Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aimless Reading: The J's, Part 8 (Kent Johnson)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Johnson, Kent

Given to me by the publisher. I met Kent Johnson a few years back when he came to Buffalo. He gave a great reading over at Medaille College. He speaks excellent Spanish and we ended up having a long conversation in that language at the Founding Father's Pub in Buffalo. I remember he asked me why I haven't done very much translating. My only lame excuse was that I haven't really ever had a community of people around me for whom translation was a priority. Not much of an answer, I guess.

1997: I moved to Buffalo on August 1. Everything I owned fit into one rented Chrysler mini-van. I had met my roommate, a fellow graduate student, through the department. We had met up in Buffalo a month or so earlier and gone apartment hunting. I was in a state of delirium over not only the prices but the sizes of the apartments available in the Queen City. We found a place in Allentown, at 70 Cottage St., which was about the closest thing Buffalo seemed to have at the time to the East Village. It was a two bedroom with full dining and living rooms, a linen closet, a foyer, and a front porch -- for five hundred dollars a month. Not bad.

The apartment was on the first floor of a two apartment house. Nick Lawrence and Kristen Gasser were the upstairs tenants. Our landlord, Debora Ott, turned out to be the founder and director of Just Buffalo Literary Center.She soon told me that their literary curator, Ted Pearson, had recently left town and that they were looking for a new one. By the end of my first semester I started working there 10 hours a week. I even bought Debora's rust-colored Nissan Sentra once I realized that Buffalo was not an ideal place to live without a car.

Stepping up to the front porch, you entered into a small foyer. I kept a bookcase there, which I had purchased at a garage sale for $30 (I got ripped off, but to someone just transplanted from NYC it seemed like a bargain). The foyer led to the living room, where we had a Pier 1 couch and chair set bought by my roommate, plus a television and VCR. My roommate insisted on having cable. I told him I didn't watch TV, so he paid for it. Before long, I became a complete baseball addict. I think I watched every single game of the Yankees' glorious 1998 season, even after I moved to a new apartment that summer.

A wide entryway connected the living and dining rooms. The dining room had wood paneling that culminated in a plate rail at the top. It may also have had wood beams on the ceiling. I don't quite recall. The kitchen, modest, but adequate, was off the dining room. I think it was yellow, but I might be remembering the kitchen upstairs. The bedrooms stood opposite one another at the end of a short, narrow, wood-paneled corridor (old wood wainscoting, actually, not seventies paneling). One bedroom had a sun porch (his, not mine). Between the two doors a built-in linen cabinet and drawer measured the width of the corridor. Between the dining room and my bedroom on the right hand side was a bathroom.

It was a nice apartment and a not unpleasant year. At the time I found a girlfriend that I liked a lot and was enjoying being part of a vibrant poetry community, so I decided to apply for a PhD and stick around for another couple of years.

In the late spring Debora informed me that she was selling the house and that we'd have to vacate at the termination of the lease. I decided that I wanted to find my own place, and a I did: a modest one bedroom a block away that cost 350 dollars a month.

from Epigramititis

Robert Creeley

Once I slept at the house of
C.D. Wright and Forrest Gander.
Robert Creeley had just been there,
sleeping in the same bed in which I
was to lay, as they say. I asked my hosts
"to please not change the pillow
case, if that's OK."

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