November 21, 2014
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” I “must not fear daylight just because it almost always illuminates a miserable world.” Mere hours before my appearance tonight at the Skylight Bookstore, I feel nervous and uneasy. On the other hand, I must put that aside, and concentrate on what I’m going to do tonight. The main focus tonight is my book of poems, and I’m presuming that I’m going to have to read some of the work from that book. Events like this, are both a celebration, but it is also a stop in time, where one reflects on what they did - and on top of that, sharing those views with an audience in front of you. To calm myself, I project what will happen later tonight. The event is at 7:30 PM, but I imagine it will really start at 7:45 PM. I will see people I know and I haven’t seen for awhile. What they don’t know is that I’m totally lost in my thoughts. The sense of failure or being embarrassed in front of an audience is a deep and bottomless fear. The imagination can draw up the worst images from the dregs from your worst nightmares. Of course, there are those, who wish that I will fail tonight, so they can just use me as a subject matter for their dinner engagement.
On the other hand, perhaps I’m thinking too much. Especially about myself. What is the worst thing that can happen tonight? Surely Skylight Books will exist no matter how well I do or not do tonight. The audience who will see me is seeing a free event (unless they buy the book). A lot of my friends will be there, and I imagine they want to see me succeed. So it’s a win-win. Unless I really mess up. The problem is that I will be in front of an audience that will be listening to me in great detail. Not only that, but more likely will be focusing on my clothing as well as my nervousness. Some may even be turned-off by my arrogance, not knowing that I’m that way, due to my crippling shyness. Often when someone reads from their work or from a book, the audience tends to drift off, thinking that what they will eat for dinner later that night, or maybe my appearance reminds them of an old boyfriend, and so forth. I may lose half my audience through their daydreaming. Therefore I speak to a full crowd, but maybe only 30% are paying attention to what I’m saying or reading. So I should really concentrate on that 30% - or should I think about trying to get the 70% back to my work and reading? Can I even do that?
Voltaire, a man who I greatly admire by the way, commented “the more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” The thing is, I want to hide this fact from my audience tonight. It is taking place in a bookstore, and not just any bookstore, but one of the best bookstores in Los Angeles. So many smart people are here. Surely they will be aware of the fact that something is up. Clearly they will look behind the curtain, and notice that I’m a total fraud. How can I hide this fact? Or should I be totally honest with my audience.
Ruth Bernstein will be asking me questions. I haven’t the foggiest idea what she will ask me. I just have to presume that it will be about my book. But then again, what happens if she asks me a personal question? Should I give her an honest answer? And the bigger question is: Am I honest? Is honesty good? “I honestly can’t characterize my style in words. It seems that whatever comes to me naturally, I write.” It seems “life obliges me to do something, so I write.” It is really out of my hands. I think I’ll be OK tonight, and if I just think of The Hawk (Coleman Hawkins) playing “September Song” and just go with the flow. At my age, I have always gone forward, and never look back. The fear I have is being trapped in front of the car lights, and forcing myself to see my life passing me by like a bad montage in a b-Hollywood film. I just have to remember “I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way. ”