TIC Toastmasters

Some people enjoy public speaking.  I would like to be one of those people.  I’ve had moments during public readings or radio interviews when my heart beat so fast I could hardly breathe.  I had a television audition during which my mouth became so dry that I couldn’t separate my tongue from the roof of my mouth. 

I learned about Toastmasters from Mike Dooley’s book, Manifesting Change. Dooley’s first Toastmaster speech was on the topic, “Thoughts Become Things.” He is now a professional public speaker. 

I went to my first Toastmasters meeting last Wednesday, along with several other first-timers, most of them students at nearby Columbia University.

Presiding Officer, Vic asked all the guests to introduce themselves.  Then Toastmaster, Carole, introduced the word of the day: motivation.  Next, two speakers presented speeches.

Thomas talking on the Year of the Snake

Thomas, a Toastmasters regular, gave the first speech, “Happy Year of the Snake.” He used the floor space and aisle, asking listeners, “What do you associate with the snake?”  Thomas explained that the lunar New Year means a lot more to him than January 1st.  He said the snake is good for money and flexible so we could expect a good year of change and financial fortune.

Vic talking on Privilege and ResponsibilityNext, Vic spoke on the topic, “With Privilege Comes Responsibility.” Vic recounted his defining moment, when as a child in India his bicycle broke down on the way to school and a young boy helped him fix it.  The boy said proudly, “My elder brother goes to school.”  This boy was working in a garage to help his brother study.  Vic realized then how privileged he was and determined to use his gifts to help others.

Next came a section called “Table Topics” during which Vice President and Topics Master, Rory, called on attendees to speak for two minutes or less on various topics, including the Superbowl electrical malfunction, whether the New York Times should continue in print, whether St. John the Divine Cathedral should sell abutting land for tower blocks, and whether many children or a single child is better in a family. 

Me talking about Wine Pairings

I was asked to speak about what I would choose if I were on an important business meeting and asked to select a wine to accompany fish.  My knowledge of wines is so poor that I admitted I would have to request assistance from someone in the know.

After an anonymous vote, prize bookmarks were awarded to Vic for Best Speech, newcomer, Nora, for her 46-second Table Topics answer to the family size question, and Thomas for best evaluator.  

All speeches are timed and measured by an Ah Counter for the number of sounds used as a crutch.  I expected my Ah Counter to be off the charts, but it was zero.  Toastmasters is such a relaxed environment in which to learn confidence in public speaking, I’m actually looking forward to giving my first speech.

Tattoos, Talent and Teleprompters

Dave Navarro is probably best taken raw, unfettered and unscripted, but he still did an excellent job of reading a script. No one would have guessed it was the first time he read from a teleprompter. Navarro's arched eyebrows and challenging stare were imprinted in my memory, but I had never thought about his career until I operated his teleprompter for the Season 2 Finale of Spike TV’s Ink Masters Live.  Before I turned up for the rehearsal, I was told that certain people were touchy and I might be ditched from the job.  This did not make me feel good.

In preparation, I started reading Navarro’s book, “Don’t Try This at Home.” I thought perhaps if I got in tune with him, I might be able to help the show run more smoothly.  Soon, though, I realized that I’d best not try this at home or anywhere. 

“Since the option of death was always available, I had nothing to lose,” Navarro says early in his book. “If somebody came over and spilled a glass of wine on the couch, I could always kill myself.” 

Thank God, I thought.  This man understands the futility of striving and this job might actually be fun.  But I was no match for Dave Navarro and anything short of perfection was unacceptable to him, at least in terms of teleprompting.  Shortly before the live show began, I wished that the option of death were—in fact—a little more available.

When the first rehearsal began, Navarro’s microphone was not turned on so I heard nothing for around two minutes.  This was long enough for him to decide I was not up to scratch.

Trust No One, Dave Navarro

Navarro always wanted to have the next script item waiting in the screen so he knew what was coming next, and could go there in case he had to jump out early.  During the dress rehearsal, a producer insisted that I blank the screen and wait to jump past several items, which she wanted to hide. 

“Dude, the screen can never be blank,” said Navarro. 

Then, he turned to his floor producer.  “I think we need to get a new prompter,” he said.

She murmured something to him and we carried on.

When the show went live, Navarro carried it along with energy and charisma.  Nobody noticed I was there, which is the best I could hope for.

Dave Navarro and Tatu Baby at the after party, which I definitely was not invited to

Back at home, I continued to read Navarro’s book and learned about the photo booth he installed in his home, his stalker, his hypothesis that, “The only people who stay in your life are the ones you pay,” his obsession with billboard celebrity Angelyne, the untimely death of his mother, his break with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his addictions and his bands, Jane’s Addiction and Camp Freddy.  

If it hadn’t been for Ink Master Live, I never would have thought about these things.  Even if he wanted to replace me, I’m glad I got a glimpse into the world of Dave Navarro.