Creative Writing to Real Life: “Open Mic and the People Who Frequent”

Open Mic and the People Who Frequent

                        I picked up my guitar from the backseat of my little white car and slammed the door. I wondered, possibly as other pseudo musicians do, if I looked cool. I was wearing a mustard sweater that screamed look here, green pants that stuck tightly to my already skinny legs, a black tank top to hide the extra love cushions around the waist, and brown boots that went up my calves. I tried to swagger my way across the street, but tripped as I hopped onto the sidewalk. It’s cool, I said to myself, I meant to do that. The problem was that I was wearing my guitar in public, and every time I do that I feel fake. My guitar and I have a strange relationship. We love each other. We play together, but most of the time we neglect the music. It sleeps upon the living room wall dreaming about fame, while I hunch over my laptop editing for a client who–fill in the blank.

Anyways, as I straightened my swagger back up and continue to walk down the sidewalk I stumble upon two fedora hats sharing a phone. Fedora one says, “It’s Suzie, Suze! Suze, hi hi! We’re just playing at the pub tonight. How’s New York?!” Another fedora hat comes by, “Who’s on the phone?” Fedora number two says, “It’s Suze!” And they all smile at one another. I wondered if they shared a wife. I continue my path onto the poorly lit street corner just in time to inhale some second hand smoke. I stop to breathe it in. I continue to walk. Running through my mind are memories of my childhood and guitar chords I had to remember in about three acts. C, G, C…meh, whatever. It’s Open Mic night at the pub and anything goes. Even fuck-ups, like me.

I pushed through the front wooden doors and people looked my way. For a moment, I could hear a whistling melody from a western film playing in my ear. I squint my eyes trying to find my friends, and the crowd squints back. I had inadvertently  announced my entrance. These were not cowboys present. No, no, these were people who wondered who the brown girl was, and why she was wearing a guitar. A dart flew by and landed on the outskirts of the target, I was no threat, and people resumed their lives. It was probably all just my narcissistic imagination, but there’s no way of knowing sometimes. I believe in aliens for crying out loud. Anything is possible.

Sitting at the bar, three girls with flowery dresses hovered over their beers, one wore a straw hat. A slender woman smacked her thoughts together, her yellow teeth shinning between her black lipstick. She grabbed a young mans arm and said something like, “You know what I mean?” And I could tell that he didn’t. An older gentleman in the back wearing bifocal glasses looked around as if searching for new talent. There was plenty of it to go around, you could hear it in the room. An original R&B song on stage strummed on the guitar and those who were before him could not help but get lost in the moon. A man leaning on a pillar, about my height with dirty blonde hair, pulled his suspenders and looked at me strangely. I suppose I had forgotten to adorn my head with a fedora or a straw hat. My bad.

Yes, it was a typical night for hipsters and dreamers alike. The Irish pub lived in the border of Berkeley and Oakland, the in between land where both academics and urban farm nudists shared the joys of low cost homes, dorm rooms, co-ops, and shared gardens.  African-American, Latinos, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asians, and of course the mixed babies. We were all there, breathing the same air, and thinking the same thing—I wish I was as good as the R&B singer on stage. I found my friends sitting on the floor and decided to join them. We waited, we played our song, and it was over in a matter of minutes.

I thought maybe I’d stay back and have a beer, but then I had to babysit one of my roomies who was dealing with a man who would not leave her side. He leaned over and focused on her nose. He liked her nose, and we know this because he told her. “You have a beautiful nose,” he said to her. The girl who sang before us looked at me as I tried to distract the nose obsessed man, who was trying to attract my roommate. The girl and I locked eyes, and then she flipped her hair. I was obviously not at the top of her musical hierarchy chart. I liked her voice, but she was singing for herself when she was on stage and the room was noisy as she performed. As for us weirdos, well, we had people whistling and clapping along to an old tune we thought everyone could enjoy. Something we didn’t write, but had all felt at some point in our lives. Country blues with June and Johnny on the mind–some fire lyrics that burned the old flames we thought about as we performed and slowly let it pour out with our fingers and voices. Sling twang! In another world we probably produced honey flavored barbecue sauce. Yes sir, for some who’ve sung Open Mics and Kareoke’s before, we know that those who come onto the stage have a big responsibility. People don’t want to hear your sorrow, people want to forget theirs. When you’re in a crowd that big, with strangers of all sorts roaming around—the best thing to do is sing for everybody. Because when it comes to Open Mics, suspenders, fedora hats, mixed babies and skeptics—the best thing to remember is that, in the end, we are all connected. And that my dears, is a beautiful thing.



He came into my home rambling


Interesting People Post: My first UC Berkeley friend, he came over just to use the internet

He came into my house rambling about dramas. I didn’t hear him come in because I had headphones on and was editing footage for a job that is due in just a few hours. He walked up the steps and asked for me while my apartment-mate blew the last of her hash into the nippy night air. They called my name and I turned around to find his red face before me.

He’s been crying, I think to myself, or maybe not. Can’t really tell nowadays. It’s likely he’s had too much to drink. I say inside my head, but I’m not going to judge. He’s just gone through a bad break up. He just had a bad hair cut. He just finished packing the last bit of his stuff from his college apartment. Everything around him is changing dramatically. And even so he managed to take care of me this past Monday while I was dying from a cold. You’re such a drama queen, I tell myself. He rambles about moving, how hard it is to pack, and my roommate (aka Ukulele Girl) is listening in.

Ukulele Girl: Wow, you’re talking really fast right now. You should like, take a chill pill.

My friend hates overly opinionated individuals. I smile at my roommate and he rolls his eyes. She looks at me with a gaze of confusion as he slips into my bed. She does this when she can’t tell if I’m a slut. But my pal is not into the female sex.

Pal: I haven’t slept in two days!

He’s been packing. He’s been remembering the situations in his bedroom: lovers, friends, arguments, reconnections, etc. etc. etc.  He was leaving behind imprints of pain and ecstasy in this man-cave he had made for himself. He doesn’t know if he’s ready to move on. I can tell he’s talking about his ex, but I pretend to check the time on my phone. No messages, I think to myself, life sucks.

Me: We all have to move on, and I’ll be in Oakland after the summer. We can be neighbors again.

My roommate walks away after realizing that I was conversing with a gay man.  He opens his laptop and loses himself in the sea of never ending crap you find on tumblr (I love you tumblr.) I excuse myself and go back to work. He giggled and blurted that he was using me for the internet, but I just say “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” and we move on with our lives. His home no longer supplies the nectar of the Gods — wifi. His home is empty with no electricity, with no people, and no one knocking on the door. I could tell it was getting to him. I let him be. He watched a show on my bed and devoured a 7-11 sandwich. He passed out on my bed for a good two hours as I worked on my video edit.

Oh my, I say to myself, it’s almost 2:00am! My pal attempts to stand, but I walk him to my comfy couch and tell him to settle down. There he is now, nestled between the blue blanket (I bought over three years ago with a matching one for my grandmother in Perú) and my boyfriend’s purple throw stamped with the Minnesota State University Mankato logo on it.

Yesterday he called me in tears. A box with old letters and notes from people who care about him resurfaced miraculously, as did all these hidden emotions he’s in denial about. “There’s nothing in my apartment but darkness,” that’s what he told me tonight. I offered him chicken noodle soup, the way he did this past Monday when I was drowning in mucus, but he didn’t want any of it.

I see him now through my bedroom door on my couch. He is enjoying the sleep I would like to have. Here I am typing away and only with 36% with my video rendered. God help us all.

Midnight Post 5

The winds are blowing hard on this small cottage here in Berkeley. Downstairs, the two dogs I live with are enjoying themselves by the fire. Their owners sleep on an inflatable mattress, and I am awake … editing and organizing my thoughts for the next few weeks. It’s November. It’s November…how did that happen?

I realized my body automatically shifted to the holiday spirit when I found myself reaching for the cinnamon burst candle at a store yesterday. I brought it up to my face and said to myself, “It smells like Christmas.”   It’s November! Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet and already I’m fantasizing about Christmas.

Lately, I’ve been writing my general thoughts in a journal or jotting down the small details I can remember about my dreams. It’s been a great way to keep track of my thoughts and my imagination, whether they are conscious or unconscious. There’s been a lot going through my mind. There are a lot of changes happening around me too. I am looking for a new place to live in January, and the transition to Berkeley has been…smooth, but at times, overwhelming. Work I thought I’d not find in this community has manifested. Work I actually enjoy and like. I shouldn’t brag, or pat myself on the back too much. It’s still a beginning.

Yet, here I sit. On the bedside wondering if I should read another Cesár Vallejo poem, or if I should just lie down and attempt to fall asleep.

Inspiration can drown out sleep sometimes. Even on nights like these…when I’m so very very tired.

La Peña on Shattuck Blvd. &

Just a quick update regarding my last post:  I have two options with the writing partnership. Either (1) I write up a contract saying, HEYO–let’s get published and split the profit, or (2) Pay me up front per page and you can have the book. What do you think? I’m still debating it.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Anyways, this post is about a place I recently went to. It’s called La Peña. I was there with a group of performers, and the event was a potluck/creative writing workshop with a whole mess of people. Our facilitator was Marvin K. White, and the event was organized by dancer extraordinaire, Amara Tabor-Smith, and the non-profit organization, CounterPULSE.

Blogland—-it was so amazing being in a room with writers, non-writers, people, cooks, food enthusiasts, regular folks, Berkeley students, etc. We wrote on spoons, plates, cups, notebooks, and shared our recipes and meals with each other. It was the perfect hippie Berkeley moment, but with the bonus addition of Creative Writing.

I wanted to share some cool exercises we did as a group with Marvin K. White‘s guidance, of course.

1. Draw a line down the center of your page, and over the line start your prompt: “I come from a long line of…”

This exercise was fun because there was a range of possibilities.
Someone got deep into their history and roots and wrote about family.
I wrote, “I come from a long line of bullshitters…” and etc. etc. etc.
Try it, it’s fun.

2. Stone Soup Story. This one is tricky. You have to come up with 4 dry ingredients. 4 wet ingredients. Then you have to come up with how to prepare, how many people does it serve, and the name/purpose of the recipe.

People in the room got really creative with this one.
Someone wrote about high heals as one of their  dry ingredients,
and wet slushy sex as one of their wet ingredients. She ended the
whole thing with, “A recipe for disaster.” Everyone laughed.
And as writers out there know, you laugh when you can relate.

3. Since the whole event surrounded the potluck we had some cool exercises around our utensils. (1) On the spoon we wrote “Love tastes like…” , (2) on the knife we wrote about what cuts or divides us, (3) On our plate we wrote what feeds us, (4) On our napkin we wrote what protects us, or what can wipe our story away? (5) On our cups we wrote what do you thirst for? (6) And in the back of our plate we wrote the names of people who could not enjoy this meal with us.

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One of the most important messages I got from Mr. White last night was to always do these fun games because it clears your mind, and after you clear your mind, you can write anything. Writing is a practice. After you write, look back at your words and investigate what these words mean. How do they connect with the world or community you are in? Why are you writing them? What is the history of a word? Etc. etc. etc.

The whole event surrounded and celebrated food. It was great. It was to commomerate Amara Tabor-Smith‘s dance show, which I have seen and totally recommend–OUR DAILY BREAD. Their show will be up again in La Peña on Shattuck Blvd. Come support these artists and check out this community space. It’s beautiful!

Long live Art.

Here Before

I’m back in Berkeley. It’s more for work than for fun. So here I am, bumming it again and bunking on a friend’s couch waiting for inspiration to hit me—so that I can complete another video edit. Three hours later, no inspiration has smacked me across the face at all, and I am so tired of looking blankly at my computer screen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful footage, but I just can’t figure out how to splice it all into a cohesive and wondrous adventure. Maybe I’m trying to be too creative. Garf!! Save me imaginary friend!!

.   .   .

Let’s be real. I don’t have my own Drop Dead Fred (90’s movie reference), and I don’t have all the answers in the world. Maybe I have to accept that this won’t be the masterpiece I thought it could be. Maybe if I get more direct and less flashy it will all come together. Sigh.

To top it all off—my video editing dry spell has trickled into my writing space. As many of you writers know, having writer’s block for more than five days is like getting your soul sucked out of you with the tiniest straw in the world. It’s painful and it pinches. I am being honest with myself right now, and I am confessing to being unable to write anything substantial in the last few days. Why?

I don’t really know. Maybe it was because I was away from HERE. Here in Berkeley.

I could blame it on the hot Los Angeles weather. I could blame it on my boyfriend (God bless his patient soul). I could blame it on my looney family (God bless their humor). However, I don’t really think it was any of these things. I believe it was the fact that I was back in my own state of “HOME” (hogar, casa, house) that put me into a frozen state of what life could be if I decide to do nothing with my degree. I sat alone in a room while everyone went to work and watched Investigation Discovery for hours upon hours. By the way, after the second day of watching this show I have been dramatically changed and the paranoid status in my brain has gone up a few notches.

Sometimes, at home in LA, I would surf the net for something interesting. I tried to get past page 3 of Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseI pigged out on ice cream. I enjoyed Wendy Williams…oh God, I really did. I was a sad sad writer in my LA casa. Chaos all around me—with deafening silence blasting in my ears with only my thoughts about the future to haunt me. It seemed like my thoughts were running a marathon, and my fat a$$ could not catch up. I just watched as the hours on my sister’s digital clock changed. Occasionally, I would pinch my arm to make sure I was still alive, but mostly I just ate a bunch of food and erased all my sorrows with episodes of Investigation Discovery.     When my poor sister walked through the door, I inundated her with questions about her day.

Have I become so traumatized by my school that I am only able to focus and work while near my alma mater? Why has Northern California suddenly become the space where I can focus? The space where I can express my thoughts? I’ve been here before. It smells the same, and it’s colder. I have no complaints. I am feeling a little more focused than before.