Saturday, December 11, 2004


Naked poetry non-slam in a raw loft space on a frigid December night.

Sounds ghastly, doesn't it?

It was actually kind of fun.

Of course it started an hour late.

People walked in clothed. The first to disrobe was a bald man who slid into the elevator shaftlike room (yes I said "shaft") behind (!) me, telling his friends to "wait til you see my outfit." I expected skirt, heels and feather boa. But no. He came out white as milk with nothing on but leg and arm warmers and a black felt mohawk held in place with a blue scarf. Others followed, mostly men. It seemed to take the women longer to drop their duds -- or, like girlie bathroom culture, they would disappear in groups and reappear some time later, naked and giggling. One man with grey hair and a beard stayed in his seat and one-by-one took off his shoes, socks, pants, boxers and shirt. He kept on the glasses and tweed blazer. Maybe he too noticed how damn cold the hard (!) metal chairs were (I was wearing four layers of clothes througout, including a turtleneck, jacket, wool socks and winter boots, and sat with arms crossed over my chest). Everyone had to look around to see who else was naked.

By the time it started at 9, about one out of five was naked or partially so, and nearly everyone was white (except for like five people -- a black guy who kept on his shirt (buttoned to the neck) and proved old stereotypes, a really sweet Amerasian woman who came up to me and said, "You look like a reporter" (could it have been the big yellow notepad? Or was it the way I was trying to shrink -- ha, there was a lot of shrinkage going on...or else I've been a *really* lucky girl -- into the wall?), a Latino guy in a leather jacket or two and a tough Latina sex worker-poet (that seems to be the cool profession these days. So SoHo. So HBO). People really seemed to need accessorize their nudity, either with body paint, boas, neckties, socks, cool boots, hats or tutus. A lot of the men appeard to think that "topless with a sarong" was the dress code. Someone should have told them how to tie it. I tried to look at faces but when it came to the men I could not stop myself from checking out their giblets. Then I'd look down and notice things like nicely-shaped feet or a weird Jeebus tattoo on the calf.

The poetry was pretty good. One woman nursed her kid onstage while reciting a really funny piece about all the places she'd suckled the thing (the other kid hid behind her, clutching her pants -- which were on). There was very little pretension and a lot of laughing; everyone was advised to give each poet a "10" score and they complied, making jazz hands each and every time. Not very Marc Smith (thank Sita).

I saw people from my tenure at Chicago Diner 15 years ago and that I know through yoga and through bicycling and from the punk rock scene of the early 1980's (most of whom were clothed). I also saw a guy whom I last spoke to in Mysore, in January (clothed, but not in Muslimwear this time around). In that respect it reminded me of the "this is your life" aspect of the 40 in 04 party last summer -- only the people were more peripheral and it was sans Deceptos and frantic dancers.

At one point the hostess, who is lovely and wore a white tutu and long striped socks and red hearts painted on her breasts (and about whom I'm writing a profile) told everyone to do the church thing and shake hands with the person next to them. Everyone had very good handshakes! (bad handshake almost always=bad man). And I got to talk to the cute guy sitting near me (long clean NICE hair, glasses, tall, handsomely dressed). Scary, he knew my last name, had read my stuff in YC and noticed that my byline's virtually disappeared from the Backwards R. I immediately forgot his name and of course botched the followup question: So, you do yoga? One day I will get the balls to finish a conversation and ask for a number. Come to think of it I guess I could have gotten some there (ba-DUM-dum).....

At about 11 I took off. But not before noticing that more and more people were going to the makeshift bar in back and getting naked. Clothes were everywhere -- on racks, in piles on the floor. People were chatting it up big-time. The energy was good. Then I noticed that a couple of the guys were walking around nonchalantly, their cox sticking straight out, half or fully hard. They were holding coversations and sipping their white wine and applauding the poets like it was no big deal. Now *that* was weird. I mean, it was *really* cold in there. And what were they planning to do with those things, anyway...?

* "gusˇcˇija iznutrica" in Serbo-Croation

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