Ugh. Last night I had another reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe, as part of the Writers Room member reading series. (above photo is from a reading there last year; I felt like such crap last night I wouldn’t let any friends — including Ariel, who wrote about the evening here — take pictures). I almost didn’t give the reading because I was feeling depressed and sick (the two probably contributed to each other; having grown up in warm sunny Phoenix, I am just fundamentally not a cold-weather person and it seems like I often spend an entire winter down with something off and on). Anyway, another person had to back out last minute so I decided to be an adult and refrain from flaking out on something I’d committed to. Plus, Stan Richardson, playwright and curator of the series, is such an amazing person. He made me feel so much better and talked me out of my insecurities with his spectacular sense of humor. He really is a great person; thanks Stan 🙂
For the above reasons, it didn’t go as well as the first…. although I feel like that’s how life often is. Of all of my many court arguments over the years, my very first went by far the best — the presiding judge actually telling me it was well-crafted and well-articulated. Also, with my first reading, I just gave a brief intro to my novel then began reading; here, I was reading from another section further in, so I felt like I stood up there talking about what the manuscript was about and what came before the excerpt more than actually reading it. Anyway, it was brief and I survived.
The guy on after me though was really good. His name is Steve Reynolds, and he read from his memoir, portions of which will be published in Reader’s Digest, on surviving oral cancer. Oh — the theme of the night was “Doctors,” so all of ours dealt with medical conditions. Mine was about my main character’s having to go for a gruelling Barium Swallow exam after sensing a ball the size of a fist in her throat, and the playwright who followed us, Susan Haar’s consisted of two really good monologues from her newest play about a character who is sexually assaulted while in a coma. So, definitely an uplifting night in Cornelia Street Cafe!… Anyway, Reynolds is a great writer, who has attained enough ironic distance from his condition to write about it with both laugh-out-loud humor and sobering poignancy. He’s really able to make you feel what he’s feeling as he goes through the various stages.
At points, his excerpt even created a bit of commotion. A non-smoker, he was obviously befuddled at his diagnosis. He’s further dumbounded to learn (as are we!), that it’s actually caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV, the same one that causes cervical cancer in women), and whose chances you have of contacting rise the more sexual partners you have. According to stats, he tells us, once you have more than six partners, your chances of getting — either oral HPV or cancer; I’ve forgotten now because I was so blown away by the number — increase 420 percent with every new partner. This is over the course of a lifetime. Afterward, when Stan re-took the mike, he repeated, “420 percent??” “Yep,” Steve responded. Murmurs abounded and everyone’s face seemed to bear a rather horrified look of concentration. “I mean, if you’re a single woman in her 30s there’s no way you haven’t had more than that!” said a wildly gesticulating woman in the audience (okay, my friend! — but not poor Ariel — she looked mortified that people actually spoke about such things in public. I remember being new to New York once too, 🙂 )
Anyway, afterward, I dragged my friends to Caffe Vivaldi around the corner, which is just kind of a nostalgic place for me, since I used to go there frequently when I first moved here. Unfortunately it doesn’t look much like I remember it: instead of being a quintessential cafe with every hot cozy drink and soothing fattening thing imaginable and loads of tables suitable for chatting by the fireplace, it’s now become a small dark music-hall, with the chairs and tables all shoved to one end to accommodate a huge piano and band area on the other. And of course once the band begins playing — they have two sets per night so they start early — conversation must end. And gone is their European staff who made the perfect panini and served good wine. Having said all that, I still rather enjoyed the first musician, a singer and pianist named Jess King. Her lovely, soulful voice and dark, melancholy tunes were perfect for my blue funk. She made me cry at one point and sometimes that’s just what you need — a good cry. Anyway, check her out here or here. And, to hear her in person, she plays there every other Tuesday night. I loved her.