You walked into the party, like you were walking onto a yacht.
Remember a few years back when that rumor started surfacing about Carly Simon, and how she would raffle off who that song was written about to the highest E-Bay bidder?
Some of my workmates were pretty sure it was James Taylor, where me and a few others were more than certain that it had to be Warren Beatty.
Well, after attending Mike Finley's "THE UPSET SEA" reading, at Trotters Cafe, what was it? Maybe the autumn of 2010....I might have to reconsider.
The story goes like this.......
At this period of time, Finley was in one of life's dark corners.
By his standards, he hadn't been out on the streets as much, he wasn't blitzing social media like he likes to do, and he hadn't read publicly in a long while.
Well, right when it got to the point where people were wondering if or when he would resurface, a mass E-Mail was sent out informing the people of his world, that he would be conducting an intimate reading. much of which focused on the trip he had taken to Alaska with with wife.
We were promised by Finley that he had some observations and ideas to share with us that were inspiring to him.
Basically,in my thoughts.....I just think that when Mike spent his "Dark Period" that it was hard for him to find not so much stuff that he could write about, but content that he wanted to talk about.
There is a difference.
So the gig was lined up at Trotters Cafe (a reading venue set up by James Silas Rogers)which conveniently was located just blocks from the Finley estate.
It was good to see my mentors former countenance returning.
For the next week he assaulted Facebook and many other outlets with invitations for his....well he'd just call it his show, but in many ways I feel this night was his resurfacing.
Trotters Cafe is a nice place to have lunch with some friends, or to grab coffee or a beer with a family member, but in many ways it is an unusual location to hold readings.
The place is made up of three rooms.
If you are walking through the front door, the threshold enters into the dining room on the far right.
The room I like to refer to as Room #3.
To the left is the hub of the cafe. This is where the ordering counter is located, and if you head towards the back, that is the area that allows you access to the kitchen, we'll call this room #2.
If you move a little further to the left, their is a long, almost corridor looking space, and you can only enter it through a narrow passage towards the front of the building.
This is room #3.
Room #3 is where the readings are held.
The presenter is stationed at the back of this room and usually stands over a modest podium which is aided by an even more modest sound system.
Not much is required, since there is only 7 or 8 tables in there.
In case you didn't know this, poets are extremely needy people....LOL and Finley is certainly no exception.
He'd been out of the loop for awhile.
As each day counted down closer to this "Intimate Reading" I could see him getting more excited.
We talked in the evenings prior to this occasion, and the thing that cracked me up was...well first off, I wasn't familiar with the work he was going to unleash, but some of the poems were actually kinda long.
Finley has told me in the past...."Any poem that is more than 16 or 20 lines should be read at a campfire, not from a literary platform."
So when I reminded him of this, he laughed and told me that he just taught me facts in case I wanted to become a great poet, but one of the reason he hadn't found "The Commercial Jackpot" was because he hated following rules....even his own.
That's what I admire about Finley.
As he approaches each project, verse or line.....he simply does what he thinks is best for it, not his status, or poetry career.
So now its the evening of the show.
The microphone was getting clicked on at 7 p.m.
Finley can walk to this venue in about 5 minutes, so when I looked at the time on the clock at the bakery, it was 6, so knowing Finley always leaves early, I wasn't sure he'd answer at home If I called.
But I called.....and he did pick up.
6:06 P.M. -
KLECKO "You ready to splash hard tonight sen-say? Launch time is in 54 minutes and counting."
Finley "Yeah, my wife is heading over there from work, so I think I'll just walk over. When are you getting there?"
KLECKO "I am washed, dressed and will have a beer in my hand in 13-14 minutes, see ya and good luck."
So I get there at about 6:22, and figured I'd get tonight's feature act a beer as well, but he's no where to be seen. So I just bought provisions for myself and was lucky to nab the last table in Room #3, the room where Mike would be reading.
Now Jim Rogers enters, he's doing a sound check and people continue flooding the cafe, now Room #3 is packed, and the over flow are filling #2 and trying to find spots where they could goose neck a view.
Now its 6:44, Finley still hasn't shown up.
I'll bet there's 50 some people waiting for the show to begin.
But the front door keeps opening, then slamming shut....over, and over again.
Each time this happens, everybody is looking to see if its Finley.
50 people have just turned to 70, and it's now 6:58.
I don't know if Rogers has ever had a crowd this big, but if he has, I'll bet the headline act was there with him.
Rogers goes to the podium, and in a good spirit smiles...graciously thanks everybody for coming, but informs us that Mike hadn't arrived yet, and asked if anybody had any pertinent info concerning the matter.
I stood up to report......
"Yeah, I just talked to him less than an hour ago, he lives 2 blocks away, trust me...he's on his way."
Tick-Tock goes the clock, it's now 7:19.
People look nervous, I kinda chuckle because I have confidence that my mentor can navigate a curb for 2 blocks w/o getting run down.
In simplest terms, Finley is the Axel Rose or Jim Morrison of the Twin Cities poetry community, he does things on his time, not to be rebellious, but sometimes the world can distract him.
Knowing this, I pull out my cell phone and call his house.....
"Mike Finley here."
"Mike, it's me (laughter in my voice)and there's 1/2 a million people here for your show."
Then Mike does his best to contain his relief while responding....."Good, I'm glad my friends were able to make it, but why is everyone there already? The program doesn't start for 10 more minutes. I thought Rachel might be home after all, and I thought I would walk over with her."
Before he continued, I interrupted....
"Actually your show started 20 minutes ago."
PAUSE..............PAUSE............."SHIT!" says Finley, and then the phone hung up.
About 152 seconds later, a slightly winded poet entered Room #3, but he didn't look panicked, he didn't look out of sorts, instead he just played it off like "Yeah.....when Mike Finley is about to drop the bomb of excellence on you, a couple minutes isn't going to hurt."
Later in the evening, Mike did reveal the truth about his ineptitude when following time, and everybody laughed at his honest remark.
The reading was spectacular.
Friends - Fans and Poets from different periods of Mike's life showed up and it was really a special evening.
THE UPSET SEA
Is an interesting work (it's registered online, you should really take a little time and check it out) because this is one of the few times where Mike blends humor/tragedy/observations into a single work.
I think this collection was really important too, because w/o it, I'm not sure if his head would have been....."level enough?" to write his BIG ASS ANGELS book which I and other critics agree, might be his legacy.
I could have chose a number of poems to present, and in some respects, I probably should have listed "Under the Sea" or some of the witty stories that almost remind me of Older Johnny Cash songs.
But to be honest, this piece is powerful and tender all in one breathe.
In Many ways, this is the poem that inspired my submissions in the GODIVA GOES RIDING book that I co wrote with Finley.
ON THE PLANE
I sit next to a Chinese student
She has no nose to speak of
She is moonfaced and it is a late flight
And I want to turn to her and say
You can lay your head on my arm
If you like
It will keep you from getting a stiff neck
But I didn't, of course
I miss Daniele so much