Keri Chryst is an old friend of mine from high school – technically an ex-girlfriend, but the kind from a younger and more innocent time, not the kind who sets your car on fire or anything. She lived in my neighborhood, and we did a lot of walking down the sidewalk, holding hands, pushing curfew, all that. And then because we were younger and more innocent, we stayed friends when Boyfriend Time ended, instead of plotting to destroy each other and climbing into vodka bottles.
This is a Facebook type of situation – we were out of touch for about eighteen or nineteen years. We hung around on campus once or twice, when she was still in high school and I was still in college, and then we went different directions. Well, I wasn’t really going in any direction at all, but she was, so that was certainly a different direction from mine.
Then nearly two decades blew past, and I finally drank the Kool-Aid, and got on Facebook. People started piling right out of the past, people I very literally never expected to see again. Facebook makes it pretty easy to just pop up and say hello, and so there was Keri Chryst.
She was one of those super smart kids in school – spoke five languages, an expert in martial arts, a gourmet cook, a master of disguise. If she bumped into a blackboard with a crazy, yet-to-ever-be-solved physics equation on it, it would suddenly be solved and no one would know who’d done it, and she’d just be whistling, leaning against the wall, knocking out a Rubik’s cube. Sometimes the principal would need her to figure out a complicated, locked-door murder mystery, before it turned into a media circus – because she might have been unorthodox, but she got results!
Pretty smart, I’m telling you. And so when I found her on Facebook, it was really no surprise that she was living in Paris, France, kicking all sorts of musical and artistic ass. In fact, she’s touring as a jazz singer, all over both countries during the next year – here’s a link to her website, which you should go to and enjoy, while I wait here for you, drinking coffee:
Now, that you’re back, you might be thinking, Tom, isn’t your wife going to stab you with something, sitting there spending a whole day’s post, kissing your high school girlfriend’s French butt, espcially since she’s a touring jazz singer now?
Well, you know, on an average day, the possibility of getting an old-fashioned stabbin’ from my wife is something I have to live with. There’s a very long list of things that make her stabby, so I have to move quick and stay alert, as a way of life. But no, in point of fact, the first time I explained to my wife who Keri Chryst was, she offered to sell me to Keri for approximately twenty bucks and a plane ticket to France. Keri declined.
No, the reason I’m telling you all about Keri Chryst, is because Keri also goes out in Paris and does some spoken word readings. I guess they don’t record it and podcast it, like I suddenly and emphatically think they should, so I’ve never seen it. And since I neglected to so much as break off an email to Keri before spending the whole morning writing about her and her work, I don’t even know if that’s an accurate way to put it – spoken word readings. I know the spoken word thing is on the side – it’s not what she teaches, for instance, at the American School of Modern Music.
Did I mention that’s in Paris, France? Because that’s where it is.
The spoken word thing is what it sounds like, though. You get five minutes, and you go on up and read something into a microphone, in front of everyone. You sort of, perform it, not read it like a set of middle school morning announcements.
Maybe it’s poetry, maybe the Bible, maybe a little Bill Shatner – if I’m in charge, that’s what it’d be. And then just last week, what it was, for Keri Chryst, was a little fiction by Tom Chalfant.
That’s right. Within weeks of the launch of this blog, my work has already been dramatically translated into a spoken word performance in Paris, France, by a classically trained samurai musician who can juggle chainsaws and live cats.
Here’s what happened. Soon after our initial Facebook meeting, and my wife’s subsequent, unsuccessful attempt to sell me, Keri asked what I had been up to. When someone who is kicking a bunch of artistic ass in Paris asks you that, you dig pretty deep.
You don’t say, “Not much, dude,” or “Just keepin’ it real, man.” You don’t wax philosophical about how sometimes you get the bear, and how other times, the bear gets you.
In my case you blurt out, “I’m writing a bunch! Look! Really!”
So I directed her toward the first part of my novel Pleasant Moon, which you can read at this link. You should be warned, it’s not like this blog, it’s dark, casually violent, and carpeted with profanity – enjoy! But anyway, that’s also what Keri selected on her turn at the mike, for the spoken word thing.
I don’t know how many people were there, but listen – that’s what all of this is all about. That’s art, flying out into the world, taking a new form, landing on the shoulders of people who never would have seen it otherwise. That’s exactly what connects writers to musicians to painters to directors – everyone who does something to pull the things out of their brains that need to come out, to show them to everyone because they need to be displayed, whether they are long or short, pretty or ugly, evil or good.
Let me just enjoy myself a second, here – even my kids were jumping up and down over this relatively simple idea. That in Paris, a small roomful of people sat and listened to something I’d written. That my old friend Keri Chryst – no doubt using her new and ever-refining smoky jazz voice, even though her old fifteen year-old voice would have been nice, too – chose to read the first few pages of Pleasant Moon. I didn’t ask her to, and she didn’t ask if it was okay – both as it should be.
And then Future Tom got a couple of new fans on the group page, fans from very, very far away.
So there you have it. Future Tom sweeps Europe. I’m like Jerry Lewis or Johnny Depp or the dude from Baywatch now.
Keri has approximately the same first name as the main character, too – Carrie Pleasant. And an even bigger coincidence was, I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while, just based on the spoken word performance, and I was going to call it “The French Connection.” I never mentioned that to Keri or anyone, just kicked it around in my head.
So then she posted the link to her touring website the other day, it was called “The French Connection,” giving me the opportunity to be glib and clever with my own title, which I also appreciate. Twenty years later, we’re still thinking a little bit alike.
Thanks for not setting my car on fire, Keri, and thanks for singlehandedly whipping the entire country of France into a Pleasant Moon frenzy.