Flying back to Ontario for my talk at San Bernadino Valley College. Slept on the plane to San Jose. Big plans to sleep on the plane to Ontario. I am all about sleep. Sleep is underrated.
Gave a talk for Sharon Chapman for San Bernadino Valley College for Humanities Day. Very cool group of students who asked great questions. Jim Brown, the great fiction writer introduced me. I hope we get to publish him. When I left San Bernadino to drive home, there were signs. Signs for gun shops, funeral homes, liquor stores, big signs for bail bondsmen and really big signs that said, “Jesus loves you.” “Come to Jesus.
April 28, 2009
So far, so good. Woke up, got to the airport for my flight to Reno, found it cancelled, oh joy. After getting up at 5 am. My new flight is at 8 am. “I don’t want to start any dangerous rumors, but I think that God has a strange sense of humor.” I checked in last night at midnight! I could have slept two more hours. I know God is laughing at me. Well, I may laugh back. I have a layover now in Vegas instead of San Jose. Let me think, what can I do in Vegas? I’ll get back to you, God.
Okay, okay, nothing happened in Vegas. Then to Reno where I gave a talk at the University of Nevada in Reno on publishing to a great class. Shane Borrowman was the professor, very cool dapper sort of guy. You could picture him at the train station in “Hills Like White Elephants,” staring off into the hot Spanish air. Except I think he was nicer than that guy, but he had the look. Then a reading that night in this cool high room where you could see the mountains. I got into this all thing of telling my life story, don’t know why but it was a small intense audience. Then off to Louis, a Basque restaurant. They all seemed to know Basque food, but I didn’t. It was good, the pea soup and the paella, but a lot of stuff I couldn’t eat, the red meat, the lamb stew. Gailmarie and her husband Don are a cool couple. She wears cowboy boots and hats, smokes a lot, laughs like water over gravel, the kind of laugh you thought went out of style if you live in Los Angeles, a Bette Davis laugh, tells me that she writes in her pajamas, tosses back her drinks, the kind of woman you want to drink whiskey with, dance on tables with, do anything crazy with. And Don keeps an eye on her, a full time job no doubt. She’s a hell of a poet too. Reno is cold and seems to be full of a wild feeling in the air, makes me want to come back. I stayed at the El Dorado, the casino was sleepy; all lit up and not enough people. It smelled of sweat and yearning and a tired wish for money to change a life that can only be changed by imagination.
To recover from the book fair, I ran ten miles. Very good run. Then dinner with Judy Grahn at Napa Valley Grill, and yes, we took her next book, I can’t wait. Reading at the Geffen: Marianne Wiggins, Judy Grahn, Deena Metzger, and Alan Fox moderating. Good audience. Marianne is edgy, somehow I didn’t realize that. Brilliant, lovely, edgy. Flipped out when Alan mentioned that she was married to Salman Rushdie. I guess that was a mistake. But I love her book, The Evidence of Things Unseen. I know everyone raves about the Shadow Catcher. But the dawn of the atomic age seen through the lives of these two beautiful child thieves was a gem. And there she was, elegant, edgy almost startled in the stage light. Judy, kicking back, Deena, all goddess, I feel so pleased knowing Red Hen publishes them, knowing that they glow in the sanctuary of life, and their words are on paper and they are out in the world speaking. Afterward we went to Palomino, had drinks, ten women and Michael Ortiz Hill. He was one of the girls.
Then I drove to Ontario Airport and checked into the Doubletree Hotel to fly to Reno tomorrow for a workshop and reading with Gailmarie Pahmeier at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Los Angeles Book Festival goes on… A lot of people coming by the Red Hen Press booth. I think we’re changing the story that in NY and the South they respect the press but Los Angeles is hard to make a splash in, at least we’re splashing around. Maybe next year one of us can be on a panel on California publishing. Then the most amazing dinner at Gardens on Glendon. Gordon and Judi Davidson, D. J. Waldie, Stephanie Opitz, Mark Cull, Tom and Margie Curwen and me. A great dinner, a long conversation about the building of Los Angeles, and Gordon talked about he and Zubin Mehta in Los Angeles before Dorothy Chandler had started contributing. The 10 freeway being an easy drive. Even further back, the Red Car and the killing of the Red Car. Gordon knows Los Angeles’ history. Just listening to him would make a book. Dinner and nice white wine, and one of those great conversations that skimmed new media, publicity, marketing for books in this brave new world of Kindle, Los Angeles’ history, the building of the theatre world of LA, theatre criticism, the LA freeways, LA vs. NY. May we all have more of these conversations. They’re hard to come by in Los Angeles; we had to get on freeways to get there and more freeways to get home to our little niche, our place; we run like squirrels on wires to find our tree. Squirrels forget where 80% of the nuts they hide are; I hope those of us building culture can remember where we hide our secrets.
My birthday. Perfect day. Went to Descanso Gardens with Lisa Krueger after a fabulous lunch at Mike and Ann’s in South Pasadena. We sat outside, drank Bellinis, the air was warm, but not too warm, and the salad and sandwiches were yummy. The right combination of perfect people watching. Ladies out shopping, hipsters on dates, leaning into impressing each other. Are you really hipster if you are going to Mike and Ann’s? Shabby chic or bohemian, maybe… Hipster? But there they were.
Descanso was amazingly beautiful. The roses and lilacs rushing in the heat. The lilacs smelled like New Hampshire on its best day, and the roses smelled like Pasadena on its best day. We climbed to the high top of Descanso, (We were a little concerned about the poison oak, but we were careful.) and from there we could see across to the yellow air sitting on Altadena.
That night my family took me to Kyoto Sushi and we ate way too much, washing back the scallop and tuna rolls with sake. My two kids, their friends, Jared, my stepson and his fiancé Kelly, my mother-in-law and Mark and me. We were nine and plowed through fifteen people’s sushi. Came home to a carrot cake and chocolate cake that my kids had ordered from Edie’s Bakery, the most amazing French bakery in Los Angeles.
Dinner with Linda Gregerson, Brendan Constantine, Elise Capron and Sally van Haitsma. Elise and Sally are the two most beautiful literary agents in the world and both so funny and smart and cool. Brendan is bar none, brilliant–as poet, conversationalist, human being. Linda is who I want to be when I grow up—elegant, gracious, in love with life, and that comes through her poetry. The great thing about this dinner at Pete’s in downtown Los Angeles on the night before my birthday was this: I got to know Linda and adore her and… everyone at the table loves ideas and language and hasn’t gotten all negative about it. Too many writers are embittered by their lack of success or recognition. I want to walk the yellow brick road noting that some people don’t have a heart, noting that my life isn’t Oz, but enjoying the munchkins anyway. Who knows? Some of them may get a heart. I hear the munchkins during the filming were very excited, had a lot of sex at the Culver City hotel. Some of them had never met another little person. It’s very much like AWP. Some of the poets have never met another little person. And have they have sex like mad.
Reading with Matthea Harvey and Matthew Dickman at the Colburn and then a dinner afterward for Kingsley Tufts. Matthew rocks, he may be a rock star and just not know it yet. Matthea is an acquired taste for poetry readers who like to sit inside the Trojan horse and listen to the sounds outside. John de Lancie spoke about his own experience of falling in love with poetry before he became an actor, when teachers had accused him of being mildly retarded. I loved his story.
Lunch with Lisa in South Pasadena. Reading at the Central Library with Paul Muldoon, Linda Gregerson, and Robert Pinsky. That beautiful Taper room, their language weaving like the clouds weave into the sunset until they’re all, light, water and color. Made me want to be a poet when I grow up.
Met with Veronika Krauses. The day was one hundred degrees. We huddled in her apartment by the air conditioning and drank our red wine with ice cubes. Unthinkable. But we did it. We plotted our opera. We had popsicles.
April 20th, Mark’s Birthday…
Sushi at Arigato. The best oyster shooters in town. And they sang for him and gave him deep fried green tea icecream because I told them it is his birthday.
April 19, 2009
Ran 5 miles this morning in the heat and light, I felt like a hot rushing cloud when we got home, we wanted to melt.
Ron Koertge and Brendan Constantine were fantastic at the Ruskin Art Club. They shone; they sizzled.
Now we’re home watching Milk. Sean Penn takes my breath away, and we like James Franco in this, we really do, and we like this reliving of gay political history even though it makes us sad at the same time. Why so much stupidity in this country? Jesus, it is breath taking. The idiocy of this country. The small stupid thinking. In African American movies, people go to church; in gay men’s movies, they go to the opera. What would poets do if there were a movie about poets? Wait a minute, there aren’t really movies about poets, are there?
April 18th, 2009
Renaissance Faire at Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area. There were four Captain Jacks. Any number of fairies. More cleavage spilling out of bodices than a Merchant Ivory film. We ate turkey drumsticks, drank some beer. The people watching was so great, and all of the silliness spilled over to us and we finally left the heat and crowds and went to Lisa Krueger’s house… lemonade and fresh cookies…
April 17th, 2009
Lunch with our opera partner Don Davis at our favorite restaurant Follow Your Heart. So healthy and yummy and more people there that smell like patchouli than anywhere else you could go. Met with Veronique de Turenne who is editing a book for Red Hen. What a brilliant woman. She has a real blog. Hereinmalibu, you should check it out.
April 16th, 2009
Flying home. Meeting with Jordan Elgrably in the fabulous Levantine Center. Meeting with Rob Roberge at Solar de Cahuenga. Feeling so lucky to have Rob on our publication schedule.
April 15th, 2009
Poetry Foundation meeting at Harvard. Met Lewis Hyde, the author of The Gift. Not really a guru in any sense of the word. Not courting followers, not charismatic like George who started the cult where I grew up. He’s more like Gandhi, he just breathes and moves like he believes in generosity. He doesn’t feel small in the world, and I think he is walking tall every day. May we all.
April 14, 2009
Dinner with David Fenza and Wyn Cooper at Casablanca in Harvard Square. Such excellent duck. Wyn and David started talking about their young poet days. That’s when we realized our friends were complete amateurs when it came to misbehaving in college. We were just children. We didn’t know how to step up to the plate like these guys.