Yes, our little town is actually quite enthusiastic about the arts, which is probably due to its being well endowed with both nouveau hippies and seniors. Not to mention senior hippies. Whenever I attend an artsy event it always seems that it is largely populated by people I know to be teachers but my friend Sheila says she always sees plenty of her nursing colleagues there. Not to confuse correlation with cause, it is probably not so much that teachers and nurses are artsy as it is that we just have a lot of them in town. The hospital and the school district are probably two of the biggest employers with the third being the air base but military people seem not to make much of an appearance at artsy things. Perhaps they are afraid they might inhale and not pass their next drug test.
So plenty of amateur arts events go on here and I recently attended a poetry reading night held at a local bistro. I didn't know what to expect; I only knew it was scheduled from 7pm until 10pm and I figured that surely it had to be designed for a bit of coming and going amongst the patrons. With this in mind I arrived a bit late, closer to 8pm. My arrival was a bit awkward because the stage was immediately next to the entrance. I slipped in as quietly as I could and waited for the performer to conclude before making a beeline for the back of the room where the only available seating seemed to be. I had to sit at the bar and felt badly for blocking the view of the other person who was also sitting there. She said not to worry, the poorly placed palm tree was much more in the way than I.
I wanted food. I had intended to have food all along but now that I was there it seemed a bit awkward. In order to eat I had to face the bar counter, but in order to watch the performer I had to turn my body sideways. I perused the gluten free menu and nothing looked simple to eat. I felt the need to eat surreptitiously, quietly and unobtrusively and it felt somehow rude to be eating when the woman beside me wasn't. I had to slip down from the bar chair and go over to the cash register to place my order where I pointed to my selection on the menu so as not to have to speak and the server nodded. We conducted the ordering and paying as quietly as we could and I felt so guilty and rude the whole time, feeling that I owed every performer my undivided attention. I ordered a quinoa salad and a glass of red wine.
The salad was not easily eaten, definitely not surreptitiously and unobtrusively. It came the way salads are so often presented in restaurants, with large pieces much to big to put in one's mouth all at once, requiring me to tackle pieces of cucumber and tomato with my knife and fork, arms oddly raised due to the awkward height of the bar stool and counter. There were enormous pieces of lettuce, not torn into manageable pieces, but whole leaves sitting there on my plate. This was not something to quietly eat North American style with my fork in my right hand; this was food that required full on tackling with two hands and both implements. It required my full attention. I was completely preoccupied by guilt and hunger.
Thinking of how horrified my mother would be, the woman who had raised me with manners suitable for dining with royalty in case the need should ever arise, I took my knife and fork and cut up all of the vegetables on my plate the way one does for a toddler. With that job done, I set the knife down on my plate and quietly ate, stabbing or scooping with my fork as needed. Then I slammed back my glass of wine and ordered a coffee from the passing server. With my coffee and my satisfied tummy I could now pay better attention to the performances.
It is difficult to sum it up these performances in a word. A few were inaudible. Some did not grip me and some were well done. They all seemed to know each other to some degree so I suspect they are members of a writing group. There was the man-bun wearing black clad dude who performed in a sort of rap music style, asking the audience to clap out the beat for him. It was his performance I arrived in the middle of. He was followed by a middle aged man of a type I call trucker-hippie. His poetry was largely about pot and being stoned. There were two white haired men, the outdoorsy hiking type, who read poetry about nature inspired by their hiking trips. Although there were two of them my memory blurrs them together and at least one of them was nearly impossible for me to hear despite a microphone. There was a young woman, early twenties, quite focused on a fierce ranting style of feminism and sex themes. She had a powerful and expressive voice and was enjoyable to listen to. A voluptuous young woman in a vintage style dress and with long, lustrous, wavy hair read her piece about the ups and downs and anxieties in a romantic relationship and she did it in a very dramatic style, as though she were a stage actress. Another young woman with a style I call delicate-punk-hippie read a poem about being transplanted from the other side of the country but I could not hear most of it.
And who was in the audience you are wondering? It seemed mostly to be family and friends of the performers with perhaps a few people like myself who had come out of curiosity. At 9pm the MC announced that the scheduled readings were over and there was now an open mic and anyone who wished to read something was welcome to come forward. Nobody did. I decided at this point to leave, after first making sure that my exit towards the door did not look like an attempt to go on stage. I wonder if I would ever participate in something like this? I don't really know but perhaps I would. I cannot see myself belonging to a poetry group but perhaps I would respond to an open mic call next year if I came prepared. Perhaps I will slam back two glasses of wine first.
Glossary of Terms:
Nouveau Hippie: A nouveau hippie is anyone who adopts the look and lifestyle associated with hippies but is not an original hippie of the 60s or early 70s
Trucker Hippie: A trucker hippie doesn't drive a truck for a living but he probably owns a pick up truck. He has long unkempt hair, a ball cap is a distinct possibility but he might be old enough to know better than to wear it indoors. He wears baggy jeans or olive green work pants, work boots and a sweatshirt with a faded slogan and the sleeves cut off. He has a heart of gold and a foul mouth. He smokes a lot of pot, usually drinks beer and champions womens' sexual freedom.
Delicate-Punk-Hippie: A delicate punk hippie has a slight build, but with feminine curves. She looks like she could be a ballerina but she is covered in tattoos, has a shaved head, wears no makeup and boyish clothes, usually jeans and a tee shirt and she favours Doc Martens or Birkenstocks depending on the weather.