days of naze
|i want to feel the fire of the dream
reflected in the silver age
A little audio gift (85 kb .wav)
for my Faithful readers on
the first anniversary (7/14/99) of
the site. Hand cranked to help
you on the long march.
An obnoxiously large
(101k .wav) audio greeting
from the Author.
|October 16, 1999
part 3 of 4 in Drop Zone SF
The desk clerk made it clear in no uncertain terms that I damn well better be ready when the taxi arrived.
I might have to wait an hour for it (high demand at 7 p.m. on Saturday), but it could be here within minutes. She didn't want the hotel getting a bad rap with the cabbies from slugabed guests I guess.
I was ready.
I had been anticipating tonight for several months and had diligently pieced together my little story for the event. Performing always makes me nervous inside, but I'm fine if I've really prepared.
I picked out the story about 6 weeks prior. (I find that it's getting harder to recall tales with a real zing now that I've skimmed the cream over the last year...) I purposely composed it orally so that I wouldn't be dependent on written notes and practiced in my car on the commute to and from work, polishing up the phrasing here and there.
As I waited in the hotel room, I pulled a folded up used envelope out of my pocket, the kind I like to make notes on. Cathy hasn't always been that enthusiastic about my writing and I don't think she really groks the Web. Which is sometimes difficult because I wouldn't be doing this if I weren't drawn to it like a sailor to the sea.
I found the note waiting for me early on the morning of my flight to SF:
That meant a lot to me. (Isn't she sweet? Except that "annoying" part. ;-) Maybe I'm pressing my luck. I hope you appreciate my revealing some pet names here, people.)
The cab came in minutes. I hopped in front with the driver, a man who looked to be about my age (mid-thirties). He discreetly inquired about my destination that evening.
And I told him about the fray. How fray tapped the rich story-telling potential of the Web. How fray told personal stories from regular people and how fray was special because it broke through the wall between author and audience by inviting your participation, telling your story in turn. How it showed a doubtful world that the Web has a magic that everyone can touch and create.
It took only a few minutes to explain all this and I felt that satisfaction one feels when you've said exactly what you feel in your heart. This was going to be a good night. I tipped generously and stepped up to the curb in front of Cell.
I immediately recognized Shauna and decided to introduce myself. I'd exchanged a few e-mails with her and found her to be warm and supportive. I stepped into the informal gallery to the welcome table where I made my contribution to the evening's festivities ($USD) and picked up my sticker that read "tell me a story about _______". Perhaps an overweening pride and a subconscious resistance provoked my choice of "photosynthesis".
And then stepping up to the table, perhaps my very favorite person on the Web, the host for fray3, Derek M. Powazek.
I could tell he didn't recognize me right off, so I took the initiative, introducing myself with open arms, inviting the comrade hug, not something I ordinarily do. It just felt right. I know he gets a jillion e-mails a day, but we had exchanged enough that summer that I felt that there was a foundation of friendship.
The Frayed One was clearly energized by the gathering. There was a brightness in his face and a snap to his movements as he greeted guests and coordinated the volunteers, which was all the more impressive knowing some of the sheer personal hell he had been through over the last 4 weeks.
He introduced me to Lance Arthur. Omigod. The Lance Arthur. Be cool. Finish writing on your nametag. Don't be a spazz. Trying to sound very off-hand, "Hey, I've been reading your stuff for ages." [A true statement, since about his 4th month of Web publishing.]
Lance, gruffly, "That's because it's so old." Ulps. Not knowing whether that was the entrez into some form of friendly verbal combat or the end of a very short conversation, I smiled, and moved on to the next room.
Overlooking the ballroom sized black space below is a deck-like area with a row of 3 Macs next to a table with chairs. Derek introduced me to Allura and Michael, who invited me to join in the game they had prepared, and was off.
I read a lot of Allura's stuff in her "I Am Smitten" phase a while back, but for some reason I didn't at that moment connect Michael with his work on theotherside.org. He's an excellent photographer, who, for a period longer than a year published a photo and a short essay every single day.
Allura explained that they were doing "fraylibs" as their performance for the evening. She handed me a big felt marker (mmm, felt marker...) and a pad of paper. Scratch the answers to her questions on the paper, then Michael would shoot you posing with your answers. The images would be html'd into a fine souffle and served at a later date.
I love a good game and this was a free-associator's dream. I think they did a marvelous job. Here's a link to fraylibs, but I've got more story here, so don't be long.
O.k.? See how shy I am in front of the lens?
Tarin Towers was last year's emcee and had returned for a reprise tonight. After she did her fraylibs (badass answers to questions 2 and 7, I might add), I asked her what were some of the mistakes of last year's performers to be avoided.
In a straight-faced, no bullshit tone: "Reading it all straight from the page. Not looking up at the audience. Going too long." I then proceeded to kick over her Coke which was on the floor with the cap almost all the way on, but not quite. Lamely, I confessed to the offense and stood there as a little fizzle fizzed onto the floor. "Well, you could clean it up."
I got a glass of red (quite good plus the added bonus of having the word "barefoot" in it's name) and mingled a bit with the wine server volunteer, Carl, who gamely responded to my nametag's request (i.e. "tell me a story about photosynthesis"). At one point in his college career, he had to be restrained from repeated attempts to revive a clearly dead houseplant. Admirably quixotic.
Derek began strumming a guitar onstage, the signal for all to take to the ratty but comfortable couches. The performance portion of the evening had begun.
I settled onto a scarlet sofa next to Carl and Una to drink in the stories and music and await my moment.
It was easily one of the most fascinating set of live performances I've witnessed. If you looked around the room, you wouldn't automatically conclude that virtually everyone in the house would mount the stage and face what is regularly ranked among the top 3 fears of humankind: public speaking. And yet that is what happened.
The evening's performance was netcast and may be available at the fray3 site in the coming weeks. (I'll notify you when it's up.) It will be a great listen as you sit at the PC and browse about. I imagine it will be broken up into a bunch of chunks, because this puppy ran about 5 hours.
I'll give you a few memories as a preview...
Ian (a.k.a. The Octopus Messiah) is a California expatriot and author living in London who flew in for Burning Man and fray3. He recited a poem from his book, an epic tale of an encounter with a powerful hallucinogen told in Seussian rhyme and meter at a blistering tempo with honkin' big crescendos at the end of each verse. He went way long and his performance was huge and dramatic. Frankly, I thought he was hilarious. But Derek correctly sensed a major trepidation amongst the folks who would have to follow this guy and called for a quick break.
The variety of performances kept it fresh. Most people told stories, but there were poems, songs, an aborted puppet show and even animation.
In a break between performances Derek reminded everyone who wanted to perform to sign up. Uh-oh. I foolishly assumed that I had already been signed up. Not wanting to interrupt the current speaker, I waited for him to finish and hunted down our host and the clipboard. Ack! Not on the list and about 12 ahead of me.
I studied communication in school and learned very early that the best times to speak are either at the beginning or at the end. I generally like to confront my anxiety by getting it over quickly. No dice here. The only time when it's bad to go at the end is when the event runs very long. Crap.
A month after the event I recall moments that stood out: a very funny poem by Tarin, Michelle Compton telling a moving personal family story, a hilarious song in which "avocado" is rhymed with "horchata", a Mexican drink made with milk, I believe. Lance had to be coaxed into it, but he talked about the time when he got his head stuck in a mailbox while wearing roller skates, which elicited gales of laughter. And another personal favorite: a man who sang the praises of the right-click mouse.
Carl, my couchmate, who looked prototypically Midwestern to me, had in fact grown up in Taiwan. He talked about his bizarre encounter with the matriarchy of the indigenous people of that country at a "dance" where the mix consisted of one Michael Jackson song repeated over and over and over. Really wild stuff.
Of course, the night wasn't just one long laff riot. Derek talked about the recent demise of his 4 year relationship and coping with the pain.
Derek had asked participants to limit their time to 5 minutes, but quite honestly there weren't many who did. Being a late night person and having a wonderful time, I didn't mind. The adrenaline of anticipation had mostly worn off by now (about 1 a.m.).
A young man in the Jewish equivalent of dreadlocks (very defined curls that run down each side of the face where sideburns might normally be) took the stage in a black Orthodox looking hat and an accordion. He along with a sidekick started an odd little game with some puppets and then casting the puppets aside, told the story of a Jewish scholar who was striving for true knowledge of the Talmud but never quite seemed to achieve it despite unflagging efforts. A wise rabbi explained to him that one must read the Talmud so that it brings joy to your heart. And then Ariel (I believe the storyteller's name) burst into a beautiful Hebrew chant, in the voice of the wise rabbi expressing exactly what he meant in the clearest possible way.
The depth and diversity of talent was incredible. And brave.
Oh, by the way. Naze, you're next.
I gamely took the stage wondering when I was going to catch a break. I had prepared a brief intro which incorporated some things I learned at my first Japanese tea ceremony last April, but the point of the story was now rendered a bit moot (I'll tell it here at a later date). I jettisoned that on the spot and told my story of 2 surprises on a prior trip to San Francisco: 1 very nice, 1 not so nice. [They're still working on making the audio of the evening available. It would be very cool to be able to hear those performances again. I'll go with a text version here within the next month or so if it doesn't happen.]
[UPDATE 10/20/99 - Derek put up the fray3 audio on 10/18. It is with mixed emotions that I point you there. Nearly everything is as wonderful as I remembered. It is with some horror that I relive my performance. I have never repeated the phrase "and, um" so many times in my entire life, nor have I stuttered whole phrases so frequently as I did that night. And yet I am compelled to inform you that if you pull the RealAudio slider about three quarters of it's distance, you will be close to my mildly amusing story which is only partially soiled by my telling of it. Mom: I use the "f" word in the first sentence. You might want to skip this one.]
Again harkening back to my days in school, I had pretty well contained the story into about 6 minutes, which given the circumstances served me well. I felt pretty good about it and managed to prove that the audience hadn't fallen asleep by getting one pretty solid laugh from the crowd.
Not long after, the night ended with a song by our host. Most people split pretty quickly after that. But I did recognize someone off to the side involved in a conversation. Knowing that this was going to be pretty much the only time I would ever meet Rebecca Eisenberg face-to-face, I pulled out the camera, politely interrupted them and asked her if she wasn't too afraid I might be a stalker, could I please get my picture taken with her?
Well, so much for disposable cameras.
Luckily for me, my next volunteer shooter, Maggie Powers, rocked.
Two happy campers (me and Derek). This guy can light up a room, something that certainly shines throughout his work, but must be experienced firsthand to be fully appreciated.
Me, Adam Rakunas, and a couple of other guys helped stack the couches, but everyone had done such a good job cleaning up there wasn't much more left to do.
I took a familiar post-gig pass through the hall with Derek (he discovered a pouch of his CDs -- yes, the post-gig pass always pays). Out into the night air. The consensus of the remaining frayers was hunger. A short ride in the fraymobile (Derek's Honda with "thefray" vanity plates and a "Microsoft Must Die" bumper sticker) brought us to a rendesvous of the survivors at Sparky's, 2 a.m.
As we waited for a table (yes, you heard correctly, waited for a table at 2 a.m.), I served an appetizer of Wint-O-Green LifeSavers™ to a famished Maggie Powers. In short order I came to learn that Maggie grew up in a little town in Oregon (Vernonia) just about 30 miles west of where I went to high school (Scappoose), and went to Reed College in Portland (the school for the terminally brilliant) before moving to the Bay Area. As a fellow Oregonian, I was proud to hear her say that she had a love/hate relationship with California.
Those who had participated in fray2 a year ago seemed to agree that fray3 had a great audience that really set the stage for a more satisfying performance experience.
As you all know, I suck at names. Sorry. From left to right: Shauna's mate (who has a name, I know), Shauna, Derek, Maggie, the lovely lady friend of the man next to her, Derek's friend who is responsible for the "Indian feather's" above Adam's head -- not me, moi, Adam, and Adam's lovely date.
Cheese fries and a chocolate malt were the proper punctuation for what had been one hell of a day.
As I mentioned a few entries back, these Web-to-face things can be a little dicey, but this one came up 7's all night long.
It seemed to me that a huge percentage of everyone who walked in the door at fray3 stepped up to the mic. Undaunted by occasional brilliance, people got up there and put themselves on the line. I really respect that.
The source of the Net's power has nothing to do with wires and fibers and servers. It all begins with the desire of a single person to tell their story, which is fulfilled in a fundamentally human way through the desire of another to hear it and perhaps to respond in kind.
And tonight I say unto you: give in to that Desire.
p.s. Leisa gives my Episode I treatment the thumbs up. Think George will give me a meeting on the Episode III screenplay?
p.p.s. "You want me to keep coming back here time after time only to find you haven't updated?" No: new days notification.
|previously on days of naze :
sf part 2 - walkabout
what have you done for me lately? don't make me come out there an slap you.
|May you never be more active
when you are doing nothing.
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
-Carl W. Buehner
|in the feedbag:
film: Run, Lola, Run (A-) - the first German film I've seen in quite some time, multiple endings to a bracing dilemma, groovy; Stalag 17 (B+) - a solid movie from William Wilder, circa 1950.
CD: Right now - Maria McKee bootleg compilation "Gang of Angels" - breathtaking, bringing back my crush I've been nursing since 1985; Bach's Concerto in D minor for 2 violins, largo ma non tanto, one of the most beautiful movements in music, period.
magazine: Why aren't you reading the October issue of Vanity Fair? A devastating piece on Pope Pius XII's suppression of the German clergy which severely weakened opposition to the Nazi's. Also a fine article on director William Wilder.
book: The Last Full Measure by Jeff M. Shaara - historical fiction tracking the lives of Grant, Lee and another fellow in the final year of the Civil War.
favorite downloads: QuickTime - I actually figured out how to download the Episode I trailer into a zip file so I could play the thing whenever I wanted - whee!; Real Jukebox - kicks ass, especially the multiple choices of skins - my favorite: Juketube.
web: You'll need QuickTime to view fray3 performer Lev's smart, funny and occasionally R-rated animation. Try "Party".
© christopher naze