City Paper is not for tourists
No baseball. No voting rights. No Jeff Nelson.
That’s right: D.C. has lost the Dischord Records co-founder, drummer, Buffalo Bridge champion, “Meese is a Pig”-poster provocateur, international chewing-gum authority, and inveterate collector. To Toledo.
Toledo? Yup. The former punk rocker has fulfilled a lifelong dream by purchasing a Victorian mansion in the historic Old West End section of the depressed Ohio town.
“I think many people would think I’m crazy,” says the 41-year-old Nelson during a break from packing up his overstuffed Arlington house. “They would say…’D.C. is your home…and you’re going to leave this just for a nice house?’ And if you put it like that, it sounds crazy,” he admits.
But, he counters, “I want to live in a nice house, and I want to look at beautiful old houses from my house. And beautiful architecture is like beautiful women. They make my heart pound. Ever since I was 17, I’ve been putting up pinups of Victorian mansions.”
Nelson’s pinup-worthy new house sports six bedrooms, eight fireplaces, one huge third-floor ballroom, and a four-car garage. (That last, sadly, will need to be expanded to contain Nelson’s seven vintage Jeep Wagoneers.) The day after the $450,000 purchase, Nelson was the subject of an article in the Toledo Blade: “Old West End House Resets Price Record,” the headline blared.
“I’ll probably spend a couple years living that down,” he mourns.
Nelson’s decision to skip town was partly fueled by the recent emigration of several of his close friends, including Last Train Home’s Eric Brace. But it was also driven in part by Nelson’s need for a new distraction: With nearly 10,000 square feet to furnish, Nelson muses, “I’ll have space for every kooky project I ever thought of. I’m sure I’ll have themed bedrooms.”
In addition to taking his silk-screening equipment out of storage, the Minor Threat/High Back Chairs rocker will be able to set up his drums for the first time in 11 years. He estimates an immediate need for 11 sofas, and he excitedly counts off the house’s various other possibilities: “A room just for storing wood. And another room just for woodworking. And another room just for Jeep parts. It’s gonna be like heaven….I’m very excited about the basement.”
All this home talk has Nelson’s friends speculating. “Ian [MacKaye, co-founder of Dischord and Minor Threat bandmate] thinks I’m gonna be collecting houses now,” says Nelson. “I can’t afford to be collecting houses.”
After the merest pause, though, he continues: “I would love to buy the house immediately behind me….”
At a going-away party, Nelson presides over a teeming back yard: Former members of such seminal Dischord bands as Government Issue and Marginal Manplus representatives of the Slickee Boys, Tuscadero, Velocity Girl, Cigarbox Planetarium, and othershave turned up for the event, which Nelson, typically, has organized as a mini-exhibition. The garage wall is covered with blown-up photos of the newly rechristened “Paddock-Nelson” house. There is a Toledo information booth, a display charting Nelson’s historic Dischord days, an array of his various IDs and driver’s licenses, and a board touting “What I’ll Miss Most About D.C.” And there’s a freshly built “Kiss Jeff Nelson Good-bye” booth, which sees much action as the night progresses.
Tony Lowe and Megan Plesea of the Toledo band the Ugly Lovemakers are here courtesy of Nelson. “I’ve already put the notion on the table to move into the mansion and be his butler,” jokes Lowe. Then, more seriously: “Whatever Jeff decides to do in Toledo, he’ll do as a new member of the community, where he’s not going to be judged by his D.C. past, necessarily.”
“Change is good,” observes Benna, one of the artists on Nelson’s Adult Swim label. “He’s made his mark in this town.” Surveying the capacity crowd, she adds, “He can always come back.” Dave Nuttycombe