Some of the soundest advise I have ever received came from my writing mentor Mike Finley.
He advised me........
"If you want people to hate you,invite them to your poetry reading!"
OK-OK, I realize that this Blogsite is geared towards "All Things Baking", but bare with me just one time.
Throughout my entire life I have been in a position where I have been in service to others.
While you were enjoying Christmas with your family during the 80's 90's and today....Klecko was preparing bread for your FAMILIES following morning.
While you and your clan were riding boogey boards that were tied behind a fat pontoon boat....Klecko was teaching your Grandson how to hit a curve ball at Little League.
I love my life, and I am thrilled at the opportunities that I've had, but yesterday, I swear to Polish Christ that I had a level 10 epiphany.
When I got up yesterday and hopped into the bread truck, I don't know why, but I went on an exploration in my mind.
Through my jaunt to work, I strolled through my mental warehouse and opened each and every crate that said.......
GREATEST MOMENTS OF KLECKO'S LIFE
So on the first crate I take a crowbar, remove the lid and inside the contents were......
KIKI'S WEDDING DAY
Further down the aisle I stumbled into other boxes that were filled with other glorious moments........
KIKI'S COLLEGE GRADUATION and TYDAS LEADS HIS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM TO CITY CHAMPIONSHIP
So now I lean back in my bread truck cockpit and I began to get nervous. I was pretty sure I might have an idea of what was in store for me around the corner in Aisle #8.
Sure enough, there it was. A pyramid of crates, 10.956 to be exact. I didn't have time to open all of them, but I did break into a random few.....
NIGHT #2467 WITH SUE McGLENO, NIGHT #8441 WITH SUE McGLENO.....
You get the point.
So now it hits me....."BOOM FRICKEN BOOM" like a bag of bricks.
Every single "Greatest Moment" of my life has had one thing in common.
I was never the person of focus.
For whatever reason, the moments that have meant the most have always been when I have seen those that I love happy.
So I pull into work and the reality of the day is at hand.....after a long time of secretly hoping....I was going to get to get my shot at reading poems at the University Club, which in my opinion is the Twin Towns equivalence to the literary Taj Mahal.
Funny, when I coveted this dream in secret, it was always exciting.
But yesterday I felt like barfing, and maybe for the first time in a long time, I began to regret pursuing a goal. It's so much easier to sit on the side lines and blend in.
At this point I started to get emotional and weird in my head, and I didn't like that feeling, so I flashed back to my son and remembered how prior the the biggest moments in his life, he would just stand in the middle of the kitchen with his Dre Beat's on and listen to music for 12 hours before he had to leave for the game.
The kid defied time.
So I did that as well. I just went into the shop and made pretzel bread.
I figured I would make 3-4 dozen loaves and put them out on the table at the reading and peeps could plunk down donations that would go to the host's favorite cause.
But when I was done, it was only 1 p.m., I still had 6 1/2 hours left to burn, and was petrified by that.
I don't do it often, but I left work early and went home.
The house was empty, Sue McGleno was en route from Omaha, so I sat on the couch with 4 dogs and watched the clock, tick and tock.
Then I fell asleep, for 2 1/2 consecutive hours. That doesn't even happen to me at night.
Following my son's example, I decided I would be the first person at the event. So back into the bread truck and off we go.
As mentioned in previous posts, the reading room at the University Club reminds me of the belly of a pirate ship. In addition to the obvious beauty, if you stand in this space alone (and being alone scares me) you can feel the ghosts.
Not ghosts of people as much as ghosts of events.
The greatest poets of my homeland have all delivered their best shot right here from the spot I was standing on.
So after placing the pretzel breads on a table I stood in the middle of the room all by myself.
1/2 of me was amped, but the other 1/2 was terrified.
So people start trickling in and I did my best to greet the guests I had invited, but I did feel awkward, after all this might have been the first time (other than a wedding) where I wore a tie.
Then our host and emcee, Saint Paul's poet laureate Carol Connolly approaches me, wishes me good luck and hands me a roster that will tell the presenters what order they will go in.
LINDA BACK McKAY
Drawing the 3 slot isn't so bad. Going first can sometimes be lame, and if I go last, I never get to enjoy the other readers because I'm always a little nervous and it's hard for me to relax.
So Martin Kihn gets the show rolling by informing us.......
"Hi.....I'm Matrin.......and I am a alcoholic."
Everybody laughed, including himself, but then he informed us that he really was, and he had written a book about going through the 12 step program while getting a dog who simultaneously was going through a 10 step program at obedience school.
He wrote a book about this and SHOWTIME liked it and decided to do a series about it.
Martin has got to easily be 6 feet tall. He is thin, handsome....and white.
So who does Hollywood cast to play a guy like that?
Easy.....Don Cheadle! LOL
Martin did a great job opening the show, however....the presenters were told firmly to not exceed 10 minutes, dude went well over 20.
So he hands off to the next poet, and I guess that's where my black out starts. In less that 24 hours I am sad to report that I couldn't pick her out of a police line up if world peace depended on it.
Next thing I know, my bio was being read and there I was walking from the back of the room, up the aisle, and behind a podium that contained the worlds shortest microphone stand.
I was forced to hunch over.
I planned on strictly reading, and not adding any filler or banter, but Martin went sooo long, that I felt if I did a 8-9-10 minute set, I might come off as weak.
Sometimes in "The Show", game plans get shifted.
"Hello, my name is Klecko. I'll be honest....I kinda feel sick right now, like the day my daughter got married. Actually I have been nervouse all day so I spent the first 1/2 of the day baking you guys that pretzel bread over there.
Then I spent the second 1/2 of the day on the internet trying to figure out how to tie this tie."
The crowd cheered until I continued......
"Yeah, if you ever have that problem, Brooks Brothers has a good web site that shows you how to make one of these Windsor knots. Anyways, tonight I'm going to read 3 loves poems, and then I am going to close with something special. By the way, being that 1/2 of you guys in the audience are my friends, that means 1/2 of the audience doesn't know how to conduct themselves at a literary event. At the end of each poem I will say "Thank You" and your job is to applaud frantically."
Poem # 1
I LOVE YOU JANE GOODALL -
I WOULD PAY TO SHARE YOUR SILENCE
WHILE BUGS WOULD CRAWL ON ME
SECRETLY A CHIMP OT TWO WILL SURFACE
WE WOULD SIT ON BEDS OF LEAVES
OR MAYBE EMPTY SCOTCH CASES
I'M TOLD THAT YOU ARE PARTIAL TO FAMOUS GROUSE
IF THE JUNGLE REMAINED SILENT
AND WE WERE LEFT TO OUR OWN DEVICES
MAYBE THAT WOULDN'T BE SO BAD
WE COULD CLIMB INTO YOUR TREE HOUSE
AND YOU WOULD MAKE US OOLONG TEA
WHILE I TELL YOU - HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE
So now people responded with enthusiasm, and I started to feel a little better.
13 YEARS OLD -
TOM THUMB CLOSES AT 11 P.M.
AT 11:06 A BONNEVILLE PULLS UP
AND TWO NUNS POP OUT AND BUM RUSH THE DOOR
THEY ARE IN NEED OF CIGARETTES
BUT THE CASHIER MUST BE A LUTHERAN
BECAUSE SHE REFUSED TO ANSWER THE LADIES PRAYERS
SO THE BRIDES OF CHRIST ARE IN A BLACK MOOD
AND PUSH PAST ME AND A FRIEND
WHO HAVE SPENT MOST OF JULY IN THIS PARKING LOT
EXCUSE ME SISTER - I CALLED OUT
WOULD YOU LIKE A MARLBORO RED
I LIT IT FOR HER AS SHE PULLED BACK HER WIMPLE
EXPOSING HER HAIR AND CLOSING HER EYES
AND WHEN THAT SMOKE SHOT DOWN THE PIPE
THE HOLY SPIRIT GAVE ME REASON TO KNOW
FOR THE FIRST TIME....I WAS ABSOLVED
And now people were more than gracious with their applause. I know people like Nun poems right LOL? But I'm not sure I expected this kind of response. But either way....it didn't matter anymore.
I had hit my groove and now I think I had every ounce of KLECKO CONFIDENCE restored.
For the briefest of brief seconds, I took a mili second to realize that I was in one of those life moments that transcend time. Then it occurred to me how quick things like that get rusted and dented, so I didn't try to capture it....I just recognized its importance and moved on to my 3rd and final love poem.
LIQUOR STORE PARKING LOT -
HULA GIRL - HULA GIRL
DANCE BENEATH THE RAIN DROPS
I'M PRETTY SURE MY WINDSHIELD WILL KEEP YOU DRY
LEFT/RIGHT - LEFT/RIGHT
YOUR HIPS GYRATE WITH FLUIDITY
AS IF YOUR BALANCE WAS DETERMINED ON A SPRING
TICK-TOCK - TICK TOCK
THE CLOUDS ECLIPSE THE MOON
BUT IT'S STILL ENGAGING WHEN YOU DANCE IN THE NEON
HULA GIRL - HULA GIRL
I AM FEARFUL OUR TRYST MUST END
MY GIRLFRIEND IS HEADED TOWARDS THE CAR
AND SHE HAS A BOTTLE OF TANQUERAY
So yeah....hip hip hooray and all that jazz, but this time I cut the accolades short.
"Now ladies and gentleman, it is my pleasure to announce that for my final poem, I will be joined by Saint Paul's own rebel poet Mike Finley."
And this part right here was w/o a doubt the coolest part of one of the best nights in my life.
For me, Mike Finley is like Babe Ruth.
Can you imagine going to the batting cages for 5 years and getting hitting lessons from the Bambino, and then one day, years later you get penciled in the same batting line up as him.....at the World Series.
Mike Finley has handed me the keys to the vault I value the most.
He's taken the time and patience to instruct me, aim and launch me.
I think the part that secretly nerved me so hard all day was knowing that if I bombed.....it wouldn't destroy his career, but when you are a cities token "Rebel Poet" I imagine you like to keep casualties to a minimum.
So now as he walks up the aisle, I can see the intrigue in the eyes of the audience. Especially those from the literary community.
What was this unique tandem up to?
I will never come close to writing the following as cool as it really happened, but just let me paraphrase it, and if you dial it up 500%...you just might get a sniff......
This is Finley talking in a low stoic voice now...........
"Greetings friends, it is an honor to be with you here tonight as I celebrate the accomplishments of my protege, but be forewarned...if you like what you see, and want a piece of him, you'll have to come through me.
Tonight as we celebrate love, I think it is important that we visit the past and explore the works of a poet that we are all familiar with. This poet is no longer with us, but his message remains in all of us, not just in words, but with rhythms as well.
It is true that he was skewed different, but you all love his message and would be lost if his work was....(pause)....NEVERMORE."
As you can imagine, everybody in the house was set up for some kind of Edger Allen Poe tribute, but in fact.....We read Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Without the music, the lyrics weren't that obvious, I started off doing MJ's lines, and Finley would conclude with the portion that Vincent Price did.
The response of happiness was like watching a pile of pop corn kernels exploding in a kettle. They don't do this in unison do they?
So on the 2nd or 3rd line, a couple people got it and smirked, at the end of the first paragraph several others roared. By the time I hit the chorus, most of the house understood the message, so when I relinquished the stage for my mentor to tie things up with the Vincent Price epilogue......people LOVED IT.
Then we said thank you, and turned to each other and nodded, shook hands, and then turned to the crowd and bowed.
Of the 1000 times I have been on a stage, for a dozen reasons. This was the funnest moment I ever had.
In a million years I would have never-ever guessed that reading something from the Michael Jackson catalog would be a lifetime highlight.
But if I've learned one thing in life....
If there's somewhere you want to go, surround yourself with people who will get you there.
Last night my friend Mr. Finley did that.
In closing, what can I say but thank you to all of you who were able to come. It meant very much to me that you stood at the finish line of one of my biggest emotional rollercoaster days in my life.
Sincerely.....the Last American Baker.