I drove to Sedona on Friday with my friend Michael Kukuruga and his girl, Nikki. If I had a Tyler Durdan, Kuk would be he. We can say more without saying a word and we've been through a lot of similar experiences. We both know what it's like to sleep in Tempe Jail, for instance.
We drove up in Nikki's car while I read "Fast Food Nation" and Kuk read my chapbook "I've Seen You Naked". We rolled into town around 13:00, got something to eat from the organic market next to the Canyon Moon Theater and then hit the kitchy part of Sedona to molest statues and offend tourists. After parking illegally, then sneaking through a hotel lobby to avoid getting towed, we hit the street.
If you have to debate whether or not to shoplift in every store, does that make you a bad person? I'm talking every store.
Kuk and I wandered from store to store, place to place, making small talk with the locals and the tourists while Nikki followed with a camera in hand. Among other things, Kuk dry-humped a bronze statue and made out with a cigar-store Indian. We played a Kuk'd eye game that everyone wants to play but none have defined, till now. Pass by that girl you've been checking out, slowly. Then glance at her. (We all do that glancing thing wherein we look a someone but we don't want them to think we're looking, so we look around and "happen" to see someone. Milk it.) Wait until she "glances" at you, then catch her with a "gotcha" or "I won", then move on.
We met the poets at the Red Planet then headed to the venue. They included from Las Vegas/Flagstaff Andy "War" Hall, from Sedona: Jarrod Karimi and Rebekah Crisp, from Flagstaff: Logan Phillips, Dom Flemons, Suzy La Follette, and SlamMaster John R Kofonow, from Mesa: Tony Damico, Corbet Dean, Julie Ann Elefante, Taneka Stotts, and Jonathan Standifird, from Albuquerque, SlamMaster Danny Solis and Kenn Rodriguez, and from Tempe, Christopher Fox Graham. Our Host was my good friend Christopher Lane. Also up but not competing was Halcyone whom Kuk spent all of dinner hitting on in some crazed attempt at a threesome. Ah Kuk, sigh.
Then the battle began. It was harsh for Julie Elefante who had to lead the first round. Despite an over the top performance that landed him sprawled out on the ground, Dom Flemons didn't make it to round two. Rebekah Crisp, I think, had no idea what to expect and Jarrod Karimi pulled a wrong piece at the wrong time. He made it as the dark horse alternate for Flagstaff in 2002 doing freestyle but picked a poem that was just too short for this bout. He has a poem "She is a Cactus Flower" that is brilliant and would been gold. Little John R Kofonow had the most inventive poem of the night, about the tortoise and the hare, but it was too unrehearsed and still on page. It was good to hear him read again, and do so happily. I still regret the way he felt in Vegas in 2002 when the relatively unresponsive crowd at the Cafe Roma dampened his spirits. I still think he's a great kid. Danny Solis also got knocked out early. "Fat Man" was too subdued for a first round poem and he went too early in the round. Jonathon Standifird did a great piece, but the audience for some reason was not receptive. Their loss.
Suzy La Follette's poem for Christopher Lane's fiance Akasha, was brilliant and I was praying to follow and target her (Suzy) with "She Needs it Bad", but I was wary after the tongue-lashing I got from last time. But Kenn Rodriguez followed her. I had a number of poems prepped for the first round but Logan Phillips's Night Poem left me without a real clue of what to do and I selected my first poem while at the mic. Andy Hall is insane and I love him. Round two left nine poets. Brief Intermission.
That being said, ROUND TWO: EVERYBODY DIES (I had to keep from laughing when I thought that on stage). Have a someone you want to kill? Do it in Round Two. All in all, I think we had a five-year-old, a five-year-old's mother, a high-school friend, and someone's father bite the dust in round two. Even Andy Hall brought a downer. Thank GOD for Tony D. I think we all moved the audience and even I was moved by some of the performances by the other poets, but from a cynical, critical point of view.... The Klute's piece about killing imaginary friends for the sake of slam would have gone over well, despite the true sincerity of all the poets.
Round Three left just six. Suzy La Follette and Tony D Score 30s. In the end deciding between three pieces, I pulled "Coming Home" and scored a 29.9. This was apart of the cosmic reason from two posts ago.... I managed to sink the intensity and the humor into one of the best performances I think I've ever done of that piece. Rounding the night was Suzy La Follette, Corbet Dean, and Christopher Fox Graham in 1st, 2nd, & 3rd respectively.
The whole night was a beautiful crapshoot, and I remember leaning over to John R Kofonow as the wave of 9.0+ score took over in round two. The whole night was a bit high as the difference between Suzy La Follette and myself was only 0.5. With lower scores throughout the night, things would have fared differently.
On the long drive home, Nikki slept in the back seat. She had originally planned on coming to Sedona to interview for a job at a camp after a brief stint in Florence, Italy this summer. The Slam was just a happy diversion after the interview. She scored the job.
Kuk and I talked strategy and I swear, it was like the kid had been watching slam for years, rather than this being his first slam. An hour of debate and analysis with someone who is as skilled at the verbal chess as I am. I miss having a true game-player in slam. Someone who sees the whole thing like one big fencing bout. I hadn't felt that engaged about tactics since Nationals. Why doesn't he write?
By the way, I now have internet access at home. Yay me.