So, this is how it went:
I got there early, because my grandfather believed that if you weren't early you were late. I can't say I always make it anywhere by my grandfather's mantra, but I can say I did this time. Entering The Crown is never an interaction free experience for me. There is always something that happens. This time, the security guard/cook was checking IDs. He had his hands full with a group of younger guys who just wanted to check out the Korean restaurant on the first floor. I watched for a moment mirroring the same quizical look of the guys. "You checkin' IDs for the restaurant?" I said it before I realized it. I guess it was low enough, or the commotion of the incident was high enough that I went unheard. When the security cook noticed me, he asked me for ID. While I was picking out my lipstick, rummaging through my closet for the wedges I didn't find, re-accessorizing, re-rehearsing, and packing a book bag, I forgot my ID. I realized this, but feared the security cook would take on another responsibility and I'd end up in an unwanted situation.
"So, are you security? Do I really need ID to go inside?"
I retorted. "Nah, I'm the cook, but you gonna need ID to get inside." I looked at him again, "I mean they gonna ask you for it if you want a drink." I looked down at my ID free wallet and back at him. I then looked back at one of the boys behind me. "Well I'm not going in to drink or club, I'm going to read poems." I proceeded to walk through. I didn't look again behind me, but by the time I made it to the stairs at the back of the lobby I heard foot steps behind me. "Hey ma'am - you know where the restaurant at?" I stopped and turned around, "Nah. I don't really come here like that. I know the bars are upstairs." I can't say I wasn't pleased to see him in the space. "What they be doin' in here any way?" I stopped on the step and looked around, a lot had changed since I came to the 48 hrs of Funk. "I can't really tell any more. I know they have different shows here. I'm going to a poetry reading." He seemed more interested in the poster he was reading, so I continued my ascent up the stairs. I figured if there was anything he needed from the space, now that he was in it he'd find it. The guard cook was trippin' there's no reason the whole group of boys couldn't have come in the space. I really see no reason for him to act as gate keeper. I don't like these levels of exclusion. Besides, its The Crown.
The Blue Room was pretty empty, and I loved that. I love being able to feel a space out before a performance or reading. It gives me a chance to gauge the energy of the crowd and the acoustics before I walk on the stage. Patrice Hutton was already at the bar. She's lovely and we got a chance to introduce ourselves, talk projects and writing and community work. Our conversation was interrupted when our respective friends came through. From there, it didn't take long before the fantastic team behind Hey You, Come Back! entered, greeted and got down to business. I elected to go in the middle. The room filled up and before you knew it we were on our way. It was nice to have a small crowd of friends and supporters in the building for my reading. I'm used to reading in spaces where it might just be myself and a group of strangers. It was a nice change of pace. I loved Patrice's work. She's got a work of fiction she read about an aging catholic priest ruminating on mortality that really made me smile. I didn't catch all of Theresa's set, I had to step out and support a friend, but I loved her exploration into identity, conversation, and movement.
I knew that my reading wouldn't be a reading. I knew it would be more of a performance. I went on stage prepared to read poems I'd never read a loud before. I knew that getting into the poems and the life I lived then would probably cause me to slip into a more southern twang. I knew I wasn't going to keep time and that someone would have to flag me down. I gave all of these as warnings before I started. Lucky for me Ann Marie (who is a fabulous PR support) caught a few videos. Check them out here (link to come). It was a treat to perform "Where Did You?" and have it caught on video. My southern sisters who inspired the poem haven't heard it. I love performing "The Writing Session" the poem is high crowd participation, so its as close to a collaboration poem most page poems get. I also really appreciate every time the "Protestor" is read and accepted with love.It helped that I had some of the people from that experience in the room. It was nice to interact with the crowd. I read the entire section of the book concerning my abortion experience for the first time. It was nice to bring these experiences, and the people I lived them with to the HYCB stage in Baltimore. It was nice to get heavy, sultry, and political in the same thirty minute space. The HYCB crowd rocks. We really moved all over the emotional landscape. It was fantastic.
The night wrapped up with a shot or two, and fizzled plans for Korean BBQ. Between the sets ending and the drive home I remember standing outside the crown. It was either dark or getting there. I was surrounded by friends, people who knew dic tion ary and knew my work as a poet and creative writer and a performer. I looked across the street and there were a group of men older than the ones I met earlier. I thought about how crowds of people look to passers by outside the crown. The lighting from the signage is kind of a weird glow given the surrounding area. You're seen clearly, but everything outside the glow is kind of obscure. I heard the men's laughter and conversation, darker silhouettes against a darkening backdrop. I love seeing crowds of blackness in Baltimore; I spend a lot of time alone. Chances were I was going to go home and be alone as well. However, in this moment we are all with some bodies. In this moment, I was in a place where there were people, and they'd come to support me. "Hey Girl " A friend called me back to conversation in my own group. I blinked and smiled at how close the phrase worked to the shows title. "Sorry, I zoned out." Baltimore, has become a place of support and art and friends. I am thank filled.
Thank you to all the features who read with me. Thank you to the Hey You Come Back team! Thank you to Mike S. And Sierra B. who bought copies of dic tion ary that night. Thank you to Yasmine K. who grabbed a copy from the site later. Thank you to all the people who came through to hear our work. Thank you to all the friends and supporters who came to hear me. Thank you Baltimore for all of it.