I’ve been lucky, pub­lic event-wise. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad audi­ence. I’ve had qui­et audi­ences, I’ve had minus­cule audi­ences, I’m had inti­mate audi­ences, but not one I would con­sid­er bad.

The Thin Air pro­gram. Image by Leif Nor­man.

But there are audi­ences, and their are audi­ences, and let me tell you, my night at the Thin Air Inter­na­tion­al Writ­ers Fes­ti­val? That was an AUDIENCE!

I don’t want to over­sell it, but every­thing came togeth­er that night; the venue was sold out, I was stoked, the oth­ers on the event list were smokin’ tal­ent­ed, and alco­hol was flow­ing. And what fol­lowed was as close to being on stage at the Mon­tre­al Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val as I’ll ever get.

Sad­ly, I’ll nev­er come close to paint­ing a vivid enough word pic­ture to accu­rate­ly cap­ture that night of Sep­tem­ber 23, 2012. By night’s end, my sides were aching from laugh­ter, my cheeks flamed red and bruised from smil­ing. All I can do here is offer up a few images, and hope you’ll under­stand what a mag­i­cal, just all-out awe­some night it was.

BTW, a few of the images come (with per­mis­sion) from the web­site of Leif Nor­man, a tal­ent­ed pho­tog­ra­ph­er who cap­tured some tru­ly great moments (I’ve nev­er looked bet­ter). Leif is immense­ly tal­ent­ed, and if you are in the Win­nipeg area and in need of a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, I high­ly rec­om­mend him. Check out his web­site for exam­ples and con­tact info.

Char­lene Diehl and Bruce Syma­ka, Gods of Thin Air. Image by Leif Nor­man.

The evening began with an amaz­ing show of slam poet­ry, a lit­er­ary form of rhythm and per­for­mance. Steve Cur­rie, Aaron Simm, J-La, Faiza, and Dylan Mowatt, the final­ists for this year’s Win­nipeg Poet­ry Slam Team, were aston­ish­ing in their verve, ener­gy, pas­sion, and tal­ent. If I was even half as good a per­former as these five, I’d prob­a­bly be on Broad­way. To be fair, I should have gone on before them (always start with the weak­est act), but then again, they got the audi­ence so roused that by the time I came on, the place was like Wood­stock. Or at the very least, Bob’s Chuck­le Hut.

Can you believe peo­ple showed up for this?

I read two pieces, Shel­don Funk’s death scene and Sheldon’s relearn­ing to speak. Both went over extreme­ly well, with many paus­es for gales of laugh­ter and/or bouts of nau­sea (some of it was pret­ty gory).

Look! Sold at least one book!

Then, after anoth­er break, the high­light of the night, The Haiku Death Match. Yours tru­ly went head to head against three absolute mas­ters of the form; Aaron Simm, Matthew Moskal (even­tu­al win­ner), and Steve Locke. I’m not one to brag, so I won’t: I was com­plete­ly shot down, unpre­pared for just how damnably good these guys are. It was a good forty min­utes of the most pro­fane, dis­turb­ing, hilar­i­ous short poet­ry you’ve ever heard. I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to put more ref­er­ences to mas­tur­ba­tion in one event, all front of mem­bers of my fam­i­ly. So proud. Did any­one record it?

The Sev­en­teen-Syl­la­ble Ami­gos: Steve Locke, Matthew Moskal, Aaron Simm, and some idiot who thought he could bluff his way through.

Sim­ply put, this was one of the best, most enter­tain­ing nights of my life, eas­i­ly top­ping the time I saw Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man in a bar. My unbri­dled thanks to Thin Air, Char­lene Diehl, Bruce Syma­ka, Per­ry Grosshans, and every­one else. You’ve raised the bar for oth­er fes­ti­vals, and if noth­ing else, you’ve giv­en me incen­tive to write a third nov­el, ‘cuz I am def­i­nite­ly com­ing back.

Max­in’ and relax­ing’ with Corey the Red