Features: Josh Stallings, Rebecca Gonzales, Scot Sothern, Siel Ju, and Kevin Moffett
Host: Jim Ruland
Location: Book Show, 5503 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, California 90042
Parking: metered street parking and lots ($1 for 1 hour), free after 9pm
Beverages: Red Stripes and red wine
Literarti Sighting: Salvador Plascencia
Extras: Girl Scout cookies and book give-aways
Quote: “Vermin on the Mount is a community, not a click” -Jim Ruland
Vermin on the Mount is a reading series I enjoy going to mostly for it’s punk rock host, Jim Ruland, and his free give-aways. I’ve only recently started attending this reading series in the last year or two, since it moved to Book Show in Highland Park, but the series, which moves between San Diego and Los Angeles, is twelve years old.
I got to the reading a little late (because I was starving and sure to have a case of hanger if I didn’t stop at Good Girl Cafe for a bowl of pho), and I walked in to find the host holding a bloody-mouthed piñata of Donald Trump. “Poetry is terrible,” Trump said, and Jim retorted by giving the cardboard figuring a punch in the gut. Soon he put Trump in a corner and invited the first reader, Josh Stallings, author of five books including his most recent, Young Americans, up to the mic.
Unfortunately, I didn’t hear much of Josh’s reading, maybe because warm pho was still sloshing in my belly or maybe because I was distracted by Book Show’s eclectic displays of merchandise that included a used copy of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits peering down over adult coloring books with names like, “Color My Boobs.”
Next up was Rebecca Gonzales who’s poem, “The Big Empty,” caught my attention from her introduction where she stated, “A poem for an ex-boyfriend and my country,” to which she chuckled at the thought of them being uncannily similar. The poem was a mix of religious imagery, spanish and english, and chanting.
Scot Sothern, a photographer and writer, read a piece from his book Street Walkers. Before he read he shared that he had spent sometime with “prostitutes,” taking their photos, and gathering stories. Though the story he read captured a vivid scene in a Tijuana bar with a drunk narrator quickly losing the funds he needs to get back over the border, I had a hard time listening to a tale about Mexican “whores.”
There was a short intermission to eat girl scout cookies, drink wine, and socialize. I was sad to see that there were only two bottles of wine and they were both empty (I guessed if I had surpassed the pho, I would have had a chance). When we returned to our seats, Jim welcomed us back with a raffle of free give-aways that included one of those “Color My Boobs” coloring books, and a copy of Scott Sothern’s book. Note to those looking to start a reading series, a giveaway might be a fun way to encourage audience participation.
Siel Ju, winner of the Red Hen Manuscript Award for Cake Time, a novel in stories, was first up after the break. She read a tale of online dating and hookups with men “too sincere for comfort,” and a narrator that had a strange fascination with her own belly chain that left the audience laughing and wanting more.
Last was Kevin Moffett who read two short stories, the second being about the narrator taking his son–dressed as a food pyramid–trick-or-treating. His reading ended with the line, “What a night, when you can be someone nobody else ever was.”
Our night ended with two more give-aways: Kevin Moffett’s book Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events and Siel Ju’s chapbook, “Feelings are Chemicals in Transit,” and an invitation by the host, Jim Ruland, to those in the audience to talk to him about featuring at a future reading because “Vermin on the Mount is a community, not a click.”
All in all, it was a good evening of stories and poems at a great location. I got to see a couple of friends, and it only cost me one dollar for meter parking.
Be sure to check out Vermin on The Mount’s website for fun mini interviews with the features and to find out more about the series.