Journal

"Now I'm Fine" in The Stranger Dec 3, 2014

by Erin

The Stranger's Brendan Kiley talks with Oluo about his life, words, and music:
As a title, Now I'm Fine does a lot of heavy lifting. It implies an ordeal, lets you know it's in the past, and even tells you how it ended—from setup to spoiler in three short words.

This autobiographical concert by musician and writer Ahamefule J. Oluo (think of it as a solo show with 16 backing musicians, including the glistening, dexterous voice of okanomodé SoulChilde) is, in fact, a record of an ordeal that descends to depths that are as startling as they are grim. But Oluo has a stand-up comedian's heart and deploys jokes like a team of hopeful hot-air balloonists trying to give a little lift to a story that just keeps getting heavier.

An early version of Now I'm Fine, performed at Town Hall in 2012, begins on a city bus where a passenger whose face has "the kiss of meth" asks Oluo why he seems familiar. ("I don't know," Oluo replies in a mock-prim voice. "Are you perhaps a patron of the fine arts?") Then, Oluo says, the guy figured it out. "He was like, 'I know where I know you from! We both went to Mountlake Terrance High School.' And then he said, as if it were completely appropriate: 'You were the kid with no friends! ... You had no friends—like, none at all!'"

"How unnoticeable do you have to be," Oluo wonders to the crowd, "to be noticed for being unnoticeable?" Then he tells a story to illustrate his social standing in high school—some girls had organized a day for students to wear pink-triangle pins to show their support for gay students. Oluo supported the idea in theory, but as an outcast and insecure sophomore, he wanted nothing to do with it. Then he saw Johnny, the high school's "gay kid"—regularly picked on and beat up—walking down the hall wearing his pink-triangle pin.

"I decided right at that moment that I could no longer be a coward," Oluo says. "If he could do it, I could do it." He screwed up his courage, got a pin, and "didn't give a fuck who saw me do it." As Oluo walked to class, he saw Johnny again. "As I passed him, I stared at him right in the eyes," Oluo says. "As if to say, like, got your back, dude! He looked right back at me and, staring right into my eyes, he said something that I will never forget. He said: 'Fuck off, nerd.'"

Read the rest at The Stranger.

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