The last time I went out to an event of any sort was Saturday, February 22, 2020. That was the final edition of the Writers' Showcase, held at the Olde Brick Theatre (a.k.a. the Diva Theater) in Scranton, PA. It was an unusual event, to say the least: the founder and co-host of the event was not there; neither, apparently, were the owners/operators of the venue, since the doors were locked and the lights were out. But the other host was there, as were the readers, and a small audience. So we held the event anyway, in the back parking lot of the theater, lit by a sodium vapor light and the stars glowing in a clear, crisp Winter sky, including a recently-dimmed Betelgeuse. (Betelgeuse, an irregularly variable star, had plunged to a dimness never before observed, leading some to speculate that it was about to undergo the supernova explosion waiting at the end of its life. We didn't realize it at the time, but Betelgeuse was already brightening that night; analysis suggests that the dimming was caused by the alignment of an orbiting dust cloud.) The night was cold, the crowd was small, and the threat of the incursion of the COVID-19 virus, which at that point had been spreading rapidly through New York City and Philadelphia and major port cities on the West coast, hung over us - had anyone been to New York or Philadelphia lately? But it was a successful and very enjoyable event.
Eighteen months. One election, one insurrection, over 600,000 people in the U.S. dead of COVID-19 later.
The Blackwatch Cafe was supposed to open before the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 has had a way of messing up everybody's plans. Instead it opened in late April 2021. It is on the grounds of Nay Aug Park in Scranton, in a beautiful stone structure that looks like it might once have served as a guard house of some sort - but was in fact originally the women's lavatory. The poetry reading was conceived just a few weeks before it was held there, after a chance visit to the new coffee shop by poets Michael Czarnecki and Tamar Samuel-Siegel.
Michael and Tamar were the featured poets, and nine additional poets read as well. The event was held on June 19, 2021 - Juneteenth, the first officially recognized Juneteenth in the United States. But it also happened to be the last day of Spring. I read "Springtime by the Numbers," which I had originally written (and read) on the last day of Spring in 2013.
|The last Writers' Showcase in the parking lot of the |
Olde Brick Theatre, Scranton, February 22, 2020