On February 9, I read at the Tractor Tavern. The reading was put together by the fine organization Nextbook, whose mission is to stage literary events with Jewish themes and Jewish writers. I was included because I am a writer and I am Jewish, but please don't tell the authorities should they come looking for me if things turn scary in this country (or, rather, more scary). Anyway, Nextbook had labeled the event "Hot and Bothered" and the general theme was sex, and there were three of us Jewish writers: myself, Neal Pollack, and Lynn Harris.
The event began at 7:35 p.m. with a band, Drive By Star. The lead singer had an earnest, soulful face, a large earring, a shaved head, and a brown hat. I was sitting off to the side and I admired his profile. He sang with his mouth very close to the microphone and this made it difficult to understand his lyrics, but this is often the case with live music. It's the rock 'n' roll version of the emperor has no clothes—why isn't it more often pointed out that you can't understand what the hell a singer is singing?
As the band played, an attractive middle-aged couple was dancing rather intimately and passionately in the bar area while everyone else stood around. The man had a gray beard and the woman was a pretty blonde, and they were both dressed in black, including black fedora-like hats. They were clearly quite smitten with each other, and I silently applauded their love.
When the band stopped, Neal Pollack came on stage to read. I had read the previous two nights with Neal in Washington, D.C., and Chicago and knew that his first piece contained the word "cunt" and that it would be repeated several times. There were two nice-looking female senior citizens in the front row and I was having a codependent crisis—I was terribly worried that these women would be offended. One of the ladies was in a jean dress that went from neck to ankle and she had on a little knit hat. With great trepidation I checked their faces when Neal said "cunt" for the first time, but there was almost no reaction in either of them, though the woman in the jean dress appeared to manufacture a flicker of a smile.
After Neal, Lynn Harris read a piece in which she confessed to having been "rabbi-curious" and then how she subsequently fell in love with a rabbi. It was an absolutely charming story, though it made me wonder if one is bi-curious and rabbi-curious, do you just shorten it to rab-bi-curious?
After Lynn, it was my turn to read and I was a bit woozy, I have to say. It was my fifth reading in six nights (in addition to the Nextbook readings, I'm on a little tour for my new book of essays, I Love You More Than You Know), and I've been getting very little sleep each night. So as I read my essay "Bald, Impotent, and Depressed," my legs were weak and tremulous beneath me and my mind, at times, was elsewhere. Where it was, exactly, I can't tell you.
When I was done reading I signed some of my books. One young man approached me and gave me a tiny comic book, which he had drawn. I didn't look at it until after he left, and I thought it was very good, except that the book culminated, suddenly and inexplicably, with a bald man in a jacket and tie having his eyes plucked out. I am bald and that night in Seattle I was wearing, as I often do, a jacket and tie. I'm not sure if the blinded man is supposed to be me, but, regardless, it's a fine little book—off-putting and comedic.
Another Seattleite, a very nice woman, brought copies of my books from the library and urged me to sign them, but like a prude I refused to do so. She also brought her dog for me to meet—she had read how I love dogs—and so outside the Tractor Tavern I got to hug and kiss a very lovely pooch.
And another young fellow kindly gave me a mixed tape (there's an essay in my new book about a mixed tape) and an advertisement for a transsexual escort (there's also an essay about transsexual escorts), and both things were greatly appreciated.
In conclusion, I have to say that the people of Seattle are very generous, kind, and odd—I was presented with gifts and pets, and I may have been blinded, like Oedipus, in a comic book.