SEATTLE – He’s not more than three or four pulls into his joint when, standing in the waterfront Olympic Sculpture Park in the middle of the afternoon, Shawn Kemp starts looking around. He’s trying to remember the name of a musicians’ lounge he used to visit in the early 1990s.
“I’ll tell you what it was, man. It was, the name of it was …” he says. “What was it called?”
He shakes his head before taking another drag off his Freddy’s Fuego Animal Gas pre-roll. But it’s not the marijuana that has dulled Kemp’s memory. It’s the years.
“Well, anyways,” he says.
The landmark he’s looking for was a 24-hour place where wannabe rock stars could jam, rehearse, record. Kemp, then a young star with the Seattle SuperSonics, got to know some of the musicians and the owner, who learned the 6-foot-10 power forward liked to smoke weed before and after games. But the NBA didn’t just frown upon cannabis: in those days, it could get you sent to prison. So the owner offered Kemp access to the top floor so he could hide out, blaze up, soothe his knees and his mind without worrying about who might smell the smoke.
Now, his old hideaway is an apartment building and a symbol of robust commercialism, and Kemp is smoking in broad daylight a few blocks from the Space Needle and his old office, the basketball cathedral formerly known as KeyArena. Both are signs that cities change over time, so do opinions, and …
“The Box!” Kemp says, remembering at last. “For years that kept me away from having a lot of trouble.”
The Jambox, actually, which closed in 2012 after hosting bands such as Blind Melon and Parliament/Funkadelic for two decades. Kemp just chuckles at the evolution surrounding him.