Back in 2011, I was having one of my best years as a live poet; I was doing at least a gig a week, sometimes two or three, hell I did three gigs in one day back in August. Most of them were triumphs, I did my first live show out of state at Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago, I recorded a couple live albums, it was a pretty good year. But I’m not here to tell a story about my triumphs on stage.
It was December 14th, I had finished my last final of the year and getting ready to move back home. My buddy Jimmie wanted to go out for a beer, so he came over. I suggested we call our buddy Ryan to see if he wanted to join us in a cold one.
I call Ryan and he says, “I can’t join you right now, but I’ll be out for your show tonight.”
I said, “What show? No, my show is tomorrow night, I’m booked at Coffee Grounds.”
“I thought you had a performance at Zims tonight, they said you’re performing.”
“Huh? Well I guess we’ll see you there.”
I hang up, and Jimmie looks at me sort of funny. I call the barkeep at Zims and she tells me, “Yeah, I thought we were doing the poetry thing on a weekly basis, I have you booked for 10:00.” I said OK and hung up.
So there I was, with a last minute booking, no time to really promote it or really get a good original set list together. Jimmie and I headed out to Ginny’s, one of our favorite local dives where we got a couple of power mugs, these big quart glass mugs of draft brew. I’m sitting there, pounding down this beer, flipping through notebooks and poetry books, trying to get a set together before I had to hit the stage at Zims.
After the power mugs, we went back to Jimmie’s place and I tried to get some last minute publicity drummed up. It was scheduled to be amateur night anyway, so I thought there’d at least be a few people out there to catch some of the upcoming and local drag queens, along with the notorious gonzo poet.
We went out to Zims at about 9:00; it was getting a bit nasty outside, not horrible, but cold and rainy. We walk in and it’s empty, there’s a few guys hanging out at the end of the bar, I recognize one of them, and that’s it. It’s alright, it was early, surely a few more would show up, so we ordered a pitcher of draft and hung around, I was still putting together my set list. It looked like I was the only one who showed up to perform, so it was all me that night.
10:00 rolls around and still nobody’s there. We decided to wait a bit longer, I ordered another pitcher of brew, Jimmie declined to have any more since he had to drive. At around 10:30, I said fuck it and went to do the show.
We move into the showroom, there’s me on stage, Jimmie, a couple of guys from the bar, and the sound guy. I’m up there on stage, pitcher of beer next to me, along with an ashtray, and my set list in my bag.
There were no other poets, no drag queens, just me. So I went through a forty-five minute set completely smashed, the previous beers were kicking in and the current beers were catching up. I did a couple of originals, but it was a lot of covers, I did some Ginsberg, some Bukowski naturally, and ended the set with Eric Norris’ three part piece “A Life”.
I stumbled off stage to a bit of scattered applause and Jimmie and I headed for the door. It wasn’t a total bust, the sound guy said he dug it and the other dudes in the showroom seemed to enjoy my act. It wasn’t my best performance, but I made it through and still got a good reaction from the few people there to see it.
Funny post script to that story, the next night, I did my gig at Coffee Grounds, it was a packed house, a good rowdy crowd, a forty-five minute set of originals, and one of the best performances I ever did in Terre Haute, IN.