JONATHAN TOUBIN was sleeping when the taxi ran him over. It would be a month before he woke up.
Toubin landed in Portland on December 7, 2011. The next night, the New York DJ—known for his stacks of punchy soul and sizzling rock 45s, and his famed New York Night Train dance party—was to join DJ Beyonda in celebrating the fifth anniversary of her venerable soul night, I've Got a Hole in My Soul. Exhausted from crisscrossing the country, Toubin checked into the Jupiter Hotel.
The next morning, before he woke, a driver from Radio Cab lost control of her car, reportedly suffering a "diabetic emergency." The vehicle careened through the hotel wall and into Toubin's room, where he was pinned, unconscious and bleeding heavily.
According to the New York Times, Toubin's "chest was crushed, his skull cracked, his clavicles and shoulder blades shattered; he nearly bled to death before a police officer and hotel workers managed to lift the car off him." A month later, in the intensive care unit at OHSU, Toubin came to.
"It took me a while to figure out what was going on," he says. "Not only did I not know about the accident, I didn't know where I was or why all these people were around. I hadn't used my brain for a while."
Once Toubin regained consciousness, the hospital staff ran a series of checks. They asked him if he knew what year it was. He answered incorrectly. "It was actually a different year than when I went in," Toubin says.
Days later, in mid-January, he was discharged, but he was in no condition to return to New York. "I couldn't move," says Toubin. "I was not even mildly functioning." He was put up in a hotel near a center for physical therapy and rehab. It would be three more months before he was cleared to leave Portland.
"I had to re-learn to walk and use my hands," he says. "It was sort of a process of getting back into normal human form." When not rehabbing, Toubin spent time with friends in Portland, of which he happened to have many.
"One year, between 2009 and 2010, I played 13 gigs in Portland," Toubin says. "It was very early on in my travels. Portland was one of the first places to accept me." As such, he reasons, "It was kind of fortuitous that [the accident] happened there because I had so many nice people that I know living there and coming, helping me."
Those friends were in Toubin's corner even before he woke. In Portland, as in many cities around the country, benefit events were announced just days after the accident. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Heavy Trash, Ariel Pink, Margaret Cho, and countless others pitched in.
Such efforts notwithstanding, Toubin's medical bills still presumably tower. The New York Times reported them at $650,000. Currently, Toubin is in the midst of a lawsuit, and is heeding his lawyer's advice not to discuss the case.
Meanwhile, Toubin continues work to regain fluency on the decks. The accident significantly diminished his hearing—it is almost totally gone in one ear—and his dexterity, as tendons were severed in each hand. Physical therapy sessions are keeping Toubin in New York during the week, though he has been getting out for gigs on Saturdays. The upcoming trip to Portland will be the second time he'll spend extended days on the road.
Though full all-night sets still remain overly taxing, Toubin is making progress, returning to the job—and the life—he's worked two decades to establish. "I can't be anything but thrilled," he says. "I'd be real jaded if I was bummed out by now."
Beyond rehab and the lawsuit, Toubin hopes to soon put the accident behind him. "I do look forward to a time where we talk about music again," he says.
In the interest of doing just that, Toubin has created a special playlist for the Mercury: 10 singles he's recently discovered, many of which may find their way into his Portland set.
"Here are 10 of my favorite new records that I've been turning at the Soul Clap the last few weeks--some of which will turn up at MusicfestNW! I play these on original 45 rpm vinyl (no repros, etc) not out of snobbery, etc., but unbeatable sound quality and authenticity. These are the most decent YouTubes I could find--but of course this experience is nothing like hearing the real records, particularly on great equipment through a loud sound system. Cheers, JT"
1. Johnny Cool & the Counts, "Love Bounce" (Custom)
2. Roger Collins "Foxy Girls in Oakland" (Galaxy)
3. Eddie Kirk "The Hawg" (Volt)
4. Big Mama Thornton "Wade in the Water" (Airhoolie)
5. Freddy Butler, "Pitter Patter" (M&M)
6. Sherri Taylor, "He's the One That Rings My Bell" (Gloreco)
7. Lee Moses "Reach Out, I'll Be There" (Musicor)
8. Young Jesse "Mary Lou" (Mercury - not the hit but his rare 1963 Jack Nitzsche-produced version)
9. Joe Bataan "Subway Joe" (Fania)
10. Marie Knight "Come on Baby" (Okeh)
Bonus: Thane Russal "Security" (CBS): heavy blue-eyed soul/rock version from Australia