The following is an account of the strangest routed tour in my 10 years with Blowfly through San Jose, Costa Rica to Baltimore, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Long Branch, New Jersey, Seattle, and in Canada, Victoria and Vancouver. While those three segments make sense on their own, you'd pretty much need to be on mushrooms to put them together on purpose. Or be in charge of the Weird World of Blowfly
July 31: My wife and I meet Blowfly at his Burger King of choice on NW 36 Street and 27 Ave. He's in a good mood, eating his pancakes. Tomorrow, we're playing his first ever show in Latin America. As he has lived at the gateway to Latin America for 55 years, this was a hole we're all thrilled to be filling.
Unfortunately, Clarence's mood and mine took a severe turn when the clerk checking us in at curb at American Airlines has taken it upon himself to flag Clarence, an international traveler for many decades, for having an unusable passport. Citing an $10,000 fine he fears Costa Rica will hit the airline with if he lets a dirty rapper pass with a dirty passport for them to do dirty and deport.
See also: Help Keep Blowfly From Going Homeless!
We are then passed along to his supervisor. She is a West Indian woman of a certain age who takes one look at Clarence and one look at his slightly beat up passport and condemns us with all the disdain she could muster.
After I demanded to see the guidelines (not from a government agency, but from the airline) that she was referring to, I pointed out that the criteria she flagged, torn pages, did not occur in Clarence's passport. She continues to rage like Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, until we reach the point where any further protest is going to attract the cops. We need a new Passport? Fine, curbside baggage Nazi, we'll get your freaking passport. And we will get on the next plane after we get it. Because like "Convoy" says "Nobody Fucks With Blowfly."
I hail a cab and we embark on our mission. I call Billy the Kid, our guitarist, and tell him to go on the flight without us. Our Haitian cabbie tries to tell us the closest photo place to downtown is the Walgreens across the street from Churchill's. Nice try, buddy. We live here.
After a quick photo, we head to the passport office in the old Omni mall and begin the "begging for passport medley." We get past the security because one of them has heard of Betty Wright. We get past the intake lady because she has some empathy for our story. We then waited four hours to be seen.
Clarence is infamous for having no patience whatsoever. If the angels really do pass out virtues, like they claim in Catholic school, they gave him all the musical talent in the world and totally missed on patience. Within minutes, Clarence is trying to lie down, which would get us kicked out. Miraculously, he behaves himself for the first three hours. He then starts fussing, and right before he might get us kicked out for using his cell phone, we get called.
As luck would have it, we have drawn another tart tongued West Indian lady, but this one has a heart, and after a few minutes concedes a passport to him. This begets another two hour wait. At the 90 minute mark Clarence starts getting loud, and I bear hug him to chill him. If I didn't they'd make sure he never is allowed out of the country again. Finally, the miracle of his shiny new passport arrives.
We rush downstairs. It's 5:30 p.m. My wife drives up at six. The next flight to Costa Rica leaves at 7:40. Traffic on 836 between downtown and the airport is gridlocked. So I drive through every shortcut Allapattah has, and we get to the airport at 6:45. Amazingly, the counter person at American is 100% empathetic to our fate, is horrified at her colleague's behavior, does not charge us $200 each to change our flight and got us on, with the help of a wheelchair and a porter. We boarded the plane five minutes before it took off.
After giving the cute, 20-something private school SAT tutor wedged next to us on the plane a free concert for the duration of the flight, Clarence and I deplane in San Jose. No one gives a second look at our passports, and there's no one there to greet us, because I didn't realize that Costa Rica doesn't do daylight savings time. Thankfully, the one thing that is cheap in Costa Rica is cab fare. We make it to our hotel and collapse. I catch my second wind, and meet our band at the bar Amon where we are playing the next day. It's a really cool old house across the street from a red light transsexual hooker bar. In other words, it's a perfect location for a Blowfly show.
The dressing room
The next morning, I look outside and realize how gorgeous the scenery is. Even in the grubby, fast food joint strip our boutique hotel is on, there are gorgeous views of the mountains. We rouse for lunch at a Peruvian joint down the street with our promoter, Oscar, and then Billy and I sound check with our two musicians that will round out the band tonight: Cirus, a tall Persian Frank Zappa freak, and Gabriel, a quiet, but good bassist. Rehearsal goes well, and we are on.
Five hours pass. Oscar had the notion that we would play at 10. No one who likes Blowfly leaves their house before 10, and in Latin America, this is no different. He calls in a panic at 9. I tell him not to worry. We get picked up at 10:15, and are greeted in the dressing room by two national radio DJs and a six foot Amazonian poet who hands us a book with paintings made with her menstrual blood. Clarence interviews himself for 20 minutes, and then we're ready to play.
We hit the stage. From the first note we completely own the capacity crowd. They may not understand all of our stage patter, but they sure as hell bug out on the Fly and groove to our nasty funk. When we play the Clarence Reid tune "Masterpiece," which was sampled by Jurassic 5 for their hit "Quality Control" they lose their minds. The dance floor is packed to the gills, and the balcony has folks hanging off of it. It was completely worth the passport mission of the day before.
The next day, Oscar's wife Alejandra and Cirus took us to the volcano at Poas, about 90 minutes outside of town. While the cloud cover kept us from viewing the crater lake, I did get a nice picture of me in front of a sign that depicts how it looks on a clear day.
Tom on a not clear day.
On the way back I had the best beef tenderloin of my life for $15, and this set the stage for a rather bizarre night of barhopping. We started at a chess bar/Chinese restaurant where the drinks were cheap but the food was awful. We then moved to a German club, where they turned the lights out on us 45 minutes before closing, then went to a bar that served a nacho platter that was a yard across. We finally ended up at a cheesy dance club which was highlighted by the DJ's giant pair of granny panties that she kept draped over her laptop. Every 4th song she would pick them up and rock out with them like she was an extra in A Night At The Roxbury.
The next morning, I woke up hungover but resigned that we had to go home. Clarence sat for a portrait, we changed our Costa Rican money into dollars and headed off to the airport.
As you may have noticed, airports are where the Weird World of Blowfly can get into trouble. This time was no different. As we checked in at the American Airlines counter, newly minted national hero/Costa Rican goalie and World Cup standout Keylor Navas showed up. Nevas had just signed a contract to play for Real Madrid, and he was wearing his full Costa Rican uniform. He was mobbed by his countrymen at the counter.
We were three feet away. It was such a surreal scene, I didn't reach for my phone to take a picture until, it was too late. As he departed the counter, some cute little thing begged for a selfie right in front of us. "POR FAVOR!" He posed, and then his security guard had enough and shoved Nevas directly into Blowfly. Not good.
"What the fuck! Come back here, motherfucker!" Blowfly shouted.
"Clarence, that wasn't his fault," I tried.
"The hell it wasn't!"
Thankfully, Billy is nicknamed the "Blowfly Whisperer" and calmed Clarence down before a real international incident occurred.
After we got past security, the most eventful thing besides Nevas' fans stalking him in groups of 20, was discovering that KFC at the San Jose airport has a plate of food that looks more like you would find at La Carreta. We get on the plane. land. Billy gets detained for 45 minutes because he's Bolivian-American and shares a surname with their president. Despite driving by a dead body sans car on 95, we make it home in one piece.
After sleeping for 24 hours, I awoke on Tuesday to a multitude of emails reminding me about a radio interview Clarence is scheduled to do on Hollow Earth Radio in Seattle. I start calling him, and he finally returns my call in a very down voice.
"I'm extremely pissed. If I don't come up with $3,000 by Sepetember 30th, they are going to take the house, and I need to find a new place to live."
This is my worst nightmare. I told him I will do my best to save his house, but that he needs to find the bill. I do the radio interview for Clarence and then go on the county tax collector's property search website. I discover that Clarence needs $8,699.66 or his house will be sold September 4 to Capitol One Bank. The very same "what's in your wallet bank" that my Blowfly credit card is issued on.
Also I find out that the house is in his late mother's name, which explains why no one answered the mail. I also learn that Clarence's reasoning for selling his TK royalties in 2003 to a loan shark in Beverly Hills for roughly 1/500th of what they were worth was completely wrong. He could never have "lost" a house to the IRS that was never in his name to begin with. He is destitute for no good reason and was clearly swindled.
That's a real Blowfly tattoo.
Fighting the urge to burn my credit card, I begin making a series of calls. As we are going on the road in 44 hours, there's no time to take a loan out on the meager songwriting royalties he has left. We are just going to have to crowd source it. Kickstarter is a no go, as that's an all or nothing proposition and Clarence's homelessness is not a gamble I'm willing to take. I take the question to social media. "Fundlocalstuff" just doesn't sound right for an international recording artist. So in a hurry, and needing funds, I pick Indiegogo and their Paypal option. It's expensive, but we are on a deadline. I call lawyers, they tell me to try and bargain with the tax assessor. But with a sale in place already, all I get is, "We don't care what your story is."
Well I care, Miami-Dade County. It's a damn shame you can't do one simple internet search to see if your tax rolls have dead people on them. It's a damn shame you don't have any options for people in need. It's a damn shame you don't see that selling off a $100,000 house for $8,699 is not a fiscally smart decision -- especially if it creates newly minted homeless people who will need county services.
So I am going to beat you and pay these taxes off. I'm wagering the world cares about the inventor of the Miami Sound and the Godfather of Hip-Hop. I'm wagering that I won't be the only one that is freaked out at the prospect of a man who is responsible for tens of millions of record sales pushing a grocery cart. I built a campaign on my laptop, got a few folks to make me artwork and videos and it's live here. Here we go. #saveblowfly or bust.
Part 2: What it's like to tour on both coasts of North America and run a high stakes campaign at the same time. Hint: it involves, no sleep, Nardwuar, and 2 Live Crew.
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