Sunday, September 23, 2012

New York Reading

(Due to my inability to access the Internet, this is being posted a day late. I'm actually back now, and I'm exhausted!)

I am in New York, staying in a hotel that costs less than $110/night and has shared bathrooms (we’re talking a one shower to seven room ratio). I woke up at 3:30AM yesterday morning, flew in to Atlanta, sat next to a sizable man in a cowboy hat who kept doing that mucus-laced inhale thing and swallowing. But I was able to sleep a little (though I woke up worried I'd spoken in my sleep which, apparently, I do when I'm excited.) Then, after getting on the connecting flight, my new seatmates were two women who complained about the airline staff the whole time while sneaking their tiny vodka bottles into their purses and showing me pictures of their children and Kelly Clarkson.
Susan Tepper, settling my nerves before the reading

The cab driver refused to speak to me, no matter how many times I tried to spark up conversation. But he came on time. I was thankful. As we drove the expressway, I became glad for his silence because there was a lot for my sheltered self to take in. He said at the end of our ride that he thought I was from here because I didn’t have my face pressed against the window and I wasn’t taking pictures. I went along with it, thinking it was some kind of compliment.

I checked into my room, exhausted, and I accidentally walked in on someone near naked man lounging on his bed because I unlocked a door with a W on it as opposed to the proper one—right next door. He didn’t move, so I closed the door again. I got dressed and set off to meet Susan Tepper and Joani Reese at a small restaurant a few blocks from the KGB. I almost got down the long stairwell before I realized I had on one black shoe and one brown. I changed one of the shoes as I began to worry that this was not a good sign.

So far, the only problems I’ve had in NYC are that I can’t seem to get Internet, and my SD card on my phone is destroyed, so I am not able to take pictures. Oh, and that my hotel neighbor had loud, unsettling-sounding sex (I hope it was sex) not long after I arrived. The shared tub filled with hair was a little disconcerting, too, but we work with what we got. Again: about $109/night in NYC.
The Readers: Walter, Susan, JP, me, and Roberto
New York, in general, seems a place for fast walkers and short memories. There is no self-consciousness here. If you don’t want to smile and say hi because you feel like shit, good! In fact, don’t do that even if you feel great. I love that. I also love how, if you want to be noticed, you can. Just dress up for the parade. As rumored, people don’t go out of their way to fake niceties; instead, they seem genuinely interested or completely uninterested in each other. The waiter at the small restaurant we stopped at, for instance, was asking about my reading and offering suggestions for things to do after.
Walter Bjorkman, reading from Elsie's World

So, because I didn’t have an SD card, I don’t have any pictures from the event other than those I have copied from JP Reese. The KGB is dark, which I can appreciate after a 14 hour day of travel, but it’s not great for pictures. It is on the second floor, a small room with tight seating and an intimate bar. I read with my good friend JP (Joani), Roberto Carlos Garcia, Stephanie Dickinson, and Walter Bjorkman. Susan Tepper made the whole thing possible, and she made it comfortable.
Feast of San Gennaro Festivities

I went first. I wasn’t nervous so much as I was exhilarated in a way that was needed to balance out a lot of the emptiness I’ve felt surrounding my writing lately.

There was a woman taking photos of me for a local artsy newspaper of some sort, which I'd love to know the name of. She interviewed me briefly after my set, but the next reader was called. I wish I remembered what the name of her publication is, but I was just too excited to meet so many amazing writers that I admire and couldn’t believe had come that I forgot about it. What I found in New York was a community that I felt partially a part of before and feel wholly a part of now.  Writers need to support and lift each other up, and I believe many of us last night felt just that—the support and the desire to support each other.

As for New York: I am at home here. I like to walk fast. I like a city where the house wine doesn’t taste like gasoline. I like a city where a cappuccino is actually a cappuccino (San Antonio: “You want what? Foam?” ... "Here, just let me do it myself."). I like that I can be as anonymous or as known as I want—or so it seemed last night. And I love the diversity, the urgency, the liveliness; the food, the drinks, the grid, and the people.  The city is alive, and I feel alive in it.

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