I Get Around

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Of these, I’ve lived in NY, NJ, TN, FL and VA. The majority of the other states were solely thanks to poetry gigs as I would otherwise have never visited them at all. Specifically, California, Colorado, DC, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeearrrrrrrgh! 😉

From 1999-2000, when I did most of my sporadic “touring,” my primary criteria for traveling somewhere was whether it was a place I’d likely never visit otherwise. As long as I could make enough money to break even, or treat it as a mini-vacation and take Salomé with me, I was down. Other than California, none of those other states were really on my radar, though a few of them turned out to be, and remain, some of my favorite places to visit, particularly Texas (Austin) and Rhode Island (Providence).

The time I visited northern California – March 1999, I think – was especially memorable. Salomé came with me for that one and the plan was to stay in Santa Cruz while hitting San José, Berkeley and San Francisco during the week. Our original accomodations were thanks to the terribly sweet – if slightly whacked out – SlamGranny, who put us up in her handbuilt cabin out in the middle of the redwoods. The place had no heating system, was in a terrible state of disrepair and, shortly after she left us for the evening, a power line came down that they couldn’t repair til the next day so, when the sun went down, it was like a Friday the 13th scenario come to life as we were totally in the dark. (On her property lived some weird guy in a trailer that we never really got a good look at but I swear was wandering around at some point in the middle of the night.) It was a total nightmare as we hunkered down in one room, freezing our asses off because the wood stove in the living room didn’t really kick out enough heat and the living room itself was too scary to sleep in. City mice totally freaked out by the country. And this was before I’d ever seen the movie Deliverance!

The next day, we checked into a motel in downtown Santa Cruz, walking distance to the boardwalk. The next night, SlamGranny lends us her van to drive out to Berkeley to check out Charles Ellik’s slam at the Starry Plough. I ended up slamming and edging out SeeKing thanks to working the tie-breaking secret word into 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute. (SeeKing would narrowly outscore me later that summer in the 4th round of the NPS Finals, knocking us into 3rd place behind SF & San José who tied for the championship!) On the way back to Santa Cruz, in the middle of the steep mountains that separate it from San José, the van breaks down without warning, steam coming from the blown engine. It was nearly midnight. We finally made it back to the hotel around 2am and Roger Bonair-Agard joined us the next day as we paired up for a couple of gigs in Santa Cruz and Salinas. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful [Roger had to leave his sneakers outside the room because they were kicking hard!] and we never did make it into San Francisco before heading home.

The southwest is where I’d most like to visit at some point in the future; New Mexico and Arizona, in particular. Both for their connections to Native America and proximity to Mexico, which is the country I’m most fascinated with.

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