(Reprinted from the original publishing of this story, December 8, 2008, just before Christmas Eve 2012. I hope it warms your hearts like warm brandy, just like it did mine when this frankly incredible story actually happened, four years ago.
Yes, there are good people out there, and you never know when you will meet them, even on the darkest of days. If anyone wants to post a comment, there ‘s a space to do that after the end of my tale. I hope you do want to say something. Maybe you will tell someone else about it if they too need cheering up. Right now, I believe a lot of people need cheering up.
So, Merry Christmas. Here’s my little story, set during a fierce blizzard in Chicago, four years ago. Every word you read happened, as in all my stories.)
Charlie Newman, a Jersey guy, will get all this immediately. For him, I know I don’t have to spell it out.
But for all you other guys, well, it went down like this…
Once a week, I go to this little place, a small cafe on the northwest side of Chicago–not the glamorous part–and join a rotating group of guys, and girls, to read my poetry and short stories at an “open mike” kind of place. This venue, cleverly named: The Cafe, is so intimate that there actually isn’t any microphone.
People are quiet and respectful of the spoken word, and so no amplification is necessary. It is a civilized two hours in our assorted lives, and the outside world doesn’t intrude in out efforts to communicate whatever is in our hearts or loins or whatever. By around ten o’ clock, when we are done and go on our separate ways, there are hundreds of words scattered around the floor of the tiny stage, and Baki, the silent owner, sweeps them up.
Every week, one person is the “Feature” of the evening. This means, instead of someone reading a few short pieces in seven minutes or so, one person has about twenty-five minutes to read a longer more complete work. Some people have their poetry published by different small presses and they sell a few copies.
There are usually about a dozen people who show up to take part in this moment of culture, gradually, by the 8:30 PM starting time, sometimes a half a dozen more. The place is so dimly lit, that if after a couple of beers, an affectionate couple decided to neck in a corner, near the bar, no one would notice. Or if they did, well…that’s a kind of poetry, too.
Week after week, this gathering of diverse individuals occurs and the number of participants is always about the same, even though I believe I’ve seen perhaps fifty or sixty different faces that drop by on a particular night, over the time I’ve been coming to The Cafe. It’s kind of mysterious that the number stays the same, but things don’t have to make sense every single time you get involved with something.
Charlie Newman is the Master of Festivities and also reads his own stuff, but at a speed so fast, no one can be sure exactly what it was he was expressing. Maybe he’s suggesting how fast life flies by and we better not miss it, but I’m just guessing that part. Charlie does his bit, and then introduces the first poet, and after that, by some Byzantine method only known to him, decides who follows that person on stage.
(Read on …)