Last night was a wonderful night. I remember a bunch of stuff, but not in the right exact order.
I drove to Glendora with only a mild amount of the anxiety I usually feel driving on the 57 after dark. When I got to the Village Book Shop, Jason McGrath was hanging outside by the discount DVDs cart. I went inside, where a guy with a ponytail said hi to me and seemed to be helping set stuff up. Then he disappeared for the rest of the night.
The open reading list asked us to describe Heaven in three words or fewer. I signed up in slot #4 and wrote “Carpenters’ mp3s 24-7.” I think that the angels quite enjoy the sweet, easily digestible sounds of Karen and Richard Carpenter.
G. Murray Thomas showed up for this reading. That was kind of a surprise. It’s a little far north and east for him. But Murray is Murray, and has Murrayful ways, intents, and means. No, really, I guess he went to a reading in Pasadena that afternoon, so it was just a pretty straight shot east on the 210 to get to Glendora. It was pretty cool to see him.
I texted one of the night’s features, my friend and writing partner Martin Ott, to see whether he was navigating to the venue okay. He apparently had already made it to the Truman Show-esque main street of Glendora and was at a place just a couple of blocks away.
There were lots of open readers, a couple of hours’ worth. Uh, who read? Rick Stepp-Bolling. Murray. lLoyd Aquino. Michael Torres. Both Nicola and Charlotte “cHAR-cHAR sAN cUESTA” San Juan. dANIEL “pOOPSIEKINS sAN cUESTA” cUESTA. Natalie Morales. Alexander Vogel. Marta Chausée. Adrienne Selina Silva. Dylan “Sam with a slight goatee” Gosland. Tom Thomas. K. Andrew Turner. Scott Noon Creley didn’t have anything prepared because somebody else signed him up, yet he managed to recite his most celebrated work, the haiku that goes something like “One thousand years of torment. / Another Asian child sodomized. / Snow falling on cedars”; there is a context that justifies and explains everything, but do we really have time to go into that here? I myself read “Genealogy,” “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and “Shani’s Boobs,” the first two of which are brand new, the last of which is intentionally non-erotic.
Michaelsun Knapp was the first feature. He bookended his set with selections of fiction. In between, during the poetry portion, he didn’t read his best-known piece, “Grass Angel,” but he did do “Drunk-Dialing God,” another favorite of the crowd. He also included some angrier material more reflective of his Native American heritage and the depredations of American imperialism.
In his set, Martin included work from his forthcoming poetry collection Captive, which won the 2011 De Novo Prize and is forthcoming from C&R Press. He included two poems from Poets’ Guide to America, written in collaboration with me, and coming this summer from Brooklyn Arts Press; for those poems, “The Last Fortune Teller in Chicago” and “Underground America,” he brought me up to read them in tandem with him, which was pretty cool. And he read some work from his newest collection, tentatively titled Survivor’s Manual to Love and War, which I have read and about which am very excited. The only fly in the ointment was my fault. Martin mentioned that one of his poems was inspired by something in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeons Master’s Guide. I, having seen a whole shelf filled with AD&D books in the back room, responded to this information by interrupting his performance to run back there and check for the Dungeon Master’s Guide; I didn’t find it, and what good what it have done, anyway? People laughed, but I kinda came off like a spotlight-stealing asshole. I was just stupid. I redeemed myself a little bit by helping with the PGA poems and with his last piece, which combined Mad Libs with poetry. That was a great, great way to close out his set. Overall, Martin gets better and better with every outing. I hope to read with him again soon.
Throughout the night, Elder Zamora, one of the guiding voices behind the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival and its many proposed tentacles, was sitting pretty with a big stack of audio poetry journals, a CD titled The Shadow Oak Sessions Issue 1 (January 2012), a fundraiser for the festival. It features Elder, John Brantingham, Michaelsun, Charlotte, lLoyd, Michael, Adrienne, and me. The artwork (with a cover featuring John and Ann’s dog Archie) was executed by dANIEL. I got to close out this first issue with my piece “California Winter,” one of the bits I wrote during the Brolliar Lodge Writer’s Weekend. The CD also includes my poem “Go Tell It to the Mountain,” which, although shorter than “California Winter,” seems more uneven in quality. After the show, I bought a couple of copies.
Martin and I both also bought copies of John Brantingham’s poetry collection East of Los Angeles; I asked John to sign mine, and he wrote a great note about poetry and friendship. I’m totally psyched to have become friends with John, Ann, and the rest of the SGV posse. All praise to Brother Stamen, Sister Petal, and their inadvertent hippie commune!
I eventually led Martin outside, where I secretly presented him with four dozen banana-walnut-oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, to be shared between him and Andy Clark, whom he was supposed to see the next day. Martin seemed to enjoy the cookies, since he hadn’t had dinner yet.
Then we got in our cars and I led Martin to Casa Brantingham, where I broke out a celebratory bottle of Booker’s, which Andy Davis and his friends used to buy to commemorate the end of each eight-hours-of-sleep-a-week semester at Art Center in Pasadena. I wish Andy could have made it tonight, but he works on television commercials and it’s Superbowl season… Anyway, I tried to share the bourbony goodness as best I could. I also managed to refrain from beating Charlotte with a rolled-up newspaper after I caught her adulterating this exquisite sipping whiskey with ice and Diet Coke.
There was no naan tonight, since dANIEL didn’t have a chance to go shopping, so Martin took off pretty early to get some food beyond crackers and Cuties. Adrienne made guacamole. Somebody, I think Elder, later brought In-N-Out, but not enough to go all the way around. Basically, it seemed that everyone got either very good bourbon or hand-cut French fries (animal-style, I believe).
Everyone really seemed to like me at Casa Brantingham. Lots of love was floating around. This morning, on Facebook, I learned that I am “cosmicly delicious” [sic], that I am “the sex,” and that I make regurgitating chocolate look cool. (That last bit is an inside joke. Really.) Once again, I’m very happy to have somewhat integrated myself into the SGV posse. They are good folks, even Alexander Vogel, maybe.