One day a month now, the fourth Monday, to be exact, I wake with a sense of rumbling anxiety, that old nearly-extinct shyness trying to creep back in. And to remember that I've brought this on myself serves no good purpose. So I roll from my bed and move forward into the day, knowing that at 8pm that night, I'll stand in front of a group of various and assorted poets, musicians and Columbia City bar trolls, microphone turned on, and start up my monthly open mic.
Actually, the moment I walk into the bar, I slip easily into the persona. It seems like a bit of specious magic, but it works, so I don't question it. Last night I lugged-in parts of the sound system, and enlisted a few men to deal with the heavier pieces of equipment. One even cheerfully volunteered to crawl under the pinball machine to plug in the extension cord. (A man-servant is a useful thing.) Once everything was appropriately electrified, the house music killed, I tested the mic with a hello howdy and we were ready to roll.
Host! (Does anyone still use the word hostess?!) I'm the confident one with the clipboard (with the Rosellini for Governor! sticker on the back — he who was last governor in Washington state in 1965) who circulates from table to table signing people up. I'm the person who introduces each poet and musician, who makes small talk at the mic before the intermission, the person who starts the whole thing up again after intermission. I'm the person circulating about the room, making certain to have a friendly word with everyone who's come out for the evening. I'm the person who, while packing up the equipment, makes an effort to thank each and every person as they head out the door, knowing always there will be one or two I'll miss.
And finally, I'm the person hunkered down in the corner booth at the end of the evening with the last few straggler-poet-musicians, unwinding our stories and laughing at as many things as possible, our drinks diminished to a few clinks of ice, Phil the bartender behind the counter calculating the tabs.
I'll leave The Hummingbird Saloon close to midnight, in a state of weary elation for the undeniable fun it all was among these friends who are the best of the best, and, once in bed, wonder who that woman was who got up in front of all those people in a bar — a bar, for god's sake — and pulled it together.