Get Your Poem On /6

Friday night was the last Friday of the month.  That means open mic night at the Starving Artist Cafe on City Island in the Bronx.  I don’t drive and though I live in the Bronx, it means three buses.  Sometimes in the summer, I make the trip.  Other times, if my buddy feels like going and driving, we go.  Mainly I have read poetry there, but once or twice I did comedy there.  It is a family owned and run place.   Sometimes youngsters run through the place, the daughter and friends of the owners.  So I am careful about what material I use there.
As it turned out, I didn’t know I was going until almost the last minute and I didn’t get it together in terms of performance material.  So while my buddy and I headed out, I thought of it as a night where I’d be an audience member and probably wouldn’t participate at the open mic.  We stopped at a liquor store for a bottle of wine. 
It was the first time we ever had to spend more than a few minutes looking for parking on City Island.  We drove around enough times to become disoriented.  No, we hadn’t opened the wine bottle yet.  This was us without wine.  We got out of the car, and I assumed he was leading the way.  We approached the place, and I said that they must have renovated because the stage area wasn’t up front anymore.  My buddy was reading signs in the window that spoke of membership to the club.  I didn’t know what that was about but figured we’d find out.  We entered, and nothing was the same.  My friend told me later that he thought it was too many renovations for the walls to be in a different place.  We walked out, looked at the name of the place, and it was called The Club.  We agreed it was good we were sober. 
Though we were less than two blocks away, we were temporarily lost.  I have an awful sense of direction, so it was surprising to me that I got us to the place.  We must’ve spun around enough times for my sense of direction to work.
A hip-hop poet was on when we arrived.  The place is very welcoming, and after our disoriented moment, it felt like we arrived home.  The only youngster I saw was the son of the hip-hop guy.  I spotted and grabbed the vacant table for two.  I noticed people I’d never seen before.  There were many women friends, the real kind who really support each other from fixing another’s hair to encouraging each other to get up and sing a song or play a tune.  The human race seemed pretty well represented in terms of age, race, nationality, gender, and sexual orientation.  It felt as healthy as Manhattan in that sense.  It feels special in that it is local, the owners are not strangers, and in terms of food quality, we are all made to feel like family.  For the past couple of years, I have tried to not eat beef.  It was one health improvement that felt more do-able than many others on my to-do list.  However, the Starving Artist Cafe is the one exception I make.  I ordered the meatball platter which was scrumptious.  I do not say that lightly.  I enjoyed each and every bite, the sauce, the cheese, the fresh, sliced bread.  The next day, I enjoyed reliving the sensations in my mind.  I don’t remember the last time food had that effect on me.
The MC had come over and told me he heard I am a performer and was I going to do something.  I said I didn’t know yet.  He said that the last person was going up soon and did I want to be after her.  I had to give an answer and said no.  My friend and I arrived late and hungry.  I had shoved a short poem in my bag before leaving and comedy notes too but hadn’t read them.  I like to be prepared and not be remembered for how shitty I was up there.  It was my own fault that I didn’t gather more poems in time before leaving.  I was first getting picked up a half hour after the open mic began.  I knew this was turning out to be a night I couldn’t get my poem on.
I still enjoy the other performers and the surprises that come with an open mic.  The good company of my friend, the welcoming feeling in the place, and the food, combined with pot luck entertainment makes for a fun time.  Plus they welcome patrons to BYOB. 
A number of people played guitar and sang.  We were always invited to join in if we knew the song.  It’s that kind of evening.  I was, of course, sorry that I missed most of it.  It is so frustrating.  Their open mic is only once a month.  For a finale, Elliot Glick and Monica Glick took the stage.  Monica’s personality shines; Elliot accompanied her on guitar; together they made music. 
I got the feeling Elliot was not pleased with me for not getting up earlier.  I directly asked him.  He told me he never saw me come and not get up.  He said that he thought I was a ham.  I told him, “No, I have to get psyched and be prepared.  This was a last minute thing that I was getting a ride over here.”  When I promised to be prepared next time, he said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” like he wasn’t going to hold his breath.  I take pride in saying what I mean and meaning what I say.  He will see that next time I will be quite the entertainer.  I already put it on my calendar.  My best bud will be away that weekend, so I will do the three buses each way unless I go with someone else who drives. 
The open mic wrapped up, and many people left.  I was still eating, and a group sat and talked with Elliot at a table across the room.  Then, just what I needed — a group of energetic women arrived with a big bottle of wine.  They were meeting Monica in person for the first time after being Facebook aquaintances.  They made me feel less late. 
Now there were two adult groups besides my friend and I and the staff.  I ate and drank, and now they asked me again to get up and do something.  I wish I had gotten it together and done some comedy or something.  My process is different, and by the next day, I felt ready.  I guess I need a lot more foreplay than I allowed myself time for.  I can’t just jump right in. 
Elliot, I’m sorry to disappoint.
 (c) 2012 Mindy Matijasevic

About Mindy Matijasevic

Writer of nonfiction prose and poetry; actress; comic; adult basic education instructor. The name of this blog was inspired by a former student, Camille Williams, who once, in a conversation, used the phrase "get my learn on." I loved it, and it stuck in my head.
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