Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
5: Karen yells at and kicks out a guy who blatantly takes a bottle of Jack Daniels out of his backpack and starts drinking it five feet in front of the bar. His excuse? "I bought one drink. And I even tipped! But I couldn't afford another one."
4: Kimberly Hyphen-Surname refuses to serve a clearly intoxicated guy who tries to sneak in through the back door. During the open mic, both Emily and Kimberly have to approach him as his drug-fueled enthusiasm is bothering the people sitting around him. As the last poet takes the stage for the open mic, the guy comes to the bar and asks me for a beer. I say no. So he asks for a ginger ale. As I turn to get a glass, he grabs a bottle Jack Daniels and starts to pour it into a plastic cup. I yell. Very loudly. Dude, who was hella high, jumps up, drops the cup, first tries to run into the ladies' room, then the mens' room, then the doorman leads him up the stairs and out of the venue. He hasn't returned.
3: Having driven all the way to Providence to pick up the night's feature, Zuzu expected to be able to read on the open mic. She is denied by the host, so she orders food (remember when there was food at the Cantab?) and a drink. When she pays for her bill, the server gives her incorrect change. Like, change that doesn't even make sense. Zuzu and the waitress argue quietly, and Zuzu goes next door to what is now Tavern On The Square but was then...something else, and gets deeeeeerunk. She re-engages with the waitress after the night's slam (which was a regional bout). The waitress who keeps repeating that she is from Revere and she will "fight a bitch" and all hell breaks loose. I don't think there were punches thrown, but the room cleared out entirely. Apart from the host, even the other emplyees got the fuck out of that basement. The waitress continued to shout that she'd "fight a bitch", Zuzu kept shouting "where's my nineteen dollars?", the host soft-voice shamed everyone still in the room, and the bartender did a lot of shouting. Zuzu was banned. When I interviewed the bartender for a project I was working on, she admitted that the waitress had almost definitely stolen the money, as she "had a history of taking things from people she didn't like". Independently of this, Zuzu was unbanned.
2: The first of two entries which could be subtitled "When Emily's Not At The Bar, The Crazies Take Over". In 2007ish, somebody great was featuring. This was before fire code, and I don't even want to consider how many people were crammed in that room before the doors were locked. Rudy snuck in through the back and nodded at the host. The host nodded back. Rudy's nod meant "I want to read tonight." The host's nod meant "Hello." The open went way over time (again, no Emily), and Rudy, who'd showed up forty-five minutes late and never actually used verbal communication or written communication to express his desire to read, didn't get to read. So, in a crowded room, he went up and started shouting at the host. Asterisk got involved. And thenthe bartender. The bartender was annoyed enough that she got out from behind the bar, leaving me behind it for, I think, the first time. In the midst of his tantrum, Rudy decided to leave, and threw an elbow at someone who was in his way. Someone who happened to be The Owner's Granddaughter. The bartender yelled at and banned him, which, in the long run, probably saved his life.
Rudy would also appear on a list of the Top Five People Thrown Out Out Of Tuartas By An Angry Bar Staff. I think he's even show up on that list multiple times. Perhaps, he would be all five. We're a bit stricter about the kind of people we let back in.
1: A Poet Who Shan't Be Named Because Fuck Him Getting Any More Attention came to the bar on yet another night that Emily wasn't around. Apparently, he had started a fight with me at Seattle NPS in 2001. I have no memory of this. But he was in a bout with the team I was on that year. Flash forward to 2010 and the guy buys three drinks from me, and seems amiable. He's loud, but he's not obtrusive. Then, during the feature, he starts talking during a few of the poems. Asterisk approaches him to be quiet. I don't know if he got quiet, but I didn't hear him. As the slam starts, he is loudly talking nonsense to a friend. Asterisk, again, approaches him, this time snidely. The guy starts yelling that he "read at The Nuyorican" and is "allowed to be loud" (He was not FROM the Nuyo, he was just letting us know that he'd been there once). He then tries to order a drink, and I refuse. He responds by offering to fight me, Asterisk, and Wiz. Wiz laughs. Asterisk gets enraged. The featured poet tries to subdue things. I go upstairs to get Cowboy, the bouncer. The upstairs bartender asks why I'm getting Cowboy, and when I say "I'm throwing somebody out." he joins the party. All of this is taking place WHILE the slam is happening. When the upstairs bartender, Cowboy and I get downstairs, The Attention Glutton is still yelling about himself and how he's not going to leave the bar. One look at Cowboy changed that. (Cowboy is....6'5? 400 pounds? Not to be fucked with.) As he was being led up the stairs he shouted at us that he was a former Mass Poet Fellow (Turns out he shared the title with another individual because he helped design a website for poetry. Using Angelfire. Remember Angelfire sites?) and we would never be as important as he was. He then stood outside and took video of poets, asking them why I was crazy. By the time I got home, he'd sent me four e-mails calling me pejorative terms for female genetalia, and asking me to call him so he could help ME be less crazy. He also claimed to have helped book our show (translation: he'd been on an e-mail chain wherein poets were invited to participate in a regional), and has since claimed (falsely) to run another reading that I've gone to.
He has not returned.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: All y'all pillowhumpers who won't stay off the fucken stairs, or who think you're cool enough to go into the back room. There's probably fifty of you on my FB page. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
I want my excuse to be that I was still in my single digit years, and therefore more vulnerable to the Disney like nature of musical theater. But I distinctly remember living in the Lakeview house, and we didn't move there until I was eleven. One of those friends of the family that my parents had me call Uncle was on the outs with his wife. While I was shipped off to summer camp, he stayed in my room. He brought with him clothes, a stack of magazines ranging from The Weekly World News to Newsweek, and a small beige briefcase full of cassettes.
My parents listened to oldies, classic radio shows, and country music. When I was six, I told my grandmother that I didn't like any music made after 1967. That Christmas, my parents gave me a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller, and an incredibly premature Best Of The 1980s collection. Tony Basil and Donna Summer became my favorite contemporary artists, and my favorite song on the Elks Club jukebox was Kool & The Gang's Celebration. So maybe the whole musical thing shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise. Still, I'm thirty-four now, and much more comfortable talking about that hilarious time I ejaculated into a man's anus, then I am talking about the first time I listened to Cats.
Of course it was Cats. The green eyes on the black background, the catchy poems that Andrew Lloyd Webber set to saccharine music, the obligatory tacked on diva belted ballad. If you're going to leave a copy of Cats in an eleven year old's boombox the same week he gets the lead part in a play about fairy tales, you should go the extra centimeter and paper his bedroom's wall with pictures of greased up men with little or no clothing.
It's never been discussed why Uncle Mo spent two weeks living in my room while I slept in leaky cabins, and on the beach, but I suspect it had something to do with marital problems stemming from his pronounced lisp, gravity defying hands, and bright floral print blousy shirts. Or possibly he just needed a break from his own pre-teen boys who, the next year, would introduce me to ACDC, A Clockwork Orange, and the curious site of a twelve year old boy shoving a harmonica up his ten year old brother's ass. Whenever I start to think my own childhood was perversely gay, I think back on Cousin Bruce and Darren's oddly incestual Truth Or Dare games, and a wave of heteronormalcy washes over me. It feels like the opposite of a facial.
Once I'd memorized the lyrics to Cats, I moved on to Phantom Of The Opera, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line, and Hello Dolly. Later that fall, I grew tired of the weirdly homosexual overtones of Boy Scouts, and quit the troop to be in a production of Bye Bye Birdie.
When you grow up knowing all the lyrics to An English Teacher and Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, you have two choices: be a debonair straight boy who spends his teens and early twenties training to be a professional cunnilinguist, or be a fat homo with body issues and a fake girlfriend. All my exes describe me as "charming".
Even at eleven, I knew that liking musicals was, like waking up hard with your arms wrapped around your tentmate in Webelo camp, something you kept to yourself as long as possible. His future boyfriends would call him "charming" too. His ex-wife has other adjectives. Very few thesauruses connect her descriptions to "charming".
When Queen Sarah The Formerly Popular had her parents turn their loft into her Phantom Of The Opera style bedroom, I was the only one who described it as "cool". A week later, we sang a thirty second variation of All I Ask Of You on my answering machine, recording over my auspicious hip-hop debut. "You have reached 428-1383, we're not home right now, as you can see. Leave your name and your number right after the tone cause right now we can't be reached by telephone right now right now right now." I was born a decade too late to be a Beastie Boy.
Our recording caught the attention of precisely no one except for my parents who erased it because it was "too long".
The first musical I was in was You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. I played Linus. I had a crush on Schroeder, and rat tailed Lucy with my blanket on opening night because she decided to improv and kiss him on the lips. That the actor playing Schroeder was hopelessly straight, or that the actress playing Lucy was his sister didn't cross my mind until I was in my twenties. That there was a disturbing amount of vaguely incestual sibling activity on Cape Cod didn't occur to me until I started writing this paragraph.
I'd like to thank my parents for making me an only child.
The closest I had to a brother, growing up, was Kevin Harris, a professional wrestling fan who used to Weird Al Yankovic lyrics to pop songs, and expose himself to passing traffic. But if we were brothers, then our relationship was aggressively incestual.
Cats led me to try out for musicals. Phantom Of The Opera influenced my outgoing message recordings. Les Miserables enticed me to read the unabridged Victor Hugo novel when I was twelve. It wasn't for another decade, when I was playing Eddie and Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Show, that I started connecting the dots between my affinity for musicals and long showers after gym class.
Last week, I found myself at a party with Wiz, Emily, and an assorted mix of poetry friends and strangers, when a girl pulled a eukalale out of her backpack, and began playing songs from The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Evita with honest to tone deaf sincerity. A group of lispers and belters joined in. I knew all the words but had no desire to sing them. This is what I call Gay Pride. Unfuck parades, drag shows, quilts, and rainbow glow sticks. I am proud every time someone shouts "One!" and I don't reply with "Singular sensation!" That's what I call progress.
I must still look like a poet. Or a drug addict. The two aren't necessarily indistinguishable. But while I'm waiting for the train home from Sora's, a guy offers me some trees for some haze, and I don't think he's trying to solve global warming.
I have no trees. The only haze is in my mind, because I didn't sleep much last night. It was my turn to sleep on the floor, and my body clock is more of a blinking digital 12:00 VCR flash (which I suspect is the real reason DVDs were invented).
I get on the train and am surprised to see an old friend back from Africa who shares smacknothing talk with me between Providence and Boston, where I pack, and go to meet another bus. The beginning of my trek to Dallas.
I noted several years ago that Cerberus is actually a Greyhound. I think if Americans were serious about rehabilitating criminals, instead of sending them to jail, they'd put them on a bus for a week. This theory is shot to hell when I discover my first seatmate is fresh from jail and headed to rehab I said no, no, no. He entertains me with the level of lies I haven't heard since I deported Elvis almost a decade ago. And then I fall asleep. Wake up in New York. Grand Central Fuck Yourself Port Afuckenkillyourselfthority. The 9:15 bus I'm supposed to take doesn't exist. The next one is, of course, 11:45, and it will be pack packed. And, of course, the really obese woman in front of me clicks her seat back against my knees, and a woman and her toddler squeeze in next to me. And the baby rarely cries but she kicks and grabs my arm. And the mother's knee is in my hip, and it's like this all the way to fucken Richmond Virginia.
Richmond to Roanoake to everywhichwhere Caroliginiasee, the bus is a hive of crackheads and loud women and crying oh my god kids. And somewhere in Tennessee Nate gets on. Nate. Nnnnnnnnnnate.
If I wasn't stupidly Sorafied (he is not stupid, I am not stupid, I am using it as in wicked, as in hella, as in completely), I'd have noticed sooner how unnervingly sexy he is. Not beautiful like Sora. Not hot like...hot people. He looks like what would happen if Gary Sinese got Tobey Maguire pregnant. And he's of course Irish, and is reading The Hitchhiker's Guide, and I am reading The World According To Garp, which makes us best buddies because obviously we're both nerds who are Irish who listen to The Dropkick Murphys and The Pogues. And everything is a racist joke to him, except the religious ones. And hours pass. He is showing me pictures of his fiancee, asking if I approve. And she's obviously also Irish, and pretty, and, sure I approve of why not her?
"It's just..." and he stares at me, "I've always had a thing for redheads..." And the stare keeps lingering there, like someone sprayed Axe bodyspray in a microwave.
"O...k. I don't really have a type, in that way. But. Good for you."
And he is a kicked puppy that I keep feeding and at my god every stop he wants to know what I'm buying and oh man I'm tired but the conversation and the sleep can't coincide and he has so much to say and instead of a knee in my hip, it's a tongue in my ear, and not in the cool way that Sora does it.
"And I'm a soldier." He says. "So when I say Fuck Bush, I know what I'm talking about and" yip yip bubbledy bloo. And he keeps touching my leg, which is not his beautiful fiancee. And all I want to do is sleep, and I don't think I've eaten anything since my God Boston.
When he switches buses in Texarcana, he takes down all my info so that we can keep in touch. I can't imagine what I'll say if he ever actually calls or writes.
And blissful then sleep until Dallllllllldallllllldalllas. Where poets and old friends and a camera await me.
While the national poetry slam starts in Austin on Tuesday, there is a pre-nationals invitational tournament in Dallas on Sunday night. So I left Boston a little oh god too early. And the rest of my team doesn't arrive until Monday, so instead of competing, I volunteer to record the event. Put down poetry book, pick up tripod and video and lay down on weird angle floor. And so many people I've not maybe purposefully maybe not seen for a while. I am called by hot_rod_poet's name no less than a dozen times (mostly by the same person). This is because all white people from Boston look alike. Even though, according to my last show in Boston, I am actually a 6'2 black man named Wiz.
After the show and some requisite drinks and food, I hang out with my not teammates (another team from Boston comprised of people I have previously been on teams with), and then there is...then there is drunkoolery. And beer? "I want a beer." Someone drunk drunk tipsily tells me.
"I" of course "don't have any beer." I look around for support. There is drunk boy, drunk boy's nearly as drunk friend, Asterisk, and Insaferubenmode, a friend of mine who (obviously) has nearly the same name.
Drunk Boy invites all to get beer with him at the gas station across the street. When Asterisk, Insaferubenmode, and I decline, he says "Anyone who doesn't get beer with me is gay."
He is, in fact, two thirds correct. But Asterisk looks mock horrified and Drunk Boy says, "Oh, you know I'm kidding. I'm as bisexual as they come."
And his friend says "On your face."
And Asterisk and I are of course obliged along with Insaferubenmode to begin BeerQuest. Which fails. But I do get to see Drunk Boy climb a pole and run super speedy across the street and then Asterisk says "I couldn't fuck him. When he gets drunk his eyes go crazy, and I can't tell if he's looking for me or looking at me." And there is much laughter, and you know, I hardly ever spend time with just Asterisk, and we amuse ourselves muchly.
Then Asterisk goes to sleep, and I grab my bathing suit and head to the pool where Drunk Boy, Drunk Boy's friend, pageloads of LJ friend/poets and some sort of family reunion that has nothing to do with poetry but who have decided to record some video of performing poets who are swimming and making, according to the management, too much noise, since the pool is supposed to have been closed for three hours so be quiet anyway.
And it's not that I was looking to see Drunk Boy naked, it just sort of happened, and good for him and good for whichever sex and whichever person he ends up with because well, yea, good for him and everyone involved. And I am involved, but not with him, with Sora and. And. Well, you know. He's no but who is Sora.
And it occurs to me I should have been sleeping hours ago. But the pool. And the computer. And Dallas. And LJ poet friends. And the maniac from Albuquerque (not a slam poet) who is in town for American Idol with his band, a novel he's working on, his website, a team of flying reindeer, the blueprints to Fort Knox, and a whole other wagon full of bullshit if anyone believes the first few piles he shovels at you. And, you know, naked on your face.
And in a few couple maybe less than one hours I'm off to Austin and don't ask me how but you know it will happen and more poetry and dizzy and blur and more naked would be great and I wish Sora were here (though he needn't be but I wouldn't mind naked), but rumor has it Ben is coming in how did this happen stead.
This is meanfunny I guess but I don't know where Ben is planning on staying. But I have an idea. I brought some masking tape. I'm thinking of taping off a section of the hotel room I'm sharing with Wiz, fifteen inches by four feet, and labeling it "Van Seat" in honor of the "bed" I slept on in his house.
It was more comfortable than Sora's floor (but that's not my usual place when I stay over), and didn't smell as badly as the Greyhound seats, but it was still you know a too small van seat for my long legs, and really I just always need an excuse for something to do.
Why I Gargle With Bleach
After a long night of people abandoning plans for your birthday, a night filled a screaming match with your pseudo-boss and an awkward moment with your not-quite-ex who is your not-quite-ex because you were never quite dating; after a night like this you're almost grateful that your roommate's girlfriend greets you with a little kiss when you get home. You are grateful until her boyfriend/your roommate hands her some Altoids and says "Try one of these, your breath still smells like my dick."
When I came home from a glorious night of work at Kookaburra Canyon, Wiz and Peter were tanked. Hardcore hammered. The kind of drunk where you get to see a person's true feelings, no bullshit, no pretense of being a good person.
Nothing surprised me about either of them. Wiz was the way he always is when he's drunk, fucking hysterical. He digs on himself, the people in the room, and people who deserve a good ribbing. Nothing evil, nothing uncalled for, but dancing the border of good taste and bad. My kind of humor.
Peter does not get funny. He gets truthful. I've known many people who get introspectful and honest when they're drunk. Generally I find this much preferable to the "look at me, I'm drizzunk" drunk, or the "let's go smash the windows of parked cars" drunk, but with Peter, I'm not so sure.
First of all, he takes complete credit for fast talking slam style. He, in fact, invented it back when he was out of Chicago Green Mill (never on the team, just a regular slammer) back in the mid-nineties. Saul Williams, apparently, appropriated his mystical poetry from Peter. He was also responsible for Shakespeare's portrayals of love, and e.e. cummings's visual layout.
His ego didn't bother me as much as the following incident, though. While he was taking credit for creation of the universe, and inventing the written word, I was reading Savage Love., which contained a letter involving a reader who collects pubic hair from urinals at her place of employment. The whole concept was so ridiculous, I burst into laughter. Peter asked me what I was laughing about, so I read it to him.
Wiz's reaction was similar to mine: That's fucked up! I would be completely open to somoene arguing why it's not fucked up. I can always agree to disagree. What I didn't appreciate was Peter asking "Was it a guy or a girl? Cause if it's a girl, it's ok, man, whatever, but if it's a guy I'd beat the fuck out of him."
There is a moment of silence here.
Wiz points out the asinine nature of Peter's statement. It's either fucked up, or not fucked up. The gender of the person is completely irrelevant. I point out the whole "beat the fuck out of him" statement makes Peter a glaring homophobe. He explains he's not homophobic, he just wouldn't stand for a guy jerking off about him. While he's waaaaay too egotistical and stupid for my taste, I'm willing to bet a guy or two has called out hia name in the privacy of their bedroom before. He's an in-shape, fairly attractive narcissist. That makes him ideal for a number of my gay friends. In fact, had I not had my revelation surrounding Elvis, I may have been attracted to him. Actually, I know I would have been attracted to him about five years or so ago. Ugh.
I wish I could say I was surprised about his statement. I'm not. Just overly disappointed. Wiz says he feels karmically attached to Peter, but can't wait for him to leave. He's a very talented painter, but not a very good person to be around, and frankly a terrible poet. I don't say this because he can't write. He can. But he makes a concious effort to bury his poetry in an outdated slammy delivery, so that no one ever knows what his poetry is about. "My poetry is about being raw and inaccessible." he told me yesterday. What a great fucken goal.
The first time I met Wiz's father, I commented on the pair of shoes hanging from the telephone wires (I refrained from mentioning the mice). He gazed out the window at them for a moment and asked if I knew what they meant. "From what I've heard, they mean that there's a drug dealer in the neighborhood." "Yes," he said, "those are Oz's shoes." Then he left. I pondered this for the rest of the night. Was Oz a drug dealer? I didn't want to live with another drug dealer. A few hours later, Oz came home, dressed in his CVS pharmacist uniform. He asked me why I was laughing.