I was sitting downtown, by myself, outside the Radio Bean, listening to a band called the Didjits on my portable speaker. I’d been listening to the Spaceshits, but some strange older woman had told me to turn it up and she said the band reminded her of the New Bomb Turks and then told me I should check out the Didjits. Always on the lookout for new bands to listen to, I said I would; I found them on Spotify moments later. Then she told me her food was ready; she went inside the Greek restaurant beside the Bean, and I moseyed back to the Bean and continued sitting here all alone. As I sat here, the woman walked past me holding her food and asked if I like the Boys. From England? I said. She said: Yeah. And I said: Yeah, the Boys are awesome.
So I was sitting here waiting for the Bean to open and the open-mike to begin. They open at 6:00 and the last two times I had driven down here for an open-mike I had to drive around for a good hour looking for a place to park. Tonight that was not the case; I had found a spot right away. So I got here half an hour early. But that wasn’t the worst: it was a beautiful night and it gave me time to sit here and reflect. And I really enjoy watching people and stuff like that and this is what my life is about—sitting in the midst of the commotion but not too close to become totally absorbed by it. On the outside, that’s where I wish to remain, but close enough so that I can join in whenever it feels right.
At the open-mike I planned to read a new poem called “Devil” and a new story called “In the Absence of Zack.” I wasn’t sure how they would take those pieces, though. “In the Absence of Zack” is about a good friend of mine who had died from a heroin overdose a few years back. A few weeks ago the Bean had cancelled the open-mike because some young girl who I suppose had used to work there had died a few days earlier and they were doing a memorial for her, which is really sweet. I hope people care that much after I die.
Every other week it’s poetry-only and every other week it’s everything else. This week it’s everything else, but I still read, anyway, and normally the Radio Bean brings pretty astute listeners to their venue.
At other joints and venues people are loud and they don’t care what’s going on onstage. We become just ambient noise, for all they care. But here, at the Bean, they watch and they listen and they even applaud when you’re done, and that kind of validation feels good.
Last time I was here, this guy named Bobby was here to perform too, and I used to go to his open-mike at Manhattan Pizza and I’d have him play guitar while I read and it was so much fun. So I had asked him if he’d do the same last time I was here, and he did. Bobby was here tonight, too, and I asked him if he’d do that for me again, and he said maybe, but since I didn’t want to make him feel pressured and plus, that one story I was gonna read is really sad and I didn’t think it would do well with music in the background—it’s one of those pieces that needs to stand alone—I told him not to worry about it; it was probably better that I went on alone.
Outside the Bean this guy with a long ponytail walked past me and I stopped and stared thinking he was my friend Wyatt because he looked just like him and then I realized it wasn’t Wyatt and I texted Wyatt to tell him I just saw his doppelgänger outside of the Bean and he told me I should stop by Lincoln’s tonight—that’s where he works but nobody was there right now and he said I should stop in. I asked him to remind me where that is. He said it’s the speakeasy in the alleyway next to Red Square. I knew where that was, but I could never actually find the entrance to the speakeasy myself; it was apparently a hidden entrance and after many attempts to get in had failed, I figured this place doesn’t even exist.
I was the third to go on. For some reason my anxiety was feeling pretty intense. I got up there and told everyone I was pretty anxious tonight. Hope I don’t piss myself, I added, then immediately regretted saying that and mumbled: But I probly won’t don’t worry. Everyone laughed. I gulped. I read the first poem. People smiled and clapped. I felt a little more comfortable up there now. Then I read the story about Zack. I smiled because people were reacting with sadness and compassion. That was the reaction I was going for when I wrote the story a few weeks earlier.
After I read, I went to collect my stuff and head out, when the two women seated to my left asked me about my books. I didn’t want to stick around any longer, so I gave them each my card with my website on it and they read the blurb on the card and they both smiled.
Then I set out to find Lincoln’s again. I was in the alleyway beside Red Square and I saw a bar and I went inside but I didn’t see Wyatt anywhere. I asked the bartender: Is this Lincoln’s? He said: Next door. I went outside the bar and all there was next door was an ATM. So I continued walking. Up the street I asked a bouncer outside some random bar where Lincoln’s was and he told me to go in that room with the ATM and find the secret button that opens the secret door. So that’s what I did: I went into that room but I couldn’t find the button so I texted Wyatt thinking he was fucking with me or something but then a hatch in the wall opened up and there was Wyatt, and the place actually did exist.
I went in the bar and he served me a coke and told me it was on him and then we caught up for a while and he told me about his birthday party coming up and I didn’t think I’d make it and then eventually I left. After leaving I texted Michelle that I had finally found the speakeasy and that I was walking to the car and I’d be home shortly. But then, feeling bad that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Wyatt’s birthday party, I double-backed to the bar and decided to give him a copy of my newest book as an early birthday present.
So I was in the ATM again and I could not find the button. Earlier Wyatt had opened the door for me. This time he texted me to tell me where the button was. He said it’s that wooden box, so I was searching for it. I thought maybe you had to lift it up and the button was behind it, but of course the box did not move. He said I was getting close. The button is the box. So I pressed the box and nothing happened and he came out and closed the secret door and then whacked the box, hard, and the door opened back up. I said: Oh, I’m good at punching things. And then I punched the box, and he said: Not that hard. And then I gave him his birthday present and walked to the car and went home.