Mass Av, Indy in the 90s

*press play then read*

I worked as a barista in a small cafe (along Massachussets Ave, Indianapolis) back in the 90s.  In between a real job, classes, and merely existing alone ‘somewhere else’ I met Matt while working in a cafe.. He was blonde, blue eyed, lean, young, brash, cocky.  He told me he was a jazz drummer and he just happened to serve coffee on the side.  He’s about five years younger and he was assigned to train me.   So he’d eye me suspiciously, saying, “You don’t clean at home, do you?”  I said  I didn’t know what he was talking about.  Then he’d proceed to say what he observed about my sweeping, wiping, and serving habits.  Every afternoon til late evening he’d play his “I’m trying to figure you out” game.  Since I had a dayjob I usually ended up doing barista work in my office clothes (tamad magpalit at LALONG tamad maglaba) and he thought it suspicious that his co-server wore office clothes to this type of work.

At the end of the semester he concluded that I must be the daughter of some underground mob boss or some revolutionary who was at-large and that I was sent to Indiana to hide and study and that I really don’t need to work as a barista but it was my way of blending.   Now, if you lived in Indianapolis in the 90s you will know that a tall-ish Filipina cannot ‘blend in’ even if she tried.  (I think there are more Filipinos there now, though, I’m not sure.)   We became friends, at least I think we did.  He dragged me to the “Slippery Noodle Inn” (a blues bar)  regularly so I can watch his gigs.  He was a jazz drummer (kaya lang sugod siya lagi) and played twice a month with a trio.

He and I talked music almost every time and I think a part of him (though he tried to hide it) was always amazed that I knew his jazz greats despite coming from a “far away land.”  (his words not mine) He kept asking me how I knew Fleetwood Mac’s music.  He couldn’t quite grasp that Philippine radio runs on the American radio format. (debatable, I know)   Remember this was not the era of youtube so I really had no chance to show him the music scene back home but I tried as best I could to explain that the music scene in Manila is as crazy as any city’s, teeming with talent.   He always tested me, from behind the espresso machines, he’d toss out questions on BB King’s guitar, then I’d say “Lucille.” … then he’d step back and say, “You’re undercover, you are not a real barista.”  Then we’d laugh.  Undercover what, I’d ask him, then he’d say, jazz musician manager, I hope.  Then we’d laugh.   Matt became one of my good friends throughout my stay in Indy, when I was about to leave he gave me a 5ft x 6ft black and white tarp photo of Miles Davis and to date it must be one of the coolest gifts I have ever received in my life.  I gave him a miniature drum set from a back alley curio shop in New York.  I only remember this because my last memory of Matt’s face was through the cab window when I handed him the box.  I was on my way to the airport then and his house was my last Indy stop.


About gangcentral

My name is (actually) Gang. View all posts by gangcentral

3 responses to “Mass Av, Indy in the 90s

  • Matthew Kennicutt

    wow. For most of the article I thought it was a scathing review of time ill-spent with some ego-heavy Mid-Westerner. Then I got to the part where you said we became friends and the Miles Davis poster was one of the coolest gifts you’d received. Yay me! I’m glad THAT part worked out… (I still have my doubts you weren’t an undercover Jazz aficionado) I do remember those days hanging out. I really enjoyed them. It would be great to talk again- how do I find you? -I’m on Facebook under matthew kennicutt

  • gangcentral

    Holy sh*ttttttttttttttt, how’d you find this blog post, Matt???!!! WHOA. (let me get over it first)

    Next – did I do you justice in this piece? Well, at least this was how I saw you. An amazing thing, this remembering, no?

    I wrote this because I started taking jazz drum lessons this year. Under a magnificent Filipino jazz drummer named Mar Dizon (go ahead search him on youtube) and remembered you!

    Once again, the internet is our friend. 🙂

  • gangcentral

    PS: Oh I DID tag you on the post. Good thing. Ha ha.

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