Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Tonight was open mic night. I finally did it. I bit the bullet and performed three original songs without any friends on stage with me. Just me, my guitar and my debilitating nerves. I arrived at about quarter to eight, when the show started at eight. The place was packed. I looked around and all I saw were square rimmed glasses and acoustic guitar cases. There were twenty slots for the night, and nine were already filled. By the time I found a pen (I'd left my purse at home) and put my name on the list, I was thirteenth.


After that it was coffee time. Black coffee, shot of espresso. Cause that will soothe my quivering hands and nerves. Riiight. The very first performer was a girl about my age, maybe a little bit younger, singing with her acoustic. She was ridiculously good. Very reminiscent of Ingrid Michaelson. She was wearing all black; calf height boots, tights, very short shorts, a tight shirt and a vest. And a grey fedora. Did I mention it was in the low twenties tonight?


As I waited for some of my friends to arrive, I did what I always do; people watched and eavesdropped. Shut up. You do it, too. It's fun. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the lady who eavesdropped on me at Shades the other night with Abbi.) As I looked around the room, I noticed that I was the only legitimate person in the room. I was the only person wearing what I was wearing because it was clean and comfortable and warm. I was the only person without an accessory that was for appearances and not function.


A young family came in just then. The father had long blonde hair that was pulled into a ponytail. He was wearing a button down shirt with the top button undone, and a loosened tie. He had on a long trench coat that even I have to admit was pretty sweet looking. His girlfriend/wife/partner had dreadlocks held away from her face with a scarf, a few hemp necklaces, and a long, wispy skirt. I don't remember what kind of coat she was wearing. Obviously, hippies are impervious to the cold weather. It's part of their supernatural skill set. Their daughter looked to be about two. Big enough to run around on her own, curious about everything, but still without a basic grasp of speech, which resulted simply in screeching at the top of her lungs as she ran the length of the coffee house. Repeatedly.


The rest of the crowd was some variation of Hipster. If they sold PBR instead of coffee, they would've run out. The majority of the men in the room had more hair product in use than the women. Everyone without dreads had flat ironed their hair for a few hours before coming down. Unless, of course, they were one of the few people wearing both a sweater cap and a hood. Inside. At least half of the people were wearing narrow, rectangular glasses with a thick black frame. (With the exception of course, of the little metro boi who was wearing glasses so over sized they made Elton John's glasses look appropriately proportioned.) It was like a sea of emo kids had discovered color and decided they hated capitalism. Except for American Apparel.


This is modesty.

Looking at the crowd made me think of that old 'Guess Who?' game I played as a kid. Everyone had one or two distinct details, but for the most part they all looked the same. I saw a stand up comic on TV a while back (long enough that I can't remember his name) talking about playing 'Guess Who?'. He mentioned how terrible it was if you drew one of the black people as your person of interest, since there were usually only three black people on the little flippy cards. You were pretty much screwed if the person you were playing against asked about race. Tonight was no different. In a crowd of about fifty people, only four were not white. I sent a text to my boyfriend telling him I wanted to take a picture of everyone in the room, and turn it into 'Guess Who?'

And it totally would have worked, too. I can just imagine how a game of Hipster Guess Who? would've sounded. For this example, I'll use Abbi, because she and I are quite funny when in close proximity;
Abbi- "Is your subject male?"
Me- "Uh..."
Abbi- "Well?"
Me- "I can't really tell if it's male or female."
Abbi- "Um...."
Me- "I'm gonna go off the name. I think it's a dude."
Abbi- "It's not a lesbian name?"
Me- "Are you crazy? Lesbians aren't hipsters! All hipsters want to bang dudes."
Abbi- "True."
Me- "Does yours have dreadlocks?"
Abbi- "Yes. Does yours have stereotypical, pseudo-intellectual, narrow, black frame glasses that are supposed to convey how superior your hipster's personality, acumen and fashion sense are?" Me- "...yes. (blink, blink) Does yours?"
Abbi- "No. Has your hipster used half a pound of hair wax to carefully sculpt his hair in an unkempt manner?"
Me- "I don't like this game any more."
Abbi- "Does that mean yes?"
Me- "....yes."
Abbi- "It's Darius!"
Me- "Damn it!"

Darius, the tentative albino rhino.


Josh was the first friend to show, and he kept me company for the better part of an hour until Abbi, Laura and Nina got there, bringing the total of non-whites in the building to six. There was still plenty of time to burn before it was my turn (twelve people, ten minutes each... do the math) so I got another cup of coffee and everyone else grabbed a drink and a snack. I was far too nervous to eat anything.

While we were sitting through the other musicians (some were good, some were not), the man sitting next to me started up a conversation. He was probably the oldest person that played, and during our conversation mentioned that he had spent time in Vietnam. He was eccentric to say the very least. He was dressed rather nicely, but in a way that made him blend in with the rest of the crowd. He was wearing an old fedora with a torn piece of a patriotic bandanna safety pinned to the front. He smelled like melted butter and spoke so softly I couldn't hear his crazy ramblings half the time. He introduced himself to me three separate times... pretty much every time I tried to politely ignore him and spend time with my friends. His name is John, and he was playing tenth. When he found out I was playing thirteenth, he stopped talking for a moment and looked at me, sizing me up. Then simply said, "You're brave."

"Thank you," I said.

He elaborated, "Getting up in front of all these people, you're brave." It wasn't anything I hadn't done before, but it had been a while, and I would be alone. I thanked him again, and tried not to let his assessment of my bravery make my stage fright worse. "I'm going to stay around and listen to you," he added. I thanked him a third time.

When it was finally time for me to get up, the manager asked me if I had played there before. "I've played open mics before, just not here."

He smiled mischievously and said into the mic, "We have another Gypsy virgin!" and everyone applauded. At least I was the fourth person that he did that to. I was nervous enough as it was, but then the bad jokes came out.

Once I got situated on the stool in front of the microphone, I said, "I haven't done this in a few years, so be kind.... and if this was a more private situation I'd say the same thing. Either way it'll be over in ten minutes." And crickets. That was probably the most taxing part of being in front of fifty people I didn't know. "Aw, that was a bad joke. I'll just sing now."

During the first song I only flubbed one chord, which is pretty effin awesome, considering how badly my hands were shaking. Remember that little two year old that was running back and forth? Her weather resistant hippie mother had let her carry the tall glass tumbler their chocolate milk had been in. I'll give you three guesses as to how this ends.

Needless to say, though Josh was recording me, the video probably won't be posted. Josh and Nina told me it was all screaming toddler, shattering glass, and then people sweeping it up. Good thing I'm going again next Tuesday.

When I sat back down John the melted butter man congratulated me on performing, and told me that he liked my little set. He then asked if I'd be interested in maybe collaborating. Me singing and strumming up front, him playing lead behind me. As I'm painfully polite, I used the excuse of moving two thousand miles away two weeks from now to decline. And not the fact that he was a slightly creepy, but probably harmless, crazy mumbler.

I don't remember exactly what he asked me next, as this was about the time I was coming down from my adrenaline high, but whatever he asked, and whatever my answer, he ended up smiling serenely at me and saying, "You just exude courage and intelligence. I can tell just by looking at you. And you seem so calm and composed. That's why you have so many friends." He motioned towards the little group of four in front of me, and I tried to use this as an opportunity to get out of the conversation.

You would never guess it, but I'm actually painfully shy. I hate talking to people I don't know. It surprises me to no end that I have as many friends as I do. Most of the time I feel like I don't deserve them because I'm terrible at socializing. Both in person and from a distance.

My little ploy didn't work, and a moment later, Butterman was tapping me on the shoulder. "I'm sorry to keep bothering you, but can I ask you a question?" He looked like he struggling with the nerve to ask it. And by that, I mean it looked like he might burp at any moment. Instead, words came out, "Are you a Christian?"

I should have known. It's Oklahoma, after all. I paused for a moment, but answered, "Yes. Though I don't go to church. I can't find a church that isn't full of hypocrites."

He smiled at this and said, "There isn't one. But I knew you were a Christian. He told me to ask you. I said, 'It's none of my business' but He insisted." He gestured towards his own head at this point, so I don't know if he can hear God, or if his hat talks to him a la Harry Potter. Whoever it was telling him to ask me questions, Butterman listens to him. That's a little unnerving. He continued to talk for a little bit, but for the most part, I don't remember. Honestly, I was texting the boyfriend and was only nodding politely whenever there was a lull in Butterman's mumbling. It was also rather difficult to hear over the 'music'. Do you remember the screeching toddler's dad with the carefully disheveled appearance? He was playing, and though all he had was an acoustic guitar to accompany him, his singing sounded like a cross between Tiny Tim and this cat. Then Butterman pointed to Josh and asked, "Is this your boyfriend?"

"No," I said. "My boyfriend lives in Seattle. This is my boyfriend." I pointed to my phone. The man nodded.

"That's why you're moving." I nodded. "Is your boyfriend a Christian, too?"

"No," I said. I decided to spare the old man's nerves, and told him Stu was an Atheist. He appraised me for a moment, just nodding slightly the whole time, as if agreeing to something someone was saying. It was probably his hat. "He likes you because you calm him down. Compassion just radiates from your eyes. That's why he likes you." I thanked him again, but he continued. "Someday you'll lead him to Jesus, don't worry. Someday you'll lead a lot of people to Jesus."

They are my source of power.

I thanked him one more time, and then pretended that Abbi had said something to me, so that I could find a way to get out of the Jesus speak. I wouldn't have found the conversation memorable, except that this John-that-smells-like-Butter man is the second person to tell me I was going to 'lead a lot of people to Jesus.' The same freaking words.

Maybe someday I will start my own brand of tequila and call it 'Jesus'. And I'll be in charge of marketing, too, as well as the President of 'Jesus Tequila, inc.' And it'll have a slogan like, "Jesus Tequila; Get a taste of Salvation!" or "Jesus Tequila; Tests your faith more than dinosaurs."

That settles it. I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna start my own brand of tequila. And I will have Jesus and dinosaurs on the label. It'll be amazing.

2 comments:

Sara said...

Something about the whole "leading people to Jesus" exchange reminded me of this:

http://theframeproblem.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/heart-lake-united-church.jpg?w=480

I've wanted to do an open mic thing for a while. Maybe if I ever actually devote some time to learning to play guitar. I don't know about the songwriting though. I tried that a couple times and pieces were repetitive and simplistic. LOL

Lori said...

But does it count as prayer? ;)

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During this course of study, you will come to learn much about the strange eating, sleeping and mating habits of the Instrospective Lori under stress. We will observe as she moves halfway across the country to start a life with her own Captain Wentworth, takes a year off of work to pursue a writing career, and incessantly references Jane Austen.
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