Column: What could possibly go wrong? A lot, if he’s lucky

By SCOTT SAALMAN

While being interviewed by WNIN’s Micah Schweizer before an audience at the historic Reitz Home in downtown Evansville, I mentioned how I always hope something will go wrong no matter what I’m doing for the sake of having something good to write about later. People want to read about the imperfect vacation, not the perfect one — say the one where dad gets involved in a shouting match with a Destin, Fla., souvenir store clerk after his son is accused of breaking a seashell lamp. (Full disclosure: He did break it, costing me $95. So much for The Customer Is Always Right. But hey, I got material.)

After the interview, I read an essay about my mom losing her bikini top for the whole world to see at a crowded beach when I was a little boy — the most embarrassing moment of my life. I had never heard so many laughs over a story before. I killed. The applause was audible enough to activate avalanche warnings. I wanted to bottle the moment. The plan was to broadcast this piece at a later date for more people to hear it, so that was like having the moment in a bottle. One word summed up my feelings: euphoria.

When my fellow “Will Read For Food” players approached the stage for a follow-up piece, I noticed a guy’s hand (WNIN’s Tony Voss?) reach out and twist my microphone 180 degrees so it now aimed in the opposite direction from before. Later, I learned the mike erroneously had been pointed not at my mouth but at the audience during Topless Mom; hence, the sound quality was too poor for radio replay. I was crushed.

I guess I asked for it, though, when I stated how I encourage things to go wrong.
Other than that, everything is going right with our WRFF shows, which raise money and canned goods for Community Food Bank, which serves hundreds of Dubois County residents in need. From October 2011 through September 2012, because of the generosity of our audiences, our show helped raise $3,300 in addition to a lot of food. The fact that admission is a mere canned good item (money isn’t mandatory) further demonstrates our community’s giving spirit. As a Wednesday night food bank volunteer, I see firsthand the difference your acts of giving make. I see the donations come in one door and go out the other, meeting a vital need.

WRFF is one of those “you had to be there” events. It’s hard to explain, which does cause promotional problems. Still, we see more new faces at each show, so word of mouth must be our ally. On occasion, a person has come up to me after the show and said, “I really didn’t know what to expect but I’m glad I came.” It is the ultimate compliment.

A lady at our St. Paul Lutheran Church gig who faithfully reads my Herald column told me she came just to see what I look like. She has yet to attend a second show. Am I that unattractive?

My favorite show moment — this too at St. Paul’s — was when the performance came to an abrupt stop halfway through so audience members could come up to hug Vietnam War veteran Ed Walston after he read a gut-wrenching piece about being in-country. That moment, followed by veteran Paul Michael Ash performing his haunting “Vietdamn” song, still gives me chills. Our show, at times, can be an emotional roller coaster. But don’t fret; laughs are guaranteed or we’ll return your canned hominy.

One memorable show, outdoors, was cosponsored by Snaps and Jasper Public Library — strange bedfellows, but a nice merger of two vital staples: good beer and good books. The show achieved the intimate performance we strive for via our weird mix of humor essays and live music. The only distractions were the periodic St. Joseph Catholic Church clock chimes squelching our voices. I personally donated $1 a chime and wrote a $25 check that night — a God tax. St. Joe’s, I love your chimes, but every 15 minutes? A man must feed his family, you know.

Our first two shows were sponsored by Vincennes University Jasper Campus. Since then, we’ve tweaked and evolved for the better. You can sponsor a show (we are open to other causes) for free. Just give us a place to play. We voluntary troubadours and court jesters are richly compensated with laughter, applause, handshakes, hugs and a sense of making a difference for others.

WRFF represents my most personally rewarding writing-related experience. It has given me an opportunity to “play” with incredible area writers and musicians — Ed, Paul, Kris Lasher, Billie and Buddy Hart, Marty Vaught, Abbie Rumbach, Angie Mayfield and Ray Major (and guests Jason Recker, Greg Eckerle, Marc Steczyk, Matthew Graham, Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz, Aaron and Logan Ziegler, Timepeace and Scott Sollman). We experienced some turnover our first year, but the show must go on. There are people to feed.

If you didn’t catch one of our previous 14 shows, what can I say — other than “You had to be there.” We hope to see you during our second year. Who knows, maybe something will go wrong. One can only hope.

The next “Will Read (and sing) For Food” will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at Old Town Hall in Huntingburg. Admission is a canned good or a monetary donation which will be turned over to Shared Abundance food pantry.




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