Diary of an Open Mic Whore

Yes, I’m an Open Mic whore. I will admit it. I get high every time that I come out of an open mic, energized and ready to get inspired or inspire someone in the audience. Open Mic is my new obsession, my new drug when I get high just watching great performers, poets or musicians touch me in ways that I would have never imagined.
I found myself in an Open Mic. I was lost, desperate, lonely. I thought that I was all alone in the Universe. I really thought that poetry was dead. I thought that philosophers, writers, artists were extinct and, unless my name was Stephen King or Maya Angelou, there was no writer or poet within a ten mile radius. And I’m glad I was wrong.

If you’d like to know my dirty little secret, here it is: there is probably an open mic going on around you NOW that you didn’t even know about within a 10 mile radius of where you live right now.
Would you like to know another secret? I found an open mic for EVERY single night of the week!!! That’s right!

Open Mic Whore recommends:

Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar (San Fernando Valley near City of San Fernando) where there is Open Mic every 2nd, 4th and 5th Friday of each month is hosted by Jeffery Martin while Noches de Canto y Poesía (with Alejandro Molina) is done every first and third Friday as well. This was my first and still favorite open mic of all.

Mental Mondays at House of Brews which has been hosted by yours truly, but is best conducted by Evy Spiritluvchild, happens only once a month though so mark your calendars for the last Monday of every month at the House of Brews in City of San Fernando.

Writer Wednesdays with Jessica Wilson located at the former Bob’s Espresso Bar on Lankershim Blvd at the heart of the NoHo Arts District. Perfect for writers, poets, musicians, stand up comedy and even magic.

Soapbox Sessions over at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Encino hosted by Jason Brain. A little intimidating since it’s outdoors and there’s a lot of action going around the area so I only go there when I feel the force is with me. Every Thursday starting at 7. Check it out!

Tuesday Night Project, currently on hiatus but it’s near Little Tokyo and some of the best performers I’ve ever seen in Los Angeles. After Tia Chucha‘s, of course (wink, wink)

Holy Grounds is another cool spot with a very nice patio area (currently being remodeled) and has the Zzyxz Writers open mic there (check out their website for details).

Eastside Café located over in El Sereno happens once a month and is hosted by spiritus and sister poet Iris de Anda, only third Thursday of every month starting at 8ish…

La Palabra Series at Avenue 50 Studio. This one is usually on the last Sunday of the month and hosted by big hooped earring wearing Karinneh Mahdessian. Cool art exhibit plus great features and even time for open mic for y’all. Love the circle of love there and the sound of the train is always cool.

Beyond Baroque in Venice is beyond amazing!!! Also hosted by the Los Angeles Poets Society founder and president (she’s a member, too) Jessica Wilson does this once or twice a month on Sundays. Check their website, too! If you ever feel like an actor on a real theatre stage with stadium seating and cool lighting and awesome people then you MUST check it out!

Corazón del Pueblo. Only been there once and I’m definitely coming back. Wednesday nights.

The Last Bookstore. This is a very, very, very laaarge, humongous, bigger than life open mic. Not sure if that’s your thing but definitely great poetry and talent.

And last, but not least, another secret: there’s so many more open mics, all you gotta do is check out openmikes.org
I could have saved you all that trouble from the beginning, right? Sometimes I can be an Open Mic Whore!!! That’s right, I am a whore!!! Deal with it!!!

©2014 Open Mic Whore

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Love is All They Need

Yesterday I got really great news: my dear friend Fernando and his boyfriend of more than 10 years Edwin are tying the knot and making the big step of getting married this September.

This morning, as I was driving to work, The Beatles’ came on my iPod and All You Need is Love brought tears to my eyes. I still get chills hearing this song, I feel as if every chord is an anthem of love on top of another and another until it’s overwhelming. Hearing this song I realized that love between two people is not just destiny, luck, fate or whatever you want to call it. It’s also about putting 100% into the relationship, trusting your partner so much that making it “official” should be as natural as signing up a car lease or buying a house together, making plans for the future for years to come, plans for retirement together, making every day about him (or her, it happens sometimes you know hahahaha).

Fernando and Edwin are ready to enter a new phase in their lives and I couldn’t see two people more deservedly of each other’s love as these two. Cheers to my dear friends on this new endeavor they’re about to enter, for everything they have to look forward to, in sickness and in health, in the good times and the bad, for richer or poorer may their love always bond them together. As I wrote them this morning: love knows no gender, nor race, nor political party, nor age, nor language. That and that All You Need is Love.

Family

Last night was an amazing open mic. I haven’t experienced such joy in a very long time, a once in a blue moon kind of experience where I felt that everyone at Tia Chucha’s just clicked. There wasn’t a single performer, whether they were regular or first timers, that I didn’t enjoy listening to for THIS time EVERYONE that came onstage had a message for me.
I typically say that there’s always that one person that touches me and makes me realize that I was there ready to receive that one message that made the trip worthwhile. And last night EVERYONE touched me, everyone had a message for me, everyone was in tune with the Universe.
I have an adapted family at Tia Chucha’s and I have come to realize that I belong here. I’ve been “crawling” to different open mics, trying to find out the one, trying to find that one spot that will have me say “this is it”. There have been close calls there:

House of Brews’ Mental Monday is still a close second favorite hosted by Evy Spiritluvchild became the first time that I realized the power of my words, the healing process. This will continue to be my therapy session where I get to confess my darkest secrets. Forgive me audience for I have sinned. Here is where I lost my virginity and started reading from my journal… And I can never go back! Thanks to Mama Hazze for creating this space the last Monday of each month.
Another great spot is called Holy Grounds which has the best ambiance of any open mic I’ve encountered this far. This quaint coffee shop holds beautiful art pieces by local artists and here’s where I met a very special lady named Josefina Vega. Her embossed metal art pieces are simply amazing and, at 90 years old, Josefina looks like she can live another 40 years more. Easily. The best feature is their patio where I felt right at home. There’s a beautiful chimney that creates a cozy feeling that you are home and being surrounded by beautiful people makes it all worthwhile.
Then there’s Bob’s Espresso Bar at NoHo Arts District (North Hollywood for those that are wondering what NoHo is). Meet Bob, owner and barista of the narrow little spot that hovers so much talent that it can hardly contain them all under one roof. Hosted by Jessica Wilson, Writer Wednesday attracts all musicians and poets that would like to come to the mic and expose their routines, more of a “performance” eclectic group that surprises whoever walks in that door.
I’ve been to Eastside Café in El Sereno, hosted by Iris where you can just feel the energy in the room and where everyone had the chance to come up to the mic and, once everyone came up, we all had a writing prompt that we got to read on the spot. Home of Las Cafeteras, a San Jarocho band with Hector Flores and other beautiful people. Here is the first time where I heard that music heals. Everyone is a healer, either by choosing your words quite carefully or by feeling the music deep in your soul.
I can name so many more places but it’s really Tia Chucha’s that I wanted to talk about. Located a few blocks away from my house in Sylmar, Tia Chucha’s is where I initially came in search for “something”, a place where I can hear people talking to a mic and maybe share what I had been writing. Back then I started sharing my short stories, I lost my virginity under those beam lights. I felt as if Tia Chucha’s was the first place that I now call home. There’s no way around it. There’s a unique factor, the one element missing from every other open mic, am element that has been crucial for me: the people. I can start naming people and the list would be quite big. I will focus on the emcees: Alejandro Molina and Jeffery Martin. These brothers welcome everyone that walks through Tia Chucha’s doors, regardless of who they are. There’s literally no one that has been turned down and, most everyone that came for Open Mic or Noche de Canto y Poesía (depending on which Friday you attend to), has left with something that they will never forget, that something that they needed to hear, that something that they needed to get off their chests. It’s pure magic. Last night was very particular since it was the 5th Friday of the month which happens every once in a while and both Alejandro and Jeffery combined forces and gathered their followers. I saw what each one brings to the open mics and simply put they put the heart and soul to Tia Chucha’s. If it wasn’t for these two emcees, last night would not have been so special. It was the perfect blend of music and poetry and musical collaboration that I’m still in awe of. Everyone felt the energy, everyone started dancing, laughing, making beautiful noise. Loving. It’s possibly the first time that I felt at home, the first time I felt really safe, the first time that I truly felt that presence, that palpable and visible energy force that filled the room. It was magic. Every spot in that room was filled with so much energy that I fit right in. No other place has made me feel so good. I’ve never felt do safe than here. It took going everywhere to realize how good I have it right here at home. Thank you, Tia Chucha. Thanks for opening the doors to your home and let us feel at home. Thank you for allowing us to be ourselves and finding our strength among our flaws. Thanks you for letting us jam in your honor. Thanks, Tia Chucha, for I know that you were there dancing among us. You were there enjoying the music, the poetry, the spoken word, the endless jamming that brought half the audience onstage. Thanks for healing me, for showing me the way. Thanks for showing me my family, my very dysfunctional yet lovable family. I was an only child and now I have so many brothers and sisters that I can’t even begin to count. Thank you, Tia Chucha.

©2014 Victor Sotomayor

Damn You, Whitney!

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Damn you, Whitney Houston! Why you have to make me cry? I was doing just fine driving to work this morning when I Will Always Love You came on and you made me think of my ex and those sad memories came afloat once again. I never realized the lyrics to that song until today. I never knew this was a breakup song. How did I miss that?

What really got to me was not only the fact that you’re gone, Whitney, and that every time I hear your voice it saddens me. Such talent gone, wasted, misused, such story of redemption, of rise and fall only to get back up again and fall once again miserably.

But that’s not what got to me today. It was Dolly’s lyrics that wish her ex the best, wish him all the love that she cannot provide to him anymore. I didn’t know that the power of her song not only lies in your voice, Whitney, but the realization that you can love somebody enough to learn to let them go and allow them to find love somewhere else. To realize that not everyone we meet is supposed to stick around for the long haul and that we are wise enough to understand when to stop and say: this is not working, the only thing I’m doing is standing in your way of your happiness.

Damn you, Whitney! Why you have to make me cry? That’s cool though, I am cool with you singing with that heavenly voice to me, that angelic voice that conveys love and feeling. A true talent now gone forever but you will always remain in my heart. You gave that gift to me and I thank you, Whitney. And I will always love you, I will always love you…

©2014 Victor Sotomayor