officers working outside The Warehouse nightclub on Vine Street in Cincinnati. Thomas took off. The officers called in backups. Twelve officers joined in, like you do with a crime lord like Thomas, a 19 year old kid with some unpaid traffic tickets. Police said Thomas jumped fences and darted behind buildings, finally turning down an alley off Republic Street. Officer Steven Roach was in pursuit from the other direction. He saw Thomas walk from behind a building and said that Thomas was reaching for something in his waistband. Officer Roach fired, hitting Thomas in the chest. No weapon was found on or near Thomas' body. Timothy Thomas was the 15th Black man to be killed by Cincinnati police since 1995.

That night, I got off work early from my job as a bartender at Warehouse. I had a stray cat in the backseat of my car (the late Lady Goodman), and since this was before I hopped on the proverbial wagon, two hits of X in my pocket and some acid in my purse. A guy backed into me while trying to squeeze his big ass truck into a tiny spot just a few feet away from the club and cops were everywhere. I had no idea what was happening at that point except hey, pretty lights. I was lucid enough to know that Truck Man was obviously drunk and that if they found my drugs, I was fucked with a capital dick. However, a cop trotted over and told me and the other guy to "Get out of here now..." If there was no damage. He's letting the drunk guy go? Something was amiss but I had to look out for myself and (to me, at the time) more importantly, an innocent cat and most importantly, enough drugs on me to kill us both. Fine with me, Copper. Bye-bye and thank you very much for the huckleberry pie.

The next day, it was all over the news. The shooting, the cop (who had spotted Thomas in the first place), to whom I had served pizza and soda every Saturday night for the previous six months, and the club. Right then, as drug addled as I was, I knew that it was all over for Warehouse. Predictably and as a result of so many other human rights violations on the parts of the Cincinnati P.D. (some of whom are friends and many of whom were disgusted by the Thomas murder), Over-The-Rhine erupted after a (reportedly) peaceful protest was set upon by yet more of the police. There were riots, lootings, and what really is a potentially lovely area was pretty much destroyed. At the time, I didn't know what was more tragic: One man was dead but thousands of lives would be altered because the cops were out of control and the powerless residents of the area had nothing but rage to use as a weapon against them. Ironically, Warehouse was dead center of all the rioting, the reason why Thomas had been spotted by police in the first place, and had remained untouched. Untouched but not unaffected.

Last Wednesday night, May 26, 2004

After years of having put up a valiant, inevitable struggle against cultural evolution and social entropy, Warehouse finally scored its last touchdown. Though it had moved from its location on the most notorious street in the city, it proved too late to unsully its weathered combat boots. It was time for the old gal to roll up her carpet and call it a decade (and some change).

I saw a few people that I used to call friends and truly understood the word pity. Pity is another word for mourning except that you're mourning something that is still somewhat alive. For the most part, my friends were supported by their wealthy parents and for the most part, did doodly squat with their lives yet for some reason, still have the idea that doing nothing at all means something if enough people know your name. And they are NOT drunk.

I do not regret going there or working there though. First off, (and this is fucking sad), it was the only club in town that played music that made me want to dance. It was the only club in the city where you could dance along side (and sometimes with) gigantic, ex-football players who had become beautiful drag queens and not have to worry that some arse with a jock-itch to scratch was going to swim out of the darkness and start causing trouble. It turned social rejects and weak minded fools into Kings and Queens of the Underworld and though many of those Underworld Queens and Kings grew into parodies of themselves, they were great fun to be around in their time. Other clubs caught up later but for its time, Warehouse was the poo.

Secondly, it was where I had a nervous breakdown that cured me of my drug habit and eventually became the springboard for me ditching the aforementioned friends with absolutely no regrets. It is ironic that sometimes, clear thinking also clears up any doubt of why you started needing to tune out reality in the first place. Luckily for me, I had only burned the most twisted and broken bridges and had a Fairy Godfather (probably the last person in the world anyone would suspect has a heart made of solid gold puppies) holding my hand most of the way across the new one.

I was really happy when I left on Wednesday because unlike my old friends, I didn't settle for spending my life trying to recapture or hold on to an illusory sense of power that I'd sifted from the dubious attention of bar toads. Life rarely affords us positive, healthy closure. When it happens, it fulfills a human need for a linear chronology. We get the book ends. We get straight lines. We get to put a thumbtack on the map. It's like a freshly vacuumed floor or a shiny new dollar bill.

The only real goodbyes in life are the goodbyes that come with this kind of closure because they're cathartic without emotional upheaval. They're more like hellos to the future.

Thanks Tomm, Mike Dangers, Kevin, Dave, Kim, Dusty, and J-Bear for making my memories more memorable.