Monday, October 29, 2007
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!
8PM RUST BELT BOOKS
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
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
woody the woodpecker
the yeast infection
happy days are here again!
eric the viking
jesus & that mary chain
fish is good
oh, pardon me, the big shits
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
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.
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."
"The King of Siam was king of that whole part of the world."
"Except for Laos," interjected a 3rd from another table.
"Laos was part of the Ottoman Empire. It says so in the Bible."
Anyhow, welcome to Minnesota.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
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.
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.
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.
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!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
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!
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.
"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!
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!
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.
Friday, October 5, 2007
also, there are many new photos at my flicker page: