SLAM: How CBGB, the Hottest Guy in the World, and THE MOTH Changed My Life as an Artist

One evening while I was living in Manhattan at 20 years old I went to dinner to celebrate the signing of my first record contract and I ate a very expensive dish of shrimp.  The next morning I was vomiting without reprieve and finally my dad, who was calling from work to check on me every 30 minutes, demanded that I go to the hospital.  I gave in and got in a taxi to the ER.  I was pale faced, big haired, and wearing a cropped white tank top and a yellow sarong that I wore all the time during my I-dont-care-if-I-live-in-manhattan-I-want-to-feel-like-a-beach-girl phase.  After a friend came to visit and a nice nap with an arm full of IV fluids, I woke up and noticed in the bed across from me was the… I probably legendized this in my mind, but I was 20 and it felt legendary… the HOTTEST guy in the entire world.  He was gruff and like 6’3, Italian-y and muscle-y and adorable with a stone cut jaw and the sweetest puppy dog eyes I’d ever seen.  He’d broken his arm and was talking to a friend while he lay in one of those teeny, tiny, blue hospital gowns (thank you, God).  I’d never been so happy to be wearing that fucking sarong and tiny white tank- I looked GOOD (well, pale-face and fresh-off-vomiting aside, that is). Eventually after I started feeling better we got to making small talk.  I think his name was Frank.  God this dude was sexy.  But you know how fast everything moves in the ER.  He got sent somewhere for tests and while he was gone I was discharged and… c’est la vie!  I think I wrote many many poems and songs about that boy.


Flash forward a few months to me wandering around downtown Manhattan and into CBGB late one night. There was no band onstage when I walked in and I figured they were between sets.  I waited about 15 minutes and then got bored and decided to try my luck elsewhere.  But then the bartender asked me what I wanted to drink.  I turned around to say I was leaving when there he was!  Frank, my hospital guy, the hottest guy in the world!  I couldn’t believe it!  Of course I couldn’t TELL him I’d been thinking/dreaming/writing about him, so we did the whole squint and point and “weren’t you…” – “the hospital that one time..?” thing.  So, yeah, I wasn’t about to go anywhere.  I asked him who was playing tonight and he said there was a Poetry Slam on.


“Just wait, you’ll see” he told me.

So I waited.  And then… glory.

If you’ve never been to a poetry slam– like a LEGIT one– you HAVE to make this a priority in your life.  My world as a writer was altered that evening as I watched poet after poet, storyteller after storyteller stand on stage and beat out these tales, these heartbeats, these poems with music, this verbal ART.

Frank (the hottest guy in the world) and I exchanged a couple calls after that night, but nothing ever happened.  I think he was just meant to be my muse for a while and to keep me there at CBGB’s to hear things that would change my life.

So… now it’s about time I told YOU about The Moth.

At its core, The Moth is a tribute to the art of storytelling. All art begins with a story, and where it differs is how it’s told. Before writing, before technology – stories were spoken, and passed down. The Moth keeps this art alive in the most fascinating way possible: StorySLAMs.


Vintage illustration from plaindealing

The Moth’s StorySLAMs take place in many major US cities (all my Los Angeles neighbors, you can enjoy or even take part in a slam three times a month!) and the competitions go like this: anyone with a five minute story to tell *live* is welcome to enter. During each slam, 10 names are randomly drawn, and those are the names that compete during that performance. A winner is chosen at each event, and eventually, ten winners face off in the GrandSLAM event. Obviously the competition is fun, especially for those involved, but the open mic experience– where real people get up and share surprising and fascinating stories – is uniquely special.

It might be news to you, but The Moth has been around since 1997. (And it’s not quite so underground now that it has a radio hour and everything.) While it’s based and was originally founded in New York (of course!), The Moth events now take place all over the US, in Australia, and beyond. Check out their calendar here after listening to a few quick clips. And, like all good creative communities, there is a podcast too. So while it’s not exactly mainstream, it IS accessible… Go to a live event and report back!  And if you see Frank– tell him to come find me.


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