I’ve had quite the few days. Literary Death Match during Litquake last Thursday night was an experience. There were 250+ people in attendance in this fantastic San Francisco venue, Beatbox, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I shared the LDM stage with three other readers/contenders and it was a pleasure to meet them: Myron Michael, John Butler, and Simon Rich. I was the only woman, John Butler the only Irishman, Myron Michael the only African-American, and Simon Rich the youngest-ever writer for SNL, starting his four year stint at SNL at all of 20.
I went over my 7 minute allowed reading time and was duly water-hosed. I didn’t care. In fact, the dousing enhanced my evening. Simon Rich won the LDM title on the night. Congratulations, Simon. And my deep thanks to LDM organizers, Todd Zuniga and Alia Volz.
The next morning I flew to New York. Just as the plane landed in JFK at 5:30 pm EST, a rainstorm blasted. I suffered a hot, packed shuttle ride from JFK to my hotel in Midtown. That pleasure lasted all of 2.5 hours. On arrival in my room, I scanned the room service menu, but quickly decided I didn’t come all the way to NYC to sit in. Through my floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall window, the city’s stunning night skyline beckoned.
I walked eight blocks of NYC before chickening out and returning to the hotel. The hotel boasts a hip tapas bar and restaurant the size of the entire block. I was still in my sweats and sneakers, surrounded by all these young, beautiful people. Fear got the better of me again. Back to my hotel room I went. Again I scanned the room service menu and again I decided I was damned if I was staying in my room.
I went back out into the city with its drizzling sky and this time I found a fabulous, bustling, alive restaurant. I enjoyed a delicious dinner with a half-carafe of red wine and Joseph O’Connor’s novel, Ghostlight, which is proving a wonderful read.
Saturday, I explored the city on foot amidst sunshine and the fabulous insanity that is NYC. This was only my second visit to this great metropolis. Early afternoon, I primped and primed for my reading in Brooklyn at Unnameable Books with Greg Gerke and Kathy Fish. I took the subway. O my God. The NY subway system. I was a subway virgin. I couldn’t even figure out how to get the metro card, people. A Dublin woman came to my rescue. We must just KNOW each other. Weekend maintenance meant that the subway trains and routes had all changed. CHAOS. And then, friends, then, while I was waiting on the platform for the R train that should have been the Q train, a RAT raced right past my feet. You know how I feel about rats, right? O God.
1.5 hours later I arrived to Unnameable Books, harried, but hopeful. At last, I got to meet the wonderful Kathy Fish. And she is wonderful. Kath, Greg and I read outside in the bookstore’s white-graveled garden. The wonderful Kim Chinquee, Ellen Meister and Robert Lopez, among others, attended.
Thank you, Greg Gerke for your generous intro and for organizing this excellent evening. Afterwards, Kath and her husband, Dave, Greg, Kim, and I went to dinner together in Brooklyn. The restaurant was middle-eastern and we five sat at a round table. I love sitting at round tables with small groups for dinners and conversation. The food and wine were delicious and the company wonderful. I had a great night. Thanks, all.
Sunday, I set off again in my sneakers. I waited in line in Times Square for two hours to get matinee tickets to Billy Elliott on Broadway. I was also a Broadway virgin. I LOVED Billy Elliott. It was riveting and funny and heartbreaking and political and personal and incredibly inspiring and uplifting. The talent on that stage, friends, from adults and children alike. Unbelievable. After Billy Elliott, it was another race-on-foot back to my hotel room to get changed and readied for my reading at Sunday Salon with Kathy Fish, Heather Fowler and Rebecca Leece (alas Jen Michalski couldn’t make the reading. I missed meeting you, Jen, and listening to your work.)
The first person I met when I walked into Jimmy’s No. 43 was Sara Lippman and it was friendship at first sight. She’s warm, kind, funny, beautiful, and another wonderful writer. Because of Billy Eliott, I felt inspired to go outside my comfort zone for this reading and I read material that I knew would be difficult and painful.
I was also unprepared for meeting in-person so many other wonderful online friends and writers. It was truly staggering to have so many peers and friends come out to hear us read: Erin Fitzgerald; Paula Bomer; Meakin Armstrong; Julie Innis; Lorena Landos; Susan Tepper; Lou Freshwater; David Backer; Brian Gresko; Sean Ferrell; and more. Thank you, everyone.
Especial thanks to Erin Fitzgerald. Erin commuted all the way from CT for the reading. It was a joy to meet you at last, Erin, and I’m only sorry we couldn’t spend more time together.
It’s hard when I meet people just as I’m about to read because I’m distracted and nervous and even at the best of times can be shy and at a loss for conversation. Please know, all, that I truly appreciated each and everyone of you being there (except for the guy in the back who throughout looked so damn FURIOUS). I’m grateful, too, for the new writers and friends I got to meet, including the wonderful Nita Noveno, Rebecca Leece, and Jenny Halper.
My Sunday Salon reading wasn’t my best performance. The insides of my insides shook and the unrehearsed material proved even more painful to read than I’d feared. It was, however, my bravest performance.
I’m glad my bravest performance took place in NYC. The trip made absolutely no sense, especially financially, but I’m so glad I went. I was alone and felt occasional pangs of loneliness, but I also felt adventurous and exhilarated. When I think back on my beginnings my first instinct is to say that I never once imagined I would get to this present life, but that’s not true. Despite anxiety, depression, sadness and suffering that have always dogged me, I’ve also always felt ‘someone up there’ is watching over me and cheering me on. That ‘someone up there’ is just never going to make it easy for me.
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