Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cities Helping Each Other

So many sterling moments at last night’s Progressive Reading it’s hard to know where to start. It was great to see so many former Progressive readers in the standing room only Makeout Room (bring your own chairs, for god sakes!), Starlee Kine in town from New York made it a point to stop by, and Rachel Howard, Caroline Paul, Sarah Fran Wisby were all there; mutual love all around. Stephen read his letter (see it below and Stephen’s post on The Huffington Post) from Mayor Bill White of Houston. Thanks goodness for progressive thinking.

Tom Barbash kicked off the reading with a story from his forthcoming collection, about a divorced mother and her son who was being hit on by an easy restaurant hostess, an older woman. About the age the women’s ex-husband is dating and she’s not happy about it. He still collects rare stamps the mother told the easy hostess. He’s a baby. “No he isn’t.” the easy hostess replied. Poor Mom. Next Matthew Eck cracked us up with a story whose narrators bluff his way into a teaching position at an Ivy League university using Chekhov’s CV. Made me wonder if any of my own professors had tried something like that.

We love April Sinclair. First she was willing to pinch-hit at the last minute, then she honored Bernie Mac, then she read a story about trying to be a cool mom and hearing about girl kissing! And then she read about her no-good nephew who had to be pried off the couch and was banned from the house. My sides were splitting, but it was just another day in the Sinclair family, apparently.

Ali Wong cracked us up. “Oh Progressive Reading Series, you’re all so serious. Girls with bangs and glasses, Rainbow Grocery employees smelling of hummus and privilege!” Her story of Disneyland rides that simulate the landscape of California reminded me I’ve never been to Disneyland/World and I’m going to keep it that way. Like most horrible things, they're hilarious to hear about.

All Star Minstrels sang an ironic version of a folk song made popular by the Pogues. Davy Rothbart read a story about pulling pranks on his deaf mother that were so horrible and devious I was embarrassed for him, yet very impressed. What a terror that kid was. In the end, though, his mom got the last laugh and Davy grew up to be one of the kindest people you’d ever be lucky to meet.

In his third (third, people!), Progressive Reading appearance and proving that recycling in Houston is as important as Shakespeare in Santa Cruz, Jonathan Franzen railed on technology and how it can actually make life more difficult. I knew just what he meant. My cell phone had been beeping at me all day for absolutely no reason. Stephen ended the night by telling us we raised $1,729, which equals 276 bins for Houston. Next month on September 20th: Daniel Handler, Jane Ganahl, Aimee Bender, Glen David Gold, and Katie Crouch. Don’t forget your chair or cushion.

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