The Mobile Blues Club lives in a retrofitted truck trailer in a parking lot next to the Saint Pauli neighborhood in Hamburg. Our host Annah unlocked the door turned on a chain of outdoor christmas lights. Annah is a tall woman with an asymmetrical haircut, a very popular style in Olympia and perhaps Hamburg as well? The stage stood at the far end of the club, crowded with drums and an old piano. Chairs lined the walls and a small woodstove sat in the middle, with a pipe running straight out the wall.
“Is this club really mobile?” I asked,
“Theoretically,” Annah replied, as she set up the bar at the other end of the club. The bar is tiny. Annah had to duck under the counter to get inside. It has a small register, and a mini fridge packed with bottled beer.
I met a woman after the show who’d been to Coeur ‘dAlene.
“I was surprised to hear you sing about that town, you know I’ve been there.” she said to me after the show. Her father was from Washington, he moved here to Hamburg when he was young, had her, then later divorced her mother. She still goes back for reunions sometimes.
I got into a deep discussion with this man from Gambia named Ras Alfa. “Have you been to the Reaperbahn?” he says. His voice was deep and raspy like old leather, and he leaned close to talk to me, “People tell me they’ve been to Hamburg, I ask them have you been to the Reaperbahn? If they say no say, ‘then you have not been to Hamburg.” He watched me as he talked, gadgeing my reaction, “The Reaperbahn is the heart of the city, it is where Hamburg began, tomorrow night you play there.”
Raz then goes into his theory of the Ham in ham-burg standing for He All Mighty, I think he sensed that he lost me at that point cause he asked, “You don’t go very deep with the Ham do you?”
“No,” I said, “I suppose I don’t”
I talked about Ras to Annah after the show. “He always shows up and takes up so much space.” she said, “He orders beer and then dosen’t pay for it, its really annoying.”
Thats one of the challenges of making a community space. You have to be prepared to work with people who will take advantage of the resource you are creating. I’m reminded of the time I asked this woman who lives in olympia named Gypsy to leave the Yes Yes. She was harassing Robbie while he was trying to play the piano, and ignoring his requests to leave him alone. When I asked her to leave she got in my face and looked ready to kick my ass. Lucky Kelee was there and we was able to get her to leave while I hid in the alley.
Later that same day I say Gypsy yelling at this woman on the street. The woman punched Gypsy in the face, she stumbled back in the street stopping all the traffic both ways on 4th avenue. Eventually the cops came and took her off. I’d really like to live in a world where people like Gypsy and Ras could be a part of my community, where we didn’t have cops, but sometimes I don’t know.