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.