Freedom of the press

Last night was the launch of Descants “Writers in Prison” issue and I was invited to be there. I have never been to a launch for anything; EVER, and was very much looking forward to it a few weeks in advance. I almost didn’t go because of schedule conflicts but worked it out so I could make it. A friend of mine was a guest editor of this issue, hence the invite.

My day started like any other day however little things seemed to get to me and my tolerance level was extremely low, so the day was turning out to be one of annoyances. I was grumpy and frustrated and by the end of the day wasn’t too sure I would make it to the launch. If it weren’t for the fact that another friend was counting on me for a lift I may not have gone. As I drove home my mood began to lift and I found myself once again looking forward to the evening.

I have to confess that before I met my friend the guest editor I hadn’t heard of Descant or read anything they put out. Not that it isn’t good just one of the many, MANY things I don’t know about .Anyway, my friend arrives and we leave for downtown. I don’t usually go into the city, let alone on a week night but wasn’t surprised to find that traffic was atrocious, but much like the tortoise – slow and steady won the race.

The event took place in a nice little venue called Rivial.  The GPS told us we have arrived so we parked the car and went searching for the address 783 College street. Up and down the street we went, chatting all the way distracted, the night was pleasant, not as chilly as I’d expected. We find ourselves looking at door numbers and they are getting higher, too high. We passed it; we turn around and walk down the street paying closer attention to where we’re going.  As luck would have it, not only did we miss it but it was practically right beside the parking lot where we parked.

We go in and right off the bat see our friend the guest editor. The place is buzzing with people already and the atmosphere is very excited.  After a quick hello we make our way to the table set up with the newest issue for sale. We purchase  a copy and sit with some familiar faces to chat and wait for our other comrades to arrive and for the readings to begin.

With things well under way it was time for introductions and readings. A lady, Karen Mullhalen, takes the stage and talks about the concept of how this particular issue came to fruition. Next up the introduction of the guest editors, everyone is applauded after they speak. They leave the stage and another lady, Kim Kim (it’s true – her actual name)takes their place. She’s dressed in black and get’s right to the speakers, feeling everything has already been said by those before her.

Standing on Stage the light’s shining down, illuminating the mic she introduces a man, who’s been in prison for a number of what we would call felonies. His name is Jorge Antonio Vallejos – He takes the stage, dressed in a long red t-shirt his black hair pulled in a ponytail. He reads his contribution titled “The Bull Pen” I watch and listen intently drawing a mental picture of his story. His story is real as they all are and I find myself, if only momentarily, in his world. He finishes and I’m brought back to Rivial when he shouts out for everyone to visit his website, which for the life of me I can’t remember.

The mistress of ceremonies once again takes the stage to introduce the next speaker, this time a woman, Jill Jorgenson. She walks in front of the stage to the stairs and she’s wearing a light blue top and jeans, her shoulder length blond hair is also pulled back. Adjusting the mic she jumps right into her piece “Spaces between” A touching account of her partner’s remembrance of her brother in prison.  She’s a little soft spoken and when she reads the entire audience is quiet, they disappear into a void of blackness in my peripheral vision – no one in the room exists except for her and the words she’s reading.  When she’s done she leaves the stage looking meek, head down.

We applaud for everyone after they’ve read and now it’s time for a break and we once again engage in conversation with the people around us.  We have drinks and we chat staying stationary in our seats as others continually come in and out of conversations around us. After a time the lady in black is again on stage drawing our attention back to the front of the room. She introduces the third speaker. His name now escapes me. The piece he read escapes me. He was an older gentle man wearing beige pants and a light coloured shirt, he escapes me. His words apparently unheard and unabsorbed. All I can recall is he works with a company that helps wrongly convicted people.

The man I can’t remember finishes speaking and Kim Kim once again is centre stage to introduce the nights final speaker. In his youth he was a successful boxer, wrongly accused of a triple murder, He’s wearing a dark taupe suit and a dark brown hat. His name is Rubin Carter. I have never heard of him before but it seems others have as the audience rises to their feet as he takes the stage. He speaks easy, like a well rehearsed play, you would never have know he was reading except for the occasional flip of a page on the make shift podium. The crowd is completely silent, captured by his story. He laughs and jokes but there’s more a hint of seriousness an undertone of melancholy. He ready for about 15 minutes maybe more stopping himself, fully aware of time constraints. We the audience could have sat there glued to our seats until he was finished however it decided it was time to stop.  The audience again got to it’s feet and applauded as he walked off stage.

With a final thank you for coming from the event’s host we get up and say our goodbyes to those we know and head for the door. I’m excited and looking forward to reading my copy of “Writer’s in Prison”

Cory

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Cory

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