This one might be a bit of a bummer. Or maybe not.
Let me tell you a story about my buddy Ben Metzger. The man’s a dreamer. As far back as I can remember, he’s always wanted to be a rapper. Also, he’s from Corvallis, which makes that goal tenuous at best.
I’ll cut to the chase; he became a dope MC. From his initial recordings with Chris Kennedy as Future Sunz to his current incarnation as Monk Metz (or Future Metz?) with Corvallis jazz/hip-hop/free-rock sextet Xenat-Ra, he’s brought the ruckus beyond any reasonable doubt. He’s helped an art form flourish in arid soil, bringing the influence of De La Soul, Mike Ladd, and Latyrx together in as adventurous of musical landscapes as any of those artists have tread.
But this isn’t a story about Monk Metz the rapper, nor is it a story about Ben Metzger the social media instigator, conspiracy theory apologist, or excellent late-night shit-talker. This is a story about an entrepreneur who, as far as I’m concerned, is what we profess to be all about in America.
While cultivating his vocal skills and leading a successful green building business, he continued to dream another green vision as close to his heart and with even more possibility for a community, both geographical and artistic.
The man envisioned a goddamn barcade! A simple concept really. He wanted to create a place for friends to come together, enjoy live music, toss bean bags through plywood, abuse vintage pinball games, and drink like the gaming gods demand. Eventually this vision became flesh, or rather plaster, painted cutouts of NBA greats, and laminated counter tops like translucent bogs with the bodies of dead rappers and wrestlers drawing friends forward into oblivion.
Metz opened The Dam, the kind of baroque manifestation of personal passions that can only be assembled by an Aronofsky protagonist. Such souls don’t often make great restaurateurs. If that sounds like a slam, then what we have here is a failure to communicate.
The Dam is two levels of: Basketball court meticulously painted with a logo Fab Five Freddy would either appreciate or sue the fuck out of; 270 degrees of TV screens putting most sports bars to shame while also smacking Luigi upside the head with a red shell; and enough old-school video games to make Evan Peters’ Quicksilver cream in his jeans. The Dam is: The Alkaholiks, Stairway Denied, Vursatyl, Lyrics Born, The Turntable Enabler, Web/Avitar Virgonian/Dusted Temple, and a thriving home for drag night/LGBTQ dance parties. The Dam is: A ceiling full of movie, music, and sports posters watching over us like the childhood dreams many here among us will try our whole lives to live.
Or perhaps I should say, “The Dam was …” Last night, I read with real sadness that Metz is closing The Dam. According to The Facebook post, they lost their lease, but who knows what that even means. It was a tall order from the beginning. He labored for years to make every physical detail of the place an aspect of his personality, and then filled it with games guaranteed to take even the most fully adulted motherfather back to his pixelated spirit cave.
Again, a simple concept, but perhaps one that’s still too far ahead of Corvallis’ seemingly gamma-ray-accelerated growth in recent years. It’s certainly all-too-familiar of a story: The entrepreneur who spends all his dough creating the perfect place to eat and imbibe, and then doesn’t have enough money to keep it open. The history books that will never be written would be full of such stories.
I’m telling you this one now not to reinforce your cynicism, but rather as a sort of “The Secret”-esque call to The Universe. If anyone out there is listening, hear me now.
THERE IS A FULLY FUCKING STOCKED BARCADE IN CORVALLIS JUST WAITING TO MAKE SOMEONE MONEY. IT’S A BRILLIANT IDEA, AN AMAZING PLACE TO HANG OUT, AND WITH JUST A BIT OF ADDITIONAL FUNDS, A CERTIFIED MONEYMAKER. SHAKE IT, ASPIRING VENTURE CAPITALISTS, LIKE YOUR SOULS DEPEND ON IT.
Enough with the all-caps. If The Universe is at all like me, it’s asking, “Why don’t you just throw in some triple exclamation marks and texty acronyms, asshole?” If the idea of a rap-and-sports-and-vintage-video-games-gathering-place doesn’t fill your heart with a joyous and inquisitive throbbing, well, why not start digging your own grave now, you starving zombie bastard.
Full disclosure: I feel a bit guilty that I didn’t do more to support this dream. I could have written about it right here previously, and roughly 40 more folks might have known about it. Actually, 30 of those 40 readers are friends anyway, but 10 more folks might have known about it! I could have shared The Dam’s posts more frequently on Facebook, or made it my beeswax to get to every intimate show it hosted. I drove down from Portland as often as I could, but just as I’ve often apologized to myself for ever being construed as conflating Hillary Clinton and Tronald Dump, I must now apologize to whomever might be reading this for not doing more to differentiate between The Dam and all the lesser bullshit bars at which I’ve dropped a pretty penny.
The Dam was the shit! Scratch that. The Dam was/will be the shit! Go watch “Light Years,” get up to speed on past/future tense, and then share this plea with anybody you might know with a load of dough just wasting away for a dream to sustain her or him. Call your senator or representative, pray to God or Satan, light a fire in a floating lantern and send it into the abyss.
You think this story’s over, but it’s ready to begin. Bring that motherfucking beat back.