When I’m 64: A Review of So Say We All’s September VAMP Reading Event

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”  so-say-we-all

Most of us will recognize that line as part of the iconic chorus to the McCartney-crafted single. On the 29th of September, however,“When I’m 64” didn’t just serve as the title to The Beatles’ hit, but was also the theme of the VAMP reading series hosted at The Whistle Stop Bar in South Park (always on the last Thursday of every month). VAMP is a showcase of true stories from an eclectic pick of local writers brought to you by San Diego’s own literary powerhouse, So Say We All. The group puts on many events for the book-nerd-and-lit-savvy crowd of the SoCal city, but the VAMP series is a favorite – a blind submission process, paired with a painstakingly thorough method of editing and performance coaching after selection, ensures that the pieces presented to you are all at once engaging, touching, and memorable. September’s happening was no different, and the theme, centered around old age, almost guaranteed a tearjerker of an event.

Amen Ra

When I’m 64” featured seven local writers: Amen Ra, Audrey Breay, Chris Onderdonk, Eber Lambert, Frank DiPalermo, Michelle Kerouac, and Nancy Cary. The show was produced by both Nichole MacDonald and Eber Lambert (mentioned above). Though the writers themselves varied in age, all of their pieces dealt with an aspect of growing older; whether it was about declining mental health, physical ailments that often come with aging, or looking to elders for guidance/advice, all writers took a topic that American culture almost aggressively avoids and brought it to the forefront. Sometimes the stories were funny, sometimes sad, but all were masterfully shared.

Audrey Breay

Amen Ra used Morgan Freeman as a grandfather archetype to center his late-in-life diagnosis of bipolar disorder, while Audrey Breay provided an honest array of emotions about what it’s like to have a mother suffering from dementia. Chris Onderdonk charted his journey of death obsession that eventually brought him to hospice work, while Michelle Kerouac heart-wrenchingly described how difficult it was to lose her mother-in-law to leukemia, a woman who provided her support after her husband came back from deployment a totally changed man. And then there was Frank DiPalermo who tricked us with his humorous impressions of his Aunt Bea (a Bronx Italian), only to reveal the exact moment of losing his Uncle Gene to pneumonia as a complication of his Parkinson’s. Nancy Cary explained her unusual late-in-life friendship with Winston, a gay black man, and how she was by his side as he lost his battle to cancer. And finally, ending the show was Eber Lambert, who told the story of a reluctant friendship between a younger version of himself in his engineering days with his (much older) Boston Irish ginger boss, who was “kind of an asshole.”

The tiny tag-lines above do nothing beyond merely summarizing the expert skills in storytelling these writers possess, and don’t do justice to how extraordinarily moving the event was on the whole. VAMP absolutely never disappoints. This month’s was appropriately themed “Skeletons in the Closet” and next month’s show is taking a hiatus for Turkey Day. However, it usually happens on the last Thursday of every month and is held at The Whistle Stop in South Park. It always starts at 8:30pm, but you’ll want to get there early as the space fills up and so does the line to the bar!

**All photo credit goes to Matt Baldwin

For more information on literary/arts non-profit So Say We All, please visit:http://www.sosayweallonline.com/

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