2002-09-05 - 2:52 p.m.
I remember the first time I played guitar in public. I could only play three or four chords, but that was enough to write a song, and I had three or four songs written. I had only played them for friends, until one evening, red-haired Tom and his almost-albino girlfriend, Karen, ran up the six flights of stairs to my warehouse apartment on the edge of Gastown. "Come on, Paula...there's an open-mike night at the Classical Joint, and we put you on the list! Hurry!!!" I tried to explain that my songs weren't good enough to perform, but they just put my guitar in my hand and pushed me out the door.
The Classical Joint wasn't even a block away, but I was sweating by the time we got there. I didn't know how to play guitar! I prepared myself to be embarrassed, and waited with dread for my turn to perform.
When my name was called, I went up to the chair and began explaining to everyone that I didn't know how to play, that these were just dumb songs I'd written about a dumb ex-boyfriend, and that I'd be done soon and hoped they would put up with me. And then I sang my songs. The crowd clapped along, laughed at the jokes, beamed at me with such love and joy that I was awestruck. They not only didn't expect me to be perfect, they accepted me whole-heartedly!
From that moment on, I knew that I was a performer. I knew that communicating with an audience was possible and worthwhile. I have been performing in some capacity ever since.
I don't know where Tom is. I don't know where Karen is. But I will never forget their faith in me, and I will always be thankful.