1. Palm Springs: AWP was tiny then! Like a little writing party. I can’t believe a little burg like Palm Springs could once contain the AWP conference.
2. New Orleans: One of our writers who is an ex priest came to AWP to help promote his book. We took him to dinner and the food was great, but I think the city shocked him. People smoking joints in the street, cops looking the other way, hookers everywhere. He decided to make AWP a one time thing. Also New Orleans: Pub crawling the last night until some of our party was incoherent and had to be put in cabs. That’s where I decided Hurricanes are made with HiC.
3. Baltimore: Why are we here? The rumor about Baltimore is that someone died there and was found under the tables in the book fair in the morning. I’m pretty sure he was just passed out, but the rumor persists.
4. Atlanta: Eating delicious soul food. Being told by waiters that I was a “tiny little thing,” being told by the hotel staff not to walk anywhere alone.
5. Chicago: The room at the top of the Hilton where the parties were. Seeing the city spread out. Someone throwing up in the lobby of the Palmer House. Not me! Someone undressing in the lobby of the Palmer House. Not me! Russian Tea Time. I love Russian food, I love vodka, so amazing.
6. Vancouver: Going out the last night to Greek food and belly dancing. The restaurant owners said their dancer was Middle Eastern, but we didn’t think so. Turned out that she went to Pacoima school the same year as my husband. She was Mexican and so beautiful. Shows that with belly dancing and a smattering of Farsi you can make it anywhere.
7. Austin: The bats under the bridge! So cool. All of these bats live under this bridge, and they rise in clouds against the evening sky. You know Batman lives nearby.
8. Denver: Great food. Walking down that mall and seeing hordes of writers partying. The bear staring into the convention center.
9. New York: We flew there and back in a private jet. Someone was going that way and took us along. My kids were teenagers and they came to do the pack in and out. They said the visited all the important parts of New York. They saw all five boroughs, where King Kong went at the top of the Empire State Building, the pizza place where Spiderman works. “This is Gotham City!” my daughter said.
10. Washington DC: Cold, snow and lots of people not making it because of the storm.
And that’s just what I remember about the cities. The best part of AWP is discovering books and great conversations with writers. Writers I remember talking with at AWP who I can’t imagine where I would have met elsewhere: The late great Lucille Clifton, John Irving, C.D. Wright, Walter Moseley, Yusef Komunyakaa, and many others. It’s odd, you see some poet that you’re simply over your feet with joy to be in the same room with, and just that realization reminds you that you are part of a peculiar tribe. Many more people can name their favorite actor, actress or sports hero than can name their favorite poet. In fact, most Americans don’t have a favorite poet. But that’s what makes you special, peculiar even.
As the hotel lobby staff said to me in the Palmer House Hilton, “Who are these people? They’re badly socialized. They won’t stop talking at each other. They don’t know when to go to bed. They don’t listen to each other at all. Who let them out? Who are they?”
That sums up many of the attendees of AWP. Who let them out?