I was back in the Mission late Saturday evening. This is my old neighborhood and I miss it; the hot dog vendors and homeless sleeping under a blanket of pigeons at Bart, the bodegas and smoke shops, the taquerias and discount clothes stores. I passed bars, nearly wanting to go in, but I promised myself to stay sober and straight (no morning bong hits) for the reading where I was featured.
And for the first time in a while, I didn’t get lost, didn’t veer off in the wrong direction on the right street. The venue was a pirate radio station and easily found. A non-descript storefront with a simple sandwich board out front that looked washed out. Two women stood out front talking. I passed them and was surprised to find the space inside so small.
The control center for the station was behind a glass wall to the right. On the left as you walk in, a small folding table with wine and beer and a couple of blue coolers beneath. There were a couple of benches and several folding chairs. The stage was a tiny riser, barely large enough for the bird-feet of the microphone stand. But it held two stools and two mics.
I knew three, four people there. I attempted to hold my own over small talk, got a great hug but otherwise grabbed a seat next to the wall and the exit. A woman came in (gorgeous) holding a chihuahua (cute) and sat next to me. Considering how small the place was, it was also packed. But I must say: it was one of the best, more diverse and engaging shows I’ve ever participated in.
It wasn’t all poetry. A man read a one act play. He wasn’t the author, but sat next to the author, a older white gentleman with snow-drift white hair. The next man whom I kinda knew read poems. His voice and style made me smile. Very midwestern and easy. With work akin a professors or poet laureate. Small footed observational poems. A woman (whom, she spontaneously reminded me, I’d known for maybe 15 years) read a short story. Next on stage was conducted a brief author interview, something I’d never seen done that I could remember. Another man I kinda knew made music and recited poems using a sampler and thumb piano. He recorded music and looped it, then made several vocal tracks all overdubbing and commenting on one another.
The show moved quickly. At one point, from the open door to the street just to my left, a man emerged, dressed head to toe in black, and stepped cat-like through the crowd and mounted the stage. And despite how I rarely call anybody out writing these posts, Charlie Chin gets named here because… well, damn he is a master storyteller. He is a handsome silver haired Chinese man, and layed out a gorgeously visual story, The Girl With The Crooked Nose. The story was beautifully engaging and visual and it came out of him, effortless.
When his story came to an (open) end(?) he floated off stage and back out of the room with supernatural grace. The stage smoldered.
And I was the next and final performer.
Here, I felt like a jerk asshole because A) I gave the host only the briefest bio shrugging off his wanting more or a full paragraph of self-congratulatory Stuff because, as I pompously typed back: “Its in the work.” & B) Dude, who follows master storyteller???
Which was what one guy said to me afterwards… What could I do? A performer sometimes will totally elevate the energy in the room. It’ll make everyone so satisfied, they’re immediately ready to socialize. And we were all satisfied after him and a diverse, engaging show. If I never showed up it would have still been remarkable. But as it was, I had great fun and felt really good afterwards. Master Storyteller disappeared into the ether immediately after his story– and after my reading, I did too. I awkwardly accepted some nice audience feedback and quietly but quickly exited into the evening chill rolling in from the ocean.