Reading at Book Passage

At the Ferry Building last Friday, I sat through multiple hours of other writers reading their stories so that I could emerge from my chrysalis and do my own reading of original work, in a public space, on purpose, for the first time. The first half of the readers pre-intermission were decent, the search for a Chinatown apartment, Lucille Ball’s Where’s My Ethel at the White House, a tiny piece of Ramshackle Days describing the scene at the bar where if you even looked like you were going to say more words than it took to order a drink you’d be kicked out. Intermission should have started after Where’s My Ethel, which got such tremendous applause that it was a natural stopping point. However, one of the facilitators thrust her student onto us “because she has to leave”, whose story was about as interesting as an old shoe. The variety of styles and talent levels was a bit shocking. I know the instructors were told to encourage everyone to participate, but seriously? Some of those kids should be told to put down the pen and walk away.
Intermission was a welcome break from the heat of the room on an unnaturally warm SF day, and then my cheering section arrived, thinking it was over since everyone was milling about. Unfortunately, it was not over, and I punished my friends by making them sit through at least twenty stories, most of which should be deleted from their author’s harddrive immediately. No one wants to hear about you popping a blister before your hike up Mount Masada. You don’t really look like Hugh Grant, so your story about being his doppelgänger is confusing. You’re an ex-nun and you love Jesus and yet your words make me want to burn some religious texts. You are making fun of the Chinese language by pretending to speak it. Wave upon wave of bad writing washed onto the podium. The audience dwindled. A story about a stripper somehow was uninteresting. There was a good piece about being a nanny for a French family. And a bad piece about not being able to go to an uncle’s funeral (written by someone my friend later described as “the gay dude who went and sat by his wife after he was done. She patted his hand.” Ah, beards.) Also a brief scuffle where a homeless gent joined the party (hey, free booze!) and was the only heckler of the evening, snickering as he listened.
The agony of the evening was nearly over. But first, the worst introduction of the evening, saying that I was going last because it was alphabetical (it wasn’t) and oh hey I work at BlahBlahBlah. I put the shaking paper on the podium (a godsend!) and read this. It got laughs from some nitwits in the crowd, and then it was over, and applause, mainly because good lord this night of literary terror was over and everyone was free to disperse to their real Friday evenings.