Written By: Annette Scanlon
Going into LA on the weekends is my new thing. When you’re single, in your twenties, and know that you would otherwise be sitting at home watching episodes of Charmed and cuddling with your cat, it’s nice to have some place to be on a Saturday night. The Saturday night after a sort-of-sad-and-lonely Valentine’s Day featured one of my good friends doing his first public reading. Of course I wanted to be there for that.
There was a taco truck outside The Virgil, welcoming me in from over an hour of stop-and-go traffic. When I entered the doors, there was a gorgeous woman in high heels walking around the bar with a tray of books, asking if we’d like to peruse her wares. My classmates from UCR Palm Desert’s MFA Program ushered me in, gave me hugs, and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to make use of the kissing booth—often. I spotted one of the readers for the night—Xach Fromson, who entered our graduate program the same quarter I did.
I knew a good number of people in the crowd from the program, but by the time the reading actually started there was such a good turnout, and so many people I’d never seen before, that it was hard to navigate the floor. For only a dollar I could get a kiss on the cheek from one of the readers. They all took turns manning the kissing booth, and I donated twice. We signed our names in lipstick on a big mirror to show that we’d participated.
Natashia Deon, founder of Dirty Laundry Lit and alumna extraordinaire of our grad program, took the stage to get us started. She introduced Jeff Eyres, also an alumni of the program, and host of Dirty Laundry Lit. He comes by it honestly—Jeff has written for Saturday Night Live, and is all-around the kind of guy that you love knowing and love listening to. Jeff talked about things that, for an avid reader and writer, pulled heartstrings. The ways that loving literature made us freaks when we were young, how we’re still weird but able to bond over it now. That first book that made you realize that this, this is the most important thing, this is what makes us feel, makes us think, makes us love.
When it came down to it, the readings made me laugh, made me cry, made me shake my head in amazement or nod along in agreement. I felt involved, an active listener, as only good readers can make you feel. The theme of the night was LOVE SUCKS, fitting and a little humorous after my lonely Valentine’s Day. But there are many types of love, and the readers touched on a good deal of them.
Jeff started us off with a tale of bromance from his early years that ended in tragedy. Stephanie Janis read a piece about loving thy neighbor (or failing to do so, as it were), and she emphasized the expletives and imitated her neighbor’s voice just right. Xach read a story about an eight year-old raising his dog from the dead so that he could have a chance to say good-bye. Lee Cohn stunned us with a passionate narrative about a lover that just couldn’t stay faithful. Zoe Ruiz, wearing the red Orphan Annie dress featured in her essay, read about an encounter with her favorite porn star. Monica Carter shared a story of a prostitute searching for God’s love, and Chiwan Choi made the room go teary-eyed with his poems about loss. Romus Simpson wrapped up the night with a spoken word poem about young love, and then, too soon, we were all sad that it was over.
The line-up was perfect, the order perfect for amping up the audience’s emotions so that there were equal parts laughter and tears, joy and sorrow. It wasn’t a draining experience, either, the way that creativity can sometimes be. The readings made you feel charged with creative potential, thankful of the complexities and ranges of human emotion. We were all plugged in more so than we ever could be by checking Facebook or sharing things on Tumblr.
It was a powerful night, full of talent and love and passion. It’s always a powerful thing to connect with people over that one thing that grabs you—the joys of literature—but when an event is orchestrated as beautifully as this one, it makes you glad to be alive, glad to have gotten to witness something that enriches our lives and the world.
Like I told Natashia—it was my first Dirty Laundry Lit experience, but now I can’t stop. I’ll be at all the ones to come, and love every minute of them.