“TAE SIH YTOOB” – Second Tuesday Open Mic in East Harlem – RECAP, 7/9/19

What a great space! The building formerly known as P.S. 91–215 East, 99th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Ave)–has been converted into housing units for artists. For all you know, the room where this open mic takes place (every second Tuesday), might have once been the auditorium, or the cafeteria, or maybe even the principal’s office.

When you come in the building, the open mic is in the roomy space straight ahead–let’s just call it the old principal’s office; once you’re there, you’ll probably be greeted by Mya–and while she might make you sign the email list, she won’t make you write on the board 100 times. The host, Bill Keats, is even more lenient–he’ll look the other way if you cuss and maybe even show you where the secret beer cooler is hidden.

Speaking of cussing, poet William Washington dug deep in his archives–because he wanted to keep it clean until the room could be felt out–and he pulled out the poetic gem, “U.N.I.T.Y.”

William walks up to the mic seemingly laid back, but once he’s up there he goes in! And go in, he did; William performed his unity poem with the intensity of a man who has two ex-wives.

I kicked the show off and did some old stuff mixed with new stuff. A little lady named Queen was in the audience, so I used her for set list inspiration: I recited a new poem for the first time, entitled “The Kids Are Alright.” And then I closed with a signature piece that begins, “Dairy QUEEN…”

Next up on the mic was Shay Jimenez, a comedian who was pretty funny. He scored some high humor points with jokes about a friend who liked to brag about his work promotion–from Dollar Tree to Family Dollar. I laughed out loud when Shay recounted a testicular exam by a doctor with cold hands, and how he had eight vials of blood drawn during one medical appointment and thought, “Is this a physical, or ritual?”

Shay’s partner in comedy, Chris, followed and had two particularly memorable moments: 1) He got upset on a job interview because the white interviewer asked him, “What is the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome?” The question left Chris perplexed: Don’t you see the hardest challenge I’ve overcome right there on my resume? It says the Bronx, and it’s in bold.

2) Chris, decided to get rated B.G., as in being from Harlem B.G. (Before Gentrification) and not wanting to be kissed by his post-millennial sister because of Eating B.G. (Booty Groceries). Chris elaborated on the latter by sharing his sister’s philosophy on romance: You have to eat his [blank], if you want him to be with you forever. (The “blank” part means: that’s the moment when I clutched my pearls.) Fortunately, Queen and anyone else too short to ride the mature audience rollercoaster, had left for the night.

Before Queen departed, she sang a “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” duet with her friend.

The adorable moment showed the range of performances you can have, when the open mic runs from 8 pm to 11 pm. You can do Disney at the beginning and Family Guy when it gets later.

Bill, the host and also a conflicted poet, shared several short poems.

Bill received some quality feedback from the audience, along the way: someone suggested he take the thematically similar short poems and combine them to form a longer piece.

The final P.O.E.T. of my evening was Ibrahim Asad Siddiq. Ibrahim stands for “friend of God.” Not only was this poet Putting Out Eternal Thoughts, but he was dropping #bars: “brain of a scholar / heart of a martyr”; “afraid to break a bill, because they afraid of change.”

Ibrahim, who arrived when things seemed to be cooling down, spit words that raised the heat back up to Bikram yoga levels; the wordsmith credited his father for the gift of wordplay. However, Ibrahim said: while his father used words to chase girls, he uses words to change the world.

After leaving the open mic, I had to also use words to change the world–to change the world at the McDonald’s across the street from Metropolitan Hospital. I had to use words like: “Yo!” “Stop it!” “Hey! There’s a baby right here.” “Break it up.”

Two guys were about to get into a kerfuffle over the restroom. The guy waiting to use the head, wanted to go upside the head of the guy using it because he was taking too long to come out. And what thanks did I get for risking my life and jumping between the bathroom brawlers? The McServer tried to give me lukewarm fries, which had been sitting under the low-wattage heat lamp since way back when.

Three minutes later, with fries hot out the grease, while sitting in the McCrackhouse–having a relapse–I thought of another good reason why performers of all types should come out to the Second Tuesday open mic in Spanish Harlem: there’s no fights over el bano.

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