Talking in superlatives is something I consciously make an effort to stop doing:

“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in the history of the universe.”
“That’s the #1 movie of all time.”
“That poet is the best writer who ever lived.”

It’s thoughtless disregard for the rest of the world
doing its part to contribute to the greatness.

But I gotta tell ya, thoughtfully and respectfully,
having been on the road for 7 years and in poetry venues for 9
that my recent visit to Cleveland, Ohio
(through Tom Noy, One Truth and Chief Rocka Entertainment)
just raised the bar, exceeded all expectations, and showed (not told)
how to fill a poetry house
and a person
with a positive experience.

It was the finest treatment any traveling poet could (but shouldn’t) expect.

I told them on the phone to just pick me up at the curb
because I had no checked bags and the flight was on time.
But they were glowing inside the airport, waiting.
They took me to dinner at an incredible organic foods restaurant.
They asked me if I could choose any song to be brought to the stage with
that night what would it be.
I said “Paragraph Paralyzer” by Blackalicious; Track 8, off Blazing Arrow.
They got on the phone and told the DJ to download it.
They took me to my over-the-top beautiful hotel room
overlooking the city, with an angle on the sunset,
to let me rest up before the show.
The bed was already turned down,
the radio was set to smoov jazz,
and there was fresh fruit and bottled water waiting.

The venue, Kamikaze, is perfect for a poetry reading
and if you know what Sunday night at a gospel church looks like
with open arms and genuinely welcoming eyes
you might have a sense of the community I walked into.

A friend of mine drove down from New York for the show.
She had been waiting for over an hour before I got there.
When I stepped out of the car she danced her way across the parking lot
to the beat of the drummers outside
and said, “This place is fuckin’ awesome!
Wait till you feel the energy these people give!”

I don’t wanna sit here and make them out to be more than human
because the experience was simply an an even flow of tact, kindness,
professionalism, good vibration, very well orchestrated, purposeful action,
and seamless use of my time there.
I had a proper intro,
an escort to and from the stage,
someone helping with merch (who took the time
to sell it away from the table and in the crowd),
the venue’s bouncer seated next to me
(who let me give him a hug for being my bodyguard in yet another violent poetry house),
someone checking in every 5-10 minutes to see if I needed anything
while I was seated in the back at my reserved couch
in the incredible, clean space with great stage.

To open the show
the stage is blessed
with readings of other people’s work,
and drums.

There was a newspaper interview in the beginning
and a video interview at the end.
Both interviewers actually had thoughtful questions.
One of the interviewers was Q-Nice from the early days of Slam
(on the team with Da Boogie Man in ’95 and ’96 if I remember right,
and maybe Sara Holbrook).

The paramedics even came…
while on duty…
and loved
until they were called out for an elderly woman who peed on herself
and dropped a glass.
But they came back.

One Truth asked me to step outside before the open mic got started
so I could join the slammers and the Chief Rocka Entertainment crew in prayer
and give thanks for the opportunity to share in the night and the moment.
When I walked outside there was clapping in-progress, energy building,
affirmation being exchanged
and glowing eyes and smiles…
I felt like the little bee girl from the Blind Melon video “No Rain”
when she finally finds the kingdom of other bee spazz’s
dancing and running about.

I was asked to step to the center of the circle,
and into their gospel.
If you’ve got religious hang-ups
do not bring them with you to this moment when you visit.
You are accepted as is.
They only wish to love you the way they know best.
And last Sunday night
it really was the best.

I wouldn’t sit here and brag about this flawless treatment
if it was comin’ from high end promoters who have the money streaming in
sucking up to other rich people who expect it.
I just have the certain feeling that these folks thoroughly
enjoy treating their guests with such style and care.
And I do not think it started or stops with me.

If I may quote a languaging I once heard from Jared Paul
when he stood up at the end of the Seattle Slam to compliment the vibe in our scene,
“I would be remissed if I didn’t take this opportunity to say so.”

With Much Love & Respect to Chief Rocka Entertainment, Tom Noy, One Truth
and to Cleveland for showing up to
Kamikaze, 4360 Warrensville Ctr. Rd., North Randall, OH.

Buddy Wakefield