Tuesday, January 17, 2012

frozen moment reading night

It was another lovely reading, last night, for The Frozen Moment. I was a little worried about the snow, of course, since we in Portland get a little nuts with any bit of a dusting, but we had a good turn-out. EAT at Crow Arts Manor is a cool spot for a reading. The event space is a nook just off from the bar and tables, so you have the best of both worlds - refreshment without too much noisiness. In our nook, we had church pews set up facing the stage [plus a tiny plastic children's set of table and chairs, which I kind of wanted to sit in] and great swaths of orange fabric swagged overhead.

Editor Colin Farstad was all stylish in suit coat and tie, giving everyone a sweet and personal and sometimes funny intro. I was first in the lineup, and as I stepped up on stage, there was a sudden scuffle of techs trying to figure out why we were getting that awful buzz from the speakers. I stood there at the podium. Someone in the audience called out, "entertain us!" I leaned into the mic and sang, "Let me entertain you..." and got a little laugh but was smart enough to not keep going. Colin stood and said, "Shall we do a song and dance?" and for one crazy moment, I thought he was serious, that we should think of something to sing. My impulse to sing in public is always so great that if I get an opportunity, even a teeny one like this, my brain goes blank of all the songs in the world. Tom Spanbauer was sitting right there in the front row, and at a recent party he and I did a lovely, if awkward duet of Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, but then Colin said, "I don't know how to dance," and I said "check, check, check" into the mic and some guy turned a dial, and the buzzing quieted.

I read the first ten minutes of my story "Book Club." Had a nice reaction from the audience, some good laughs. I loved that I'd been chosen to go first, because then I got to sit back down, relax and just watch the show...

Elva Redwood, all punk elegant in gown and feather boa with her bangs spiked up. British accent, saying the one thing you need to do is suspend your disbelief and picture that her narrator comes from Southern California. Reading slow and smooth - her voice matching her steamy-dreamy language - about a young woman's down-deep reaction to the baby inside her.

It was one of those nights I got pregnant. I know exactly when it was because it was my mistake.

Us awake in the late night. In the tacked on bedroom of our cabin, far from the wood stove. Hearing Doug fir and sugar pines, long feathery arms brush the roof. Big sops of snow slipping down. 

Holly Goodman reading her entire story, an intensely personal piece that got me choked up by about halfway in and left me in a bit of a state by the end. It's beautifully constructed and elegantly crafted, but it's also very close - to the hard time in my own life.

All of us standing at the ticket counter, checking luggage, but him not going. 

Security is the end of the line for Sam.

"I love you," he says. "I wish I was going."

He's hugging and I'm not hugging back.

"I know," I say.

I can't say I wish he was going too.

"That's it?" he says. "You know?"

He's crying into the glass wall of a newsstand, head against the window, when I look back, and I hate myself.  

Nora Robertson pulling me back into my body with two poems from her series Body-Making Cookery, a lush and visceral collection of poetry that explores the ties between food and sex, fertility, personal history, human connection, desire, belief... She read "Sun Tea," which is featured in The Frozen Moment, and "How to Boil an Egg," which was nominated for a Push Cart Prize and expanded into the short film The Body Show in 2010.

I would run my hands over and over my belly. I imagined it taut. I imagined the nine months of waiting, of growing rounder. I didn't care anymore about the kids who avoided me at passing time and or whether my thighs were too chubby. I whispered to myself, I am strong and I can give birth. On my futon, cradled in the lush black, I had a dream that a thousand small frogs tumbled from between my legs in a rush of gray-green water, tiny and writhing.

Kathleen Lane opening the second half after an interlude of music, with one of my all-time favorite short stories, "In the Jetway," which starts with one of the funniest first lines ever and then shoots out transcendent and keeps going. I could talk forever about the quirky greatness of her voice, but I won't. I'll let it speak for itself:

Right now, I could lick that bald man's neck. I could just stick my tongue out and lick that man's neck and no one could stop me.

A person could just lick another person's neck.

The bald man would probably jump a little, that's probably what he'd do. He'd probably whip around and look at me.

Did you just lick me, he'll say, more loudly than necessary because I'm standing right there. And I'll say, yes, I did lick you, because it would be a difficult thing to deny. 

[did you see what she did, there, with her verbs? how she went from i could to i would to i will? masterful.]

Gage Mace giving us an excellent impersonation of JFK in his intro and then launching into his piece with a dramatic flair. Reading about the disconnect between a father and a son, giving us, at least in this part of the story, a kid narrator - funny, real, without cutesy sentimentality. It's hard to write "kid," and Gage has got it down.

I'd been begging for a bicycle since first grade, but Mom and Dad wouldn't let me have one until I was eight. I kept telling them I'd been ready since before I was seven, but Dad said to stop asking or I wouldn't get one even when I was eight. But eight lasted a whole year, and my birthday went by with no bicycle.

Kevin Meyer, up on stage with his iPad, ready to read electronically until he realized the print was too small and had to grab a copy of the book. Power of voice [that confidence, that edge of dry wit, that sense of simple inevitability] pulling us from the announcement of a death, through the plane ride home, almost through a doggy door, and stopping just short of the blood.

Daniela's father, my father-in-law, died the kind of alone that left his body dead on the floor of his laundry room for two days before he was found. Wednesday, sometime in the morning, they think, he hit his head, bled to death. It wasn't until Friday we found out.

and further [when they find out]:

Daniela pinched her phone between her ear and her shoulder. She drank the glass of wine in one chug, then poured herself another. Tipped the bottle damn near upside down, and the wine came out in gasps that splashed purple on the tablecloth.

Christine Calfas rounding out the evening with two offerings. First a vocal performance from her one-woman show "Sounding Hecate," which she sang, accompanying herself on harmonium, her sweet, clear voice and her lyrics doing a lovely, languid dance around one, long droning note. Then her poem from The Frozen Moment, which is deep, dark and lucious.

an ancestor whispered in my ear. she huffed. blew smoke from her pipe. in norway it snows for months and the dark eats her family up, the dark swallows her house, and they live in its belly like a winter whale.

what a world of fools is this. none of us knows now to die.

Great turnout, great readings, great evening. Plus, I got to see lots of family and friends, got to meet an e-friend and fellow writer I'd been looking forward to meeting for a long time, got to do a little signing of the book, and at the end of things, a woman came up to me and told me how much she'd particularly loved my piece.

...Then the woman started talking all about narrators licking people's necks, but I didn't tell her she'd gotten the wrong brunette.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely detailed description, Gigi. Thank you. And my friend who confused you with Kathleen did in fact also love your story. She said so right as you stopped reading. So, it was just that she mixed you two up, not that she didn't like your piece as much. I also didn't want to embarrass her by pointing it out. What an interesting moment that was. I love your Book Club. So bitter-sweet funny.