The How I Learned Series features writers, storytellers, comedians, and other raconteurs holding forth on a different theme. It all happens every last Wednesday of the month, and sometimes more than that, which basically means you will have the best night of your life on those nights, repeatedly.



You Make My Dreams Come True

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Hello Friends,

It's me--Blaise. Here I am with the better-late-than-never report on last week's wonderful installment of How I Learned. For those of you who were there, I want to say that you were the best crowd yet. (And there were so many of you that the cute boys managing Happy Ending that night brought in a bench for extra seating. It was like a pew.) I am serious when I say that you were kind of like my dream audience. And I have really missed you since Wednesday. You are the wind beneath my wings.

So, last week's topic was How I Learned The Hard Way. Hugh Ryan taught us what is perhaps, or what should be, the true meaning of the C-word. Hugh read a story about working with LGBTQ students at Harvey Milk High School that was both funny and poignant, and he was the perfect person to start things off because by the time he mentioned "reading is fundamental" I am pretty sure that no one in the place was wearing any pants.

The delightful Jeff Gordinier shared with us how he learned that he was not actually severely OCD when he had to write an article about people who actually are severely OCD (like Obsessed levels). It reminded me of when I worked for a social worker when I first moved to New York in 1995. She gave me an old copy of the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and I was convinced that I had about 98% of the afflictions described in that book. Also, I know for a fact that when Jeff said the word "pissoir," some people in the audience swooned a little bit. After Jeff read, we took a break and everyone washed their hands repeatedly.

Sarah Kelly knocked it out of the park with her true tale of the summer of 1986, during which the lethal combo of peer pressure paired with an obsessive love of the soap opera Guiding Light forced a 10-year-old Sarah into "a web of lies that would only end in extreme humiliation." Not only did Sarah have a breakthrough during her actual reading (having to do with that awful song Broken Wings by Mr. Mister), she also had a pretty sweet visual aid (which you can sort of see in the photo below), and I think we all know how much I love visual aids.

Finally, Miss Cheryl B. rounded out the evening with the story of how she got sober. She started out by saying that she is eight years clean (!) and even though she likes to tell that to an audience before a performance in case she totally tanks, there was no danger of her being anything but fantastic. She managed to write and tell a story about an exceptionally dark time--to a room filled with mostly drunk people--with style, humor and accessibility. That is what I love. In addition to visual aids.

Speaking of visual aids, here are some fun photos from the night:

SARAH KELLY (Writer/Musician, Cringe)

JEFF GORDINIER (X Saves the World, Details Editor-At-Large )

HUGH RYAN (Nerve, The Advocate, NPR)

CHERYL B. (Writer/Performance Poet, Word Warriors)

One man. One mic. One mustache. (I have no idea who that guy is.)

Me with one of the awesome audience members. There's some gesticulating going on here.

Front half of the room. People laughing. In the back half people were crying.

Also, I read a short diary entry from when I was a 15-year-old and had just met "the most gorgeous" 20-year-old and thought that maybe it would be the most amazing thing ever if we dated. So, I think one of the common threads of the evening was MENTAL ILLNESS.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate something I mentioned at the reading, which is that June's reading marked 6 months since the debut of the How I Learned Reading Series. That is already twice as long as my last relationship. It's kind of A Thing. I don't mind presents or love letters.

Huge thank you again to everyone who came out, to the fantastic readers, to all my people, and to the nice dudes at Happy Ending. Like Daryl Hall and John Oates sang, you make my dreams come true.

Video footage coming soon, but for now here is a little something from the YouTubes as referenced during Hugh's reading.



Love, Blaise

PS. Next up, on July 22nd, is How I Learned We Were Breaking Up. Stay tuned for details. Pretty sure it's gonna be a doozy. Hope to see you there!

Photos by Bruno J. Navarro