Creative-Class Nomads

They met in the Chicago caf? where he liked to draw his
cartoons. The sketches made her laugh, she says. Later he bought
her a drink at the Zebra Lounge. The night ended over pancakes, and
they’ve pretty much been together ever since.

What ‘together’ means for Jefferson Reid and Tina King is hard
to guess, and neither is talking. It’s clear they have a creative
partnership that has survived several genres and almost as many
towns; they’re freelance nomads of the new economy trailing the
work from Chicago to New York to Los Angeles. Jeff, who has
contributed both articles and cartoons to Utne, writes and
edits for various L.A. Web sites, including IFILM and E! Online.
Tina is a singer and photographer when she’s not helping her
collaborator on screenplays and other projects.

It was Tina who got Jeff to pick up his electric guitar after a
long break and help her make a CD. They’d been at the clubs
enjoying L.A.’s eclectic music scene when she had a revelation. ‘If
you’re spending that much time listening to others create,’ she
says, ‘you really ought to be putting your own ideas out
there.’

It took about $3,000 to set up a digital recording studio, they
say, and three years to master the basics of sound engineering.
‘The financial outlay might be small, but the psychic costs are
high,’ Jeff says. Tina objects: ‘Don’t tell people that! It will
discourage them from finding out for themselves.’

Their CD, Crazy Like Crazy, is a collage of sampled riffs,
guitar licks, and lyrics that captures a bit of the vibe of Los
Angeles, which Jeff describes as a big dirty urban place with its
own ‘crazy beauty.’ They’re building a Web site
(www.neonlava.com) where
others can hear a track or two.

Critics lament that a few huge companies now produce most
popular music and film, but not all the fallout is toxic. Because
the corporate products have gotten so bland, and the gear for
making them so cheap, people like Jeff and Tina are realizing it’s
better to be their own media empires. The revenues might not get
you a house in the Hollywood Hills, but there will always be
late-night pancakes. And if it keeps you and a soul mate in the
pairs event for an olympiad or two, that’s solid gold.

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