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Saturday, June 26, 2004


This past Thursday night I was invited by the lovely Lexi to accompany her and her sister, Ginna, to a benefit reading that supposedly had to do with a comic book store that's set to open on Seventh Avenue. For those of you not in the know, Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn is that noxious area that every neighborhood has that is pretty much equivalent to an overpriced tourist trap filled with Starbuck's coffee outlets, mostly-bad ethnic restaurants and neuveau riche yuppie fuckheads and their equally obnoxious gaggles of squalling ankle-biters. It reminds me of what Main Street in my hometown is like, and that ain't good.

So the sisters, my buddy Hughes and I went to this gigantic church to witness the proceedings, but imagine our horror when we found out that it was actually a gathering of famed literature writers who would be reading from their acclaimed works. Now I love to read, hell, you simply can't stop me from reading! But every single time that I've attempted to read what people consider to be "literature" I've been burned by page after page of overwritten horseshit that usually makes no sense and is in some way supposed to be "deep." As far as I'm concerned, there is still legitimate literature out there that has been written since the late 1960's. but too much of what I've experienced just doesn't get through to me. Now that you know that, you can imagine what a bowel-searing agony this was for myself and my compatriots.

The evening lurched to a start with the news that the original emcee was unable to attend due to a family emergency (I'm betting he came to his senses and got the hell out of Dodge), so we were instead treated to rambling speeches and introductions provided by the head of a children's' after school reading program who had absolutely no idea of how to speak publicly. His litany of "ums," "ers" and extemporized attempts at fostering interest in the program segued into a nausea-inducing promo video that would instill dread in any potential enrollee. Images of the program's "pirate store" brought up uncomfortable associations with a pedophilic fantasy setup. Disturbingly, this establishment bears an endorsement from David Byrne himself. The former Talking Heads frontman even showed up for the event and looked like he had just eaten an entire bag of Psilocybin mushrooms, his completely silver hair only adding to his acid-casualty chic.

After the video concluded, the first author smugly took the podium and regaled us with a short story that apparently had something to do with a writer's attempts at getting a spec script sold to Hollywood, delivered in a style reminiscent of a police-blotter report. Each event in the narrative was headed with a letter of the alphabet for reasons that completely eluded those in attendance, and it didn't help that the author interrupted his own reading to assure the audience that the piece was funny the first time he read it, so it was okay for us to laugh (I've got news for him: my friends and I were waaaaaay ahead of his suggestion). At this point I began to mime loading bullets into the chamber of a revolver and blowing my brains out, followed immediately by my stirring reenactment of a disgraced samurai ritually disemboweling himself. Lexi then leaned over and asked me "Is this the kind of thing that makes you wish you'd brought a gun?"

Then the next writer showed up (after a ludicrous intro in which the emcee gushed about the author's genius, in which he described a scene from a book that included a homosexual rape of Richard Nixon, which he felt was an important statement in the present political climate), some old fart who looked like a failed gene-splicing of Thomas Edison and Orville Redenbacher. This guy pretentiously droned on and on about something that had to do with a sorceress (I think), a downtrodden woman, ensorcelled brothers who take on the form of birds, blah blah blah. During all of this, I got up to take a much needed leak and was amused to see that various audience members were passed out asleep in the pews, some fully reclined and snoring. I also encountered a father who was walking out with his eight-year-old sons who were clearly bored by all of this bullshit; when asked if he was also in search of the restroom, the father said that he was instead searching for the patience that eight-year-olds did not possess. Upon having shaken hands with the unemployed, I regained my seat in time to hear the writer go on about "donkey rectums." At that point, Lexi conferred with her sister and decided that at the next smattering of applause we would leave and hit the local pub. When the applause began, we lit out of there faster than Kunta Kinte being chased out of a Merle Haggard concert.

We had nearly escaped among a small throng of like-minded victims when we ran into the event organizers (co-workers of Lexi's) and David "shroom-head" Byrne. They recognized Lexi and looked at her like they'd just caught her fucking a German Shepherd. But what the fuck were they looking at anyway? They were just walking in themselves, probably from hanging out at the pub or smoking bonghits in back of the Key Food supermarket just up the block. It took every bit of resolve I had to keep my promise to Lex and not call Byrne a douchebag to his face for nearly all of his post "Remain In Light" output (I cut him slack for his "Wicked Little Doll" teamup with Devo, but that's about it). Ah, well...sometimes one has to suffer for art.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a typical McSweeney's event. It's always people pretending to be writers and writers pretending to be something else, and some not so funny stuff masquerading as funny, and some funny stuff that works if you're in the right mindset, and bespectacled publishing girls who like their books light and their premium coffee organic and guys who pretend to not know how to shower. There will be plenty more of these now that the East Coast hive has been built.

Anonymous said...

Was that St. Anne's? Because I remember being dragged to something similarly horrific - a night of the worst music I'd ever heard in one of the more uncomfortable situations I'd ever been in (the tickets were gifts from people I didn't really know at the time, who were there as well. And I think they actually liked the music).

Pretentious. Unlistenable. The Emperor's New Performance Art.

I think the speed at which I got the fuck out of Dodge once it was over damaged my reputation for life. Ungrateful POS that I am.

hagfish said...

This is not to revel in your misery, but, Mr. Bunche, Sir, you are so damn funny. I'm sitting here in Hell, laughing my ass off. (Would that it were so simple.)

This is rich entertainment for an old fart, and brings back memories of great dope, and seriously fossilized people. My mother used to drag me to The Brooklyn Museum on Sundays to listen to awful sopranos sing in German (why always German?).

Then we'd go to the Botanical Garden. That was worth the price of getting drowned in stultifying culture. Nice rose garden.