Going to Readings

As part of my residency, I decided to go to some readings. There are lots of readings in the San Francisco Bay Area, one almost every night of the week. Here are some tips for going to readings:

  • Show up on time and find the front door locked. Realize only nerds and uncool people show up on time. You are punctual and therefore uncool.
  • Bring small bills in case of door fee, and to tip bartenders.
  • According to Facebook, four of your friends said they were going. Zero of them will show up.
  • Recognize no one and sit by yourself. Open the book you brought and read.
  • Decide you never really cared for authors reading their own work—never sounds as good as actors reading at Selected Shorts.
  • Think, you could be at home reading something you know you’d like…and you could’ve saved $7 for the train, $5 for the entrance fee, and $3 for your soda. And you wouldn’t have had to see the woman on the BART go off her meds and shout “Mother Fucker!” and slam her head angrily into the card divider doors and pull up her pants or watch her shout at no one (at the sky?) in the other car.
  • Assess why you came in the fist place: to socialize. So what are your other socializing options, since this reading thing isn’t that interesting? You have been invited to pub crawls, but your drinking days are over…you’re about to become a mother. And besides, no San Francisco pub crawl experience can compare to the awesomeness of drinking in Prague where bars and dance clubs were open until dawn and been was cheaper than water and Pilsner ran on tap at the school cafeteria and teachers went out with you and you all got hammered. Or in Chico where there were 3 bars on each block, and you could walk home after Duffy’s, Lost on Maine, Crazy Horse, Normal Street bar, University Bar, and Oasis. Then stumble home and throw up in the bushes. If you can’t do a pub crawl like that, there’s really no point in doing it at all. That was a young woman’s game and you don’t even want that anymore.
  • Take notes on readings, and decide to leave at intermission.
  • Before leaving, go to the women’s restroom. While waiting, overhear the typical San Francisco small-talk:

“You from here?”

“The Central Valley.”

“Oh, I was born here in the city.”

“You’re so lucky! What an amazing place to be from.”

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a dog walker, but eventually I’d like to get my own office. I live with a couple in the Richmond.”

“How’s the weather in the Richmond?”

“Weather has been good, but strange. Hard to complain about all this sunshine.” Especially with the East Coast, but still…we can smell the fire, the drought burning. Burning, waterless apocalypse.

“Oh, is that skirt vintage?!”

  • Reflect that this reading wasn’t a total loss.
  • Decide you will continue to go to readings during the residency. At the very least, it is a chance to get out of the house, even if you sit by yourself.

About E.S.O. Martin

E.S.O. Martin is a writer, a California native, and a graduate of SF State's Creative Writing MFA program.
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