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Dessa stops in Longfellow on memoir, ice cream tours

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

‘Ask me about soaring’ jacket references dad’s love of flight and building wings in community ed at Roosevelt High

Dessa sports her dad’s old flight jacket, the embroidered lettering on which reads: “Ask me about soaring.” She was at Moon Palace Books signing her memoir “My Own Devices.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

By Jill Boogren
Minneapolis rapper, singer and writer, Dessa, embarked on two mini tours in September that took her to the Longfellow neighborhood – to Moon Palace Books to sign her memoir, “My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love,” and to Hiawatha School Park to give out free samples of her latest Izzy’s Ice Cream flavor collaboration, Night Drive.
As the line formed at Moon Palace Books, Dessa threw on her dad’s old flight jacket, the back of which reads: “Ask me about soaring.” Dessa devotes a chapter of her memoir to her dad’s love of birds and flight and his determination to build his own wooden glider. The building kits no longer available, he bought the instructions and raw materials, signed up for a community education wood shop class at Roosevelt High School, and used their equipment to mill and plane his own wood.
It was a project many years in the making, but eventually he took off.

‘What color?’
Everything is fair game in Dessa’s memoir, including how a former relationship gutted her so emotionally she took to neuroscience to try to fall out of love. It’s a story she shared during a performance with the Minnesota Orchestra, in which an oversized sculpture resembling rams’ horns – what this particular part of the brain looks like – was lowered from the ceiling.
Dessa’s artistry with language shines on every page. She brings plenty of humor but isn’t shy about going deep, often with the same snappy delivery as propels her lyrics at a Doomtree show.
As a musician, Dessa’s a pro on the tour circuit. Her chronicles – right down to the banter about which snacks are the most satisfying and games of “Would you rather…” with fellow sleep-deprived musicians – are relatable to anyone who’s been on a road trip, traveling in cramped quarters with the same people for hours and days at a time. As if to recreate a familiar gas station conundrum, she brought some bite-size Dove chocolates and Starburst candies for guests to choose from at Moon Palace. When Starburst weren’t not visible on the counter but requested, she gleefully pulled a package out of a magic bag, opened it and said, “What color?” as if THAT was the order of the day.

A sweet collaboration
Bayley Nolen, who came to Moon Palace to have Dessa sign her copy, has read the memoir four times (including listening to the audiobook read by Dessa). Nolen became a fan of Dessa’s after her friend Maria Lynch, of Circle Pines, “dragged her” to a concert at St. Kate’s. Today she was completing a Dessa trifecta – having also seen her at a “literary conversation” with Curtis Sittenfeld and Nora McInerny at The Parkway Theater in August, and at Dessa’s ice cream stop in St. Paul the previous night.
Ah, yes. Dessa’s sweetest collaboration, naturally, is the one she has with Izzy’s Ice Cream.
Her latest flavor was first unveiled at the State Fair and is described on Izzy’s website as: “Inspired by long espresso-fueled drives between cities when she’s on tour, Dessa’s Night Drive is a remix of classic and inspiring flavors featuring Bizzy Coffee’s House Blend Cold Brew and Izzy’s cream base, chocolate-covered espresso chips, toffee crunch, finished off with a hint of cardamom.” It is as delicious as it sounds and right on par with Dessa’s first Izzy’s flavor, Existential Crunch (fans needn’t fear, an Izzy’s employee assures it will still be in rotation – the two are sort of begging for an ice cream slam).

Chocolate, caffeine and anxiety
This two-hour tour took her from Izzy’s downtown Minneapolis to Izzy’s St. Paul, with stops in between at Kowalski’s Uptown and Hiawatha School Park – Dessa’s old neighborhood. She grew up a few blocks away and played softball at the park.
As she handed out samples – and glow-in-the-dark key chains – Dessa chatted and took photos with many of the few dozen neighbors gathered around the Izzy’s truck.
It’s been a whirlwind of activity for Dessa. These tours were sandwiched between free performances at the State Fair and upcoming book signings and concerts in Eau Claire, Madison, Chicago, Boston and Wales. Collaborator, risk taker, flavor maker – Dessa is in “go” mode, with a streak as independent as the book stores and ice creameries she visits and no signs of taking a minute.
Asked at Moon Palace how she does it – as in, all of it – Dessa’s reply flew off her tongue: “A lot of chocolate, a lot of caffeine and a lot of natural anxiety and fear.”
But you’d never know that last part.

She always sang in the shower
At Hiawatha School Park, Dessa leaned in to listen as a young girl asked when she started singing.
“I sang along to the radio since I was yay high,” Dessa said, gesturing her hand flat at about knee high. “I always sang in the shower, but I didn’t start professionally until I was 20 or 21.”
When the girl said she aspired to be a singer and was in the choir, Dessa replied, “Well, you’re already way ahead of me.”
Like her dad in his wooden plane, Dessa, too, is soaring. Good thing she’s so down to earth.
“My Own Devices” is available at Moon Palace and other locations, and a recording of one of Dessa’s recent performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, “Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall,” will be available Nov. 8.