DC Bee Concluded


Monday night was the DC Bee Final. I’ve attempted to recap some of the night below. If there are any inaccuracies in my telling, I’m sure someone will correct me.

It’s 8:45 PM, fifteen minutes late, when the organizers finally open the doors to the Warehouse’s main theater. Carmen, Laura, and I are in the first third of the people in line, but by the time we enter the theater proper there are only a handful of single seats left. We pass Mark waiting on the stage and sit on the highest stair in the middle of the audience.

People fill the steps below us and latecomers start lining up against the right wall of the theater. The Warehouse owner comes in to point out the emergency exit. It’s hot and the low-ceilinged set on stage makes everyone feel a little claustrophobic.

The keyboardist starts playing a bouncy loop and judges Nick and Juhi emerge from a faux bathroom stage-left and introduce themselves. Nick reminds everyone that by entering the room they agree to be filmed in the spelling bee documentary and they have no rights–no rights–to the final product.

Nick and Juhi sit down at the table and begin to call out the contestants by name so they can get their numbers. The audience applauds in varying degrees as their favorites are named.

There is one empty seat on the stage. Contestant #8 couldn’t make it to the final. Nick promises they’ll fill the seat.

Mark DeCelles is Contestant #10. Carmen, Laura, and I shout and hold up our home-made Mark signs. Others make a lot of noise for Mark as well.

When the last name is called, Nick invites members of the audience to take the place of Contestant #8. A dozen hands immediately go up. I don’t raise my hand. I have a cold and I don’t feel like a spelling champion.

Juhi says, “I know who I want,” and whispers in Nick’s ear. Nick says, “Yeah, we can do that.” Juhi says, “Joseph Price.”

I carefully step through the people sitting on the stairs and make my way to the stage. “Is this alright with you?” Juhi asks me. “Thanks,” I say. I pick up #8 and sit with the other contestants.

“A former foe turned friend,” Juhi says to my back.

The spelling bee begins. The first seven contestants get easy words including “insusceptibility” and, appropriately, “claustrophobic.” It’s my turn. I go to the microphone.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“I saw Joseph Price on a date last week. Has there been a date since?” Juhi asks.

“Yes,” I say.

“Is she in the audience tonight?” Juhi asks.

“No,” I say. I don’t mention that when I saw Juhi at The Science Club, she told me not to bring the date because she was going to make me look bad.

“Is there another date in the audience tonight?” Nick asks.

“No,” I say again. “I’m one woman man.” The audience erupts in applause.

–Except I didn’t actually say “I’m a one woman man.” The words that came out of my mouth were “I’m a one man kind of guy.”

In a single sentence, I’ve reversed years of work convincing DC gay men I’m not one of them.

“Wait. Fuck,” I say into the microphone.  “I mean, I’m a one woman kind of guy.” The audience’s applause changes to laughter. It takes a while to subside.

“Well…,” Juhi says, “let’s give you a word. Your word is ‘serictery.'”

I ask Juhi to repeat the word. I ask for its definition. It’s the “silk-producing gland of insects (especially of a silkworm) or spiders.” I ask for the origin. It comes from Greek to Latin. I ask Juhi to repeat the word again.

There’s a long silence. “s-y-r-i-c-h-t-o-r-y,” I say.

“I’m sorry, no,” Juhi says.

As I walk back to my seat, another contestant says to me, “Better you than me, guy.” “Yeah,” I say.

As Contestant #9 goes, I look up into the audience and see Tara for the first time. She catches my gaze and shrugs her shoulders.

Mark DeCelles is up. Carmen and Laura start shouting “Mark! Mark!” from the back of the audience and waving home-made signs. “Wait,” Juhi says, “before I give Mark a word, let’s check out these signs in the back. What does that say?”

“Mark rulez with a ‘z!'” Carmen shouts. “That’s not a boy, that’s a man!” Laura shouts. A guy in the front row of the audience turns around and says, “Hey, I was the one who said that.”

“What’s that other one say? Juhi asks. “DC’s Hometown Hero,” Carmen says. “Oh,” Juhi says, “‘hero’ looked like ‘areola.'”

“And the last one’s really steamy,” Carmen says. She points to a sign that reads: “Need Private Lessons? Ladies Call: [Mark’s Phone Number].

“Alright,” Juhi says, “let’s give him a word. Mark, your word is ‘laticiferous.'”

Mark stands silently, his arms crossed. After ten seconds, he asks Juhi to define the word. It means “producing or containing latex.” He asks for the word in the sentence. Juhi gives it to him. There’s another ten seconds’ silence.

“l-a-t-i-c-e-f-e-r-o-u-s,” Mark says.

“I’m so sorry, that’s incorrect,” Juhi says. The audience collectively sighs. It’s quiet as Mark goes back to his seat.

Mark and I were knocked out in the first round of the spelling bee. I stopped paying close attention shortly thereafter.

Other highlights of the bee include a rap from local poet Holly Bass and an incident where the judges didn’t hear a contestant mispell a word. Members of the audience confronted the judges about their error a round later and asked them to check the video.

A guy with dreadlocks won.

Below are the closeups of the signs Laura and I made for Mark.

We gave a handful of Mark signs to Mark fans in the audience.

There’s not much else to say except Mark called me a bastard multiple times thoughout the course of the night. But that’s not news.


One Response to “DC Bee Concluded”

  1. Dude, do you realize that your friend’s phone number, which you didn’t mention in your blog post, is perfectly visible in one of those photos?

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