As promised, I planned on going to City Island on the last Friday of the month for the open mic night at the Starving Artist Gallery and Cafe. I would read poetry. My buddy who I like to go with was not going to be in NYC, so I was prepared to take the three buses. The weather was nice. It was my mother’s birthday which is special even though she has passed. I mentioned the event to a Meetup group I once joined on line but hadn’t yet met in person. They seemed to really like the idea, and 17 claimed to be going.
The waiting at each bus stop made the trip longer than it had to be. I brought a book I find amusing which made the traveling okay. When I arrived, the open mic hadn’t started yet. That was a first for me I think. I usually arrive when it’s been going on for a while. One person from the Meet-up group was there. Other people were sprinkled throughout. It was still early.
The woman from the group, Kim, and I spoke, and I was enjoying her company. She’s at a new station on her journey and was sporting a new ‘do to match. She got it done that day at a place called New Beginnings, which I found as special as she did. The waitress offered to open the bottle of wine which needed a corkscrew. She brought wineglasses and menus. They don’t sell alcohol, but people are welcome to BYOB. More people were arriving, but not from the group I expected. City Island residents and other folks who come from other parts soon had the place buzzing. Two other women I had told about the night showed up and brought another friend. Then a comic I know came in and sat with us. Some folks came in with guitars. A hiphop poet who I’ve heard there before arrived with his son. Marc Hohenstein (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-14IPkK2M1Q ) began the open mic.
The Starving Artist Cafe is a family-owned and operated place, and the food is delicious. http://www.starvingartistonline.com/ Elliot and Monica Glick are responsible for how welcoming it feels at the cafe. Marc and I agreed that I wouldn’t go first. It is more of a musical place, so it made sense to me that he’d begin with someone who’d sing or play music. I was glad to let others warm up the night. I wanted to go up about third or so, then be able to sit and enjoy all the others without anticipating my own reading. I didn’t know this at the time, but Kim took photos of much of the open mic. (The first ten are hers.)
The open mic-ers span the generations, the avenues of expression, and the audience gets a fun pot pourri of talent. We heard from novelists, poets, singers, musicians, and comics. One poet also shared a Langston Hughes poem. I felt good reading there. When I got a bit concerned that I was turning off some folks while turning on others, Monica yelled out that she was loving it. I concluded with a poem I enjoy reading called “Sisters and Brothers.” It ends on a funny note. I like leaving them laughing and having gotten to know me a little.
Debbie Bazza, a local comic, did jokes about being raised to get married and have children, and since she’s married for the third time, she considers herself an overachiever. The hip-hop poet and his son both performed — first Dad and then the son. There were many musicians. Marc filled in with jokes. He said that he was half Jewish and half German and one day will conquer himself. Not all his jokes were his own originals, but he wasn’t claiming they were. He was entertaining.
It is so much fun that we don’t usually want it to end. That is why I was thrilled when Elliot and Monica took the stage. A big pot of instruments were put out for the rest of us to use and join in the music-making. My mother, when I was a little girl, had that ability to create fun and happiness in spite of so much. I have it too (sometimes). Privately, I was celebrating her birthday, and I hope so so much that she was there, shakin’ a tambourine or something.
Bongos were available as well. My guest Juliet was later described as a half bongo player which made us all laugh. I’m not particularly great at keeping a beat, but I shook some jingly instrument anyway. It’s that kind of place.
Elliot and Monica Glick — May 25, 2012
finishing off the night with a whole lotta fun!
(c) Mindy Matijasevic 2012