It was my third reading at Bodega and I was already recognizing people, my Bodega people. I went over and said hi to a poet from the previous month’s reading. Of course I couldn’t remember his name, probably because me and my friend, Vinny, have taken to given people our own nicknames. I told him how he’s really confident on stage and Pete, I learned his name was, said it was only his second reading, but that he’s got stage experience. He said he doesn’t always feel confident because his leg shakes uncontrollably when he gets up there. I admitted to the same and then he let me into a trade secret: if you wear loose pants, no one can see your leg shake.
I only began to get nervous right before I went on. And part of it was because my story required me to do a tramp voice. My story, “Pigeons” is about the Staten Island ferry and a sort of struggle between the narrator and what is anticipated as an inevitable incoming hipster invasion to the island, however the main showdown is actually between a hipster and a tramp.
Luckily my good friend, Omari, had come to my reading. He was the star of a hobo short film we once made in high school. We quickly brainstormed to see if he’d be able to do the voice, but in the end the logistics were too problematic. The first line I needed him to say was “Wiggle your toes” and if he shouted it from the crowd, it would have sounded like a weird heckle. And if he was up on stage with me, it’d just look awkward.
So when I got up on stage I admitted I was unsure about my tramp voice but that I’d give it a shot. And I’m glad I actually did try because the audience really responded to it. In fact, the audience really responded to my whole story. I guess people, especially Brooklyn people, love hatin’ on hipsters. I almost wish I had marked down the parts where I heard people chuckle and say “that’s true”.
I’m beginning to realize how important targeting your audience really is. I’ve found that since being back in NYC and submitting my Euro-centric stories to magazines on both sides of the pond, I seem to get published in London and rejected in New York. But this story was newly written and part of my New York batch and it went over a hit.
Rob, the organizer of the event, said that I’m getting better and more confident every time I read and tonight I could really feel it. Afterwards, standing outside Bodega, chatting with Rob, Pete and my friend from my Staten Island writers’ group, Mike, we all agreed that the Bodega audience is a supportive and attentive audience and that you usually get a better response reading if there’s a bit of comedy to your story. It’s nothing against serious writers or writing, it’s just that comedy helps you to hold your attention.
I left Mike chatting to Rob. When we first arrived Mike was saying how he didn’t know how I was able to go up on stage and read in front of all those people, and now he was talking to Rob about going up and reading himself next month. I was happy Bodega Monthly made him have such a quick turn around to trying it out himself.
Pete asked me the very loaded question of “So what’s Staten Island like?”. I had a lot to say on the matter, a lot of stuff that didn’t make it into my 7 minute story. I told him about our writing group and other art events happening on the island and I think I almost convinced him to come to SI or at least he seemed intrigued by the sound of it.
I’m now really keen to try out my story on a Staten Island audience since it went over surprisingly well with a Brooklyn one.
And by the way kids, in case you were wondering. I am the original hipster: