I often consider myself a preacher. Pimpin' my own religion which is Poetry in some form or another to an already converted congregation every week. One small change, our sabbath just happens to be Tuesday night, here at the Arts Center.
I am fortunate to have a co-host John Dorsey that does not necessarily share my beliefs, but does believe in Poetry as much as I do. I'd like to think this is what he envisioned when he talked me into moving here to the Arts Center from Florida. We did take over the reading a month after I got here.
The congregation we are blessed with a diverse group. All poor underdogs, after all this is Toledo. One particular is homeless, and lives at the mission. He is totally dedicated to the religion. I think in the year and a half we've been here, he's missed twice. Once because he had a conference or something to go to, the other the week his father died. The only attendance record that could top that is mine which is near perfect. I think I missed one week because I was working the polls.
Anyway he does have his demons and addictions as many at the mission do. Luckily one of those addictions is Poetry. Unfortunately this is also coupled with a constant need for attention. His stuff is often wordy and long winded.
There was the holy Doctor Robert Brundage who did pass through the reading over the year and a half it has been here. He was far holier than this preacher.
Who I don't know if he even wrote Poetry, but he enjoyed it. He came every week and watched, and at the end of every night would delight us with stories on the history of Toledo.
Who was a community activist, an ecologist. Who rode his bike through his home The Old West End, and talked to everyone, and was loved by everyone. He loved The Arts Center and was always here. My fondest memory of him was coming up to my room to hang out. I live on the third floor, and was an older gentleman. I was considerate and asked him if he wanted to take the elevator up. He gave me this fiery look and said, Do you know how much energy that thing uses? So on this Earth Day Doctor Robert Brundage, I salute you sir. I take a hit off the peace pipe, just for you.
Who was slain in the streets of The Old West End, a few blocks away from where I type this now. By a young thug all to steal his old beat up bicycle. A young thug that he would have been the first person to be an activist for. A young thug that has probably ruined his own life.
Who laid in the hospital for almost two weeks dying of brain hemorrhaging. I could only bring myself to go see him once. He looked so peaceful there, lying in a coma. I remember the night we had a vigil for him here at The Arts Center in the six hundred seat theater. It's one of the only times I've seen it full. I had to host church right after that as it was the sabbath. I had them bring the picture from the vigil down as he was there every week. You have no idea how hard it was to get through that week, and by the next one he was dead. It just got harder. John was out of town at the time and I was flying solo. We made it through as we do.
Last night John and I took a refreshing trip to Holland, Ohio to check out a new reading there. We don't look at this as competition, as we are both into working with others. Working to build something that's bigger than any of us.
If everyone in a Poetry scene would feel this way, things would be easy. Unfortunately the Toledo Poetry “scene”, much like any city is filled with elitism, snobbery, incest, & much more negative things than that. Ah the ugly side of the art. There are people in this city so competitive & ugly. People who are so scared of community. People who are so scared of sharing or losing whatever insignificant piece of power they might possess. Everyone is competition to them.
Plus where there is arts & culture, there is the myth that it is for rich people. People who look down their noses at we poor misfit artists of The Arts Center.
We had one of these elitists with all of his power and self importance. The last time he came here I was told he was in the parking lot after the reading running it down. Saying he was not challenged by the reading. To this I say he could use to be challenged. If he really would like a challenge he can read with me anytime. I know someone's got a story of him reading with them at a local bar, and he having a beer bottle hurled at him by a local drunk because he sucked.
I hear all of the stories about The Arts Center from these snobs. I know what they say. They say what they've always been saying. Everyone knows what goes on there. The coming and going at all hours of the night. To this I say I do know what goes on here. I live here. If these people really knew what goes on here they'd be bored and disappointed. The spirits & entities of this building have more fun than we do.
That's right, I did say spirits & entities. Not the kind you see through the naked untrained eye. The kind you only catch a glimpse out of the corner of your eye. I do catch them passing the open door in the hallway as church is in session. I see the children outside of the window. That's right, every church needs itself a magical, mystical building. This building is a portal. All kinds of things stay here, & pass through. I let it all exist as I do.
So there you have it. I think we have all of the ingredients of a real life church. We've got two mad preachers, we have a congregation, and we have a magical, mystical location. This is all we need.