Last weekend, I went to a literary reading in Highland Park. It was held at a curious bookstore with all kinds of curious books and curios, and the event was hosted by a guy I know, although I hadn't seen him in over a dozen years. It ended up being a bit crowded, and the guy I knew who was hosting it didn't recognize me, and I had gone by myself, so I ended up sitting in a chair and just sort of observing, which was fine. The reading started, and it was fun. The first woman sang before she read, in Spanish, which was lovely, and the lights were dim, and there were books all around. As it turned out, one of the readers was named Ben Loory, who has a new collection of short stories out called Tales of Falling and Flying. Loory's writing is itself a bit curious; how can I describe it? Like a child's story on crack? Maybe. In any case, I hadn't read anything by Loory -- TBH, I don't think I'd heard of him before -- and he read a story called "The Writer," which dazzled me. It's moving and sad and beautiful and inspiring. It has lines it it like: "Late that night, the man broke into the writer's room, and stood over his bed in the dark." I was so taken by this fiction that I bought a copy of his book and despite the fact that it made me feel sort of silly, I asked Loory to sign it, which he did, writing: "To Susannah! Amazing! Enjoy!" Then I went home. For the following weekend, I'd made plans to go to another reading. This one more in LA proper. This time going with a friend. This one in a nightclub, which was sort of an odd venue for a literary reading, as it was very cold, and rather dark, and people filled the floor of the club to stare at the stage, and it kind of looked like the literary version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." When I'd decided to go, I hadn't really registered who was reading, and the day of the event or maybe the day before I noticed that Loory was reading at this reading, too. This struck me as kind of odd. I told my friend about this fact as we ate dinner beforehand. Maybe Loory would think I was some kind of groupie, following him from reading to reading. Regardless, we went, and eventually we were standing in this cold, dark room listening to various people of dubious talent read stories of little interest to me, until, of course, Loory took the stage. Ah, but, see, I'm sorry. I've forgotten part of the story. While my friend and I were standing there -- "I'm scared of literary types," some guy in the crowd sneered, as we waited -- a woman was wandering around the club and handing out large homemade signs with people's names scrawled on them in pen markers of various colors. I watched as she handed a sign to a woman leaning against a column. The sign read "JESSICA." At some point, the woman appeared in front of me, holding a sign, and she asked me, would I hold this sign up while the person who has this name is reading? Sure, I said. About a month previous, a friend of mine told me say yes to everything, and I have been trying to do that. So I said yes, and she handed me the sign, and I looked at the sign, which, to be clear, in case there is any confusion, I didn't make, and the sign said "BEN" in big letters, and someone had gone through the painstaking task of filling the big B with dots, and there were several hearts floating around -- below the B, above the E, under the N -- and in two of the corners there were stickers in the shape of green glitter covered arrows, like shooting stars, like you were going somewhere. Christ, I thought. Now I am really going to look like a groupie. There is that six-one woman in the back of the club holding up the giant handmade sign while Loory reads on the stage. Regardless, a woman came to the stage to read and stated that she couldn't see anyone in the audience, due to the lighting, I presume, so I figured that while I had considered, you know, hiding the sign, or not holding it up, I might as well do it, and Loory would never know. Finally, about halfway through the reading, Loory took the stage. This time, he read a story called "Fernando." It's about a man who forgets his name and what happens to you when you lose your identity and must go to war to get it. It has lines in it like: "Fernando is my name! the angry man screams." When Loory took the stage, I did as I had been instructed: I held the sign in the air. I waved it a little. Then I listened to the story, and I started laughing, quietly, because the entire thing was so great: I was out in LA, I was in this place, I was listening to someone read a story about what it takes to find yourself, even when you are there all the time, hiding within you. After Loory was done, my friend and I consulted one another. Should we stay or should we go? It isn't going to get any better than this, I told her. So we left, and I took the sign with me. I held it while we walked through the bustling dark night of the city. And then I went home.