I’ve been here since mid-April and there’s plenty of poetry all over. Some of it I see in person and some of it I see on the internet. More about internet poetry stuff later, I hope.
The places I go to see poetry in person, so far, are Vermillion (a bar and gallery), Elliott Bay Books (most prominent independent bookstore), and Hugo House (a writer’s organization).
I came to Vermillion for a cozy late-afternoon reading. It was either a Wednesday or a Thursday. I entered through the long white gallery. The audience was small and old and very supportive. I sat in the back and listened while smiling. The commercial space is in a nightlife area, across from thrift store that is animorphing into ugly condos even as I sip the $4 tequila-soda, in a religiously-calm moment after the performance.
Today is the last stop of Jen Michalski’s virtual book tour celebrating her new collection, From Here. The twelve stories in From Here explore the dislocations and intersections of people searching, running away, staying put. Their physical and emotional landscapes run the gamut, but in the end, they’re all searching for a place to call home.
Never Forever: Where Does the Story End?
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
I don’t like to talk about endings. I don’t like saying goodbye to my partner when she leaves for work in the morning, nor do I gracefully accept when visitors, who only live ten minutes away, must go home. I don’t like finality in general, particularly in my fiction. The best endings, in my opinion, hint at beginnings, offer several paths on which to move forward, let the readers take a short story (or even a novel) beyond the parameters in which the author has set. Like life, fiction should not be a cross section on a slide, to be viewed in isolation under a microscope. It should be a dialogue and a starting point.
In college I was introduced to Raymond Carver, not in a class, but by a roommate who loved the short story “Fat.” When I first read it, I was confused; a waitress recounts to her fellow co-workers her revulsion and confusion over a recent, extremely obese diner, a man who eats more than she has ever witnessed anyone eat and refers to himself as “we.” The story mysteriously ends with the waitress, speaking to the reader: “It is August. My life is going to change. I can feel it.” Would her life change as the result of the encounter with the fat man? Did her perspective of the world grow, and she awaited the fruits of these insights? Was the encounter with fat man completely unrelated to her mysterious epiphany?
Read the entire Juliet & Scott honeymoon saga here.
FRIDAY, JULY 11 2014 (CONTINUED) CHICAGO
JULIET: We got to Kelly & Jacob Knabb’s around 5pm. They have a really cute baby. They also have two really cute dogs but the dogs barked and the baby didn’t so I think I like the baby more. Kelly and Jacob were both reading with us that night.
We were running very late. (Kelly & Jacob live about an hour outside of Chicago and there was a lot of traffic.) It was making me nervous. I tried to not care about running super late and it was hard. I kept on telling myself that readings never start on time and no one would care if we were late. I didn’t entirely believe myself.
When we were a block away from the reading, Scott pointed out the window and said, “Is that Sam?” I looked where he was pointing. It was Sam Pink. He was walking in the opposite direction of the reading. I rolled down the window and yelled “Hello” in an unintentionally funny voice. We kept on driving.
Rachel Pattycake Bell met us outside, along with Nathan Masserang, Brooks Sterritt, Austin Islam and some other people who I am possibly friends with on Facebook. Rachel gave us Hello Kitty marshmallows and a chocolate phone as a wedding present. No one cared that we were late. We made some jokes about not being able to make phone calls because your phone had melted because it was made out of chocolate. Scott took off his shirt and changed into a new one outside the building because the one he was wearing had gotten sweaty during the drive. I tried to block him so people didn’t see his fat stomach or his weird tan. I thought it was strange that he wasn’t ashamed to change his shirt in the middle of the street in front of a bunch of people, but he’s a lot less fat now than he used to be so maybe he was excited to show off his hot bod.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 9 2014 DENVER TO OMAHA SONG OF THE DAY: NEIL YOUNG “GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY”
SCOTT: I liked driving through Nebraska because I’m a big Willa Cather fan. This was our loooooong day of driving and we were in the car for 9 hours. I think we both got a small case of what truck drivers and bikers call “monkey butt.” Definition?
Monkey Butt (noun): When the back parts of travelers get permanently red and give off a strange odor that attracts wild animals.
We also almost ran into a tornado during the middle of the day. The storm turned over a couple tractor trailers along the highway and we started getting nervous about tornados and being carried away.
We saw a rainbow in the distance and we started calling it “the rainbow of doom.” Rainbows are mean as shit. Our conversations about the rainbow of doomsounded like this.
I don’t have anything else to say about Wednesday.
UPDATE: Two hours after emailing Juliet my Wednesday section of the tour diary this happened.
JULIET: We packed up my stuff in the car, said goodbye to my family, and were on the road by 2pm. We stopped for food and gas in Elsinore. I decided that it would be a good idea to buy a pack of cigarettes (I quit smoking in November and haven’t had a cigarette since) and smoke one for every state we went through, in order to “celebrate our honeymoon.” As we drove, we listened to the mixes we made for our wedding. Most of the drive involved us discussing funny moments from the wedding. EXAMPLE: My dad apologized to Kendra Grant Malone for being so drunk. Kendra told him not to worry about it. My dad responded, “Power to the people.”
At some point, things took a turn for the worse. We passed the word “Calico” all big on the side of a mountain, which I’m not sure is a town or a street or a gang, but the conversation shifted to all the calico kitties pushing those rocks together with their paws. New characters were invented, such as Man Who Thinks It’s Still 1989 Politically and Woman Who Becomes Belligerent When She Sees Red Honda Accords.
We arrived in Vegas around 8pm. Our hotel room featured two bathrooms, a Jacuzzi bathtub, a shower with three showerheads, a fireplace, a dishwasher, etc. Everything was modern and sleek looking, to the point that the room felt vaguely terrifying and everything was difficult to use. I went on the computer to find a good buffet for Scott and me to eat at, because we had decided we wanted to eat until we felt sick. I found two ones that looked really good but that would have required us to walk so we ended up deciding to eat at the buffet at our hotel even though it had bad reviews on Yelp. The buffet was, as expected, mediocre. I ate one oyster anyway, even though I was afraid it would give me food poisoning (it didn’t). Scott drank five Diet Cokes.
We took a short walk afterward in order to feel slightly less fat, but didn’t get very far because it looked like it might start pouring rain (it didn’t). On the way back, we saw a very tall but handsome foreign guy walking arm-in-arm with two prostitutes. We discussed the nature of prostitution, and how it differed from stripping. It was concluded that prostitution was more honest and therefore in some ways more honorable. Scott seemed to know a lot about prostitutes, which troubled me.
At the hotel, I took a bath in the Jacuzzi bathtub. The tub was very large and oddly shaped and it made me feel like a lobster. I enjoyed the bath, and my lobsterness.