I get to go see Penny Arcade in her new show 'New York Values' @ the Marsh, 8pm tonight (here for tickets). I have to admit that i'm a little bit in awe of Penny Arcade and not just because of her biography (which is formidable), or because of how good she was in her last show, 'Bitch, Dyke, Fag Hag, Whore' (she was very good), but because in a way she occupies an almost mythological place in my mind.
I was a voracious reader in my youth, and my hunger for new books far outpaced my ability to pay for them... so i stole them. I got pretty good at it too. So then one day this total douche nozzle of a boy i'd been dating broke my heart (it was a time in my life when the ability to successfully execute a kick-flip on a skate board went a long way t'word getting my pants undone, so take it for what it's worth) and i decided to boost my spirits with some recreational petty theft. Yes, i shoplifted as a youth. Yes, i was very good. But that afternoon I was the proverbial shoplifting ninja, having hit 8 bookstores in ten malls. almost a thousand dollars worth of merchandise. I was in the zone, i was unstoppable, and then i almost got caught.
It was the last store on my way back home, i was getting cocky. I didn't think anyone would bother security tagging a book of poetry. I was wrong. The offending book was titled 'Verses that Hurt,' an anthology of poems. I started reading where the security tag was lodged, in the middle of the book, and i read all the way t the end. When i got to the end i started at the beginning and read all the way through again. I let the poets' words wash over me. Brutal, hilarious, dark, heart-breaking. I read that book over and over again. Until all of that joy and pain seemed into all the little dark crevasses in my soul, and it helped change me. This book, over the years, has brought me far more relief and solace then any amount of self-destructive/deviant behavior ever has. And thats why i'm so in awe of Penny Arcade, and also the other authors of 'Verses that Hurt,' their words became a part of me and helped make me something better.