Posted on | June 13, 2010 | 4 Comments
The idea for Colony of Losers was born in Portland, Oregon during the month following Obama’s election. It was just after the collapse of the American economy. These were the days when Priests prayed next to pick up trucks in Detroit. CNN reported job losses like they were sports stats. In between all the doom and gloom were commercials for Christmas presents that most people were no longer able to afford. California collapsed, and Arnold wasn’t strong enough to pump his state up.
Dozens of media outlets closed and my hopeful journalism career became unlikely before it even began.
For now let us dwell in the land of doom, apocalypse, and delicious barbecue. For those of you who have never been to Portland, let me sum it up. Every restaurant has a daily happy hour where expensive becomes affordable, art museums exist in haunted schoolhouses, left wing is mainstream and hipsters are kings, old men sell dildos, bongs, and shotguns at the same store… and all types of madness ensues.
The moment I realized Portland was a different world was when I read about a protest against homosexuality. The two religious protestors held up a sign that read, “God Hates Fags”. A counter-protest of 200 held up signs that said, “God Hates Morons”. The city’s motto is, “Keep Portland Weird”.
I was home.
Equipped with Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, I was ready to carry Hunter’s twisted flag of hope into the land of doom and bury the sharp end in the crotch of the oppressor. All I needed was a story.
Drinking cups of coffee next to tattered remnants of bacon and egg breakfasts, I kept my ears open. I heard a woman rage about her recent dismissal from her job due to her inability to handle the requirements of the work. Her inability to meet said requirements was due to her recent diagnosis of cancer. As such, she couldn’t be expected to work to her potential. As a newbie journalist I didn’t think to get her name or ask where she worked. My first opportunity had already slipped out of my hands.
So I did what any good journalist/socially awkward person would do. I listened everywhere I went. On the buses, I stared into surveillance cameras, listened to old ladies talk about the ruinous price of healthcare, young junkies talk about where they would get their next fix, and beautiful ladies discuss getting laid. High on coffee and Emergen-C (a vitamin replacement), I kept my ears open and my knees knocking.
Nothing. It would be awhile before I found the story I was seeking. Until then, my visit had another purpose; I was going to reconnect with my brother.
His name is Josh Martinez. He is a little shorter than me, a little skinnier and looks like a Jewish version of my Aryan self. My eyes are blue, his are brown, my hair is straight and blonde, his is curly, brown dreidel-locks. His voice is almost identical to my own, much of which can be attributed to mannerisms I picked up from him as a child. Back when he was my hero, and I was his favourite torture victim. He is my brother and he is a rap star.
Most children are picked on by their older siblings, and my brother was gifted with an extraordinary imagination. Highlights of this include the family trip to Toronto where my sister and brother explained to me that there had been many brothers and sisters before me, but they had been killed by ingenuous methods when they ceased to be of any use to the family. At the motel, they drowned a brother named Tommy in a hot tub. Then there was Jimmy and the hot air balloon incident.
After showing me a brief clip of Friday the 13th, my brother invited all his friends over to enact a horror movie where step by step each of them got killed. Hiding in the corner of my basement, after witnessing the death of my sister and my brother’s friends, it was calmly revealed to me that it was all a prank. Years later I find this funny.
He picks me up at the airport in a beaten up shit-tank, destined to die in less than a year. His trademark dreads are gone and his handsome face exists behind a background created by a mangled mullet he calls hair. His leather jacket, stylish sunglasses, and jeans contrast with my ill-fitting, blue, button-up shirt and undone belt. He was once asked to become a model because he looks vaguely ethnic, as he could pass for pretty much any ethnicity with his deeply tanned Mediterranean skin. Women are attracted to his wired up energy. I have the same wound up energy but from me it seems like I need to get laid. He is the Will, and I’m the Carlton. He is the rapper, and I’m the journalist. He travels the world, and this is my first time out of Nova Scotia for more than a few weeks.
“How you doing, Mikey?” he asks. He’s trying to charm me, and I can tell because he’s using my charming voice, which I guess I learned from him.
He is the only one in the world who calls me Mikey, and I feel the years falling out from under my feet.
“Pretty good, pretty good. How’s my famous brother?” I ask. I use the charming voice too.
“Hopeful,” he says. “Big things, Mikey, big things. How’s the book?”
I give him a long rambling summary, and he likes the right things and has the right questions. We are on the road, and the air tastes fresh. I can almost forget the amount of times I was advised at the airport to watch my luggage. It’s sprinkling. In Portland when it rains, it is a day of the week. The city is located inside of a rainforest.
“Getting excited to get back into the real world?” he asks.
I groan. This is a man who made a song called Bermuda Shorts with the line: “Divorced from the work force, I am I be, free at 23”.
“Not quite yet. Hopefully the book can keep me from having to do that for too long,” I say. He smiles. He knows what its like to be young, talented, and think that’s enough. For now, he’s willing to let me keep my illusions.
“Don’t worry Mikey,“ he says, “You’ll make it happen. Just expect that you are going to fail a lot before you succeed. But that’s all right. You don’t know yourself until you fall on your face a bit. I fell on my face a lot. Still pretty though. That’s just the Kimber genes,” he says. “Did I tell you my latest plan?”
He always has a little gleam in his eye when he talks about future plans to conquer the world, and there is always a new plan.
It’s been about ten years since we spent a substantial amount of time together, and both of us are wondering how well my month and a half stay on his couch will turn out.
There is a lot you should probably know about my brother. One is that his actual name is Matthew Kimber. Josh Martinez is his stage name. He flies around the world, rapping and singing his way into the hearts of strangers. His life necessitates months on the road and puts distance between him and the people he loves most.
He has done a lot of things that most people will never do, such as open for De La Soul, tour Europe and Japan, play festival shows for thousands, start a record label and have the number one rap record in Canada for three months running. That’s Josh Martinez: the man, the myth, the legend.
Then there’s Matthew Kimber. He lost the love of his life to years on the road and the strain it put on their relationship. Months away and weeks at home followed by months away again, a business life without the business hours. His genius sense of rhythm and mastery of the moment can get lost in his untreated Attention Deficit Disorder. On the road he is treated as a god, and at home he has difficulty making authentic connections because so few people know the difference between Josh and Matthew.
We pull up to his house, briefly ceasing our battle to charm one another to take bong hits with his roommates.
The weed is good in Portland, and despite my lack of sleep, I manage to make his roommates laugh, and not just because I hack my lungs out when I take the first pull.
At the time he lived in a small artistic commune next to his best friend Sleep (Chris Tafoya), Sleep’s kid, and his beautiful, pregnant wife, Rayne. My brother gets his taste of family vicariously through Sleep, playing with his son Ezra, taking on the role of favorite uncle. He lives with two other rappers and they all work together at Camobear Records. They are all big personalities and have big dreams.
They have been grinding for years, always on the edge of making that big move that will make them into household names. When they are on the cusp, the music industry collapses. No one is going to do it for them so they fumble, fuck up, and do it themselves.
They tour the world, but they can’t afford a mortgage. Living a life that is every child’s dream, but still they struggle to be men. Hundreds of thousands listen to their music on the daily, and as a result of downloads, they make little money from album sales and most of their cash on the road.
This was my brother’s own Colony of Losers, talented as hell, smart as fuck, and grinding cogs in a machine that was slowly falling apart. Over the next few months, we will learn the story of Josh Martinez, his ups and downs, successes and failures, and war to be free at 23 and free from being 23. You’ll meet my brother as we became closer than ever before, when I fell on my face and needed someone to help me get up again.
But before all that, you must be introduced to a pornographer and hear the story that almost ruined my journalistic career.
Welcome to the Colony of Losers, a world of quarter life crises, anxiety, depression and the friends and the failures on the way to your future. This is the story of Michael Kimber’s panicked fall into adulthood.If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
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