I slaved away at an introduction for last night’s reading. Set to introduce Amado Balderas, a friend of mine, as the night’s MC (and every night’s MC), I didn’t want to screw it up. I didn’t, but I went off script. What I said and what I wrote were the same, though greatly edited. This is what I wrote:
I met Amado through my creative writing profession, Rene Saldana, Jr., sometime in 2005. We were at some poetry event that ran throughout the day at UTPA, and Rene was going on about this friend of his who wanted to open a café specifically for poets and writers. We hit it off and I said I’d visit it whenever it opened. Well, a few months later when it was opened a few of my friends and I decided to check the place out. I reintroduced myself to Amado, we spoke, and after a few minutes of him talking me into it, I reluctantly wrote my name on the open mic list. My intentions that night wasn’t to read mind you, but I knew men like Amado in the past so I went prepared. He reassured me it was up to me if I wanted to read, he wasn’t going to force me. Well, one reader got down and he called another and after that guy did his thing Amado got up and announced an up-and-comer. And wouldn’t you believe that he called me? But I never really thanked the man. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am now in my writing. His café brought together a motley crew of us. Some comedic, some serious, some profane. So without him, the writing and poetry community in the Valley wouldn’t be where it is now. It was his love and respect for the craft that paved the way for his dream of a inter-valley community, not just in Edinburg or McAllen, Brownsville or Harlingen, but all along la frontera, and maybe, just maybe further. He wanted to make a noise so loud that others will recognize our singular, unison voice. His nueva onda movement sparked the flame that now burns brightly in every poetry venue, at every reading. So if he doesn’t get a large chunk of credit for that, then he at least deserves a nod of recognition. Ladies and gentlemen, poets, writers and musicians, up-and-comers and those who’ve been in this game for years: Please join me in giving that nod of recognition to my friend and tonight’s MC, Amado Balderas.
Also, I feel obligated to Rene Saldana, Jr. to mention that Amado is an excellent break dancer and we should all try to get him to bust a move for us.
I was an awkward night for me, being on stage after a couple of years. I did last year’s reading at the library, but it was a different case. Parts of an older me were still lingering. Now I’ve established myself, somewhat, in the library that when I stood up there and stared into the eyes of four of my kids (not my kids, but you know, kids who go to the library), I suddenly didn’t want to read the story I had. “I never mind cussing in front of kids so long as the parents are okay with it,” I said. “So if you’re not, this is probably the time to take those kids out.” But was I okay with this? I did my best to censor my words, remove some that didn’t really change the sentence or dialogue. But phrases like toaster fuck couldn’t be altered. So I swallowed my conscience and went along with it.
Still, I had fun last night. Saw some older friends and sat at a table with a few (possibly) up-and-comers to the scene. Until next time, I say. A reading is just a few weeks away.