On a cool summer’s eve — sweater weather — we were making music in our backyard last night.
It’s not the kind of music one would expect coming from the side yard of a middle-aged urban white couple. Where there had been James Taylor and Norah Jones earlier in the evening, the main act was hip-hop, and not just any hip-hop.
It was hip-hop performed in the language of love, an urban tale told against the red bricked side of our house in the middle of the night, at an hour far past my bed time.
My daughter Marissa’s boyfriend Jay Homes aka FLO is a hat salesman by day and a French hip-hop artist by night. He began his journey while at De La Salle High School in Ottawa and is now performing around town with some of the biggest names in French hip hop, artists who draw hundreds to their concerts and showcases.
For now, FLO is the warm-up, but I’m betting pretty soon he’ll be a mainstage act. He’s a handsome young man, Denzel Washington handsome, with fine features and a healthy head of locks which are currently being stage-managed by Marissa.
I’m not saying this just because FLO’s family; he’s got real stage presence. FLO knows his business, having studied and worked professionally for the last few years as a sound engineer. At recent concerts, he’s had the crowds up on their feet, proving he’s a real crowd pleaser and he has made it clear that the boy’s got game.
So last night, he was over at his out-laws, with his boys, producer Stunnin Rs and fellow artists S.C.R.I.P.T. and J.Creole, and our girl, Marissa, shooting a music video for his new single Le Hip Hop (produced by Stunnin Rs) with the assistance of the ever-earnest and talented Gemini-winning cameraman, Scott Troyer. You’d never know that Scott had just returned from shooting a Catholic wedding at St. Patrick’s Basilica. He was as fresh as a morning daisy.
My cameraman-by-night, car salesman-by-day husband spent the better part of four hours shooting various angles of FLO while the ailing Ming was snoozing on her dog pillow in the background.
Mama Rose was in charge of the craft table, doling out sausages and vegetable platters with a potato chip chaser.
Our sketchy Asian neighbors, meanwhile, were swarming across the street, up to no good, no good at all. What began as a barbecue deteriorated quickly into shouting in Berlitz languages, then fisticuffs followed by drunken drag racing.
We waited for the cops, but none seemed to be available. They never seem to come when the doin’s are bad.
Across the street, at Shameless — the trailer converted into a slum, hoarding house, perhaps crack den — the kids were feeling frisky. The drunken vehicle of choice at Shameless is a motorcycle, and we watched as a glassy-eyed youngster performed unintentional figure eights at high-speed alongside the house, which is always protected by two pit bulls — the dog of choice for the perpetually wasted and the criminal.
Ah what a neighborhood we live in– part juke joint, part Triad, part just plain people fucking up their lives.
But it’s our neighborhood, and on a summer’s night, there’s lots of activity.
Who needs New Orleans? Who needs New York?
We have the good and the bad and the ugly all within a stone’s throw of our house.
By the crack of midnight, the craft table closed for the evening and I toddled off to bed, carrying the gimpy Ming, followed by a very barked-out Gordie and a drooling Hannabelle. The shoot was still going, the Asians were still fighting and Shameless was still, well, Shameless.
I don’t know when fighting stopped next door.
No bodies were visible in the early morning light.
Another slice of life on a summer’s night on St. Laurent Boulevard.
A little night music wafting over a sea of criminal behavior.