Nobody’s ever accused Paul Mullin of being soft. Back when he was a playwright, he wrote stories about genius brains being turned to slurry from aggressive radiation poisoning and monstrous men who recall their own horrific acts even through the blessed fog of amnesia. Mullin wrote long screeds about what was wrong with American theater (spoiler alert: basically everything), and wasn’t afraid to make enemies. Then, about four years ago, he suddenly retired from theater.
Next, Mullin published a memoir, The Starting Gate. It’s about stepfathers and sons and Mullin’s early teen years working in a bar full of colorful characters, and it’s full of fights and threats of violence—but in that chipper John Wayne kind of way, where every fistfight might end in friendship, or at the very least grudging respect. Mullin writes that he’s comfortable in the “beer-dank dark of this shit-kicker bar,” and you get the sense that he might in fact chafe in an environment that doesn’t have a bit of an edge.
Lately Mullin has been running a reading series, Loud Mouth Lit, with a couple of interesting angles. First, as curator, Mullin is pulling from his theatrical past. He asks guests who he thinks will be good (by which I mean dramatic and compelling) readers. Second, he doesn’t cram the bill full of six or seven readers: every Loud Mouth Lit is just Mullin and one other reader.
Third, he’s branching out into a very different venue: St. Andrews Bar & Grill on Aurora, which is not one of these refurbished amusement-park dive-bar simulacra that you see on Capitol Hill. St. Andrews is a bar from a different time and place, a little less butt rock and a little more classic rock: On the menu you’ll find “Rod Stewart Onion Rings,” which are “served with ‘Rod Sauce.’ ” Maybe the single most unappealing name for a condiment since “gentleman’s relish.”
Bringing a reading series to an Aurora sports bar is a baller move, the kind that makes you wonder if maybe literary events have gotten a little too comfortable in their own enclave. If readings are so great—why not take them into places like St. Andrews, where they can compete with jukeboxes and soccer matches on the satellite TV and offer abundant scotch relatively cheaply?
On Tuesday, May 30, Loud Mouth Lit will feature readings by Mullin and local writer David Schmader. Mullin will read a piece about his job at the National Archives and a fistfight in an elevator. Schmader says he’ll read “about gay mentors with bad boundaries and my short history of having to punch my way out of dates,” and he credits the piece to “Ed Murray, whose current scandal inspired me to write this all out.”
Schmader—who is, full disclosure, a former co-worker and a friend—is a very funny writer with a knack for baring the frilly underpants of our most angst-ridden issues as entertainingly as is humanly possible. He can make you laugh about things you’re afraid to say out loud. His exuberant ninja-assassin comedy style should blend well with Mullin’s aggressive punch-throwing. One’s a tactical genius, the other kicks down doors. I’d watch the hell out of that buddy-cop show.
St. Andrews Bar & Grill, 7406 Aurora Ave. N., 523-1193, standrewsbarandgrill.com. Free. All ages. 8 p.m. Tues., May 30. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage at seattlereviewofbooks.com.