The last time I was fired from a job, some 19 years ago I spent the next six months, the whole time I was on unemployment sitting at home. I watched TV all day and built model airplanes. I was lucky I had a whole closet full of un built model airplanes. I was a sad, lonely fat man jealous of my then wife because she had a job and somewhere to go everyday.
This time around, I’ve been very, very busy; catching up on a lot of things I’ve been missing for the last year because of having to work in the evenings every weekend. Saturday night I was at an event, it was sort of a reading/music performing party at a photo show of my friend Katrina Del Mar’s photography.
It was great fun; I got to hear Katrina read from the novel she’s writing, as well as friend Patty Powers, Tessa Lou Fix (poetry) and some short films (videos?) by another friend, Anne Hanavan. I also saw a lot of other friends I had not seen in awhile, and even said to one “I’m glad I got fired so I could be here to enjoy this!”
Watching the performers and readers brought home one thought: this is where I belong. This is what I am part of, by virtue of my experience and the ability to articulate that experience both on the written page and orally.
I’ll never forget the thrill of going up in front of a live audience a few years ago to read a short story I’d written, this was at an event sponsored by my union, 32BJ. The union had somehow gotten some grant money and put a creative writing class on their agenda, I took it and was selected to read at this event capping the completion of the workshop. Another thing they did was put together a “Chapbook,” and I was to be in it. I was also asked to record the story orally at some studio in midtown.
When we got the chapbook, I was disappointed to find my story had not been printed. Instead, it was on the audio CD included in a sleeve in the back of the book. But the woman who produced the book knew something I did not know, that I had a good presence in front of people, and that my voice, which always sounds funny to me when I hear it from a recording was appealing.
A couple of years after that, while taking a more advanced writing class at the JCC in Manhattan, I was asked to read again, this time at the KGB bar.
This event is an ongoing thing; it’s called “Trumpet Fiction” and is put on by The Greenpoint Press, a small imprint publisher that my teacher Charles Salzberg is part of.
I read the piece I’d done at the Union again, and added another piece I wrote specifically for the night, something I called BUSTED, which has since morphed into IT WAS NIXON.
Then last year a friend invited me to go to THE MOTH with her, and on a lark I put my name in the hat. Incredibly, my name was called and I got to go up in front of a very large group of strangers and tell a story, this time without the benefit of reading it off the page. I did the Nixon story.
Now that was really thrilling, the applause and the slaps on the back and high-fives from strangers got me hooked. I’ve done it twice more since then, and I intend to go back until I win one of those slams.
A couple of weeks ago, when I published WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO YOUR OWN EXECUTION my friend Puma Perl messaged me about reading at one of her events, which she calls Puma Perl’s Pandemonium. Puma is a poet, and most of her readers are poets, but Puma did come and hear me at the KGB bar way back then, and if she’s interested in having me, I’m in. I’m going to tell a story about a famous transsexual I was friends with in the 70’s.
Not the one I was invited to read at, but do go, it looks like fun. I’ll be there learning the ropes.
I also secured a spot in the next BUGHOUSE SPIN in Bushwick, telling a story about working for pennies.
I used to go to readings and the like, and always felt I wished I could do it, sometimes I would hear something really bad and think: “I have better stories than that.”
But they were up there and I was down here.
This didn’t happen overnight, it took some work on my part and a little luck on the universes part, but it’s happening, I’m doing something that is a lot more satisfying than a steady paycheck and building model airplanes. I’m feeling alive.
And I want to thank all of my friends, and my lovely wife Danusia for all the inspiration and belief in me. I will, of course keep you all posted on when I’m reading and where, and the next time a good MOTH theme comes up, I’m there.