I’m laced in brown and leather like some sort of makeshift and utterly unconvincing urban cowboy. But that’s only because of the times. If this were another time, a simpler time, my fashion choices would be less regarded as modern rural or urban retro, and instead, they'd simply be chique. But nothing about my lack of blending with the times or the place has me phased. In fact, it has an effect quite in the opposite direction. I feel good wearing what I’m wearing. I always do.
And I feel good listening to what I’m listening to. From my earbuds sings David Ruffin’s powerful and melancholy delivery. My father always was Motown first – growing up just a few blocks from the Detroit studio and occasionally summoning the courage to approach the likes of Marvin and Tami – his study is now lined with timeless signatures and a fine layer of dust.
My brown, suede jacket at the heart and soul of my aesthetic was his too. But I've since cleaned off the dust. Huge, hand carved, and frustratingly fragile wooden buttons work their way down its center. There were five to begin with. I'm down to three. I only ever button two.
They match seamlessly with my handmade, rawhide high-laced boots. The levels of brown and tan coloring unpredictably weave and fade in and out of one another. From far, they appear simple, yet fine boots. But near, the raw complexities of the leather make everyone question why it is that we tend to dye it in the first place.
My wooden soles click their way along the drying sidewalk. It snowed yesterday, and thought the cold remains still in the air, the sunlight has melted away the entirety of its trace not left in shadow. For those unlucky enough to have property facing north, the snow will turn to ice and last until late spring. But my boots are unfit for situations requiring traction, so I avoid the shadows and stick to the sunshine.
A lot of things about today are reminding me of my hometown, though it would never be sunny this time of year in Detroit. But the cold, the wet, the colors, and most notably, the music, make me feel as though I’m back. There is a permanent air of nostalgia and reminiscence which hangs over Detroit, and in many ways, anyone from there. But, we’re comfortable in our traditionalist and classical natures.
In true traditional form, I duck into my favorite bar and order an old fashion. The sun will be setting soon so a cocktail isn’t out of the question. Something about the effort of the practiced hand making the drink also brings me back in time and back to Detroit. A calm, mellow, yet undeniably lost appreciation for craftsmanship in the everyday things has overtaken most of the world. It’s simply become too easy to never see things being made. But back home, and back in time, the processes are unavoidable and unavoidably rooted in our nature. So, I watch as the honey brown bourbon is painstakingly measured and drawn into the glass, as a miniature cube of raw sugar is dropped into it, and as a few dashes of red angostura emblazon their dye into the mixture. It is stirred together with an imperfect cube of ice and slid across the polished wood grain of the old bar top. The sound of the glass making its way across the wood is inexplicably calming.
Unaccompanied by other patrons, conversation from the bartender, or my earbuds, I sit thoughtless in the dark yet welcoming environment of a high-end, empty bar. Something about a place like this, where people are meant to be brought together, converse, and celebrate, is surprisingly more fitting of this empty, lonely experience. Good design is always transcendental of situational application, I suppose.
Once the drink is finished, I cash out, grab my coat from the chair back, head out the door, and make for tonight’s culminating location. The venue is an old one – in many ways the concert hall parallel of the bar I was just at. Its interior is mainly polished of fine wood grain, and it bears a certain hollowness and emptiness surprisingly more welcoming than if it were, as designed, packed with bustling concert-goers. Maybe on most nights, the energy here is different, but tonight’s feature caters for a particularly mellow and musically-appreciative kind of crowd who would rather absorb the music – the art – for what it is rather than building the performance into a soundtrack for other motives.
I look around and notice for the first time today, a lot of people with a similar visual aesthetic to my own. There is a reminiscence, a nostalgia about my fellow audience. The floorboards creak under polished dress boots, heels, and monk straps. The color palette of the dresses, the jackets, the scarves, and the mittens is cut of a particularly undertone sector of the color wheel. Browns, greys, muted red, maroons, and purples, navy. Everyone is gently clutching a rocks glass filled with their favorite vices, but no one is using this platform as an excuse to chase those vices off the deep end.
It feels more like a quiet jazz club than a well-established concert venue. Funny how the right place can adjust depending on the performer. There is no mystery tonight. Our artist, Nick Hakim, is procuring his bandmates a round of cocktails amidst the rest of the crowd, and aside from the occasional wishes of good luck or excitement, no one is bothering him.
Him and his drummer, double-clutching their drinks, make their way from the bar to the stage, distribute the cocktails accordingly, and begin a quick and respectable introduction before counting off and starting up. There is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. Just a room full of old souls, indulging in music and cocktails – our duality of preferred vices and escape – in a manner relaxed as drinks on the front porch with friends.