Friday, March 30, 2012

Chapter 75: In Which I Discuss A Reading Without A Venue

Hey, look at me! I managed one post for the entire month of March. I'm getting better.

These have just been very busy times. Spend half my time feeling disgusted at the rampant misogyny that the Republicans have decided to base their whole platform on. Spend the other half disgusted with how any white guy who kills a black guy is apparently now afforded protection by the cops, Jim Crow-style. The . 01% of my time not occupied by disgust I devote to different jobs/workshops, alongside getting my thesis together and Hard Times. The thesis is the most pressing thing at the moment, seeing as my revision's due next week. I also graduate in two months and I'm trying to get things in order for The Real World (not that obnoxious reality show we watched in high school, but the real kind). I've been applying for teaching jobs the last few months and have stomached my fair share of rejection.

One place that didn't reject me: the UL-Lafayette PhD program. I got in! I got in!! PhD in Creative Writing. Can you imagine? Dr. Elwin. They were a top choice and I could not be more excited. Now is the time to start dialoguing with folks over there about possibilities for me in their program.

One part that excites me is the language requirement. I want to relearn Spanish and here is a golden opportunity. But just getting to study under profs like Kate Bernheimer and devote the next four years to my craft while's all golden. And thanks go out to all the people who wrote references for me and endured my constantly grumbling about how life is so hard because I'm working on doctoral apps. You know who you are.

Writing Without Walls

I keep telling myself to start recording my readings, so it's always nice when somebody just has a camera set up. Dig my Powell's shirt. Dig how I can't take my eyes off the paper. Keep the reading to ten minutes? Bah!

A few weeks ago I submitted to the St. Patrick's Day edition of Writing Without Walls. It's a cross-bay reading series ran by someone I went to Mills with. The series is still in its infancy and has already done an impressive set of readings. I submitted a luck-themed short story and they told me to come of down. On St. Patrick's Day, me and my lady crossed the Bay to attend the reading at Sacred Grounds Cafe.

Writing Without Walls is right. The venue being closed when I got there? Not so impressive. A bunch of the readers standing on top of a mountain in San Francisco, outside of a closed cafe, and though I found somewhere to go to the bathroom after holding it all the way across that mile-long bridge I did not like standing in the wintry cold. The nail salon lady next-door assured us that the venue is usually closed by this time. She checked on the back door, found it to be padlocked, and encouraged us all to go home before we caught cold. It looked like there would be no reading. This irritated me. I figured it high time to drive back to my friend's St. Paddy's Day party.

The organizers showed up and were equally miffed with this development. Despite some people's insistence that we find a bar in the Haight to get smashed in, the MC set about trying to find a last-minute venue. Nice guy. He thought of taking the thing to the CCA campus, which would have been a bit of a drive, then somebody suggested just going to this one guy's house. By now there's a crowd of people standing in the cold. We put a note on the door, formed a train, walked six blocks to the guy's house and had a literary event. I have to say I was impressed. I've met event organizers who would have called off the whole thing. While it felt like an eternity, they got a new spot together in 45 minutes, and the reading was well-attended, which means they did good promo. I would have hated for all those people to have to just go back to their homes and/or get smashed somewhere. Not when they could be getting smashed at my reading, which took place in this guy's home.

Good reading, too. Really nice blend of serious and humorous (Yours Truly, of course, provided teh seriouz). Check out the other videos, as well.

I've been getting the performance/travel bug something awful lately. Maybe it's that restlessness that's giving me such bad insomnia. There's a lot to get done before I think of touring, like finishing my book and the audiobook. Lately I've felt really inclined toward an Elvenslaughter 2012: The Apocalypse. I'm thinking of how I can work that into my summer plans. ARGH BRAIN! Stop having so many ideas!

BTW, I'm really happy with that piece I read for Writing Without Walls, which is the start of something longer. Delta blues is the music of outlaws. Quite literally, in some cases. This powerful music, which was the "country CNN" as much as gangsta rap was the "ghetto CNN," eventually mutated into a myth about black virility that inspired the misogynist cock-fest we call rock-'n-roll. Oh sure, it's gotten better in the last few years, but rock's foundations were basically some white guy saying, "Look at that black guy playing the guitar. I wish my penis was as big as his. I wish I wasn't feeling so alienated now that I don't have fascists to fight and machines do everything for me. Maybe I should play guitar. Except I'll play it slower, because man, that picking looks like a lot of work." Cue birth of a new genre. 

And when I say outlaw, I mean cultural. Committing crimes against social norms. Imagine being a black man in Mississippi around the 1920s. You were expected to work the fields and keep your eyes low when white people passed. You were expected to be a God-fearing Christian who only broke out music in church. You were expected to raise a family to take up your sharecrop debts and die. If you were a black woman, well, your body was basically the property of others; you were a maid, a wetnurse, a rape victim, a brood mare. Those who sang the blues would have none of this.

It was black people with a music, subject matter, and lifestyle completely opposite to what was expected of them. So opposite that, when it made white radio in the '50s, America was scared shitless. Niggers smoking dope and singing about sex and poverty and other shit we don't want to hear? Oh my god! They're corrupting our youth! The blues was not only a musical movement, but a cultural one.

Here's a link to the Writing Without Walls journal that has my piece. Like I said, some good stuff in there. They have a print version, too, for all you print snobs.

And that makes two posts for the month of March. I'm on a role.

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