Last night's visit to the Mercury Cafe for an author(s) reading/signing event, was at least interesting, and at most instructive as an affirmation of what I believe to be true with regard to such events.
My friend, Jerry Wheeler, (above) had organized this event about a month ago. Jerry is the author of a collection of shorts, "Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits," as well as editing several anthologies: "The Dirty Diner...," "Riding the Rails...," "Tented...," and the soon to be published, "Tricks of the Trade..." He is very talented, and his reading last night from "Strawberries...," was, um, emoted. His bio, above, represents Jerry well; he is a certifiable "character."
Jerry had asked two other authors to participate: Dan Stone and Matt Kailey. Dan read from his novel, "The Rest of Our Lives," and Matt read from his collection, "Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects." "The Rest of Our Lives," is Dan's first novel, while Matt has several works to his credit. Both are fine writers who have made Denver their home.
Okay. My partner, David, and I walked from our West Highlands home to the Mercury Cafe at 22nd and California. Took us about an hour, but we're used to walking great distances, and this trek was relatively easy. I had never been to the Mercury Cafe before, but knew it was something of a Denver "institution" frequented by all manner of artsy folks, and a place that certainly had a reputation for welcoming socially and politically "fringe" presences within its walls.
Opening the front door of the Mercury Cafe, you are given two choices: turn left, or go up a stairway. There are no signs advising you what you might find in either direction. Or, at least I didn't see any. So, I went up the stairs, at the top of which was obviously a dance studio or a very large meeting space. Last night it was a dance studio...something that was immediately apparent as a youngish gentleman wearing what appeared to be a tuxedo, scurried across the floor and met us with the question, "Are you here for the Tango class." I looked to my left where an elderly couple--man and woman--were delightfully smiling at one another, then I looked back at the young man. My thought: "Oh, yes, he is quite eager to have more than just the one couple to teach the Tango to, and, no, we're not here for that." David spoke, "No, heh-heh, we're here for a reading." He didn't actually articulate a "heh-heh," but something akin, to which the young man said, "Well, that would be downstairs." We went back downstairs.
Through the downstairs door we stepped into a fairly large room with round and square tables and mismatched chairs spread about--a few booths off to the side appeared as someone's afterthought, or an aforethought that never really caught on--and a small stage took up one entire end of the room. Red velvet drapes, some floor to ceiling, were everywhere. A quite lopsided lectern decorated in ersatz silver and gold centered the stage. There was a sparse crowd, Jerry, Matt and Dan included, and an entire length of three or four tables pushed together to accommodate what appeared to be a bevy of young working women--no, not that kind of "working," but rather business types--at the other end of the room opposite the stage. David and I said hello to Jerry, and shortly we were joined by our friends, Mark and Rick, along with their friend from Dallas, Cory.
(Note: That's Rick, Mark and a gesticulating Jerry, having orange slice martinis at our home a couple years ago on or about Valentine's Day.)
So, once David and I, Mark, Rick, and Cory were settled at a table, with the table of women behind us and the stage in front of us, we ordered drinks, settled in and waited for the readings to begin.
My first thought that something was a little, oh, off with things, was when I heard what sounded like one of the women choking to death on either a lemon sucked too hard, or a chicken bone lodged near the larynx. I turned, saw that the ladies were okay, all smiling, none preparing to apply the Heimlich thing to one of their own. I turned back, sipped my drink, then heard it again. I turned again. Aha! Obviously this was a table of deaf young women, enjoying their Friday over drinks, uttering guttural exclamations, and signing away in thousand-mile-an-hour word structuring. How totally unique was that! A whole table! Soon, the ladies were giggling back and forth at/to one another. Soon, too, the readings began.
Throughout the readings, the ladies continued to giggle, and utter guttural noises. Not once did Jerry, Matt or Dan pause in their readings when the giggles erupted, nor did they look/glare at the table of happy women who continued to enjoy their Friday night...vociferously, in spite of the goings-on on stage. I salute the boys for something that I probably could not have done--stayed calm and cool in the face of noisy deaf people. Whether or not the women realized they were being quite rude is unknown. Whether or not the women realized their giggles had sonic substance is unknown. Whether or not the deaf women would have enjoyed learning the Tango upstairs, rather than simply shooting the shit downstairs, is also unknown. What I do know is that the boys did well, and those of us who were there for the readings were fulfilled.
Now, a general observation about author readings/signings. I haven't been to that many, but those I have attended have been rather disappointing for the authors as far as selling books afterwards--conferences and gatherings specifically of and for authors excluded, as well as those where the author is surnamed Rowling, or King, or--you get the point. About the only time I've seen a successful sale of an author's work at a reading/signing is when a copy of the author's work is included in a "package" deal that includes a lunch or dinner, cash bar, with all of it taking place in a charming venue--a nineteenth century bed and breakfast, for example--and all of it prepaid, in advance, no exceptions. But, then, how many of us have the luxury of being able to set something like that up? Not me.
So, thank you Jerry, Dan, and Matt. You did well, guys, and I'm glad I came. And, finally, I'll leave this with our friend Mark's comment: "Who coulda guessed that deaf people could be so damned noisy!" "Well," my quip in response, "it was, after all, a signing." Heh-heh.