I’m torn out of a dreamless sleep with the thud of something dense against the back of my head and the quick unconscious jerk of my upper body in retaliation.
“Wake the fuck up.”
It’s never been the best expression with which to reintroduce a man into the conscious world, but more often than not, my friend utilizes it in the harshest of mornings. He must be hungry. I’m still too far under to be aware of whether it’s hunger or last night’s alcohol pressing at my stomach, but in either circumstance, I realize that I could use some food too. I throw the pillow back at him. Sitting up, I try to pry my eyes open with the facial muscles that make a man look either surprised or exhausted. I take one deep breath and pull myself awkwardly out of the cocoon of quilts and pillows arranged messily on the floor.
“What time is it?”
“2:30,” he says. Fuck. I hate waking up this late in the day.
"I'm starving," he states predictably. "Let's go."
I scrounge my selected pieces of scattered clothes from last night's post bar crawl slumber. One of the few blessings from hungover mornings - usually, there's a top notch outfit laid out on the floor nearby and all that's left to do is to re-adorn.
We walk out of his house into the startling but necessary Michigan sunshine looking ready to take on the town again. But this time, we're only headed for some greasy food.
The drive is gravely limited by conversation as both of us choose to conserve our energy until we've eaten something. We roll down the windows. Fresh air is a must.
"Do you see any Gatorades back there?" He asks. Like some sort of hangover specialist, he always stocks the back seat with plenty of his only known cure. I hand him one and take one for myself. Before even taking a sip, my friend seems reanimated by the pride of successfully preparing for this very scenario. We exchange a cheers.
Five minutes later we're inside a high-class fast-food restaurant demolishing a pair of oversized and overpriced cheeseburgers. Around us is the continued ambiance provided by our utter lack of conversation. But as our appetites are provided for, a classic question is posed.
"What the fuck happened last night?"
Always an important question with an entertaining series of rabbit holes and tangents to follow, our knack for friendly conversation is rekindled. Upon recounting stories and realizing that both of us probably made fools of ourselves, we go to check the evidence. No embarrassing social media posts, no damning texts, and no series of phone calls to a contact that should have been deleted long ago. We're safe. Only one thing peaks my interests during the scroll session.
"Kid Cudi is playing a free show in Cleveland tonight. No tickets, just first come, first serve."
My friend looks at me, and then down and to the left. I know him too well. He's up to something.
"Let's go," He says.
"Go where?" I ask stupidly. "I'm not even finished with my fries yet."
"The Cudi show."
Laughing, I shrug off his positivity as a joke, but quickly realize he's not kidding. Everyone has that one friend whose spontaneous decision making result in fantastic memories, and mine is sitting across from me offering a once in a lifetime adventure.
"Hell yeah," I finally reply.
We're back in the car, heading south this time. All remnants of the previous night have been eradicated. We're buzzing. The windows lazily give way to the fresh air and the warmth of the rare spring sunshine; the tunes have been adjusted in accordance to the sound of the car whipping through South Detroit.
The adventure becomes a little more real and simultaneously less immediately exciting as the city thins and the speed limits rise. Though we're certainly making good time, it's about a three-hour drive at this pace. I settle in.
I've traveled more miles riding shotgun in my friend's shabby Ford Explorer than I ever thought were possible without it quitting. But here we are. Our conversations again become limited as last night's bad decisions overtake me, and I fade into a metabolic hibernation powered by a cheeseburger and my remaining BAC.
With a thud to the back of my head and a quick, reflexive gasp for air, I'm torn out of a deep sleep for the second time today. I want to retaliate, but he's at the wheel, and checking the time, has driven two hours without any accompaniment. I deserved it.
"We're getting close," he tells me; though the light grey surroundings say everything I need to know. This is my first time in Cleveland, but it looks a lot like Detroit. The concrete warehouses, abandoned mills, and low-hanging layer of thin, white clouds are all reflective of the other Midwestern metropolises that have fallen far from the grace they once knew. But there’s beauty in the struggle the cities know today. There’s a plethora of culture born from the very problems that affect places like Detroit and Cleveland, and a glimmer of that culture will be playing tonight for free in front of a hometown crowd. Realistically, we’ll probably be the only outsiders, but then again, no one is an outsider at a Cudi show.
We park the car a few blocks from the venue in a neighborhood in view of the skyline. There are plenty of bars around and with a couple hours to spare, we duck into one. Over the course of the next hour and a half, we reflect on our journey, reflect on concerts of the past, and reflect on the days when Kid Cudi was king. It didn’t seem so long ago when Day N Night was the most overplayed song in all of our iTunes libraries, and now artists influenced and inspired by Kid Cudi created the most overplayed songs in our Spotify and SoundCloud collections.
The day has blended beautifully into the night, and as the sun fades and the brightness is loaned to inorganic lights, I feel at peace. Something about a familiar drink with a familiar friend on our way to a show reminiscent of the past in a city we’ve never been to all feels so right – a quick reminder that everything is connected. We just usually ignore the connections.
“Should we go?” he asks rather rhetorically and stands from his chair without granting me the time to respond. I agree with him anyway. We should be on our way if we want to make sure we get in.
No problems arise and we easily make our way into a smallish, nondescript venue with a cheap bar and a lot of people who seem to have also come to a sense of peace through personal reflection today. The interior design is born of the city around it: a lot of gray and black that fail to provoke a sense of dullness or uncreativity, but instead seem remarkably natural and honest. It’s the perfect venue for an artist bound by the same virtues.
We grab ourselves some cheap G&T’s – the traditional cocktail of our friendship, slip our way through the crowd to a space on the floor big enough for both of us to have substantial space to sway, and wait for the show.