Monday, October 29, 2007

This Ain't 1982!

Before the Reading
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Last night we held the launch party for Human Scale and also for Hello Helicopter, Kyle Schlesinger's latest offering from Blazevox, at Rust Belt books. We had a great crowd, and we fed them well. Geoffrey Gatza and Kevin Thurston cooked enough delicious food to feed a poetry army. This was the invite:

Book Release Party For Mike Kelleher and Kyle Schlesinger!

Remember, Remember the Twenty-Eighth of October
For Kelleher, Kyle and Cooking!
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
Michael Kelleher, Kyle Schlesinger, t'was their intent to blow up Rust Belt Books.
Three-score barrels of powder below to prove old Buffalo’s overthrow;
By God's providence they was catch'd with a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Holla Back Girl!

Cooking by Geoffrey Gatza And Kevin Thurston

Thai Roasted Whitefish & Tilapia with Plum Tamarind Yogurt

Pumpkin Apple curry with Jasmine Rice

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato salad

Harvard Beets with Mango and Dijon

Brown Rice with Sultanas and cranberries

Tomato and Sweet Onion pasta salad


Mulled Ginger Cider
Snacks, cookies and creams


Chocolate Popcorn

Belgian Cocoa Brownies

Crystallized Ginger, Pineapple and Apple Pudding

Just Buffalo Mocha Spice Cake with Candle

Special feature: Fritz the Pumpkin

And, no kidding, this was all served between the bookcases at our favorite used bookstore. The other great entertainment for the evening (besides, of course, our readings) was a very drunk heckler who came in during my reading. He was fairly easy to ignore, but I did have to fight to be heard over his voice once or twice. He said some hilarious things, all of which Kevin Thurston managed to write down and post to his blog. He also rated my reading 3 out of 4.5 stars, which I'll take as a compliment. Here's the list:

yer a fix
proper oats
the reservoir
new york
woody the woodpecker
kill party
the door
the yeast infection
orange crush
happy days are here again!
joan jett
eric the viking
jesus & that mary chain
fish is good
oh, pardon me, the big shits
sounds right
this ain't 1982

Anyhow, it was great to hear Kyle's work and to read with him for the first time. Also gratifying to see so many people out for a reading. The crowds at poetry readings this season have so far been superb. I've yet to go to one with fewer than 25 in the audience. Seems like lots of new folks have shown up in town -- either in the poetics program or just as part of the scene, which is really fantastic news for everyone.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Back to the Present

Now that the travel blog is complete, I will return to the present. I had initially planned on making this a film blog, but now I see more possibilities with the integration of Flickr and YouTube into the site. Not sure where it is going, but I intend to continue the blog in whatever form it takes. Stay tuned for more soon....

Day 25: The Long Road Home

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
We drove 18 hours to get home on Columbus Day. Our only photo is of this sign entering Indiana, where we promptly got stuck in 2 hours of stopped traffic. To make matters worse, we had to listen to the Yankees get finished off by the Indians. As we passed through Cleveland, I put a hex on the city. Yankees still lost. O well, maybe next year.

Day 24: Minneapolis, Wedding

Well, they did it (see picture). Congrats to Chris and Katie. We are now officially exhausted. Time to go home.

Day 23: Minneapolis, Blessing the Animals

We arrived in Minneapolis in time for some kind of bizarre Minnesota Christian ceremony (no, not my brother's wedding, c-mon!) -- the blessing of the animals. Scores of churches this day had signs calling out to parishioners to bring their pets to church to be blessed. Next thing you know they'll all get together to elect a psychotic, war-mongering, blueblood son of a bitch for president and declare war against Iraq.

Wait...anyhow, an uneventful day in MN. We went to the rehearsal dinner at the best man's house, ate some BBQ, then headed to a funky bar in St. Paul. Then I stayed up until 4 am watching poker on ESPN to see who won the main event in the Poker World Series of 2007.

Good thing we don't have cable at home.

Day 22: Badlands, South Dakota, Minnesota

We spent the night at a hotel in Rapid City, SD, then drove east to the Badlands National Park. As we were starting get pressed for time and were about to do our second consecutive 12-hour day in the car, we opted to take the Badlands Loop, which takes a couple of hours to drive, but gives you a lot to see in a short time. This was my first glimpse of the mythic plains stretching through the center of the country. It still feels very much like a prairie -- rolling hills and amber waves of grain (though the waves probably aren't what they used to be.)

At the entrance to the park, the prairie seems to stretch off in all directions. Off to the right, hundreds of prairie dogs cavort, stand on their hind legs, dig holes and make their squeaky little sounds. We took the first detour possible down a dirt road with sign that says "Prairie Dog Town 5 miles." As you pull up to the first curve, the prairie floor falls away to reveal the undulating moonscape of the badlands. We stopped along the way for a few pictures, then continued on until we hit Prairie Dog Town. I kept thinking this would be a great way to parody Olson's dogtown, but it's still just a funny idea in my head. Here's a clip:

After our visit with the PD's, we drove back to the other entrance to the dirt road and took the Badlands Loop. This, along with the Pacific Coast Highway, has to be one of the most beautiful roads in America. Beginning at the highest point in the Canyon, it switchbacks in long, slow curving turns through the apocalyptic wrinkles and sharpened peaks. Every hundred feet or so you find yourself at a new era in geologic time. More video:

We spent the rest of the day driving through South Dakota and Minnesota, listening to the Yankees get beat on XM Radio. In the evening, we stopped to eat at a truck stop in Minnesota somewhere, and I heard the following conversation among truckers:

"Vietnam is part of the Ancient Kingdom of Siam."
"Is it?"
"The King of Siam was king of that whole part of the world."
"Except for Laos," interjected a 3rd from another table.
"Oh, yeah?"
"Laos was part of the Ottoman Empire. It says so in the Bible."

Anyhow, welcome to Minnesota.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Day 21: Yellowstone

We woke very early and checked out of our motel. We wanted to see as much of Yellowstone as possible and also to reach Rapid City by the end of the day so we could also hit the Badlands the next day. Yellowstone was, in a word, breathtaking. From the wildly varied landscape -- pine forest to Geysers to volcanic lakes -- to the free roaming wildlife -- we saw bison, a coyote, an elk, many deer -- the Grand Canyon is about the only place I can recall having had such an intense experience of the sublime. It's so big, so beautiful, your mind collapses in on itself trying to take it all in.

Since it was off-season, there was little traffic in the park, though there was enough to make you realize how awful it must be in-seasoon. Each time we stopped to look at a buffalo or an elk or whatever, 10 other cars would see us pulled over, rush into a spot on the side of the road, jump out, ask what we were looking at, and start filming. To be honest, we did the same. The highlight of the day was seeing a group of bison in the road. We stopped, watched several cross the road in front of us, then realized there was an entire herd at play in a field next to us. The video above says it all.

At the other end of the park, it snowed for a while. We drove across Wyoming, stopping in Cody for lunch. We ate at what is supposed to have been Buffalo Bill's favorite hotel/restaurant -- Irma. Amazing early 20th century woodwork, lots of taxidermy and pictures of Buffalo Bill -- nice, but a little scary too. We made it to Rapid City late that night, after 13 hours in the car.

Day 20: Washington to Idaho to Montana

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
A day of driving through mostly spectacular scenery -- the Cour D'Alene area of Idaho is particularly beautiful though it looks to be just as spectacularly exclusive -- the houses looked to be about the same size as the one's we saw in Malibu, and were prbably owned by the same people. As we got to Montana, the gas station started to get a little scary -- they have gambling in all of them, not to mention a lot of hunting equipment and taxidermy. We arrived late that night at a little motel owned by a just-retired and extremely chatty Seattle couple at the western entrance to Yellowstone.

Day 19: Portland, Coffee, Leaving

Stumptown Coffee
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
On our final day in Portland, Alicia and Tom and their adorable 2-year-old, Pascal, picked us up and took us for a tour of the city. We said goodbye to Tom, who had to teach, then went for some breakfast with Alicia and Pascal. Afterward, Alicia took us to Stumptown Coffee, which makes far and away the best latte I have ever had. Portland takes great pride not only in the taste of their coffee, but also in its presentation. Every barista seems expert in the art of latte foam design, which comes standard with every cup. Bravo, Portland!

We then got an exhaustive tour SE and SW Portland. Alicia took us through all the neighborhoods, showed us her alma mater, Reed College, and then dropped us back off at Aaron and Michelle's. Once home, we started thinking we'd better get a few hours of driving in so we could make it Yellowstone and the Badlands before hitting my brother's wedding by week's end. So we booked a hotel in Spokane and drove the 5 hours up there that evening.

Day 18: Portland, Japanese Garden, Buffalo Reunion, Pt. 2

Japanse Garden
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Portland is about the greenest city I've ever seen. It rains a lot, but there is also an abundance of park land, gardens and tree-lined streets within the city limits to benefit from all the precipitation. We spent the day in a part of Portland that they claim is the largest urban forest in America -- apparently it had been logged and city planners decided to mark off the logged area as parkland a hundred + years ago -- the result is a gorgeously green area of the city filled with hundred year old pines and fir trees.

We spent most of our time wandering around in the Japanese Garden, a traditional affair sculpted out of the urban forest area. It had just rained, the sun was slightly out, the greens were stunning. Some of the leaves were starting to turn, so a few reds and yellows had also started to appear. Afterward we visited Powell's books -- probably the biggest, most comprehensive bookstore I've ever been too. I spent two hours there and managed to see about 1% of the place.

When Aaron and Michelle came home from work they took us out to a little restaurant on Alberta Street called Vita's, which is in a funky little alterna-neighborhood reminiscent of Allentown in Buffalo. Everyone in Portland complains about the gentrification and all the people moving in from other places, especially SF, which has gotten prohibitively expensive, especially for the young. I'd remind them that in other places infrastructure is decaying, people are leaving, and no one wants to move there (ahem, Buffalo). Anyhow, Michelle and Aaron have been there a year and seem to love it, as evidenced by big smiles on their faces that were somewhat less visible when they lived in NYC. Seems Portland is very vegan-friendly, another reason for those smiles.

In the evening we got together again with Joel Bettridge and Michelle and Aaron over at Tom and Alicia's for some hardcore Buffalo reminiscing.

Day 17: Reading in Portland

After spending the day partly in bed, partly wandering around Alberta Street with our hosts, Michelle Citrin and Aaron Skomra (formerly of Buffalo) I read alongside Kathleen Fraser as part of the Spare Room Collective's reading series at the The New American Art Union. Prior to the reading we ate at a fabulous restaurant around the corner from the gallery. Kathleen Fraser's very fun to hang out with -- gossipy, chatty, a good story-teller, very engaged with what you are saying. It was a pleasure to meet her and to get to hear her read.

Portland marked the final stop on the reading tour. It was also the biggest of 4 Buffalo Poetics reunions. At the reading were myself, Alicia Cohen, Tom Fisher (actually, he babysat after dinner, so missed the reading), Joel Bettridge, Aaron Skomra, Tim Shaner (up from Eugene) and Michelle Citrin. If nothing else, all that money I spent on graduate school will guarantee me a reading, an audience, a place to stay and good company across the country for years to come!

I also got to meet some of the Portland set -- Maryrose Larkin, who had set up the reading, David Abel, who did the intros, and Rodney Koeneke, a fellw Blazevoxer who had recently left SF to move there. All the people I actually met at the reading seemed like really interesting and engaged folks. Sadly, I didn't get to meet up with Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand, who had been very helpful in helping me find Maryrose and setting up the reading -- thanks to them wherever they are -- next time, I suppose.

One thing I didn't quite understand, which has kind of stayed with me, and probably means nothing -- a group of people came to the reading just around the time it started and sat way in the back, with several rows of empty chairs separating them from the rest of the audience. None of them spoke to me afterward, and I couldn't really get a read on them as an audience. Anyhow, it unnerved me a little. I don't really care (much) if people don't respond to the work -- that's no reason not to say hello!

Day 16: SF to Portland

Leaving SF
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
To this point, we'd managed to keep most of our drives to under 8 hours and to confine most our driving to the daylight hours. This was not to be the case on this leg. We woke at Taylor and Tanya's in the morning and Lori found herself with a migraine. It took several hours to sleep it off enough to move, so we didn't actually leave SF until 3 in the afternoon. When we got in the Tourmobile, the engine light came on, which meant we had to make a quick stop in Oakland for an oil change. By the time we got going, we had only a few hours left of daylight, so we didn't get to see anything of northern California or southern Oregon beyond the long, dark, winding mountain roads on which we were mostly afraid to drive over 60 miles an hour. We didn't arrive in Portland until about 2 a.m. It was raining.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Day 15: San Francisco

In our original plan, my reading in LA was to take place on Tuesday, leaving us three days or so to check out San Francisco. However, the reading series changed from Tuesday to Thursday nights, which meant we had to drive to SF and read on the same day, then leave the following day in order to get to Portland in time for a reading on Sunday night.

Driving north from LA through Bakersfield, et al, is kind of dreary. Lots of industrial land, lots of farmland, but nothing terribly scenic. It was interesting to realize just how many different crops grow in California. We saw field after field, orchard after orchard, truck after truck bearing a mind-boggling variety of agricultural products. Did you know they grew cotton in California? Neither did I.

Anyhow, it's a pretty quick drive and we made it to SF by about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. SF was also a Buffalo reunion, as we stayed with my old friends Taylor Brady and Tanya Hollis, who also hosted the reading in their Mission district apartment. Taylor took us for a late afternoon walk up to Bernal Heights, where we could see almost the entire city, including the legendary fog rolling in, several rainbows and a mysterious light reflecting off the mirrored peak of a downtown hotel.

We had a small crowd, maybe 10 people including myself and Lori, at the reading, but the intimacy of the living room made for a warm and more intense atmosphere. I got to spend a little more time with some of the people I met, including: Jocelyn Saidenberg, Suzanne Stein, Rob Halpern, Nicole Hollis, and another old Buffalo pal, Brent Cunningham, who managed to make it even though he recently became a father.

I spent the most quality time with Rob, who's very smart and interesting guy. I am looking forward to reading the book he and Taylor wrote together for Atticus Finch books. His partner, Lee Azus, is equally interesting, and owns a travel bookstore called "Get Lost." Great name!

Note to Self

Next time, find a way to write these things along the way instead saving them all to the end!

Day 13: Getty Museum, Beverly Hills

Getty Baby Freak
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Spent almost the entire afternoon at the Getty Museum, which sits high above the city in the Santa Monica Mountains, clothed in its Richard Meier-designed tunic of Travertine marble. It's probably the most spectacularly designed museum complex I've ever visited. We spent most of the day oohing and ahhing over the design, the view of the city, the formal gardens, et al. Every step you take opens up a wholly new and unique line of site. It is, in a word, breathtaking.

I wish I could say the same for the collection. Apparently Mr. Getty's tastes were a bit conservative. A good portion of the collection is comprised of religious art, with a heavy dose of decorative arts of the European nobility. I took a bunch of photos of the art without paying any attention to thematic relations between objects. What I came up with was a collection of ghastly, ghostly, frightening images (see photo above -- click it to see more of what I mean). If a man's art collection is a window into his soul, J. Paul Getty was a haunted man. I'll say no more.

Afterward we road the monorail down the mountain to our car, which was parked in an underground lot (and which, by the way, contained four reserved spots for electric cars to re-charge. Sadly, they were empty.) We drove the length of Mulholland drive, then down to Sunset Boulevard and finally over to Wilshire, which we took all the way back to Santa Monica. I can't resist all the movie star stuff, but we just drove past it all snapping pictures.

Day 12: Santa Monica

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Did very little on this day beyond drive to Venice Beach, where we were accosted by all kinds of SoCal freaks. A palm reader at one point began screaming insults our way in hopes that might induce us to have our palms read. Oddly, the ploy failed. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Santa Monica. In the evening we met Joseph's new girlfriend, Diane, a family therapist who lives about 40 minutes north of LA. We ate hearty Argentinian steaks at an Argentine restaurant in S.M.

Day 11: Tucson to Los Angeles

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Another long, dry, dusty stretch of desert driving. Crossing into California we had to pass through what must be the only remaining interstate customs station in the U.S. They actually stop cars coming into California to check for produce and the like. I suppose this has to do with protecting the agriculture industry. Drove through Palm springs and saw miles and miles of wind turbines, which don't appear to have any effect on the air quality in LA. As soon as the city appeared, a perfectly blue sky became a gray blanket of smog through which the mountains and skyline could be seen only in murky silhouette. We parked in Santa Monica at my college friend Joseph McNicholas' Three's Company era bachelor pad...

"Come and knock on our door...we've been waiting for you...where the pleasure is hers and hers and his three's company too..." Good luck getting that song out of your head!

Day 10: Tucson

Breakfasted with poets Charles Alexander and Tyrone Williams, with whom I was reading that afternoon. Charles recommended we visit the Desert Museum, which is about 30 minutes outside of town on the other side of the Saguaro National Forest. On the way we saw a sign for the "Wildlife Museum" which we mistakenly thought was our destination. We realized our mistake as we entered about the fourth room filled with taxidermy. It's mostly a natural history museum, but it feels like a hunter's lodge. If this road trip taught us anything, its that guns, hunting and taxidermy are alive and well in America. In case you were worried.

After crossing the mountains through the Saguaro Forest (which is itself a gorgeous site to behold), we arrived at the Desert Museum. Most of our time was spent in the aviaries, especially the one for hummingbirds. We also saw an otter and several desert cats. They were beautiful to see, though seeing animals in cages does make me feel a little strange. We loved the gardens and the butterflies and the winding paths across the desert floor, and the heat was somewhat merciful.

Afternoon we drove back for the reading, part of the POG series, curated by a collective of poets in Tucson, including Charles and Tenney Nathanson. We had a packed house -- about 40 people -- which really spoke to the dynamism of the Tucson poetry community. Not everyone will go to a poetry reading at 3 p.m. on a Sunday, so I was really happy to see this.

I was happier still to get a chance to hear Tyrone Williams, a poet from Cincinnati of whom I had no previous knowledge. He has a book from Krupskaya, c.c., from which he read primarily. His sonnet sequence, "I Am Not Proud To Be Black," is pretty incredible.

After the reading we ate Indian food and got to meet Barbara Henning and Laynie Browne, two poets I heard read many moons ago when I lived in NYC, but had never had the chance to meet. Both are recent Tucson transplants, which bodes well for the poetry community there. Sadly, a plumbing emergency kept me from meeting Tenney Nathanson, who I've wanted to meet lo these many years since I applied (and then chose against going) to the U of A English Program for a PhD. O well... on to LA!

Day 9: Santa Fe to Tucson

Chili Field, Hatch,NM
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Drove south to Hatch, NM, which appears to be the chili capital of North America, or at least so it appeared. As we pulled into town to fill our gas tank, we saw roof after roof covered with red chilis drying in the sun. On the way out of town we saw miles of chili fields before we hit the long, hot, dusty, boring desert highway leading us to Tucson, where we arrived that evening.

Day 8: Santa Fe

Santa Fe
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
We spent a full day in Santa Fe relaxing from the past week, a day consisting mainly of walking around the square, popping into different shops, and dodging the swarms of tourist bodies pressing against us on the sidewalk. Santa Fe has its charms: the beauty of the landscape et al, but the level of tourism makes it feel a bit, well, touristy. We did experience the famous New Mexico light, though, which makes the sky a rich and gorgeous blue I've never seen anywhere else.

Linda and Elliott took us to the Palace of the Governors to introduce us to Tom Leech, a papermaker and printer, who now runs the print shop at Palace Press, a letterpess print shop housed in the museum. They've been running a poetry series out of there for a few years now and they produce gorgeous poetry broadsides letterpressed on handmade paper. We bought two of them -- "Phillip Whalen's Hat" by Joanne Kyger and "Infloresecence" by Arthur Sze, current poet laureate of Santa Fe.

That evening before dinner our hosts drove us up to view a plot of mountainside they've owned for many years on the outskirts of the city. It has a rather spectacular view of the mountains and the city and the sun going down. Another highlight of our visit was Linda showing us family photo albums and journals of trips they'd made to India, Tibet and Nepal. We also got to see photos of a young, pony-tailed Jonathan Skinner standing on a soapbox leading an anti-war rally.