The Ugly Mug is a wonderful, literary, independent coffee house in Historic Old Towne Orange, Ca. (Known for its Antique Shops, and restaurants, including Watsons Drug & Soda Fountain, established in 1899, it's the oldest drugstore in the OC, and the oldest on-going business in the city of Orange.)
They are nestled on Glassell, between Chapman University on the north, and the Traffic Circle, on the south, which means that, every quarter, when the students do the famous "Thank God it's over!" Undy Run to the Circle, and back, you can visit this intimate setting including a living room area with couches, tables, and a stage, and sit out on an outdoor patio, and watch all the half naked students pass by. ;-D
The rest of the year they feature Live Entertainment, including Open Mic Nights and Poetry Readings, for those who are more adventuresome in their quest for enlightenment, and knowlege. ;-D
Which brings me to the reason for this post.
Regular readers will remember that I did my very first Open Mic reading of my Poetry, in July 2009, at a regular event in Encino.
Well, on Wednesday of this week, I ventured forth to inflict my poetry on an audience much closer to home.
The Ugly Mug plays host, each week, to the long running, extremely popular, Two Idiots Peddling Poetry (Going back to 2001, at least!).
Just who ARE these idiots?
Steve Ramirez hosts this weekly reading series, and is a member of the Laguna Beach Slam Team 2000, as well as one of the organizers of the Orange County Poetry Festival, and member of the Five Penny Poets in Huntington Beach.
Ben Trigg is the co-host, and he apparently does what I, and Nikita, have been attempting to do for 8 years...but far more successfully than us...He works hard to remind people that poetry is often fun, and sometimes silly. ;-D
He has performed throughout SoCal, parts of the NE U.S., and in Texas as part of the Austin International Poetry Festival, as well as being one of the organizers behind the first Orange County Poetry Festival in 2002, as well as subsequent festivals.
While they did not start this event the History is a fascinating one, and can be read on their website.
So there I was, having decided to test the waters for the first time in over a year, now that I finally had a night free that matched when such an even took place somewhere.
The living room area has a adjoining open space where rows of folding chairs allow any overflow audience to sit.
I bought an OJ, paid the $3 admission, signed up for the Open Mic, and settled for one of the couches. ;-D
I soon found myself chatting with a pleasant man, and woman (Name of Martha), who were both older than I.
She had noticed my T-shirt (I'm Strange, Maybe even A Little crazy, But There's Never a Dull Moment!), and when i told her that I had left the more interesting shirt at home she didn't flinch when I told her what it said (A Plug for the blog of my Cat, Nikita - Ask me About My Pussy! ). ;-D
She said she's married an Englishman, and that in England Pussy still referred to a Cat, as it originally did centuries ago.
Soon the show got under way.
Lynne Thompson is an accomplished Poet, and Author, with a couple of college degrees under he belt.
She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, by parents born in the Windward Islands, West Indies.
"An active member of the Los Angeles literary scene and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her poetry has been widely published and anthologized.
Her latest was published by Perugia Press, and you can read a poem from the book, read reviews, and listen to a great radio interview, here.
Her poems were entertaining, and thought-provoking, especially one about a woman who ate paper. ;-D
I told her, during the intermission, that it reminded me of Nikita, and how he likes to rattle paper to get my attention. ;-D
As I sat listening to her the thought popped into my head that "I just know they are gonna call me first when she is done.
Sure enough.... ;-D
I brought 3 poems to read, the first by Nikita, and the others by me.
Genealogy! (A dozen original ditties reworked as 1 poem.)
While the first two poems were very well received it was the third one that brought down the house! ;-D
I blame Aunt Bessie. ;-D
Everyone was responding quite pleasantly to the poem up to when I read...
Aunt Bessie lies under the ocean
Aunt Bessie lies under the sea
Aunt Bessie slipped on a bottle of lotion
While sailing with Uncle Lee
When I tried to start over I was laughing so hard I just couldn't do it, and this made the audience laugh even more.
I hadn't even gotten to the part about how she ended up there in the first place!
I looked around, smiling, and said, "Now look! You got me off my rhythm!"
They laughed again, and when I finally got to the part about why poor Aunt Bessie ended up in the ocean, they laughed some more.
I swear! No respect for the tragically deseased! ;-D
When I finally finished the poem, and left the stage, and sat down, the reaction was gratifyingly enthusiastic, and I thanked them all for such complimentary encouragement, all the while hoping no-one saw me, surreptitiously, wiping my eye of tears of joy that were welling up. ;-D
The variety of poems that were read where plentiful, and many stuck out in my mind:
The Black man, wearing a t-shirt that read "To all the HATERS, Thanks for the LOVE", who gave an emotional performace of 2 of his poems about gang , and prison, life, based on his first hand knowledge (He now uses this talent to reach endangered youth so that they don't end up where he had once been.), poems about Boots & Daughters, Love, Old Age, death, Birds, Being a Caucasian-Looking part Mexican living in the new Diamond Bar, which has seen a major influx of Asians since 1990, and Finding your Voice.
When the show was over I thanked each of the hosts, personally, and told them how much I had enjoyed myself, and how pleased I was that my poems were so well received.
When I mentioned that I was surprised, and a little caught off guard, by the reaction Ol' Bessie got from the audience, they told me the following:
"The lesson is that if you are going to read something that you know could make people openly laugh, be prepared for them to actually do so."
Words to live by, especially where MY writing is concerned. ;-D
Once back home I celebrated with a couple of Tuna sandwiches on Rosemary Garlic Sourdough Bread, and a couple of bottles of Imported Premium French Soft Drinks (Lorina Sparkling French Berry, and Sparkling Blood Orange. A brand around since 1895!) that I'd bought at a store in Old Towne.
The other 2 sandwiches had to wait until breakfast. ;-D
Nikita settled down to look at a copy of The Poetix Newsletter, a website, and publication, that lets you know where Southern California Poetry events occur each month, and about SoCal Poetry News.