When the circus came to town

Everett reading at the RoadshowWalla Walla was a blur of activity this weekend, what with a memorial for the lovely Mary Hanna, who passed away last month and whose illness I wrote about a couple of times, the short-lived attempt to hunt wild turkeys, and a party on Friday night, which was the setting upon which I agreed to wake before dawn to watch someone shoot at birds. But Saturday night wasn’t the terminus of our weekend plans. Sunday brought with it the Tranny Roadshow, also previously mentioned in this blog.

I was happy to provide an interview to the local paper. Well, I was happy and not a little trepidatious. A lot trepidatious, but who’s measuring? Turns out that the article was pretty well done, even if the editor did miss a typo in the first paragraph.

I prepped food for an after-party event at our house, and wandered over to the venue for the sound check an hour before the start time. Meeting the lead organizer as I walked in, he told me that they’d just had the fastest sound check ever and they were done already, two minutes in. And now I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Ooh, new transpeople. I should talk to them. And then I remembered.

My experience with a lot of transfolk is that when we get into large enough groups, it starts feeling like it’s and after school special of Who’s Too Cool for School? Everyone gets dressed in extremely hip ways—they’re wearing ironic clothing, like shirts with religious overtones, or they’re sporting working class wear, like gas attendant jumpsuits or trucker hats, or they’re Goth, or something that makes it very clear they are not here for a wine tour. The next aspect of WTCfS is that everyone knows each other but not you, so for me, I get stuck standing a little outside their conversation circle, trying to find an in or at least hear what they’re discussing, but this is difficult for all of the inside jokes that I have previously not been privy. The only other option here is not an attractive one: I can try to jump in and say something, but I risk either being completely ignored, which makes me feel like a braces-wearing, pimply 8th grader all over again (and puberty twice is really enough), or I may get the quick, “uh huh,” said with a condescending jerk of the head before their previous line of conversation resumes. There is a very low chance that they may find me charming enough to step aside seven inches so that I’m not stuck outside the circle like some uninvited electron.

Trust me, these things have happened to me. I had been so excited for them to come to little Walla Walla, and I figured it would be a show some people in town really needed to see, but looking at the troupe I was worried, like I’d been sitting down with the Union-Bulletin reporter. Why should they have my best interest at heart? I wasn’t a hip, urban transman from DC anymore. I was some guy with neckwear from a tiny city in the middle of nowhere.

Okay, way to make it be all about me, I told myself, thus ensuring it was all about me, at least for the time it took my dendrites to send that message across my synapses. Just relax. Ask how their trip has been so far.

We made a little small talk. Some of the performers introduced themselves. They seemed friendly enough, if not way, way cooler than me. I watched as people made their way into the room, finding seats and getting comfortable. I wasn’t nervous to read in the slightest, but I was aware that I’d been alotted 10–12 minutes. I didn’t want to read too fast, but I didn’t want to go over my time, either.

Two older ladies sat right in the front, smiling broadly. I’d said in the article that the show was reminiscent of old Vaudeville. Were they here thinking they’d get Benny Goodman and Laurel and Hardy? Oh, crap.

A man came in with his mother, who appeared to be in her 70s. He asked Susanne, the faculty adviser for the event, if he could get coffee and bring it in here. She said sure. He looked uncomfortable through the whole show, but his mom had a blast.

Then there was an older couple who looked like two hippies from back in the day, him still sporting a long ponytail of now-white hair, she in a flowing flowery blouse. Directly behind them was The Knitter, who I recognize now from bleeding heart liberal events I’ve attended all over North America. There is always a knitter, as if there’s an underground knitting community who scour the notices about local events so that at least one of them will be in attendance at each. Because we have to remember that knitting is important. Or something. I suppose I do admire someone who can watch the stage and not drop a stitch. That’s real multitasking.

Red Durkin

Red Durkin, comedienne extraordinaire

The show began, with a comedienne, who made us all laugh, repeatedly, the whole time she was on stage, which is what is supposed to happen, so I gather. I’ve watched enough unfunny comics to wonder why the industry isn’t afraid we consumers will sue them for false advertising. But she was the real deal.

Second performer picked up a guitar and sang, self-created songs except for one Sarah Harmer cover, which he did well.

My turn. The “local performer.” I approached the stage, which uh, didn’t have a step, even though it was at least 26 inches off the floor. I was certain I would wipe out before I’d even made it up there.

I was not graceful, but I made it. Ha! I was triumphant. My knees were intact, sturdy, even. I remembered I was supposed to read something. Good thing it was in my hand.

“This is a story about Becky and Bertha,” I said, “who were the names of my breasts when I still had breasts, that is.”

And we were off to the races. I got a lot of laughs and even a guffaw or two. I might have sped up toward the end a little, still worrying about my time limit, as if Jim Lehrer were there to call time.

The rest of the show was fun, with another musician—she broke out a ukelele—a juggler, a couple of spoken word performers. The audience gave us more applause, and suddenly, we were done, sans big bows from the troupe, which I thought was a little unorthodox. But what about this wasn’t orthodox?

I dashed home while Susanne helped them pack up their things, as it was my job to set out the spread for the party. They weren’t ready for our hospitality, but they were happy for it, and we met up with a few students who had brought them to campus. The conversation was great, we focused on what we had in common, and I worried no longer that I didn’t fit in. It was a long, long breath of fresh air. And it made me want to make Walla Walla a more diverse place.

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