We’re driving along the Mexico/US border in Arizona and I’m looking over the landscape and I can’t help but notice that the land looks exactly the same into Mexico as it does in Arizona. I mean, OF COURSE, it does, it’s not suddenly going to have trees with sombreros growing out of them or that the brush is going to be speaking in Spanish. But to really see - looking at the mountains and know that those are the same mountains Mexicans look at from the other side… (I made a joke that I can solve illegal immigration cuz I can see Mexico from the front seat of my mini van. Ha!! Is she REALLY running for President? How could US comics GET any luckier? Dan Quayle, W and now Palin, the Trifecta of soft lobs to the stand up comic.)
Anyway this whole border thing - literal or figurative - really makes me think about the differences and similarities among people. Last night I performed for the EON YOUTH LOUNGE sponsored by the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and hosted by Studio One. It was an amazing collaboration of three organizations to bring me in to do the show. They decided, brilliantly, to have some youth do their spoken word before the show. So there were two who shared - AMAZING - writing. It was so cool to sit there and hear them write in the exact issues I was about to perform about. So inspiring. (This pic is of Jude.)
(My dressing room:)
Now there’s one thing about this group that was different from past groups (except Phoenix, they did this too): they snap. They hear something that moves them, rings true, impresses them, that they agree with, they snap - sometimes it would just be one person snapping, sometimes everyone. It was so cool. Like having immediate feedback for what I’m doing WHILE I’m doing it and NOT interrupting the Flow.
Ok - a little history on snapping and spoken word, ala Pandora Scooter. The first major open mic I went to when I first started out in 2001 was called Abstract Flavors and it was held at the Barnes and Noble on Route 1 South in North Brunswick, NJ (a suburb, mostly). It was run by this cool cat named Jerry Gant (to whom I owe much of my original hosting style). Now when folks in the audience would snap in response to a poet, Jerry would get up (after the poet was done) and say something like, “You people think you’re up in Brooklyn or in Manhattan at the Nuyorican, snapping like that? What’s wrong with your hands? You love something, you clap your hands, you holler, stomp your feet, you don’t” and then he would do the ultra-over-it-cool snapping that he oh-so-hated. So, Jerry turned that open mic into a Sunday-Comin’-to-Jesus open mic. And people hooted and hollered and clapped and stomped whenever they were moved. Now, I haven’t performed much in Brooklyn or in Manhattan, but when I have, I haven’t noticed any snapping there either. So, I don’t know if by the time I got there it was passé, or it never was a thing. Kristen reports that snapping goes on in Boston all the time. It’s a thing up there.
The only thing about snapping during my show that tweaks me is when I’m making what I think is a BIG POINT, like a SERIOUSLY VITAL POINT, and there are no snaps. That only happened once last night and I’m choosing to interpret the moment in the following way: what I was saying was SO profound - OBVIOUSLY so - that snapping would have been redundant, absurd, or even INSULTING in that moment. Because it was so apparent that I was being brilliant.
Anyway, I did the show and it was so much fun - snapping and laughing and sober serious moments and tearing up and all in exactly 1:00:35 — who knew you could pack so much into an hour and 35 seconds? (I note the time because my director, Cedric, was telling me that we had to get the show down from 68 minutes to 60 minutes, which I have now done — without rushing or cutting anything. Just by being more familiar, picking up cues and generally working on the transitions (thank you Cedric).)
After the show there were lots of compliments and discussions with youth and adults alike. A lot of really insightful comments about how the show - two youth came up to me and introduced themselves - one I knew because they were one of the youths her performed their work, a brilliant spoken word explanation of how they are not a he or she but so much more! That they defy definition, or explanation, like Calculus, “you never quite get it.” And the other was BAM (becoming a man) -who’s been on T for six months — they were so great and told me how much the show meant to them and that they were moved and they asked me to sign their boxes! Yay! I LOVE it when this happens, and that started a mini flood of people asking me to sign their boxes. Fun!
The evening wound down with just me, Kristen, the two people running Studio One (Paco and his partner) and Marcos and Sarah from SAAF. Sarah is a suicide prevention advisor — we had a lot to talk about. She was very complimentary about the show and reassured me that the venues that turned down the show because they were worried that it would incite youth to suicide had unfounded concerns. Phew. I mean, I got that already from two psychologists, but to hear it from a third professional was even more reassuring. After everything was put away, Kristen and I went to the hotel. I sat on my bed watching the end of an SVU episode I’ve seen a thousand times (well, 12) and eating the other half of a turkey sub SAAF had provided and Kristen worked on getting us lodging in San Diego.
I started the day in New Jersey, hugging and saying goodbye to my kid and I ended it in a hotel in Tuscon Arizona having performed I AM ENOUGH. Quite a day indeed.
Love you EON & SAAF!