Clowns and Dicks at Open Mic (aka Mike)

Graphic of cross-eyed clown with colorful hair.

“Payaso” (Clown). Graphic by Estela

Some folks write “mike.” I prefer “mic,” cuz it’s truncated “microphone.”

I love open mic. I was disappointed when an established poet said she hates open mic. She’s no major poet, but she’s got a name, regionally speaking. I think she’s sentimental. Unicorns bore me. But some folks dig that shit. “Che, you are the poetry,” she says. Ugh. That ain’t poetry to me. Dinosauria, We–now, that knocks me out.

Some people hate Bukowski. Really hate him. I love him. I never tire of Bukowski. Poetry or prose, love Buskowski. “I don’t hate people,” he says, “I just feel better when they’re not around.” 😀 Ha. Yeah. I get that. I totally get that.

Wanted to open mic at a particular cafe. Readings there began in early 70’s. I wanted to read there because of the historical significance. Famous names of the past once read there. I thought, Man, I wanna be where they once were. I discovered they record and stream the readings. I checked ’em out. I was disappointed. Saw two poets I know. I like their poetry. But I wasn’t too keen on the rest. Decided to nix the place from my “Gotta List.”

The two places I frequent most are virtually around the corner. A five minute walk. One’s been going on close to three years. The other a few months. Once a month, same week, different day. I have featured at both.

The great thing about open mic is that anyone is welcome. The problem with open mic is that anyone is welcome. Any. One. Years ago, at an open mic, some gal, a happy, clueless chick, early 20’s, signed up, cuz she was digging the scene, people in the spotlight, at the mic. She was with friends. Giggling, she trots up to the mic, opens her mouth, realizes she’s got nothin’, so she clowned. Closed her eyes, tipped her head to the side, feigned sleep. Opened her eyes, giggled again, shrugged her shoulders, leaned into the mic and opened her mouth, but no words came to her. She feigned sleep again. The mic inadvertently picked up the sound of her breathing. She dug that, so she moves up close, her nose at the mic, and she just breathed. In, out. In, out. In, out. Heeheehee, she snickers. She feigned sleep again, and this time emitted snoring sounds. She opens her eyes, laughs. Her friends laugh. A few other folks chuckled, some politely. “Ha ha. You funny.” The chick enjoyed herself tremendously. She took up at least two very long minutes, before she bounced back to her seat, happy as a three-year old. Her friends were delighted. She was delighted. I was annoyed. Grrr. I want poetry, man. Not silly goose shit. I know. I need to lighten up.

Some older guy, late 60’s, possibly 70, started showing up at readings I attend. We exchanged a few words. He asked for my email, said he wanted to send me a piece he wrote about Trudell. John Trudell. (Native American poet, actor, musician, former political activist.) I said, “OK.” I wasn’t interested. But if he wants to share, what’s the harm? Never occurred to me it was a “hit.”

He’s Anglo. The shit he emailed me was terrible. Horrible. Hack. He attempted to imitate attitude and tone of militant, sixties, early seventies, Native American activist . “The empire,” he says, instead of “the United States.” Tried to imitate what he considers Native-speak. “The hoop is broken,” he writes. Used a few words from a Trudell song. It was worse than Johnny Depp’s Tonto.

Sometimes being nice backfires. Vultures and wolves take you for a meal. Every manipulator needs a fool. I didn’t know my being amicable would be interpreted as “available and interested.” It’s nothing new, but it’s been a while.

I see him again at a reading. He hustles over and goes, “So, what’dja think?” I put him off, go say, “Hi,” to people. Then I’m walking up the aisle to go sit, and he gets up and blocks my way. He says, “So, what’dja think,” and he rubs my arm up and down with the back of his hand, grinning, as if he’s some fucking cool hand Luke. I was mortified.

“I gotta go talk to someone,” I say, and get the hell away.

When I go to sit, he approaches again. This time he doesn’t put his icky hands on me. He wants to know what I think about the shit he wrote. “It doesn’t matter,” I say. “It’s fine.” He wants to know what I didn’t like. I didn’t say it’s a hopeless piece of garbage. I was diplomatic. I was on my guard. He was defensive, arrogant, condescending. My god, he’s a real moron, and a fucking narcissist.

I’m guessing he had wanted to impress me. Like a fucking juvenile. A 70 year old juvenile. The reading started. He went back to his chair. I was relieved.

I dodged him during the break, kept my distance.

I read a poem that ends with, “I miss my smokes./I miss the stink./But I won’t miss you.” After the reading, making sure not to look his way, I say my good-byes to some folks. As I’m headed toward the door, I hear him call out, loudly, “Hey, Estela! You better quit meeting assholes!” We’re barely acquainted. He doesn’t know anything about me. He’s not from this community. If he lives in The City, it’s probably The Panhandle.

I don’t really know him, but I know his type. That was passive-aggressive bait. That was aggression. I keep moving. “It’s not about anyone in particular,” I say, matter-of-factly. I glance behind me. He’s coming at me like a Mack truck. I didn’t stop, I kept moving.

“Oh, just in general, huh?” I hear him say. He sounds calmer. I wonder if people turned to look and that’s what put him in check. I was too mortified to look at anyone.

“Yeah,” I say, not looking back, continuing out the door, cool as I could muster.

I’m sure the old geezer fancies himself a “hip, street poet.” He ain’t hip. He ain’t no poet. Or if he is, because he writes shit he calls poetry, he’s a lousy one. That gal from years ago who breathed and snored into the mic was more eloquent than this dick. Maybe I need to lighten up when it comes to silly clowns, or poetry that bores me, but not when it comes to a presumptuous asshole. Geezus, no matter how old they are, some men…

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About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet living in San Francisco. I like telling stories too. I'm an introvert, and I like, need, solitude. I find that depth is a rare quality. Someone once said to me, "You're a very deep person. It must be really hard living like that. Most people aren't that deep." I said, "Yeah. It is hard. It really is."
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