Posts Tagged ‘Open Mic Paris’

Flattened, I Mean

June 26, 2013


I ran into an old friend of mine tonight down at the Women’s Building in the Mission of San Francisco, he had just gotten back from celebrating his 75th birthday.

In Paris.

He showed my his photographs and I knew where they all were taken, literally, all of them.

It was a day to be reminded of Paris, in lovely ways.

“I know you are probably not that happy about it,” a friend said to me this evening as I was preparing to head over to the 16th Street BART station, “but frankly, I am so fucking happy you are back.”

Me too, love, me too.

But I actually am happy about it, happy to be back, happy to be making some work and personal progress, happy to be just a little lighter and easier in my skin.

Also happy to be connecting and staying accountable to my life, my choices, and my actions.

“I just wanted to call and leave you a message about this upcoming weekend,” I told a friend’s voice mail, “despite my protestations to the opposite, I am going to house sit again.”

I promised to take care of myself, I promised to not isolate, and I promised to stay away from the sugar and their cupboards and from all things tempting.

I am ok with this house sitting gig, as well, as it feels really safe, it’s in Cole Valley in a gorgeous house and it happens to be the place where I do my nanny gig on Tuesdays, and it will be the spot I also get to pick up an extra gig for Monday.

I don’t have to commute anywhere, I get to just wake up and be in the spot.

This morning the commute was not bad, but getting back was a headache.

The rain pouring down was discouraging to me, the thought of showing up wet, as well as the need to leave early so that I could take extra precautions on the road–when it rains people do not drive as well, and I always have to be a defensive bicyclists.

I packed my messenger bag with my lunch and dinner, I had plans to meet up with a lady at the Dolores Park Cafe after work and knew I wouldn’t get home til late, and as it turns out, way late.

My room-mate offered me a ride to BART and I made the executive decision to leave the bike at the house, I would take the bus, or a cab.

Or the MUNI!

Totally forgot about that.

I had to leave the house faster than I was prepared for, breakfast left on the counter, half my lunch left on the counter, 1/2 a cup of coffee quickly ingested, but it was worth it to not be wet at work (although I am sure I could have tossed the wet items in the dryer) and once the BART pulled into Civic Center I realized I could take the NJudah to work.

I got there so fast I actually had 45 minutes to spare.

I went to Crepes on Cole and had an omelet and some fruit and a couple of cups of coffee, did some writing and prepared to meet the day.

The kids were great, but I am sore, yes I am.

Mostly just achy, not as flattened as normal.

Although every time I tried to do any sort of work remotely, I was unable to.  I kept checking in my e-mail and there were little things here and there to address and I could just keep on top of the babies.

Which is just how it’s going to go some time.

I was also intrigued by an e-mail I received from an organization that I had submitted some work to.  They had chosen one of my photographs to be in a gallery show in New York.

I got all excited, I clicked on the photo they had pulled from the portfolio.

Sidebar-fuck me!  I forgot to down load my photos, grrr.  It’s almost eleven pm.  I had made the decision to get my photography back up and going and said I would at least post a daily photo.  Where’s my camera, I took some shots today.


The photograph they chose was one I was quite fond of and I was thrilled they wanted to use it.

Then something struck me as fishy, I read the fine print and sure as shit, I had to upgrade to a different platform with in the artist site to be eligible.

No thank you.

I will however use the money that I would have spent on printing off some of my photos, I would love to print off a couple of larger ones for my new in-law.

But it was nice for a moment to feel special.

What it reminded me to, was to my commitment to continue taking photographs, even if they’re just for me.

I love pictures.

I do.

So, as my friend was scrolling through his shots of Pont Neuf and Notre Dame and Hotel de Ville, the Seine, and one magic shot he got at sunset from Pont Alexandre of the Eiffel Tower, I was thrilled to see that my memories of the city were still firm in place.

“I asked about the magazine, you know,” he said to me, as the last picture floated by on his I-pad.  “Mo said it had not come out yet, and that you should be very pleased to have gotten them to publish you.”

“Really? That’s sweet,” I replied, “I was asked to read from the magazine as one of the contributors at the launch party, but well, I don’t plan on being in Paris on July 22nd, unless something crazy happens.”

“That’s when it comes out, July 22nd, I will be sent a copy,” I finished and gave him another hug, “it’s really good to see you.”

“You should know, Mo says you should be very flattered, they got 1,000s of submissions,” he said, “you should be very proud of yourself.”

I am.

Mostly for just getting through the day and not dropping any babies on their heads, but I am also flattered, I am.  It’s awesome to have a publishing credit.

Even an unpaid one.

I will take it.

Mixed Signals

March 18, 2013

I don’t want to tell the Universe what to do.

Yes I do, who the fuck am I kidding?

I want to stay here and I am putting it out there, keep me here, will ya?

Of course, I don’t know how, and I am willing to do what needs be done.

The question is, what needs be done?

I don’t know.

John Ater told me last night, we had a successful Skype session, that I was never going to know, knowing is not a part of the story, never was, never was going to be.

He told me a story about surrender and it resonated with me.

I gave up on Friday.

I had a lovely relaxed day on Saturday.

I took the bit back in my mouth yesterday, tried to figure it out, banged myself around a bit, gave up again, said, what ever, and went to bed early.

I got up today went the way I had to go to get the crazies out of the tree branches and had nine people say, “stay” and one person say, “go.”

The stays are winning it for me, of course, but how?

I am not arguing for my limitations, which John helpfully pointed out I was doing and I got a few interesting e-mails today.  One from the English department at the American University.  The gentleman in question said staying in the country is not too hard, go to London and get your passport stamped.

Been there, done that.

Working papers, that is another thing entirely.

However, he invited me to swing by for office hours and I am going to do that next week.

I also went out and did a little open mic action at Le Chat Noir tonight, taking it upon myself to continue carving out a life for myself here.  I also believe it is good practice for me to go, as I find myself more prone to working on my poetry and that is important to me.

It may not be important to anyone else, but as a poet before I was a memoirist or a blogger, it is my first love.

Tonight the thematic was “navigation”.

My poems were on the navigation of Eros.

“Well played,” she said leaning into me as I sat back down, shaky, and hot-headed.

“Thanks,” I said, and leaned into the wall.

I was the last performer of the first round, I actually got there before all the spots were filled in.  I also realized that depending on who you are and what you want from the open mic, the people performing ask to be put into certain rounds.

My first time there I was late, busy getting lost, and I was the second to last person to perform.

Last week, I was late again, babysitting gig in Asniers-Sur-Seine, third to last person this go round.

“Are you performing tonight,” the girl with the blonde bob asked me as I passed her in the bar of Le Chat Noir.

“Yes, I am,” I said, “Helen?”

“Yes!  You remembered my name, you are amazing, I missed you last week, I had to go, it was too late.”

“I will be the last person in the first round,” I said.

“Good, I look forward to hearing you,” she smiled and pushed up to the bar.

I went down the wood stair case into the basement and stuck myself in the corner.  I was better prepared tonight as well, I brought my own bottle of Badoit.  Not going to drop 3.50 Euro on a small bottle of Perrier when I can get a bottle of bubbles at Carrefour for less than half that.

My voice felt good.

I felt nervous, but I always feel nervous.

The poems were well received, or so it felt, and I remembered to breathe, pause, slow down when I wanted to go fast, to say the words, to alter the pace, to emphasize the click clack of alliteration.  I like to alliterate and do internal rhyme scheme.

Just my schtick.

I filled up another notebook this morning and realized I have a small journal that is full as well, which makes four full up journals since my arrival.

I just remembered, I must get myself a glue stick, one of the ways I remember is to paste little items in my notebooks of my journeys.  The notebook I finished this morning has the ticket stub from the Dali Museum, my backstage bracelet to the Social Club from Friday nights club outing, a walking guide of the Jardin des Plantes, a Carmen Miranda sticker (my girl Jennifer sent me a sheet of Carmen Miranda stickers from Flax in San Francisco), the top of the Lauderee tea canister–mint green paper with a gold leaf cupid on it–I pulled off the label, and the open mic flyer from last weeks performance.

I can open any of those journals and not only re-read what my experiences where during the time I was doing the writing, but I can just look at my scrapbook souvenirs and see it just as well.

I don’t know how many more notebooks I will get to fill.

But, hey Universe, I would love to fill a few more.

I do surrender to not knowing.

I do.

I also surrender to the fact that I want what I want.

I may not get it, the longing for the fantasy has been greatly offset by the realities of living here.  The reality of living here is that it is hard.

Hard,hard, hard, but I don’t have a regret.

Not a one.

I won.

I am winning.

The Paris experiment.

The Paris experience.

This is a win/win.

I get to see it all about me, in the words I write, in the poems I speak, in the wet pavements I slide on down on my way to the Metro, in the photographs I take, stopping in the rain to juggle my glasses and umbrella and messenger bag.

Door Way

Door Way

Metro Couronnes

Couronnes Metro

“Stay,” he said, busking my cheeks with kisses.

I would like to.

What do you say, Universe?

I await your direction.


Open Mic

March 12, 2013

I want Stephen King to write an essay on open mics.

It would be similar to what he wrote for “On Writing.”

It would encompass these things:

1. Do not read from your personal journal

2. Do not read from your personal journal

3. Please do not read from your personal journal

4. Don’t perform Shakespearean plays.

5. Caveat to above, unless your Al Pacino–then go to town, but if you’re not and you do decide that you are going to perform a monologue, don’t tell the audience what it is about before you perform it.

Just fucking do the monologue.

6. If you have to explain it to me, you’ve already lost me.

7. Breathe

8. He’s not that cute, the bartender, and your hair extension is showing.

9. Turn off your phone

10. Yes, you are brave to get up in front of a group of strangers, so acknowledged, now stop reading from your personal journal, “you know” “like” “um” “what I am saying”.

Other random thoughts after tonight’s performance.  Some people have it and some don’t.

The guy I was laughing about last week, who I thought was doing a schtick, was, oh jesus, not doing a schtick, the slumped shoulder, cardigan, ascot, and wrinkled pants with the book clutched to chest is not an act.

Just because you are cute does not mean I want to listen to you.

I will fall down in intoxicated awe at your feet if you give me a good performance.  I don’t care what you look like, the tall, quiet, moon face Swedish girl knitting all night long in the shadowy corner of the cafe, you blew me away in your head rag and red-painted crimson lips, despite the circle scarlet framing the crooked, tobacco stained teeth, the sounds that issued forth from your mouth made me swoon.

Again please.

The rules of the open mic are such that you are always going to hear some one who sucks, some one who is nervous, some one who has no talent, but loads of charisma and chutzpah–so you actually pay attention to their clowning and find it amusing if slightly boorish–and the top hat does not hurt either, the quiet girl with the hound straddling a bench in the corner is amazing, don’t leave before you hear her do her own version of French hip hop improv rap, always different, always new–she takes French words from the audience and rhymes on command.


There are bad acts, good acts, then there’s you.

Practicing your poems in front of a two-year old and a four-year old in Asniers Sur Seine–I got a last minute baby sitting gig tonight before heading out to the open mic.

The back ground music is not the tinkle of ivories plunked out by a gangly French man with long hair and thin fingers, or the accordion shunting you up and down the stairs of the Metro.


It is the Micky Mouse Club House in French.

But if you can get the sounds of mouse out of the house in your head, you are golden.

I shared with a friend this evening who met me at the cafe, Le Chat Noir, 76 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, that I did not have a printer with me, I hand wrote it out in a journal (felt so old school), the majority of my work is in computer files, a lot here as well tucked into odd corners of my blog, white flagged by the category “poetry”.

Just in case you care to skip.

I know not everyone’s cup of tea is a sonnet.

However, I did get good response to my sonnet.

And the girl with the hair extensions and the ski slope plastic surgery nose, raved me up.

To the point that I almost felt bad for thinking trashy thoughts about the blonde synthetic hair pulling away from her scalp line.

But not enough to tell you that the bartender tells that to all the girls.

Note to boy at the end of the bar, hipsters don’t drink Long Island Ice Teas.

Douche bags do.


Did I say that?

I actually did let something slip, for which I will be putting that into my debit column tonight-I did say, out loud, “no, we don’t want to hear the end,” after another long personal journal entry with so many clichés I did not have enough sticks to shake at them.

I did cry tonight though.

Brought to sudden tears by a line that Alice Notley wrote.

She was the featured speaker tonight and it was really quite amazing to hear her and see a poetic legend read.  I cannot even tell you what the line was, but I can taste it and see it and it looks like the white light that shatters in the core of marbles that Rodin used to sculpt the head of John the Baptist.

It was a love poem that was not a love poem that was the first political poem I could stand to listen to the whole thing, a thing from another planet of time when the Kerouac’s, it’s his birthday today, happy birthday Jack, and the Ginsberg’s, the Alan Kaufman’s, the New York School whipped the world along in song and debauchery, politics and the licence to live as free and wanton as possible whilst searching to pull down the walls of the machine.

It felt like a poem from another age and I could hear the poet’s own struggles to show me, maybe just me, how to continue forward and how to not bend and how to be true to that voice that pushes out from me.

To also acknowledge I am good.

I am a performer, not the best, but I will not be falsely humble either, I have a good voice and I am a good reader.  And when I have a good breath in me, I can hold an audience.

I also write about sex, that said in the right tone of voice will keep attention on you.

I write about the politics of eros and negotiating my own way through it.

I have fun being breathy and just a little American tawdry with a wink of burlesque.

Just a little spanking of fun for you.

I will go back, to perform again, raise the welter of poems off my body and breathe out into the universe, or a small grotto cave of a cafe, my substantiate self for as long as I can.

Or the five-minute bell rings my time ended.

Whichever comes first, in Paris.

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