Wednesday, April 23, 2003

What ever made me think that I'd find convenient parking when I decided to drive in this morning? Ended up in a parking lot after driving around for 20 minutes looking. Planning to avoid Hartsdale while Salomé and the kids are gone so I had to pack a bag this morning to get me through Saturday at least. Was planning to go to the Mets game tonight but it's kind of cold and I'm barely avoiding being sick as it is.

Went to Acentos last night, tired as hell. Mondays are killer and Tuesdays should have me in bed early but it's worth the exhaustion. Grisel featured and it was nice to see and hear her again. She had a brief run at 13 back in 2000, I think. Pretty solid set, though she seemed a bit nervous. Want to get her for a Monday at some point, maybe put her in a louderJAM to reintroduce her to the crowd. Our Latina representation is terrible and I want to fix that. Had an interesting conversation with Luis on Monday about it. While his focus was on gay Latinos, it made me think about our cast of our regulars to see how diverse we really are. At first glance, we've got a solid black contingent, but when you look closer, it's primarily Carribean-Americans. If you know, you know there's a difference. Ironically, since '99 and the New Jersey invasion, the Nuyorican has been the primary "black" venue. Since Oscar and Fish became regulars, our Latino contingent has grown significantly. Latinas, on the other hand, are virtually non-existent. At least on the stage. We used to have a strong Asian representation but that's faded a bit over the past couple of years. Plenty of white women, only a smattering of white guys. We've always had a solid lesbian mix, not so much gay men, though. The reality is the sum is much greater than its parts, though, as overall, I believe we're still one of the most diverse, welcoming communities on the scene.

Speaking of Mondays, the slam went well, with one disappointment. T'ai was in a zone, laying her claim in the first round and never looking back. At least two out-of-towners pulled me aside during the night to say, "So, she'll definitely be on your team." Nothing's guaranteed but if she isn't a front-runner, who is? Shawn took second with some surprisingly reserved but intense performances. His freestyle in the fourth round, incorporating the other four poets in the slam, got the high score of the night as well as some misguided hateration. Many slam elitists (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) hate freestyle but I think it perfectly embodies one of the most appealing aspects of slam: taking risks. It's something I don't do nearly enough and have the utmost respect for. On the other end of the spectrum was Lynne, coming in third place, barely separating herself from Mara who almost pulled off the upset. After a flat second round performance of Rakim (so amazing in collaboration, I wonder if she's lost the feel for it solo) dropped her from second to fourth place, she went to the well in the third round, pulling out the oldie, Pretenders. I've got a love/hate thing with that poem for several reasons. Love it because I partly inspired it in '97, a blistering response to an early version of 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute that sent me back to the revision table. Hate it because it's THAT old and the original emotion behind it is rarely there anymore. My thing with slam is it should first be about the poetry, about keeping things fresh, about taking risks. The competition comes second. Veterans that go to the well when their backs are against the wall, IMO, violate that spriit. It's something I've always been against; quite vocally, too. Anyway, that performance pulled her back into a tie with Mara for third, setting up a showdown in the final round. So it was back to the well again, for Elemental Woman, one of the best things she's ever written, a poem that should always be a part of her feature set, but definitely not something I want to hear her do in a slam, especially on the heels of Pretenders. It nailed her her highest score for the night and ended up making the difference. Mara was a trooper, though. It's no secret she's one of my favorites for this year and I would love nothing more than for her to make the team as I think she brings a totally different set of experiences to the stage. She weathered the first spot in the first round, ending up fourth, but only 0.4 points away from third place. Like Sabrina last week, she was the only one to improve her score each round. In the end, Lynne edged her out by 0.8 points. Finally, Ray who stood tall despite an uphill climb from the beginning, made it clear that he's got the tools to compete and now, he's got some experience under his belt. Like Oscar last week, if he takes the positives from the experience and keeps working the craft, he'll be in the mix again next year, and not as an underdog.

Next Monday is the one I'm looking forward to most. And not just because Maya Azucena is featuring! It's the most diverse lineup of the three semis, a solid mix of humor and seriousness with the most unpredictable top three.

Salomé and the kids just landed in Virginia a few minutes ago. It's Isaac and India's first plane ride and I'm disappointed I couldn't be on it with them. They're going to have a good time down there, especially Isaac with all the things they've bought him. And my mother's only seen India once so she'll be ecstatic. Hopefully Salomé is able to get some sleep while she's down there. Even one night or a couple of naps will make a difference. Hopefully I'll be smart enough to get some sleep myself while they're gone, too.

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