Thursday, October 8, 2009

After the coffee comes the concussion

“Do you think anyone will show up who we know?” I asked Melanie as I jumped into her compact forest green convertible.

“Good Lord,” she replied, “I hope not.” She threw the car into reverse and sped out of the parking lot at a robust three miles an hour. Melanie is a safe driver.

We crossed the interstate bridge and left Washington State and the quiet life I lead and the exciting one Melanie leads—as an award winning writer—and within twenty minutes stood outside a big wooden 1930’s building in SE Portland. We glanced nervously at each other and I laughed like I’d done this a million times. “Come on, this will be fun,” I promised.

The door clanged open and the heady smell of ground coffee wafted our direction. We’d made it this far. We could surely cross the threshold. I tugged Melanie inside and we glanced around trying to locate a familiar landmark to shore up our quaking knees. There. We greeted Ed, our third friend, who was getting his head in the game by listening to his IPOD. He waved. Melanie and I drifted around the open tables and settled onto facing couches in front of the stage.

We fired up our laptops, clamped our jaws tight and flitted our eyes nervously around the room. Three of us, three of them—we had an audience—almost a full house. I took a picture to prove that point, but Teresa who tweets as Pdxsays made me take it down. I was ‘messing with her brand.’ (Note to self: ask before posting, not everyone likes their picture plastered around the internet, especially that one of me where I look like I’m a man, pretending to be not a man, or maybe pretending to be one, I don’t know it's kind of confusing. And don’t you all go looking for it. It sucks. Sheesh).

Melanie and I concentrated on our laptops, as if it were a life’s mission. We waited for software to load, for wi-fi to connect, whatever would help pass the time between now and the appointed hour. Tonight, the magic would begin. Ed would play microtonal music composed by his computer via algorithmic patterns, and we would read from our unpublished manuscripts. This was Monday, and this was Three Friends Coffee House and we were the entertainment.

By eight o’clock it’d be over.

Hopefully, I'd still have two friends. Teresa was already a goner.

Luke, the organizer, strode in and his deep, vibrant radio voice steadied our rattling nerves. He shook our hands, confirmed pronunciations of last names, and I noted, “Ed’s going first.”

Ed gazed at me, his kind eyes full of piss and vinegar, and said, “You should go first, you’re The First Carol.”

I was almost relieved and agreed way more faster than I would have suspected, thinking, that might be a good idea, I’ll get it over sooner...but I’ll be left on stage, better make a plan. I scribbled some ‘next guest’ introductory notes. Proving again that last minute planning is microcosmically successful in any venue.

I met Ed by stalking him on Twitter. During the day he’s all geek. Late at night he’d share what he was listening to: As a music major and geek wannabe I found the whole Ed package fascinating. I tried to lure an invitation out of him to meet a couple of times, he didn’t bite. Then all of sudden we were talking Linux and now I have Linux on my laptop and I have Ed as a friend.

Then it was 7 PM.

Luke welcomed the audience and welcomed me:

Hot pursuit of a career in advertising landed The First Carol a job in one of the largest newspapers in Southwest Washington. After numerous years of hacking out ad copy for the print ads she sold and making friends with everyone in her path, she can now claim connections in the highest echelons of covert government, Hollywood, and the janitorial staff (she works late). Welcome The First Carol!

I crawled on stage.

Took me awhile to stand up.

Took a little longer to find my voice, but I did manager to squeak out, “Take a good look around, pick a man, ask him to dance.”

Fifteen minutes later, three people clapped, (I suspicion they were Melanie and Ed and maybe Teresa). I nodded approvingly, although some people thought it was an avalanche of nervous shakes. Before I could actually decipher it myself, I launched into my Ed intro.

Ed explained the origin of his composition and we listened to the wild warblings of : "When Harry Met Iannis." When the tune ended I jumped back up dodging wires and Roland speakers and the chatter of the happy patrons waiting for this to end so they could get to open mic part of the event. I smiled benignly at Melanie who sat contentedly on the couch refusing with the utmost grace to come up on stage. I just as graciously introduced her from the stage. Maybe I had my hands on my hips and glared at her...maybe not:

Melanie is not sure why she is here, except she is my friend and I told her doing this type of stuff would save us from being boring. I convinced her being out in public was practice for Oprah, and we can use the experience for a blog post. If we’re a bust, we can make up that we were brilliant, in other words lie…because after all we write fiction.

Melanie adjusted the mic Luke had provided for her couch delivery, and we heard chapter three of Melanie's historical fiction work which plunked us on a brigantine in the Atlantic Ocean.

I listened and I'm sorry to say my mind wandered as I tallied the evening and my friends. Ed lives an exciting life of research, computer programming, music and social media. Ed has about 3 gadzillion followers on Twitter, znmeb is popular! Melanie is an award winning writer, with adventures to her credit from one coast of the US to the other (she recently moved her parents out west, which I deftly captured in the post: After the Rum, Comes the Reality). Her manuscript won second place in the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Assoction contest.

I am me and thus driven to compete amongst all this talent and seek attention.

And what am I telling my periphery friends who did not attend? Well, I'm saying, “I was absolutely brilliant.” (I don't mention I'm brilliant at convincing my friends down the rabbit hole). Then I try to divert attention away from my performance and dwell on how difficult Melanie was...a true complicated artist type, and I mention as often as possible, “Melanie's like all, ‘I'm not standing in front of these caffeinated hot heads, I'm staying on the couch. They can stand up to see me.’ Then when she finished, everyone started clapping and because they were standing she’s running around telling everyone she got a standing ovation! Can you even believe it.” Then I heave a huge sigh, like it’s such a problem dragging her anywhere.

And this is the truth, a guy chased Melanie out of the coffee house to shake her hand and thank her for coming and told her over and over again how much he liked it. I said, "Wow, you have a fan!"

Melanie said, "Yeah, but did you see him?"

I said, "Yes, and I smelled him, too." <-- I made that up just to be funny.

So, now the big question. Which two of your friends would go on stage with you?


Anonymous said...

Carol, this is hysterical. I'm so proud of you! I'm still not ready to go 'live', but I'll live vicariously through you and PDXSays for now...LOL

The First Carol said...

If you're brave, you can actually hear us stutter on the podcast! Ed starts at 16:10 "When Harry Met Iannis" (2009). Melanie's read begins at 34:17. And my favorite part is...give me a minute, I'll figure it out.

Melanie Sherman said...

HA. Standing ovation indeed. Those people were standing to allow the paramedics to get the gurney, the backboard and pressured oxygen to the people who fell unconscious halfway through my “reading”. If it weren’t for the coffee grinder whirring to stunning life every so often while I read, I would have dozed off myself.

The gentleman, who did in fact come out and shake my hand, is one of my favorite people in the entire world. He seemed intelligent, handsome and possessed remarkable insight. Obviously you did not see me slip him a fiver earlier in the evening.

I must add that you are not at all boring so this whole endeavor must have worked. Bravo.

Dale Sherman Blodget said...

Hi Carol,
I loved your story and the blog post. I thought you all were very brave and I especially applaud Melanie for not standing on the stage. Brilliant to make everyone else stand.

The First Carol said...

Dale: can you even believe I talked Melanie into doing this?! Stay tuned, I surmise our adventures will only expand. Watch out world :-)

Wendy said...

I don't believe a single word of this...I've known you for what, 25 years, maybe more and I've never had the impression that you would have a problem in any social/professional/pseudo-social/professional situation. You are and have been a stand-up kind of gal, my friend. I wish I had been a fly on the wall.

Ax said...

Carol - I told Melanie the Ed from your show...I use to work with him at ADP!!!! Talk about a small world!

Melanie Sherman said...

Another fan for Ed, Carol. You and I have to get cracking. We are, of course, running neck and neck since your lovely daughter became a follower on MY blog. What a terrific kid.

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