A sense of place was the evening’s theme Tuesday when students, friends and faculty gathered for the first reading of the year. Warmed by twin space heaters that lent a cozy atmosphere in the back room of the Coffee Cave, if not much actual heat, Sean Kennedy took us to Beirut, Lebanon in “Beirut” and Patrick Henry took us to Edinburgh, Scotland in “Lucky Strikes.”
First year fiction writer Sean, introduced with great humor and spirit by Jeannette Topar, told of a young man on vacation in Beirut with his new boyfriend Chivas. Lacking knowledge of the currency, geography, and customs, and most of all acutely aware of his homosexuality in a city where it is not accepted, Paul finds himself unable to turn to Chivas, and fears finding himself in the midst of a love triangle with Declan, an Irishman who recently moved to Beirut.
Patrick, introduced by Amanda Whiting with wit and enthusiasm and looking dapper in jacket and tie, read the story of Walker, on vacation in Edinburgh. His story relied on meticulous description and imaginative verb use to create images that brought the audience not only to Edinburgh but also inside the narrator’s head, via a dream. His language enlivened the local culture with descriptions of the bartender and a group of “proper mates.” Patrick’s Scottish accent for the dialogue, and such local dialect as “mobile” and “advert,” paralleled Sean’s peppering of his story with Arabic place names and colorful descriptions of Beirut streetscapes.
The audience enjoyed two excellent stories of young men on vacation adventures in strange lands, which turn out to be not quite what they expect. Though neither character is exactly alone, they are both unable to make the human connections they would like, Walker to the bartender and to the group of mates, and Paul to Chivas and Declan. Both writers effectively use travel and its ability to bring focus to one’s limitations and desires.
Thanks as always to the Coffee Cave and to Armin for organizing and hosting the event.