The first thing I noticed when I walked into the Bodega Wine Bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn was that there was a stage and a microphone. As my friend, Vinny, and I settled down at the bar, I tried to convince myself that it’d be a learning experience. Though I was actually I was freaking out since the last reading I did (see http://alliemoh.com/1/post/2012/05/first-post.html) was equivalent to a preschool story time compared to this. I had sat on a chair while others sat on pillows on the floor or chairs in a cozy little bookshop.
There was a good amount of people in the bar, maybe around 30, but I assumed most of them were there to read. Another friend, Jake, joined us and as we listened to people read poems, short stories and tell anecdotes from their life, he asked me what I thought made someone a good reader. I said I feel like there’s two things to focus on: content and delivery. Some of the readers had a great story but mumbled their words, some had an engaging reading manner but not such an interesting story.
Suddenly it was my turn, the carefully planned out set list be damned. I got up there and of course struggled with raising the microphone as I knew I would. Great start. I did my little bit about my accent “I’m going to apologize in advance for my accent. I’ve been living in London for 5 years and I don’t even know what I sound like anymore. And now I’ve got to apologize for apologizing in advance because that’s a very English thing to do.” and went into a brief background of my story, or rather the title.
Then I began to read. And it’s one of those weird things where I don’t remember much from it. I remember not knowing where to hold my papers so that I could read it and be close to the microphone. I remember sizing up possible issues to deal with during the reading such as the front door opening and closing since it was right next to the stage and bar noises, especially the sandwich guy who kept throwing utensils loudly into the sink. I didn’t really think I’d have to deal with an unruly table of people sat right in front of the stage.
It was kind of funny because earlier when I was playing pool with Vinny (and kicking his ass, which I justified as being good for my reading confidence later) I was telling him how my friend’s husband did stand-up for awhile and at one of the gigs he had a heckler. He dealt with the guy surprisingly well and then carried on his set as if nothing had happened. Afterwards he thought he did terrible and we all said not only did he handle it well, but that it was an obstacle he was going to have to get over sooner or later in his career.
So I had watched this drunken table through every set, hoping they’d leave the bar before I went up. But no such luck and sure enough they began to loudly talk during my reading. So I just took that advice we gave my friend’s husband years ago and continued reading as if nothing was wrong. Eventually someone from the crowd, or possibly someone who worked at the bar, went over and had a word with them.
(In the pic: far right, the annoying people. Far left, the lovely lady who spoke to them.)
I finished my story and jumped down from the stage, taking care not to trip as others had, and walked back towards my friends at the bar. The event organizer apologized for the people talking during my set and told me that I have a good reading voice. My friends told me I did great but I didn’t believe them and kept asking them “But didn’t you see my leg shake?” “Didn’t you hear me stumble over words?” “And my story introduction didn’t come out right at all!” But they said that my intro gave it personality and then Jake gave me the best compliment I could ever ask for: “I actually paid attention,” he said. Even my concentration wanes somewhat during readings, especially as in this case there was a nice sandwich and glass of cava to distract me.
Even though I was reassured by my friends and the organizer that I did well, I didn’t feel like I had. I decided next time I’d cut myself off of drinks a lot sooner than I had and if I made any last minute changes, like I had the night before, I’d reprint the pages instead of reading over cross outs and mistakes. I knew that wasn’t the brightest idea, but laziness got the better of me.
We hung around for the rest of the readings and then headed out into wilds of Bushwick led by Jake on what I later called a death march for pizza and a cab. Once both were secured, we went back to a friend’s place for celebratory drinks and a game of cards against humanity. Not a bad Sunday night.