Well, too bad I don't have photos...just memories of a very interesting, slightly weird evening of I'm not sure what at a new venue in Clear Lake called Murder by Chocolate, upstairs in a building on Egret Bay. I went to hear what I thought was going to be a poetry reading for a couple of hours. I had made myself attend after a busy day in order to support a young poet who is working really hard to create a strong poetry scene in the area. I joined my friend, John, professor of creative writing and poet extraordinaire, on the sidewalk. Bless John's heart, he is so supportive of poetry. The young host was waiting at the bottom of the stairs ready to collect our $10 cover charge. We had no change and promised we would pay after buying a cup of coffee upstairs.
At the top of the stairs we were ushered in and stood in the entry hall facing a wall with a mantel over a fake fireplace. A small button on the edge of the white mantel beckoned a push and suddenly the wall swung back creating an entry into a large room carpeted in red with round tables and high back chairs upholstered in a patterned red, all under crystal chandeliers...very Adams family decor. Cool, huh! To the immediate left was a bar with a large blackboard behind it listing all the coffee drinks and other beverages and desserts available. In cases along the bar were tempting chocolate sweets of all kinds. A cute young woman in a white blouse and blond pony tail greeted me and asked to take my order.
"A medium decaf sugar-free hazelnut latte." She repeated it minus the decaf. I stated once again "Decaf, sugar-free hazelnut latte." She began taking John's order and after we both paid, she repeated my order again. A couple of men were seated at a table and one got up to greet us...I gathered he is the manager. The barrista indicated she would bring the coffee to me. After handing the organizer our ten bucks, John and I made our way to another door where the poetry would take place. It is a giant room with big draped windows, deep red carpet and more round tables with upholstered chairs. In the middle of each table was a large hurricane glass sitting on a metallic red scarf and a large magnifying glass. In one corner was a large black man sitting at a keyboard and another sitting in the corner with a set of drums. In the opposite corner was a black man sitting behind some electrical equipment talking with another black man.
John and I settled at a table near the microphone and band and opposite a long table against the wall where a beautiful young blond had her eyes glued to a lap top. Finally someone we recognized came in...a young local poet who always dresses like one of the Blues Brothers with a hat and sunglasses. The next time I looked over he was in a passionate embrace with the blond behind the computer. I gather they know each other.
The barrista came running in the room and to our table. "Do you want whipped cream?" "Of course," I replied. She disappeared only to be replaced by two large black women and a teenage black boy in charge of a small camcorder. They appeared to be related to the band.
Whew...our poet friend, Carmen, joined us at the table. So far we three were the audience and the host kept peeking in the door as he was sweating bullets hoping more folk would show up. I felt sorry for him and was glad I made the effort.
The star of the evening, Kamara, came up and introduced himself. Very charming and explained that his show would be interactive and he would be addressing each of us. If we were uncomfortable with that, we should probably leave. We didn't move and why would we...we had paid $10 for this whatever it is.
The band started playing and a pretty slender black woman introduced herself as Lady Emerald and began the show with what might have been funny stories and jokes but she had the mike cranked up so loud that I couldn't understand what she was saying. She would address our table and I just had to nod like I knew what she was saying. Finally I leaned over to Carmen and asked if she could understand her. She said no and was relieved to learn she wasn't alone in the difficulty. Lady wanted to know if John and I were a couple. I said, "No, I'm his mother." John didn't seem too thrilled about that...he must have a more refined mother...and explained that we were poets.
Lady grandly introduced the first act...the man who had been at the back of the room. The band cranked it up a notch or two and he began to sing a gospel song all about Jesus and being saved. Oh my, it was all I could do to keep a straight face and I didn't dare look at John or Carmen. Before the next number he encouraged us to follow God, be kind to one another, etc. The man has a beautiful voice and I keep thinking he is a candidate for American Idol if he could give up the religious stuff. He obviously had been "saved", from what and for what I'm still not sure.
Lady Emerald with her crazy microphone pranced around the room telling what might have been jokes if I could have understood them. She introduced Birdman...a tall, nice-looking black man who had earlier introduced himself and showed me his poetry publications. He read a couple of poems which were commendable and a couple more from his latest book. Applause, applause and off he went with the keyboard and drums playing his exit.
Enter Lady Emerald again to do another round of non-understandable comedy relief. She introduced Zack, the passionate Blues Brothers imitator, who read on and on pages and pages of poetry that made no sense to me at all while his girl friend kept her head into the lap top. The band tried to provide a little background music for his poems but they struggled. Their wives to my left kept perfectly still as their eyes glazed over. I tried valiantly to keep the smirk off my face and look attentive with only a couple of furtive glances to my watch. Finally Zack tilted his head back, gathered up the pages he had cast to the floor and gave up the mike.
Enter Lady Emerald again but this time she must have received some feedback on the mike and I could actually understand her. But looking to my left, Carmen had disappeared and a black couple had joined the audience. I was a little jealous of Carmen's departure but determined to hear a little bit of the headliner. Lady explained that this was her debut as a stand-up comedian. Really...I never would have guessed. She told a couple of humorous stories about her mama and asked if our children had ever cooked for us. Then went on to tell about an awful cup of coffee her child had fixed for her. A strange choice I thought as we were in a coffee house and not that funny. Ah well...
About two hours into this whole program Lady brought on the star, Kamara, who is originally from New York and has a radio show somewhere. A very good looking guy, he began be going back into the history of rap and hip hop and explaining the difference and talked about the base of hip hop in poetry. He was very entertaining but by 9:30 I had had enough and left John to finish out the evening. I met Lady Emerald on the stairwell and thanked her for her performance and wished her luck. Damn, but she is going to need it. I have to wonder where in the hell did our host meet up with these folks?
I chuckled all the way home thinking about Dr. John and how many hours he has spent listening to some really bad poetry even some of mine. Bless the man.