Friday, February 17, 2012

sometimes stopped clocks are right, and paranoid people are performance artists

Wednesday night I read in the Writers’ Row series at The Last Bookstore, an old bank converted to a big used bookstore, with shelves salvaged from a dead Borders and a wall clock that leaps forward every hour but is always wrong (well, except for twice a day, I guess? Its marginal functionality confuses me). You cannot get much more Downtown L.A. In 2012 than that.

I was a little nervous because Jean and Linda, coworker and former coworker from New York, were there. They’d been to Really Important Readings at Really Famous Places. Would L.A. represent?

Open mics are a little crazy. I probably don’t need to tell you that. But my nervousness reached a whole different level when an unbathed-but-not-exactly-homeless-looking guy took the stage with a hard black plastic case. He spoke into the microphone—something about breathing, about making the choice to breathe every day—but he kept wandering away from the mic and fiddling with the case. His eyes darted around, and he ran his hands through his dirty hair, and he sighed a lot, like he was having trouble making a big decision.

Oh my god, I thought. There’s a gun in that case and he’s debating whether to shoot us all.

Later, Jamie, Linda, and Jean all confirmed they’d been thinking the same thing. So while I am paranoid by nature, dude was also acting crazy. Bronwyn said she’d been worried he was going to take off his pants. But I wasn’t worried about that because he was wearing a tightly knotted rag in lieu of a belt, and it wasn’t the kind of thing you could undo easily. I would have had more than enough time to find the nearest exit.

He kept his pants on and he didn’t shoot us. He never opened the case. All he did was play the harmonica, quite well. Maybe it was a very convincing performance piece about the anxiety of living. Or maybe someone who felt strange and anxious about living turned out to be a decent performer.

If you don’t go to live literary events, this is what you’re missing, my friends. Also: girls in striped knee socks shouting about troll dolls, drunk guys playing air zither (that happened at a library reading event a long time ago, but I won’t forget it soon). Oh, and some really good writers.

Bronwyn will be reading with fellow activist writers Lucy Wang and Mathew Timmons Tuesday the 21st at an event called 99% Guerrilla Lit. I am 100 percent there.


Nicole Kristal said...

Wow, I had no idea the breathing guy was walking toward a case. How fucking freaky. Almost regret that I was browsing trying not to burst into church laugh after the troll doll lady.

Bronwyn said...

Thanks for the shout-out for next week, Cheryl. Your reading was fab, and I even enjoyed the open mike.


Cheryl said...

N: I'm sure he's there every week if you want to go back for the full effect....

B: I know the troll doll is a tough act to follow, but I believe you can do it.