Once Upon a Le Time

The last seven days have been such a Christmas. So many gifts. My stocking is so stuffed. Like, I was told by a student that the sound of my walk could be mistaken for a man’s. At Staples, a customer service representative glanced at my plum tattoo and asked, “Eggplant?” I heard a female student, while logging into a classroom computer, mumble, “Let’s see what’s happening at Christian Mingle…”

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Delight myself? Don’t mind if I do!

The bounty of this week’s delights really began when I decided to indulge in the native footwear of my sister-centric culture: lezishly comfortable shoes.

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Doesn’t she remind you of a young Miss Cleo?

I bought these pleather beauties last Sunday and walked/drove in them to my uncle’s nursing home, where I gave him his weekly massage, which isn’t as inbred as it sounds. Post-massage, my uncle walked me to the lobby, where I’d arranged to meet Nagem, my friend and part-time clown who’s involved in an unspeakable feud. Not Auntie Mame. Anti-mime.

She shook hands with my uncle’s hand, the hand of a war hero, and we headed back to my pad to pick up the Teej.

Teej had two gigs, a storytelling deal in Echo Park Park Park…and something kinda Harlem Renaissaucy that was to happen in Long Beach during the witching hour. TJ rode Miss Daisy, Nagem rode shotgun, and as I drove us up northbound freeways, I kept a pink eye out for jaywalkers. Kamikaze jaywalking is a major southern California past time and two nights before, I’d seen one of its enthusiasts splayed on the Seventh Street entrance to the 405. A Range Rover had Twizlered him, his face looked to relaxed to be alive, and a firefighter presided over his body with a clean-up-on-aisle-seven expression.

Pulling into Echo Park Park Park…, TJ leapt out of the car and dashed to the venue for fear of arriving on California time. Late. She abides by an extremely Midwestern value system and along with the belief that green bean casserole is a vegetable, she honors punctuality.

Nagem and I parked so that we were blocking some hipster’s driveway by about one Ikea bookshelf. I believe the model I’m thinking of is the Inyerway. We froggered across Alvarado to get to the joint and commented on how rock star it was that the venue was sardine city, packed to the crannies.

Froggering closer, we realized that Echo Lake Lake Lake…Coffee, the place where Teej was to do her thang, wasn’t the packed place. Echo Lake Lake Lake…(I know, that’s getting old old old…) was the almost empty place to its left.

I spotted TJ ordering tea at the counter, and I tugged at her flannel vest and whispered, “I thought the thing was next door.”

We walked to a table, and she whispered, “So did I. I went in there and I walked up to this chick and I asked her, ‘Are you Tatyana?’ She goes, ‘Non! I am Merci Beaucoup!'”

Names have been changed to protect Merci Beaucoup’s feelings. She comes from a people who experience them.

“What are they doing in there?” I asked.

“French storytelling.”

Once upon a le time…

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The host of our English storytelling series, Tatyana, a deer- crossed with gelfling-like woman welcomed all less-than-ten of us.

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Tatyana happens to share a name with my favorite Colombian poet and slain Russian princess.

She warmed up the room with a story about being coveted by five men in the snow. This was her first time at Sundance. That was the night’s theme. First times. Virginal losses. Although I think it’d be more interesting to have a storytelling night where the theme was a first time that wasn’t really a first time. Like you thought that tampon took your virginity but then found out oh, I still need a wrecking ball.

Tatyana’s chilly story was followed by Trevor Trout’s. He told about his first, and hopefully last time, finding a decapitated person on a local freeway.

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Heading into the slow lane.

Trevor Trout was followed by TJ. She told a story about her first day as a carny.

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Tomboy carny? I need a cold shower.

TJ was followed by Canuck Cat Black. She had an extremely well-fortified hairline and didn’t really tell a story.

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Oh, Canada.

After Canada came Alex Hooper. He plays the stoner mailman on Hot in Cleveland. That’s why looks like the stoner mailman from Hot in Cleveland. He told a story about trying cocaine among the deaf.

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Demonstrating the width of the lines.

After the storytelling was over, I drove us back along freeways while scanning for jaywalkers and heads. I took us home to kill time before TJ’s next show. Time was well slain and there came a time to let live, a time to follow these instructions to the speakeasy where TJ was to be the featured comic at midnight:

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We parked near a Popeye’s Chicken, walked to the back of an apartment complex wearing braces (bars on its windows), and found the aforementioned individual who let us in. Having only read about black speakeasies in history books, I expected to find Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston commiserating on some plush Art Deco settees but instead I got Kobe and some out-of-season hos.

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A teacher I used to work with once quipped that her favorite thing to hear in the locker room, once her privates had become publics, was, “Hey, Miss So-and-so!”

It’s wonderful running into your students when you’re naked.

I kind of felt her locker room pain as I stood next to a crockpot full of gray, speakeasy hot dogs and heard, “Hey, Miss G!”

There stood Langdon, one of my former students, holding a 40 with a great degree of self-confidence.

“Hi!” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m in the band. Grow Room!”

We farted around till it was time for TJ to rock the mike and Grow Room preseeded her with some funk-infused stuff that the speakeasy’s proprietor, Big Sneezy, bobbed his hunchback to.

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Everybody calls the man with the bad posture Keith. That’s not his name.

TJ made many jokes about the crockpot of wieners being brought especially for her, you know, because she doesn’t go that way, and she joked about the tiny Christmas stockings on the walls belonging to Big Sneezy, and the audience was participating in her humor, especially Langdon. He was giving strange answers to questions TJ kept shouting out and finally, she asked him, “Do you do drugs?”

“Not occasionally,” he answered.

We ducked out after her set and chatted outside with a hairdresser and aspiring comic, Pisces, who insisted that we retire the word bangs in favor of the word fringe. Fringe, she argued, has a more international following. Pisces waved bye to us, and smelling of gray hot dogs, we coasted up Atlantic without seeing any heads, bodies, or wieners cluttering the avenue.

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