Seoul, Dreams, etc
Hi, my love.
Sitting on a hotel balcony in Honolulu. I have a raging headache because JJ and I took the amateur (but necessary) move of crashing asleep as soon as our room was ready. Now I’m up and severely jet lagged. Grateful for Hawaii’s wild time zone in that it is technically still Sunday, albeit only on this one beautiful island on earth.
Honolulu. Waikiki, to be exact. I can see the ocean from here and also all I can hear is the raging of ceiling fans and the blasting music of a local rooftop bar.
The other day I had a dream.
(I guess it was a dream?)
I remember typing to you, in the dream’s taali talk (y’all are in my dreams now!), “I was flying on stage in Tokyo, and I’m flying in the air now.”
A little on the nose, and a little badly written (blame dream me!). But it does seem to describe our life well.
Lately everything feels like a perpetual dream or waking state. We’re on the ground or we’re in the air, we’re on stage or we’re not. It all has a markedly surreal tinge to it.
Sometimes that’s magnificent, like in Japan. You land into this country that has held you, supported you, sustained you. The shows are sold out, the audience’s energy palpable.
The band is as good as a José James band can get. Absolutely sensational. And you’re here, with your dearest friends, in a country you adore.
You realize you have an off day in Osaka, so you think perhaps you should try your Osaka dream again, the one that always fails to come to fruition.
The one where you finally visit the legendary Izakaya Toyo.
(You discovered Izakaya Toyo in one of those literal “in the air” moments years ago)
(On another flight, many years ago, watching the Chef’s Table on street food in Osaka)
(You wept through the entire episode and promised yourself you would someday meet the comedian self dubbed “con artist of Osaka”)
(With his Michelin star quality food doled out on the street alongside copious hilarity)
But every time you try there’s a line snaking up many streets, and Toyo generally runs out of food by the time you’re even halfway through it.
Then lo and behold you land into Osaka to an off night. And this virus, that wrecked your life and your livelihood, makes it so that there is no one in that line.
Just locals and five American musicians.
The food is so good that Yuki, a Japanese king himself, is impressed/obsessed (At one point he looks to the sky and yells, “Thanks, coronavirus!”)
And Toyo is, somehow, even more magnetic in person than he is on film.
He demands that José punch him in the stomach, insisting that José isn’t punching hard enough. He makes an especially big scene about grabbing a box to stand on because you are “beautiful, but too tall.”
And treats you and all your friends to an unforgettable night.
It continues, into Seoul. A dream state you maintained from 2015, the last time you came here.
You went to get fried chicken with the bassist and did the show.
Eight years later.
The haze remains.
Seoul stays magical.
Yuki has a friend Shin, from his Berklee days, who takes you to authentic Korean barbecue. The streets in the neighborhood are tiny and winding, full of noise and delicious smells and outdoor barbecue tables. His favorite place is run by a gloriously industrious man about Toyo’s size who is running around the crowded street with a metal container full of flaming hot coals for the tables.
(You wonder how no one ever gets burned in this?!)
He serves you magnificence after magnificence.
The night ends at a tiny jazz club, two floors up in what otherwise looks like a business building.
The band is joyous, gracious, fabulous.
On the last Seoul day you see your dear friend Donato. You met him on the 2015 trip. He’s a professional lifestyle columnist, enormously famous in Korea for his motorcycle reviews.
(I mean what kind of sentence is that?!)
(You tell him he’s your coolest friend, and he emphatically says, “Yep!”)
He takes you to an all vinyl library, complete with turntables and headphones. José and you were obsessed with this place last time you visited.
It doesn’t disappoint this time, either.
Outside there is a coffee shop which appears to be the motorcycle / dog hangout spot of Seoul.
(This sentence alone merits its own dream state.)
But nothing tops the merging of the two, in a perfect dog equipped with his own motorcycle goggles to ride with his mom.
Flying on stage in Tokyo.
Flying on the streets of Seoul.
(Did we land into Honolulu?)
On the ground or in the air, on stage or not.
Sometimes it’s magic, sometimes it’s disarming chaos. Throughout this run I’ve been giggling at how we’re touring with our entire life in suitcases. Heavy, massively overweight (thank god for star alliance gold status!) muji bags doing their very best.
I’m rolling into these hotels with tour outfits, yes. But also with my rolling pin and measuring cups.
It’s chaos. But enormous suitcases or not, we are back on tour. We took 6 (6!!!!!!) PCR tests through the Asia run, thus hopefully marking our final PCRs of the corona era.
It’s hazy. We’re on the ground or we’re in the air, we’re on stage or we’re not.
And it’s beautiful. We play Blue Note Honolulu this week. Then we’re heading to Philly, DC, Boston and Portsmouth for the first ever Rainbow Blonde tour.
(I am so FREAKING EXCITED about those, btw)
(Taali, Ben Williams and José James sets)
(It is going to be a a once in a lifetime event)
(The entire talent of the RB label on one stage, performing on each other’s sets with an epic all star NY band)
(Tell your friends! Tickets are here! )
A couple of days off here in Honolulu before it all kicks off.
A perpetual dream or waking state.
A moment to unpack a bit more of my own baggage, if not the actual massive bevy of suitcases.
(A seemingly never ending practice, that unpacking)
And then we take off again.
More next week.
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