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[6.5.03][4.26.03]

JC 5.12.03
MOONDAYS

I've been counting to 20 VERY slowly, over and over again for the last two weeks, even varying the language in which I count just to get the maximum therapeutic effect. Despite my best efforts, I'm still pissed off about my visit to Moondays.

The only reason I went out that night - instead of going to bed and recovering from being sick, which would have been the far saner choice - was that Wayman Barnes and Charlotte O'Brien (two of my comrades-in-arms at LitRave) were co-featuring at Moondays. It's rare enough that either of them does a reading these days (being busy with work and personal commitments), but seeing them both on the same night was going to be a rare treat indeed.

Charlotte, who recently completed the Master Poetry Class at USC under Dr. James Ragan, read the material from her end-of-course chapbook Medea, along with a new sonnet written for her daughter. As much as I enjoy her earlier work, her newest poems are truly stunning. Set list: "Tree/Woman," "Prayer Box," "Calving," "Delivery," "The Betta Fish," "Bar At The Folies-Bergere," "November's Crescent." Wayman performed a selection of his work to a largely dumbfounded crowd - for some reason, no one was getting the obvious jokes. Hmmm and double hmmm. The funniest moment was when host Alice Pero said that the title of Wayman's chapbook, "Titty Titty Caca," set off the "flame" detector in her email program, displaying it with hot peppers. Set list: "Nietzsche," "Sartre," "How To Not Break Up With Margaret," "This Parenting Thing," "Lord Of The Pinata," "Jesus And The Two Older Women," "The Saltiest Meat."

So, back to being pissed off. I have been to Moondays on two other occasions, and every time I go, I get a very strange vibe from the hosts. It feels like I'm a guest in someone's house and I'm getting yelled at for sitting on the wrong couch.in a room with no other couch. Or something. The reading is held at a Seattle's Best Coffee in Santa Monica, so you get the usual espresso/blender noises along with people walking through. There is no PA system, and the acoustics are such that your voice dies about six inches from your mouth unless you're practically screaming. There is allegedly a five-minute time limit on open readers, but Rick Weinberger went over ten minutes with his recitation of someone else's poem, and several others clearly went overtime with impunity. Letting people ramble - strike one.

A few readers before me, Alice had finally figured out that the acoustics were terrible and started urging people to tell readers to "be louder" if they couldn't hear them in the back rows. Strike two - if acoustics are a problem, either purchase a PA, arrange chairs so that it's more of a reading-in-the-round, or accept the fact that not everyone will be able to hear perfectly well. Do NOT encourage people to start yelling at readers. One guy in particular who usually goes by "Laughing Larry" was being a complete asshole and yelling "Louder!" at EVERY reader with a wide smirk - in one case, even BEFORE that person started reading.

As mentioned, I was very sick that night. The only reason I was going to read at ALL is that Wayman and Charlotte asked if I would.so I figured I'd read something short and pray that my voice didn't self-destruct halfway through. Anne Silver, the other host, called my name from the list. In the time it took for me to set down the notes I was writing for this review and pick up one piece of paper from the same binder, she called my name TWICE more as if she didn't know I was there. Impatient much? When Larry inevitably yelled at me to be louder, it took a lot of restraint to not leap over two rows of people and turn him into an impromptu version of the LitRave splotch. I explained that I was sick and that was as loud as I was going to get and started reading my poem - although given my utter inability to focus due to sheer aggravation at that point, I should have just walked off. Halfway through the poem, Alice started asking people in the back rows if they could hear me - WHILE I WAS STILL READING. Strike three. Yes, she apologized for "not realizing I was sick" after the reading was done. But how does that explain away the rudeness of a) talking during a reader and b) not paying any attention at all in the first place?

Needless to say, I won't be going to Moondays again. If any of their upcoming features appeal to you, I encourage you to go and form your own impressions - your mileage, as always, may vary.

JC 5.10.03
Cobalt Cafe

Thanks to the particular variety of serendipity which plagues my life, a work commitment required that I wake up at 5 AM on the same day that Mindy Nettifee was featuring at the Cobalt Café, a reading which starts at approximately 9 PM and usually goes until midnight. Did I have a valid reason to skip out on the reading, go home, and catch up on my sleep? Sure. But because I'm lacking in basic common sense, I loaded up on espresso at Starbucks and drove out to the San Fernando Valley anyway.

Mindy, of course, is worth any amount of hardship to see. In case you have somehow missed my blatant ass-kissing in earlier columns (even on my bio page!), she is one of the finest writers and performers in Southern California. This performance was special for a couple of reasons, though. First, she brought along a record player (affectionately known as her "DJ") to accompany some poems. (She introduced herself to "Also sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss.better known to many of you as the theme music to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Second, Elizabeth Iannaci of the Valley Contemporary Poets found a copy of one of my favorite Mindy poems which had been lost: "Untitled Because No Title Is Good Enough." Rick Lupert, the gracious and funny host, earned even more points in my book by making it the poem printed on her broadside. ("Broadside" refers to a large sheet of paper with art, photos, and poetry which is sold at the reading to support the artist.NOT to any part of Ms. Nettifee's body. She is trim, attractive, and - as far as I can tell - has no poetry printed on her person.) If you'd like to see the broadside, or any of the other ones Rick has done for Cobalt features, you can go to Poetry Super Highway. You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software installed on your computer to view them.) Set list: "Between Bites Of Chicken Casserole," "Worst-Case Scenario," "Some Things That Have Been Pointed Out To Me," "Your New Math Homework," "Untitled Because No Title Is Good Enough," "Reverence," "The Crush," "Kelly Had Watched Too Many Episodes Of 'Twin Peaks.'"

As an added bonus, the dynamic Brendan Constantine showed up to hear Mindy - in fact, Rick kept bringing up open readers before her set in order to stall long enough to let Brendan drive from work to the Cobalt. In the second half of the open reading, he treated everyone to what was nearly a bonus feature set: "Actually," (missed titles on one or two), "Foreground," and "What Was Written Inside The Children's Book."

Other open reading highlights.and lowlights: Amara (who will be featuring at the Cobalt soon) read a good poem called "When The Music's Over." (Nothing to do with the Doors, as far as I could tell.) Elizabeth Iannaci read some new pieces from a workshop, including a series of poems titled after foreign films. Terry McCarty read a new piece: "Cartwheels In The Driveway." Vince Garofalo, as he does EVERY SINGLE TIME I hear him read, prefaced his poems with the following: "In my very best Rod Serling - submitted for your approval." (I honestly wonder if he is capable of reading anything in public WITHOUT saying that magic phrase.) Two girls labeling themselves as the "Sylvia Child Demarquez Experience" alternated reading bizarre non-sequiturs and whacking a bongo drum at inappropriate times. Sample titles: "Ode To Myself Part 2" and "How Many Mean People There Are." Danny dropped a piece of paper during his reading and it landed STRAIGHT UP on stage. (Rick commented that Danny must have pulled "magic out of [his] ass.") Maxwell didn't take his medication, or something. It was f?cking WEIRD, whatever it was that he was doing. The always-clever Paul Koenig read "Linoleum." Leslie Maryann Neal read some poems from early in her writing career - "back when I used to be a Cobalt regular."

Readers: Brian, Amara, Elizabeth Iannaci, Terry McCarty, Israel Baron, Vince Garofalo, Jamie Kazan (sp?), Mindy Nettifee, Dave Nordling, Angel Perales, Sylvia Child Demarquez Experience, Danny, John Casey, Maxwell, Brendan Constantine, Paul Koenig, Mani Suri, Jeremy, Leslie Maryann Neal, AJ.

(By the way - if anyone from Starbucks is out there reading this, I could use a sponsorship for my poetry. A few percent of those billions of dollars you've been stockpiling would be nice, but I'd even settle for a free-coffee-for-art deal. Contact me through the site.)

Upcoming features: Buddy Wakefield (6/3). BE THERE. Leslie Maryann Neal (6/10).

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 5.10.03
I am the Sofa King
(the Northern version)

Laid upon a log,
looking skyward,
like Queen of Illusion,
I survey
changeable shapes:
spheres and snowballs,
whisps of white
slipped over blue.
Court Architect
used softer shades
for these stately rooms:
blues for the ceiling,
greens for walls;
carpets change hues
with every season.
Reasonably constant
just throne remains
as only driftwood can be.
Concrete may breed
sofa kings.
I am
the Forest Queen.

(Copyright J. Andjelkovic, 2003)


Angel Perales 5.10.03
Coprophagus Magus
(I am the Sofa King)

A household monitor
stares at sofa.

Sofa glares back.

Within
indefeasible
gravure of
carpet grazier,

my footprints
dare to dance.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan,

One, two, three,
jimmy back door
four,
glide through floor
there,

between
the cosmic impasse,
the silent tete-a-tete
of caustic furniture
and Television set,

I begin my trance:
Tarantella,
Vampirella
should not yell
at me.

Can't you see
my degree of
incomparable
incomprehensibility?

I am a Harlequin
tripping on harmaline,

a sovereign deity,

as foreign
as the flora
of the Yucatan.

I have been
consecrated,
desiccated,
preserved
by this domestic
harmattan.

I am the Sofa King,
I am the Sofa King,

so fucking
eloquently do

I take a shining
shit
on my divinity

and your divan.

smear the myrrh,
smear,
smear the frankincense
and myrrh

I conquer you.

I conquer me.

I conquer all
there is
to
see.
canten cantos
no aparecen santos
canten cantos
no aparecen santos
canten cantos
no aparecenů.



Dave Nordling 5.9.03
COFFEE CARTEL
(A recounting of imaginary events No harm was done to any real beings or objects percieved or imagined.)

playing chess with myself
and losing
peppermint
I love peppermint tea
so tangy on the couch
while hanging
with my crew
the Santa Monica mob is alive
matching contact lenses
for our third eyes
we all have them in different places
and well said
gracious hosts
who don't know sofa king

I am sofa king
empowered
preach it I must
they will know it!
stupid it is not
stupid is all
embrace it
fully
buy it a drink
slip it a micky
have some fun with it
read it a book
do it's taxes

for God's sake
for sanctuary, thank you
all the blessed children
of the Cartel



David Reisner 5.9.03
Zzzz zzzz zzzz zzzz,
Zzzz zzzz zzzz zzzz.
Zzzz zzzz zzzz zzzz.
Zzzz zzzz zzzz zzzz.



Frankie Drayus 5.9.03
Sofa King

We come to America
in the trunks of cars
in oil drums
in airplanes

Clamor for democracy
But O the allure of abandoned sceptres

Grace knew all about it
Quit California for Monaco
and Prince Charming

And I stand on my soapbox
Hawking American Dreams
But in my waking I spend myself into
Monarchy
Preside on my royal sofa
Am king of all I survey

O television
O take-out burrito from El Nopal with extra rice
My feet are my subjects.
My sofa : my empire.

I am sofa king.
Hear me roar.

- Frankie Drayus



Dave Nordling 5.8.03
I AM SOFA KING

the sunken emperor
in plush padded throne
with the remains of the meal
gazing across stained utensils
with the last swallow held
in its aluminum tankard
at my left hand.

I am sofa king
bored
last hours of the day
depart west, room dims
flickering glare of my jester
impales my idleness
giving light to my growing dark.

I am sofa king
tired
I don't want to die,
I want to escape.
Reality in the seventeen-inch world
let's me be free
for ten minutes at a time.
I like how easily it all drains away.

I am sofa king
detached
the dishes grow cold
the refreshment stagnant
the dog curled in his corner asleep
and I with the higher senses
awake looking for intelligence
in the static and colors
affronting my detuned senses.

I am sofa king
defaced.
This is not what life has given me.
This is what I have done to myself.
I'm fat and numb.
I'm lazy and unaware.
I'm growing dumber and liking it
and I'm not about to get up.



Vince Garofalo 5.7.03
Background Information

Does anyone remember me,
who I once was - or used to be;
with hair of gray and halted speech,
this sad lament I do beseech.

In filmdom's so-called "Golden Age",
My presence danced across the stage;
I was the background player seen,
Providing color to the screen.

In Casablanca I appeared,
The night that Rick's of all was cleared;
My name to you was never known
Yet there I was, so clearly shown.

Back in that very special time,
When Hollywood made films - sublime;
I was in all those background shots,
That carried and established plots.

Of this, I am so plainly sure,
As long as movies do endure;
In scores of them you know so well,
I will outlive my mortal shell.



Vince Garofalo 5.7.03

I am sofa king

(the author humbly invites the reader to find
the similarity between this poem and the next.)

My life is like a tattered shell,
things for me aren't going well;
I'm barely able to endure,
while of my future I'm not sure.

My days are full of open plots,
with people taking candid shots;
I think back to a place sublime,
when I had such a grand old time.

My sofa was so widely shown,
to all oblivious and known;
that was before my pad was cleared,
when cops and F.B.I. appeared.

They came in through my windows screen,
while drugs were clearly to be seen;
for me they set a life-long stage,
as well as add years to my age.

To all I widely do beseech,
please listen closely to my speech;
If sofa king you'd ever be,
don't follow the said path of me.



Michael Zeltser 5.6.03
I am sofa king.

I am the king of the world.
My sofa is my throne and the remote control unit is my
scepter.
The world comes alive with a single push of a button
and obeys my
every command, 'coz it knows - I can make it disappear
just as fast.
I used to think the world was enormous, but it readily
fits into a 25" x 20"
window, and can be easily controlled.

Sometimes it bores me, though sometimes, nothing
happens in every
single part of my kingdom.
then I turn it off and back on half an hour later.
It's good to be the king.

My fear-filled subjects rush to entertain me.
News anchors demonstrate their wit.
Sports figures flex their muscles and run and jump
around trying to impress me.
All beautiful young women want to be mine for just
$9.95 plus shipping and handling.
People start wars and write songs and shoot movies and
make fools of themselves competing for a speck of my
attention.

I rule the world from my sofa. They all know it as
well as I do - I AM sofa king.
Cool, huh?

I just wish I didn't have to get up to go to the
bathroom.



Deborah M. Sims 5.5.03
I am sofa king.
(We tarred it.)

Yes, quite profound, wouldn't you say?
Many of us felt it was something
we should all be able to say about
ourselves at some time in our lives.

special thanks should also be given
to Mike Slobotsky, host of
Sunday night's Abbott's Habit reading
in Venice, for helping us all
to realize and appreciate the "sofa king"
philosophy... his poem should be coming soon.



Jim Morrisson 5.5.03
I Am Sofa King

I am the Sofa King,
I can do anything.

You know that day turns into night
Night turns into day
Work is done
Brain is fried
Lounging on the Naugahyde
Lounging on the Naugahyde!

I dropped a penny here
Lost a nickle there
I cannot move
I'm growing wide
Lounging on the Naugahyde
Lounging on the Naugahyde, yeah!

Mr. Mojo snoring
Mr. Mojo snoring
Got to keep on snoring
Mr. Mojo Snoring
Snoring, Snoring
Zzzing, Zzzing
Keep on snoring
Snoring, Snoring
Mr. Mojo Snoring
Allright, C'mon!

No one gets out of life alive

... especially me.



Rick Lupert 5.4.03
Goodbye Couch (I am Sofa King)

You come to my house and
take my couch. I become
melancholy thinking of
couch history.

All the sittings upon
of the couch, the lyings upon
of the couch, the tv watchings
from the couch

It is a good couch
It form fitted to my bottom
Put me through college with
the change found beneath its cushions.
Never complained about anything
ever

Now it too looks melancholy
It's cloth perhaps a touch droopy
as it's carried out to your truck
on its way to your home.

It seems to cry to me
"Why me?
Why not take the other couch?
Have I not been a good couch?
Have my years of bounce retention
gone unnoticed?
Why not take the other couch?
Is it because I am a Jew?"

I answer
"No couch,
you have been a good couch
You have cushioned my tushy
above and beyond,
provided endless snoozes
You are the couchiest of couches.

But couches, like lives
experience transition
to new lives
new living rooms
new asses.
You will go to the house of a
younger man where
your couchly prowess will be fully realized.
You will seat princes
and possibly women.
You will evolve to
Supreme being of the furniture kingdom.
It will be difficult at first
But as with all things you will
end up stronger, wiser.

Go couch
Go now
Go in the truck
Go to your new triumphant landscape
Goodbye couch
I will miss you.



Natalie Woodlawn 5.2.03
I AM SOFA KING

Lounging in remembrance of how I looked in
a velvet photograph
now I am an abandoned sofa king dog
tired & out of steam I mean laps
there is nowhere to rest might
as well get that
out in the open of my brain

this situation
a circus of weird energy
gathering & evaporating sunny
side up to early
evening cliche of high
mind wire technicalities

in a dream I
creep out
along the fineline & piss
on the onlookers below
in a steady
streamline
of love
& then remorse
as I wake to find
the couch drenched
& that I haven't been shaved
in awhile I guess
for as long
as I've been out of work in the
occupation of royalty
& new shaggy memories wait
patiently for the next
close cut by
a blade beheading
all this entertaining
excess.



Marie Lecrivain 5.1.03
I AM SOFA KING

8:02 PM-is the time.

The room smells of clay and cigarettes.
Desiccated, musty love best forgotten.

She is remembering her brief heyday
As the apple in his porcine eye.
Before the beers and remote toppled her off the cardboard pedestal.

He guffaws at her from across the space,
Yellow teeth gleam in the in-formercial light.
"Love, get me some pork rinds, will ya?"

He reigns in landfill splendor on the couch
Presiding over growing piles of Twik wrappers and Coke cans.
His greasy arm emblazoned with the words, "I Am Sofa King."

How did she reach this pinnacle of shit?
Her sister was the dumb one, but married well.
A proctologist with two homes and five cars.

Sighing, she glances over at his majesty,
Grabs the gun out from under the pillowcase.
Her brains will make a nifty pattern on the walls.



Dave Nordling 5.1.03

I Am Sofa King

Hey Wayman,
if you're still hip to the idea here's a few
of the poems on the "I am sofa king"
theme. I may get some more soon.
How about you?
What can you do with only a title?
I am sofa king!
no reason, no purpose,
just a bunch of half-drunk people
at someone's house who had an uninspired
moment and way too many laughs over it...

Go LitRave!
DAVE Nordling

JC 4.29.03
REDONDO POETS

As one of my old textbooks pointed out: The natural tendency of the universe is towards increased entropy. We are on a slow march towards "heat death," a state of maximized disorder in which no more useful work will be possible. (Random note: The poem "Heat Death" by Charles Harper Webb is fabulous. Go find it. Read. Enjoy.) Usually entropy increases as a side effect -- the heat lost to friction, for example. But at the Redondo Poets weekly reading on Tuesday night at Coffee Cartel, co-features Lee Mallory and Leigh White created enough chaos to kick this ol' universe a thousand years closer to that inevitable end.

Not, of course, that I'm complaining. The reading was terrific, thanks in large part to the energy and talent of the "Lee and Leigh Show." Since I've raved about Leigh White in this space before, I'll keep THIS review brief: Her writing is consistently amazing, and it's a rare treat to hear her read since she doesn't do a lot of features. The star of the show on this night, however, was the high-energy Lee Mallory. As soon as they took the stage, he took off his outer shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words, "Don't Stare At My Titties." (I can't see why -- the man is a runner, and in good shape. One of those mysteries, I guess.) The two performers traded off poems, but Leigh could hardly get through a piece without Lee interrupting in some way. The crowd was skeptical at first (if not outright scared), but eventually warmed up to his spoken word pieces and humor. One highlight was his intense performance of "What They Want" from Charles Bukowski's book Love Is A Dog From Hell -- he roamed the room and got in each audience member's face in turn. He introduced "Smell Your Fingers" by exhorting those present to smell their fingers (which everyone DID, strangely enough). One kid in the back yelled out, "Oh what the hell?" (Apparently there was something very interesting on his finger. I didn't ask.) And, of course, no Lee Mallory reading would be complete without "Standing On Bacon." The crowd even got some cool souvenirs: small plastic animals. (I got a cow.) Set lists: Leigh White started the reading and did "The Most Beautiful Havoc...", "Monday's Poem," "Put Down Your Weapon Part 2," "Hot Chocolate," "California Pull-Out" (AMAZING poem), "Sticker Shock," and "Snake Charmer." Lee Mallory read "Open," "Laundry Poem," "The Strip," "What They Want," "Smell Your Fingers," "The Poetry Reading," and "Standing On Bacon."

The open reading was also energetic, including several new voices that I hadn't seen at Coffee Cartel before. Redondo Poet Craig Anderson (who featured there earlier this month) read "Equinox." Ron Kovac (who spent much of his time covering his ears) read "The War Monument." Newcomer Rich Ferguson gave a DYNAMIC performance of his poem about bones -- true to performance poetry tradition, no title given. (I had actually seen Rich in the audience at another reading the night before -- small world!) I took the opportunity to read "The Biology of Numbers" by Jeffrey McDaniel since Jeffrey McDaniel ought to be bronzed. (But not before he's done writing. We need more.) Larry Colker read a poem by Elizabeth Iannaci from So Luminous The Wildflowers and "Call Of The Wild Discovery Channel" from his own brand-new chapbook of new and selected poems, What The Lizard Knows. (Speaking of his chapbook -- it's MARVELOUS. If you plan to buy only one chapbook this year, it's a fine candidate.) Zack Wolk, Coffee Cartel regular, mentioned that he is working on his own chapbook. Jamie sang a song, forgot the words halfway through, stopped singing, started scratching her eye, and eventually walked away from the microphone...still scratching her eye. One newer face in attendance was an attractive lady named Deborah -- about halfway through the reading I started figuring out that she was a teacher, and several of the new readers were her students. One of them (under the stage name of "Vision") actually read a poem admitting that he'd rather that she date him instead of her current beau! (+1 for bravery, but I have to pass along a hard-learned lesson from my school days: POETRY NEVER HELPS GET THE GIRL. The girl that poetry DOES land is likely to be a keeper.) Wanda Van Hoy Smith started reading a poem titled "Reconcilable Differences," and Lee Mallory started singing "La Marseillaise." (I don't get it either.) A girl named Heather with a GREAT hat read a nice poem called "Moth In Flame." Brian Marshall read a love poem that host Jim Doane considered to be a "9.3 on the 'AH' meter." Speaking of Jim Doane -- he closed the reading with an EXCELLENT poem titled "Praying Never Got Him Close Enough To The Answer."

Readers: Craig Anderson, Ron Kovic, Rich Ferguson, John Casey, Kelly Porter, Larry Colker, Leigh White/Lee Mallory, Zack Wolk, Jamie, Deborah, FrancEyE, Tyler Graham, Jerry Hicks, "Vision," Wanda Van Hoy Smith, "Kevin The Poet," Kristen, Brian Marshall, John, Kristina, Heather, Snake, and Jim Doane.

Upcoming features: Michael Datcher (5/6), Jim Bolt (5/13), Joan Jobe Smith (5/20), Jawanza Dumisani (5/27).

Oh wait, I just got the titties thing. MAN am I dumb sometimes.

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 4.27.03
BUMPING & GRINDING (The Adult Way)

When somebody says "Alaska," the first thing that usually pops into people's minds is snow... and Northern Lights... and polar bears... and maybe moose. When somebody mentions an island, the first thing people usually think of is island fever. And when somebody talks about an island in Alaska, well... I can't even begin imagining what comes to people's minds.

Contrary to popular belief, islands in Alaska don't spell out boredom. At least not Baranof Island and the town of Sitka. Every month, except during the summer, there is a big variety show in town called "Monthly Grind." The name comes from the original venue where the show was taking place -- a coffee shop. This month, the Monthly Grind became the Adult Grind due to the nature of some of the material presented, and boy were those guys and gals grinding... and bumping... and bringing the house down!

The show took place at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Community House (Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi), a performance space built in the style of a traditional Tlingit house, which boasts the largest hand-carved screen (20x40 feet) in the Southeast Alaska. The host of the show, Peter Nathanson, and the producers put together an eclectic mix of spoken word, song, dance, comedy, and drumming, and managed to fill the house with audience to the point of spillover. Of course, yours truly had to stick her little fingers into the mix as well, this time not as a poet but as djembefola (i.e. drummer, djembe player). But let us not jump the gun here...

The opening act of the show was a well-known Native storyteller, Bob Sam. Tonight however, instead of a traditional Tlingit story, he narated "Raven After Dark," a story that told us how Raven tried to seduce a woman. In this story, the mythical trickster Raven gets tricked himself. And let me tell you, the story was so spicy that Bob had to hide behind the screen while telling it so we don't see him blush. He did come out for the final bow, and I bet he landed a few (indecent?) proposals from female audience members after the show.

Bob was followed by Beat Feat, a folk duo performing original music for guitar, violin, and voice. They sang about Spring and about love at first sight turning into a family with 13 grandchildren (and still counting). Tina Johnson followed with a stand-up act about Sitka sights and tour guides, and Sitka School of Dance performed a short ballet, tap, and a modern dance.

Tom Begich, a singer-songwriter from Anchorage, sang two songs from his upcoming CD, "Neon Cross" and "Fat Moon." As the last song put the audience in a romantic mood, after the intermission, Island Caravan Dancers tried to stir up some passion with two traditional Middle-Eastern dances - blessings for good life dance, and a belly dance. Darryl followed with a mix of stand-up and song (would that be called a song-up?!?), and then Middle Aged White Guys took over the stage. Now, you young pipsqueaks might think a bunch of middle-aged white guys would be the most boring thing you ever saw. No, not THESE guys! They were a blues band with an awesome harmonica player, and they got the audience clapping, snapping their fingers and stomping their feet in no time.

Tom Begich came back on stage for the second time to share his impromptu songwriting efforts. During his first appearance, he asked for 10 random words from the audience, and promised to come back with a song written using those words. Now, with such words a succulent, spank, genitals, and the name of a local politician, one would think nothing meaningful could be written, but not Tom. He put together a funny little ditty that got the audience laughing their heads off. On top of everything, it sounded good too.

To close out the show, a drumming troupe, Primal Thump, was called on stage. And, surprise, surprise! Yours truly was in it (can you picture that?!?). The drummers primally thumped away two structured rhythms, Mahi and Comparsa, and then an improvisation with a didjeridoo followed. After that, the belly dancers and the audience got up on stage for a frantic 10-minute mix of primal drumming, belly dance, and energy shake-up. The Adult Grind ended with quite a bit of (Primal) Thump... or should I say bump.

So, if you are by any chance planning to visit Sitka in the Fall, make sure to come to October Grind, or November Grind, or... you get the picture. Believe me, you won't regret it. These guys have been putting up a show every month for 8 years, and they know what they are doing.

And just for the record, there are NO polar bears, moose, or Eskimos in Sitka.

Jelena aka Helen the Bashful Dragon 4.26.03
WHAT'S IN THE NAME?

There is an open mic in Sitka, Alaska that has no name... Or at least, it has a very plain name -- Acoustic Open Mic. And there is a cozy eatery in town that has a strange name -- Ludvig's Bistro. One would think nothing noteworthy would come from combining these two. But that's where most people are wrong.

Ludvig's Bistro opens its doors every month to an acoustic music and poetry open mic hosted by Judita and Peter. This Memorial Day Sunday was their third time (the charm), and the place was filled to the point of spillover. And believe me, all those people didn't just come to taste Ludvig's decadent chocolate tart with Port wine/raspberry sauce, although it's worth the hype. They came to take a peek at the hippest monthly happening in town.

The evening started with poetry by Satchmo. She read 3 poems inspired by her grandmother's book of recipes. Kid Burfle (a.k.a. John Hunt) followed with a performance on autoharp (autoharp is an instrument, and please don't ask me to explain!), singing about "Anticipation," horizons, and other ethereal things. Freida read a story about beds serving as barometers of marriage, and another one inspired by the book "Venus on A Half-Shell." Pass Duo (flute and mandolin) performed a set of lively traditional duettes from the British Isles, and yours truly paid tribute to the food with "Orange," remembered the ancestors through "Lament Over My Nation," and ended by distributing "Holy Communion." Kevin followed by singing about three merry gentlemen and about "damn hard life," dedicated another song to his aging grandmother, and ended on a humorous note with a song about the hard life of a stage crew member. Hank Moore and his guitar had our fingers snapping and our toes tapping while he was singing blues about going fishing. He proved he was a real showman by telling us a humorous story about 'fros, and then sang his rendition of Jimmy Hendrix' "Castles Made of Sand." He had the audience absolutely mesmerized, so the hosts kept asking him to do "just one more song." And he did -- "Glory Bound." And then he did another, a song about an angel, that blew your humble reporter completely away. What can I say?!? I have a weakness for guitar players. After Hank, Tonya took stage with some poetry about love, and Judita paid tribute to the Vietnam war veterans by singing "Agent Orange." Kevin got us all singing along as he performed a bunch of Irish drinking songs, and Lisa (the owner of Ludvig's) sang a Jewish prayer song (yes, she did sing in Hebrew), and followed with "I am waiting for you."

Just when everyone thought the evening was over, Hank Moore grabbed his guitar and declared he wanted to do one more song with Lisa. They sang "Stormy Monday," and wouldn't you know it, that started the whole feel-good, toe-tapping-finger-snapping old fashioned jam. Two more guitarists joined in... and the autoharp, and the flute, and the mandolin, and the voices, voices, voices... And we sang till we could sing no more.

So, next time you hear about an open reading without a name, or a funky little food joint with an even funkier name, don't underestimate the possibilities. Stop by, listen up, join in. Maybe you'll just stumble upon another great open mic.

[6.5.03][4.26.03]