Girly-Girl and D-O-G

It was dark and it was raining. Not raining a lot, just enough to make the road shiny and us a little bit wet. I didn’t mind. The tall trees dripped big wet drops over our heads and the bike wheels went “chhhhhh” on the shiny wet road as it curved and started to go uphill. D-O-G and I were riding in the big cart behind the bike, with the keyboard and some clothes and blankets and a lot of other things that I don’t know the human words for. My name is Girly-Girl and I am a dog. D-O-G is a dog, too.

It was the way we would usually go to go home, but I was pretty sure we weren’t going home now. Dudeman, D-O-G, and I all live together in a tent in the woods not far from town. Dudeman is our human and he fixes the tent with tape when it breaks. He hung a big plastic sheet above it so we won’t get wet when it rains. When it’s warm we all sleep outside and when it’s not we sleep in the tent. There’s a girl who comes sometimes with hair that looks like long ropes, red and black. When she’s there, Dudeman makes a little fire.

Sometimes dogs know things, and I knew we weren’t going home tonight. Tonight had been a different kind of night. Usually, we went to the town and sat outside the bar, where Dudeman played the keyboard and lots of nice people would stop to talk to D-O-G and me and ruffle our pointy little ears. Tonight, we didn’t go to the bar and we didn’t talk to anyone. Dudeman was quiet tonight. He was never quiet.

His real name is Derrick, he told me once, but no one calls him that. At first, when I was a little dog, it was just me and him. I rode around in the hood of his coat when we went downtown and met all kinds of people. He had a guitar then, not a keyboard, and he sat outside and made songs with it and I learned that I loved music. We didn’t have the bike or the cart back then. Dudeman had a board on wheels instead, and when I got bigger we played a game where I would run ahead and pull him on the board behind me, holding my leash. When D-O-G came I wasn’t sure if I liked him at first, but that was three years ago and now we’re good friends.

Dudeman turned the bike onto a different road, one that didn’t go towards home, which I already knew wasn’t where we were going anyway. The chain behind the bike said “criiiiieeeeaaaak” and the cart turned with it. We were still going up a hill.

“Girly-girl. Where are we going?” D-O-G said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Not home.”

Maybe we were going to San Francisco. That’s where the girl with the red and black rope-hair went. Before she left, she talked about it—she called it Frisco—and it sounded better than any other place in the world. “There’s an ocean, like here, but more of it,” she told me. “There’s a lot more sun too, and lots of people like us, good people, and lots of other dogs. You would like it.” She hadn’t come back yet. It must have been as great as it sounded. San Francisco.

When we got to the top of the hill, the bike stopped on the shiny wet road. Dudeman went back to the cart and pushed it—kabump, bump—off of the road and onto the grass. We were under the trees now and a big, wet drop came straight down and hit me on the head. I could see glowing light past the trees, a big lot with cars in it and a store where people get things to eat. I liked cars and I looked to see if any of them would move, but there were only a few and they were all still. It was very late. Downtown, people would be coming out of the bar now, laughing and smoking and making a lot of noise.

Dudeman lit a cigarette. Not a regular one with a yellow end and a bitter smell, but the other kind, white and kind of lumpy and narrow at the tips, that smelled nice, like burning grass. The end of it was a little orange fire in the dark. Dudeman was getting things out of the cart while he held the cigarette. He untied the long rope that kept the plastic sheet on the cart to keep things dry. The rope reminded me of the San Francisco girl’s hair, the long red and black ropes with beads on them. Dudeman got out a human sitting-on thing—a chair, that’s what it was—and our bowls, that is, D-O-G’s and mine. He put water in one, food in the other.

The plastic sheet stayed on top of the cart even without the rope. I nosed my way under it, where it was dry, and D-O-G followed. It was warm with both of us in there, steam rising from our wet fur. We were good dogs, quiet dogs.

Dudeman came over and found us under the plastic. “Heyyy,” he said. “Whatcha guys doing under there? Staying dry? Good.” He was still holding his cigarette between two fingers. He breathed it into his mouth, leaned in, and breathed the smoke out into my nose. He usually did that when he had this kind of cigarette, the one I liked. The smoke smelled like wet trees and made me feel like there was fur inside of my head. He did the same thing to D-O-G.

He ruffled both of our pointy ears. “Be good,” he said.

“Of course,” I said.

“We’re good dogs,” said D-O-G.

Dudeman went back to whatever he was doing. I heard his boots walking on the wet ground. The rain was loud when it dropped onto the plastic sheet above me and D-O-G, but it didn’t get us wet. We breathed gentle dog breaths together, in and out. After a while, the rain stopped dripping down. It was quiet except for our breaths. It was quiet outside, too. I peeked my head out from under the plastic to look.

Dudeman was still there, over by the trees. He was wearing the rope like a dog collar. He had tied the end of it to a tree branch, like a leash. The chair was underneath him. He must have had to stand on it to get up there and tie his rope to the tree, but it had fallen over and was laying on its side on the wet ground. A small whining sound came out of my mouth and I moved my hind feet a little bit, but I didn’t get up. D-O-G put his head out to look with me.

We were good dogs. We waited there in the cart for a long time, very quiet.

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“Don’t Stop” Collaborating to Keep Olympia Weird

Published November 2011 in The Counter Point Journal

If you attend Evergreen or reside in Olympia, you’ve probably heard of Don’t Stop. They host parties featuring some of the city’s best up-and-coming rap and hip-hop talent. People selling local artists’ CDs or tickets to shows often sport the “DNTSTP” logo emblazoned on weird space-themed jumpsuits. If the name is affiliated with an event, you can count on it to be a good time. However, you may not know exactly what Don’t Stop is. Who are these party people, anyway?

The surprising short answer: a screenprinting company. Don’t Stop’s full name is Don’t Stop Printing, and it is at its heart a small business that was started in a garage two years ago. The business has expanded exponentially since then, in spirit as well as in size—so much so that it’s hard to follow all the developments that have turned it into something much bigger than a printing company. Here, Don’t Stop’s Robin Slootmaker and Jessie Hill share the details of how this small business has become a powerhouse for art and entertainment in Olympia.

I meet with Slootmaker and Hill on a weekday afternoon at popular downtown bar The Brotherhood. Although it’s a gray, cloudy day, we take our whiskey sours to an outside table. Both Don’t Stop members look as hip as the group they represent: Hill in all black, with a leather jacket that contrasts sharply against her bleached-blonde hair; Slootmaker sporting sneakers, skinny jeans, trendy sunglasses and a cigarette. Although they both look ready to party, they’re eager to answer my questions about what Don’t Stop has been up to lately.

Slootmaker began by telling the story of the organization’s modest origins. Mark Malsbary, the company’s founder, is an Evergreen alum who met Slootmaker in a business class as an undergraduate. “I was the second person on board, and I’m now in charge of the business end,” says Slootmaker. The third person to join, Henning Snell, now does most of the actual printing, while Malsbary still runs the business and does a great deal of its creative work. Don’t Stop does high quality, environmentally friendly screenprinting. They print for Evergreen’s RAD services, whose T-shirts and hoodies are ubiquitous on campus. They service the Oly Rollers and Wind Up Here, a downtown toy store, and recently did some work for GruB. Don’t Stop has printed for businesses and individuals everywhere from California to Chicago.

But Slootmaker describes Don’t Stop as a group of  “artists, not just printers.” While they will print anything for anyone, Don’t Stop is selective about who they choose to collaborate with creatively. The business is sincerely devoted to making quality products, so they deliberately choose to support groups that are valuable to the community and artists that have real talent. It’s this ethos that led to their heavy involvement in the Olympia hip-hop scene.

Don’t Stop was already printing CD covers and T-shirts, as well as doing design work, for local musicians when the members of the organization realized they wanted to help change Olympia’s music scene. This quickly led to collaboration with local artists, including rising rap star Jessie Hill, better known by her stage name, Heddie Leonne.

“In Olympia, people tend to jump on trends,” says Hill. “This is about more than just trends.” Olympia’s music scene can get stuck in a rut due to the demands of trend-followers, she says, but the Don’t Stop crew has injected new life and energy into the scene, supporting artists more talented and unique than most of those who had been dominating the stages at bars and all-ages clubs.

Don’t Stop handpicks the artists they work with. “We support people who have real talent,” says Slootmaker, “not just whoever comes first.  It’s about quality.” Both Slootmaker and Hill mention that part of the drive to form this collaboration was the need for better parties in Olympia. The Don’t Stop crew wants to lend new meaning to the words “going out,” which typically refer to a night involving lots of alcohol and some canned, recorded, popular mainstream music. They want to offer Olympia residents an alternative: the chance to have a good time while experiencing something truly artistic and local.

“Which experience do you remember more?” asks Hill. “Drinking and dancing to recorded music or seeing local artists you know on stage?” Don’t Stop is striving to create an experience, leave a mark, and make something important happen every time they put on a show. Their shows are not popularity contests, Slootmaker and Hill tell me, as many events in a town as small as Olympia sometimes seem to be. “It’s about actually doing something,” Hill says.

Hill describes Don’t Stop collaborator Emma Peterson as “the redheaded fire behind Don’t Stop’s planning and promotion.” Peterson is almost inevitably to be found at any Don’t Stop party, sporting one of those crazy jumpsuits and being nearly everywhere at once in order to ensure that everything goes right. This can be quite a task, as their shows have grown to include multi-media art forms, including dancing and filmmaking as well as music and lightshows. Peterson is one of the group’s most involved and influential members, though there are many other valuable individuals on the team who are bringing new life to Olympia’s parties.

The company recently opened a brand-new downtown location next to Last Word Books. This new spot is a collaboration between Last Word and Don’t Stop, and will be part printing press, part screenprinting business, and part retail store, as well as an occasional performance space. The location’s multiple uses reflect what Don’t Stop has become: so much more than just a screenprinting company. “Don’t Stop is both a name and a mantra for us,” says Hill.

Expect to find local music and zines among the offerings at the new location. No matter what else you find, you can count on it to be hip, interesting, and showcasing local talent. Rap artist Free Whiskey’s recently released new album is there, and Heddie Leonne’s first solo album is coming in the next few months. Internships and free screenprinting classes will be offered the new location, as well. While all-ages Don’t Stop shows have been a rarity in the past, they are expected to happen more frequently in the future. Hill and Slootmaker encourage Olympia residents to keep a lookout for shows bearing the DNTSTP brand, which, as this writer can personally attest, are invariably worth attending.

For more information, check out Don’t Stop’s recently updated website: dontstopprinting.com.