Poetry: Print

The Mondrian print I have on my apartment wall

behind my computer

is shitty, sort of, and the Rothko print is much better

behind me on the floor, scattered among free fly shapes

made falling from the sky

in formation, like a doodle

penis shape, notebook margin

sunbathing, kaleidoscope blues

squeak the pundits, bouncing ball

lobelly babbling, squabelly traveling, what does it matter

in the end to be truthful, is the point

of morality to judge winners

and losers?  I am better than the best

of you in this room, hear record of my tales,

Everyday I give my girlfriend a foot rub

almost

to completion, orgasmically

speaking, and it puts her to sleep

every time, which is useful

when planning bank heists, make sure sure you use chicks

with bonko knockers, of course.

Poetry: Print

Poem: The First Chapter

Gangrenous is our sense of society, everyone knows

what is wrong can’t be spoken

because all we have is a sense of it, the sinister

in every smile, watch out, young man, watch out you’ll crack

thumper him on the head, down to a standing eight

count at least, a wallet richer

inspecting the contents, shattered by emptiness

cracking a ribcage with no facial feeling

just because you had a bad day, the dark of it

which spread from the knowing it could happen

someday into the world was born, hoofbeats patter

through the window from the street.

 

Perhaps is his name and he broke

free in the market, spreading the stench of war

unspoken, my neighbors fear my skin

as well, causing shouting at town halls

message boards full of misspelled capitals

exclamation points and question marks, all meaning

nothing at all important, but the electric mania

is what I call it, as well as the beginning of the end

possibly should things continue the way they are.

Poem: The First Chapter

Movie Review: Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Director: George Armitage

Writer: Tom Mankiewicz (story) Tom Mankiewicz, D.V. DeVicentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack (screenplay)

Actors: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Akroyd

Streaming on Netflix

Thanks in large part to John Cusack’s intensely likable portrayal of a remorseless killing machine, Grosse Point Blank stands as one of the weirdest, funniest, and most entertaining romantic comedies of all time.  Feeling like the inspiration of several coked-up movie executives on a bender (“Let’s put The Killer together with Peggy Sue Got Married”), this movie is pure crackerjack entertainment from start to finish.  For instance, in the same ten minutes, Martin Q. Blank (Cusack) has an emotionally weighted reunion with the love of his life (Minnie Driver), and has an insane gun duel with an eastern European hit man (Benny Urquidez) holding two submachine guns.  The gun duel is far from outstanding, and the romance at times seems preposterous, but when married, these two seemingly oppositional styles of filmmaking combine to paste a wide grin on every viewers’ face.

This movie exists in the (likely heavily fictionalized) world of killers for hire, and as it begins, Martin Q. Blank (Cusack) turns down fellow hit man Grocer’s (Dan Akroyd) proposal to begin a union of contract murderers.  This plot line provides the grist for the action, of which there is plenty, in the movie, but it might have been tiresome were it not for Dan Akroyd’s sensational turn as the villain.  Akroyd exhibits such loud, boorish machismo that in every scene of his he is simply hilarious.  Alan Arkin, another fantastic comic talent from Chicago’s Second City, brings a superb touch to the role of Blank’s psychiatrist Dr. Oatman.  Early in the movie, Arkin and Cusack have a scene together filled with so much perfect timing and comic invention that I almost wish the movie focused purely on the interaction of these two characters.  However, as the movie draws on, the amount of exemplary comic acting becomes simply staggering.

Joan Cusack is exceptional as Blank’s “handler” Marcella, while Hank Azaria and K. Todd Freeman have some very funny moments as the frustrated NSA agents tracking Blank as he winds his way through the movie’s ludicrous criminal underworld.  All of this, however, is secondary to the movie’s central plot line: Blank’s reunion with Debi Newberry (Minnie Driver), the true love he abandoned ten years earlier on prom night to join the army.  Minnie Driver does her best to create emotional heft in this crazy story, and while I’m not sure how successful she is in making the characters seem emotionally real, she is extremely charming and gives the movie the closest thing it has to an emotional focal point.  Jeremy Piven also makes a notable appearance as Paul Spericki, Blank’s old high school buddy, creating even more laughs and good will in this already stuffed movie.

Everything about Grosse Point Blank exists in a fantasy realm, occurring in a world where everyone has something funny to do or say, and a world where high-paid assassins use two pistols at the same time.  This is a movie that seems made by committee, and judging by the fact that five people get writing credits on it, that is the case.  While in most instances, this would likely be a considerable drawback, for this movie it’s an absolute boon.  By packing the cast with wonderfully adroit comic performers, this movie is able to throw everything it can imagine on screen, confident that the actors will make everything (I use this term loosely) believable.  Every piece of Grosse Point Blank lends itself to a delightful movie watching experience.  The screenplay sizzles with whip-smart joke lines, the action is frenetically silly, and the performances are delightful with each actor putting their own twists on classic tropes.  This movie might have been made in a lab, but it’s a hell of a good time.

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Movie Review: Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Poem: 7 Curses

My favorite curse word is fuck, for obvious reasons

it’s like seasoning, as if salt in soup it flavors

the entire world, acting an umbrella part it plays

tunes on which to end and to start, signaling ejaculation

destruction and frustration, stubbing a toe

pained yelping eruption, ceremonial victory

flagellation enhancement, it wears masks

abundant as the day is long, and I love it.

 

Shit is number two, on my list as well

existing colloquially, meaning general detritus

piled in a wheelbarrow, a weapon of apocalypse

fertilizer ideally, good for growing bonds

to feed plants and air, the best in bouquet

hilarious and lovely, an unwelcome surprise

for debutante balls, in punch bowls especially

useful flowing, solitary signal stench.

 

As the cock crows at dawn, dick is number three

when used correctly, with the suffix -ish

describing celebrities, authority and fluency

set in a sneer, introducing itself fiendishly

everywhere it can fit, stands as pointed

satire for gender politics, most are tiny

bits of self importance, aesthetically accurate

found art, especially when fully erect.

 

At bottom is the ass, end of heavy meaning

for the fourth part, posterior is the central

function of fat, booming bass drum parump

parump parade leader, eyes are drawn down

to its focal point, rhythmically rise and fall

hypnotizing both genders, as well it suffixes

panoramic descriptors, jerk and candy ones

smell what a stone cooks, barely a swear.

 

Bitch is a tricky snitch, betraying sexist potential

leanings of spirit, can’t ignore aesthetic beauty

to the sound of it has, onomatopoetic expression

descriptive to a tee, sniveling backstabbers

conspiratorial politicians, mostly wastrel males

hiding under figureheads, scratching a societal itch

which seems obligatory, patriarchal mastery

sinking ship captain, command no respect.

 

Number six is unrelated, shunned and forgotten

bastard of an unwed home, but times change

mending wounds of slight, suddenly wedlock is cool

as it should be, having lost its vulgarity this term

describes only a villain, general perfunctory

graphic parlance, when spewed with emotion

substantially portioned out, tagged by an exclamation

point when uttered with vigor, it is not nothing.

 

Finally comes a friend, for tits are pleasing

as they move up and down, they sway and bop

the rhythm of time, jiggle jangle or perk up

welcoming a sunny day, as the star rises

they draw my gaze, unforgettable on film

though in person heaven, unfathomably soft

welcoming a lover, for all intoxicating view

from any angle nice, all of them lovely.

 

These are the seven, I could think of today

not impressively various, uses by the truckload

expand and contract, creating a dialect

distinctly American, connecting cultures

without pretext of coin, social status or accent

they carry emotion, comic acoustic shortness

of sound percussing, they are a kaleidoscope

for the masses, linking us to each other as god.

Poem: 7 Curses

Poem: Curse Words (1-4)

My favorite curse word is fuck, for obvious reasons

it’s like seasoning, las if salt in soup it flavors

the entire world, acting an umbrella part it plays

tunes on which to end and to start, signaling ejaculation

destruction and frustration, stubbing a toe

pained yelping eruption, ceremonial victory

flagellation enhancement, it wears masks

abundant as the day is long, and I love it.

 

Shit is number two, on my list as well

existing colloquially, meaning general detritus

piled in a wheelbarrow, a weapon of apocalypse

fertilizer ideally, good for growing bonds

to feed plants and air, the best in bouquet

hilarious and lovely, an unwelcome surprise

for debutante balls, in punch bowls especially

useful flowing, solitary signal stench.

 

As the cock crows at dawn, dick is number three

when used correctly, with the suffix -ish

describing celebrities, authority and fluency

set in a sneer, introducing itself fiendishly

everywhere it can fit, stands as pointed

satire for gender politics, most are tiny

bits of self importance, aesthetically accurate

found art, especially when fully erect.

 

At bottom is the ass, end of heavy meaning

for the fourth part, posterior is the central

function of fat, booming bass drum parump

parump parade leader, eyes are drawn down

to its focal point, rhythmically rise and fall

hypnotizing both genders, as well it suffixes

panoramic descriptors, jerk and candy ones

smell what a stone cooks, barely a swear.

Poem: Curse Words (1-4)

The D.A.C (Differently-Abled Comedian)

  1. Cole’s Open Mic (2338 N. Broadway)

It’s Wednesday, and for Chicago standup comedy, that means it’s time for Cole’s Open Mic.  Cole’s is the most popular open-mic in the city; the reasons for this are many, and plainly obvious.  The bar’s layout is perfect, with an open bar area ideal for drunken socializing cut off from the back performance space by a shallow walkway, which does a good job of limiting the noise pollution.  The beer specials ensure that the crowd, which is often quite large, will before the mic starts be more than suitably tipsy.  Beyond that, what most sets Cole’s open mic apart from other open mic’s in the city is its exemplary opening act, Foz the Hook.

Foz, who frequently refers to himself as “Your old pal Foz” is a tunesmith, piano player and raconteur who frequently launches into carousing renditions of crowd favorites like “Drunk Astronauts,” and between songs regales his audience with wistful observations of life, most of which are forgotten nearly immediately.  After Foz brings his set to a close, the open mc host, Adrienne Brandyburg takes the mic and warms up the audience with a few minutes of her own comedy, which does a good job of bringing the room together and getting them ready to laugh.  Each week, Adrienne also offers free to drinks non-comedian audience members, ensuring that the crowd will be mostly passive and friendly.

I have been going to Cole’s Open Mic for seven years, and thus I have the privilege of getting “bumped” up near the top of the list upon request, but this is a privilege offered to few.  “Bumping” is a thing that most Chicago open mics participate in, wherein those whose comedy has been frequently seen and are known to be talented are given preference; therefore they receive a better spot on the list.  I remember, when I was first starting out in the open mic scene, I felt “bumping” was a horrid injustice, and one that I would never support or participate in.  After a few years of effort in open-mic comedy, childish principles like this are easily discarded.

For new comics going to Cole’s Open Mic, I would recommend showing up between 2-3 hours prior to its 9:30 start time, for if you find yourself late on the list I’m not sure how attentive an audience you’ll have.  I usually show up around nine, allowing me to gage the mood of the room and predict how large an audience I’m likely to receive.  Showing up early, especially when you are just starting out, is vitally important for the open mic comic.  The time you spend getting to know the other comedians, and the friendships you are able to build with other people in the scene, can be an enormous help in your journey to become a standup comedian.  It is very important to know your audience, what they are looking for, and what they will laugh at.

If I am soon to perform in front of a large or medium sized group of people who’ve never seen me before, as I was this night at Cole’s, it is important for me to get them comfortable with my “accent.”  The “accent” I refer to is the sound of my voice, as it was altered by the traumatic brain injury I suffered a little over a decade hence.  Because of my “accent,” it is important that in my first bit I either address my speech directly, or quickly disabuse my audience of the notion that I am to be pitied in any way.  In this instance I used the latter technique, opening by saying that “despite my voice, which might lead you to believe that I am somehow mentally handicapped, I crush pussy on the regular.”  The shock of this vulgarity, and the brazen nature of my self confidence, normally, as it did in this case, causes the audience to react with raucous laughter.

After this strong start, and in a way that references my personal malady, I can flow through the rest of my set easily enough.  I then did this by saying that though I “crush pussy” regularly, there is only one for me, as I am in a committed relationship with a woman that I am in love with.  I then slid from this description of love and wonderful commitment into some details of our relationship, namely, that my girlfriend does not shave or trim her pubic hair.  I described how it is a favorite habit of mine to give my girlfriend a “noogie on her bush,” though she finds this particularly annoying.  I described that when she tells me to stop, I tell her I will, and then I just go back to it.  I explained that I do this until she finally responds with fury, yelling in my best imitation of an extremely annoyed and perturbed woman, “Stop it!

After these two bits, as is often my habit at Cole’s Open Mic, I launch into some fairly standard crowd work, gently ribbing the audience and laughing along with the assembled crowd.  Being a differently-abled comedian, this is normally one of the more interesting things for me to do on stage.  For most comics, crowd work normally concerns handling crowds of people who disrupt the flow of ideas, adding their own egos into the comedian’s stage time.  These people are typically called hecklers, and I can say that my condition, and the sound my voice makes due to my condition, has meant that I’ve very rarely had to deal with hecklers.  Hecklers usual     intention is to gain the support of the crowd at large, and if it seems as though the heckler is picking on a disabled comedian, the crowd is liable to turn on them.  Conversely, because my tone of voice may seem pitiable to a large portion of the audience, I instead must use my interaction with the crowd to make them more comfortable with me.

After my set, I customarily hang out for a little while, but as the back performance area becomes choked with comics waiting to go up, I tend to take my leave not long after performing.  Cole’s on Wednesday night displays the always-beating heart of the Chicago standup comedy scene, and as I am a (fairly) beloved veteran of the room, it is where I can take the most chances.  It is there that I can explore the possibilities open to me, being a disabled standup comedian and a standup in general.

The D.A.C (Differently-Abled Comedian)

Sylvester (Volume 5)

There was a single staircase that came up from a tiny entranceway next to the hardware store, and to many, it seemed spooky.  It was lit by a single light bulb that had been flittering for at least twenty years.  This led to Lincoln Square Lanes.  “The Alley,” as I’d called it my entire life, had become my normal bar of preference for what were primarily sentimental reasons.

The Alley was important to me.  I’d spent my adolescence there.  This wasn’t a bowling alley where little kids had birthday parties, this was a bowling alley where unemployed people drank beer and played pinball.  It was like the “Townie” bars I’d known in college, where people went to shut up and drink.  Most afternoons after school from sixth to eighth grade, I went to The Alley and bowled.

I wasn’t drinking yet when I used to hang out at The Alley, I just went there to pass the time.  I guess I liked bowling, or anyway the soundtrack of pins tumbling down was distracting.

In grade school, though I had a few close friends, we never really did much.  I was pretty lonely most of the time.  That evening at Sonia’s open mic, things would be different.  The Alley was no longer going to be a monument of isolation.  That day, there was a chance it was going to get me laid.

As I climbed the staircase to The Alley, I wondered, excitedly, what Sonia’s open mic would be.  I’d been to open mic’s in college, maybe even participated in a few (I couldn’t be sure either way), but those were mostly comprised by stoned singer-songwriters.  This was a mic Sonia had earlier that day assured me was “Just for comedy.”

Comedy open mic’s are events that occur mainly in bars, and give aspiring stand up comedians the chance to test out and advance their material.  I wondered about what it would be like.  What kind of jokes would these open mic comics tell?  I thought about about the standup comedy that I’d loved in the past.

I’d once loved Emo Phillips, and I thought about my favorite bit of his: “I saw an old school friend yesterday, Jimmy Peterson, I hadn’t seen him since third grade, and I slapped him on the back, saying ‘why Jimmy, how the hell are you?’  Jimmy started crying and screaming, “Mommy!  Mommy!” and I realized that if that were really Jimmy Peterson, he would’ve grown up too.”  Halfway up the stairs I burst into laughter considering this bit.

I loved the absurdity of the routine, and the way it told the story of an adult striking a child with wit and lightness.  That day, since the time I’d been with Sonia, I’d been trying to think of something similar; a fractured way of seeing the world.  I thought about my own childhood, and the ways I’d thought.  This was the joke I came up with:  “I like that Beethoven guy, well, the beginning of the fifth symphony, anyway.”

The moment I thought of this joke, I knew I didn’t feel strongly about it.  Anyway as I stepped up to the bar I told myself that I wasn’t going to perform that night, even if asked, as I had work in the morning.

On the other side of the wall adjacent to a row of bowling alleys there was a small, roughly one foot high platform, and on it stood a mic stand.  Behind this “stage,” Sonia was at work setting up an amplifier.  She switched it on, stood on the platform and began to perform a mic check.  “Hello everyone, is this microphone on?  Is everything cool?”

Sonia gave the bartender a curious look as he placed a bottle of cheap beer before me.  The bartender nodded and gave a thumbs up, saying “Yeah it’s good, no louder.”

“Cool,” she said, extending the microphone past its stand before pulling it back into its regular position.  She noticed me, and lowered her head to hold it just in front of the mic.  “And we have a new guest, Sil, who I’ve only recently met and has already turned me down for sex, give him a hand everybody.”  She raised her hand towards me, holding her thumb up and fingers out, like a model on The Price is Right.

For a moment I was stunned, preparing to feel humiliated.  I hadn’t turned her down, I thought, we’d just had a missed connection.  I was going to jump up onto the stage, pull Sonia close, and explain what had happened between us.  I would explain that had been my fault, and that I was still totally into her, but several sharp cackles cut the air between us.

There were four people at the bar, all of them seemed like teenage boys.  Despite the fact that they were all wearing baseball hats and jeans, I figured they were in their mid-twenties.  These boys all sort of reminded me of myself at their age, or they made me imagine the way I might have been, if I’d had a “Crew” of “Bro’s” like they did.  I pondered it, but couldn’t picture it.

As I pulled a stool out from the bar to take a seat, the white boy nearest me seemed to yell with a booming voice, “What were you thinking, man?”  He had a goofy face, and he seemed to be opening his eyes as wide as he could.  He had loose curly bright red hair that popped out the back of the bandana he was wearing like water from a fire hydrant.

I must have looked confused, as my mouth was slightly open and my eyebrows were knit tight.  “Um. . .” I spoke, trying to think of something funny to quip, and hopefully reduce the tension of this interaction.  I pulled a stool up close to the bar, sat on it calmly, and told the truth.  “I don’t know.  I was scared, I guess?”

The young man laughed and clapped in a way that seemed to be more at me than with me.  I ignored what I might have considered a slight as I felt Sonia’s arm lay across my upper back.  She wrapped her palm around my shoulder and brought it tight against my bicep, squeezing me harder than I’d have expected.  “Sorry about that.  I just saw you, and I’d had a few and I was holding a microphone.  So, ya know?”  She shrugged adorably.

“No, no, it’s fine,” I said truthfully, as it really was fine.  Sonia hadn’t embarrassed me by blurting out into a microphone that I’d refused her offer of sex.  Just the opposite, it made me seem quite the gentleman.  “I just wanted to come up and see, uh, what’s goin’ on.”

Sonia went about showing me the list of comedians and explaining its workings with a simple summary.  “I put the list up at eight, and it’s pretty much first come first serve, but if you wanted to go up early I can slide you in.”

“The list?  Slide me in?”

Sonia chuckled putting her hand on her hip.  “Slide you in just means put your name on the list to perform tonight.”

I would’ve probably objected, saying that I couldn’t possibly go up tonight, but I was caught by Sonia’s eyes.  I figured it was probably some obvious touch of makeup, like a dusting of blush or rouge wherever, but her eyes were stunning and they caught me; I was helpless.  From the wit in her eyes I could tell that she expected me to fumble, but I held strong and acted cool.  “Yeah okay, I’m in.”

Smiling and clapping, Sonia picked up a pen and the clipboard that held the list of that night’s performers.  The numbers one and two were blank, but the numbers three through fourteen were filled with names.  I turned to Sonia, as I was not quite sure what to do, but she told me that I didn’t need to put my name on the list, because she’d get me up whenever I was ready.

“Bullshit!”  The kid with the fire hydrant hair waved his arms and stomped his feet.  “He turned you down though, Sonia, fuck him.”

“You’ve already met Cali,” Sonia said with flippant disregard, “I guess you can tell he’s a shithead.”

“Shut up, bitch,” Cali responded quickly, and they each moved on.  It seemed like they’d been joking, or at least had some sort of prior understanding.  I laughed neither nervously nor excitedly.

Sonia introduced me to the three remaining young white boys.  “And that’s Jerry, Nathan, and Bob,” she said, pointing to each in turn.  “They’re awful too, like we all are, but they’re nice at least.”

The lad in the middle, Nathan, raised his hand as he called out.  “I’m not awful, I’m awesome.”  He was the one who seemed oldest, as his face was a bit pudgy and his hair seemed to be receding.

All the comics laughed, and Sonia put her shoulder to Nathan’s and leaned against him.  “That’s right,” she said, extending her lower lip out past her chin, “Nathan’s our favorite.”

Nathan laughed, shyly nodding his head as he did so.  “That’s right I’m awesome.”  Nathan squeezed his eyes shut in a mock sob as he lowered his head.  Both Jerry and Bob patted him on the back, offering their own condolences.

Open mic comedians, in my experience, are a strange bunch.

 

“Hello and welcome to this, the second edition of: The Bowling Microphone!”  Sonia stood in the center of the small, makeshift stage that rose only two feet up from the ground.

“It’s a straight first-come first serve, you can put your name and only your name on the list.”  She raised a single finger and wiggled it side to side, telling me that she wasn’t really that serious.  “Your time is four minutes.  You get the first light at three, this is the light.”  She opened her cell phone and held it above her head, “This means wrap it up.  If I’m waving at you and flipping you off, get off the stage.”

She finished her opening spiel in a way that seemed very practiced, and as she wrapped up by announcing the night’s drink deals, she moved on to her comedy.  As it would happen, most of her hosting set was spent discussing me.  “Okay, gang, so here’s what happened,” she bugged her eyes out a little and chewed her bottom lip, “I met a boy.”

She almost giggled, putting her hands over her waist and bending her knees slightly.  I giggled a bit too.  Her impish grin melted away in an instant and she pointed at me, saying plainly, “It’s him, so. . .”  She shrugged, “I’m not, ya know, wild about it.”

I burst into laughter so hard I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt its like.  I was able to keep my composure, so this guffaw was short-lived, and Sonia continued her set.  From this opening quip, she segued into written material.

“I’ve done a lot of research, and I believe I can say, with confidence, that without a doubt, the itchiest spot of the body,” she let the joke draw out smoothly, like a master calligrapher.  “Is the taint.”  She then took her free hand and inserted it between her legs, scratching the spot where they were stitched together with her nail.  As she at least pantomimed digging her nail into her crotch (though I think she probably actually scratched), she let out a soft groan.

Huoawhoah,” she sounded satisfied, releasing rather than creating her own unique call.  “This is one of the most important things in life, the little pleasures.”  She stood and looked out over her audience, moving swiftly on to the next joke.  “When I was a kid I thought the world was speaking to me.”

I was confused by the way Sonia’s material seemed to meander around.  “Like you know the sound of a stomach growling?  I used to think it was a little voice saying “stomach.”

Sonia was able to manipulate and shrink her voice such that while it did sound a lot like the sound your gut makes when it’s empty.  “You know, ‘cause I thought it probably knew what I called it.”

After just these few opening bits, Sonia retrieved the list and read the first name off of it.

“Uh oh, this first comic, this guy’s trouble, Lyle the Cutter.”

A tall, pudgy, clumsy-footed man with what I used to call a buzz-cut ambled onto the platform and faced his audience.  “My name is Lyle and the doctors told my parents to make sure there’s nothing I can strangle myself with at our house, I guess it was because I cut myself a lot.”  Lyle spoke in a monotone, varying the distances between his words very little.

This manner of speaking was unsettling to me.  It sounded as though he might have some kind of mental disability.  This consideration left my mind as soon as he told his first joke: “No seriously, I love to draw but they took my pencil away ‘cause I stabbed myself with it.”

I cracked up.  It was hilarious, and I didn’t consider even for a second how tragically honest Lyle the Cutter may have been.  The open mic comics who’d seen Lyle many times before laughed, with several of them also cheering and hooting.  Other than that, the three or four regular bargoers chuckled nervously and glanced at each other.

From there, Lyle’s act devolved into near-robotic recitation of facts and lists.  His joke about stabbing himself with the pencil really made me laugh a lot.  As I thought about it, most of the humor of this statement seemed to come from the lack of a comma between “away” and “‘cause.”  If you pronounce the joke like that, I felt, it would be like you were reading the joke like a news bulletin, and that there was nothing odd about it.

After Sonia and Lyle kicked the show off with a very weird pair of sets, the mic was off and running.  To tell the truth, I’d admit that the majority of these comics were forgettable, but there were a few standouts.

One guy, Bob Avaro, whom I’d sort of been hanging out with at the bar with just prior to the start of the mic, seemed to do his best to bring down the energy of the room.  He held the mic in front of his chest, lowering his head to meet it.  “I usually wake up pissed cause I don’t wanna go to my work, but then I remember I lost my job yesterday, and that calls for a celebration drink.”

After Bob, both Jerry and Nathan, his two compatriots from the bar went up in direct succession.  Their acts were sort of hackneyed, blatantly obvious, and distinctly forgettable.  The same could not be said for the comic who went up soon after them, Malcolm, “cali” Kavanagh.

Cali, who I’d met earlier and had made an annoying impression on me.  His long, curly red hair, as well as his obnoxious demeanor, made me want to push the palm of my hand into his face.

His “jokes,” if they could be called that, meandered from reflecting on the fact that he was performing at a bowling alley to noticing the people in the audience that looked weird.  At one point he even said “Get a load a’ this guy, what’s with his head, right?”

As Cali performed in this way, each “joke” only earned only silence and derision from the audience, until he turned to me.  As he looked over his audience, groping for something funny to say, his eyes locked on me and he smiled wide.  He pointed at me, “And did ya hear?  This guy turned down Sonia, what the hell man, she’s a milf!”

I raised my hands, pointing my palms to the ceiling, trying to think of something to say.  Cali’s mention of Sonia and I had garnered the only laughter his comedy had received so far, so  I knew he wasn’t likely to just move on without getting my response.  I wasn’t fast enough at it, though, as before I could respond to him, Cali resumed aggressively questioning me.

“So what’s the deal man?  You gonna hit that or what?”

I just stared up at him and watched him point the microphone at me.  Having no response, I looked at Sonia, and she was jumping up and down, waving an open cell phone in the air; I pointed to her, “I think your time’s up.”

“Just when I was finally getting laughs!?”  Cali gesticulated with his hands, pretending to hurl the microphone on the floor, and then placing it gingerly on the top of the stand.  “I apologize, as always, for everything I’ve said into this microphone.”

Cali dropped his head as he placed the mic back on its receiver and lowered his head.  Looking out over the audience, which by that point was comprised almost entirely of aspiring comedians, and then sat on the stool to my right.  As he was doing this, Laura resumed her hosting duties.  “That was our main man Cali, give him a hand.”

At 11:43 PM, I was feeling tipsy, so I decided it was time for him to go home.  I considered heading out, and I remembered that I’d told her I would perform I would perform that night.

Will she hold me to it?  This thought wrapped itself around my head and would not let go.  What would she do when I told her he didn’t want to try standup?  Would she make fun of him?  These open-mic comic people seemed to be pretty quick and nasty with the insults, what would they say?  What if they pressured me to perform after all?  It could become a very embarrassing situation, and I hated those.

As the second-to-last comic was just about to come to the mic, I feebly sidled up to Sonia.  “I don’t think I’m gonna go up, actually.”

I’d spoken shyly, as though ashamed of my cowardice, and I expected her to denigrate me.  Or worse yet, she could’ve acted disappointed, hanging her head and shaking it slowly.  However, in response to my cowardice, she smiled and spoke with a warm voice.  “Oh no problem, maybe you’ll do it some other night.”

Hearing Sonia say “some other night,” excited me, as it indicated she was already planning to spend more time with me.  “Yeah maybe I will,” Sonia responded, switching off one of the microphones on her PA system.  She walked over to me, laying her wrist on my shoulder.  “You stickin’ around?  We’re almost done.”

“I got work tomorrow, sorry.”

She fired back like she’d been ready.  “At least stay to the end, you’re almost there.”

I agreed.

Sonia stepped to the mic, holding her eyes on me.  “And now, here we are, the last comic of the mic, let’s hear it people.”  The seven or eight people that were still listening clapped and hooted half enthusiastically.

It was an eighteen year old with lame jokes whose name I don’t remember, but during his entire set, Sonia and I were ensconced in the “looking” game.  This is the game that occurs between people when there is both a mutual attraction, and a public shyness shard between two people.  I would stare at her until she looked back at me, then I would avert my eyes.

We did this until Sonia noticed that she should’ve called the comic off the stage a minute ago, and she jumped on the stage, closing the show up as quickly as possible.  As she did this, she added a bit in the end that caught my ear.  “And so, thank you for coming to this, the second installment of The Bowling Microphone, now let’s all get laid!”  The significance of this quote from Back to School was not lost on me, and I smiled wide because of it.

After she slid the microphone into its place on the stand, she stepped off the platform towards me, cutting the distance between us to almost nothing.  She stood before me, our noses almost touching, for what felt like a long time.  Though it was not at all like me, and afterwards I was never able to adequately explain to myself where I gotten the courage to try such a thing, I kissed Sonia.

It was not for more than a moment and it was very sweet.  We flowed into each other, as it seemed our energies fed off of the inspiration of the other.  At least that’s what I felt, and Sonia seemed to feel the same.  We made out a little before traipsing down the staircase to the street.  When we left The Alley into the deep dark starless night, Sonia took a left when I’d have taken a right, and I followed her.

I thought about the reasons not to go with Sonia, from the fact that I’d promised my mother I’d return to the fact that Mondays are often a hectic day at Harvest Time, but none of them received precedence.  I was with a groovy chick at 12:39 on a Monday morning, and we were going to have sex.  I forgot everything else I could possibly have been thinking at the time.  I was about to have sex

Sylvester (Volume 5)