Kimberly and I had for a few months exchanged idle suggestions that I come to New York to read at one of the Literary Experiences. Then United had a special. Buy a ticket with the moon and Pleiades in Acme special configuration, and get another ticket free. I happened to be traveling for business under that auspicious astronomical prodigy, so I thought to myself, still with an idle inflection, “hey, what better use for that free ticket I have coming?”
I asked Kimberly what she thought, and after a while she responded, “Well, you know, late March is about right for the next TNBLE. I’ve got you down.” Oh shit. So much for idleness. As I firmed up travel plans I increasingly looked forward to meeting Kimberly and others with whom I was familiar from TNB, including Kristen Elde and Tod Goldberg. Kimberly set the theme “Growing Pains”, which gave me plenty of space for creation (which is to be expected, since this is the most prominent theme of TNB pieces).
I wrote and re-wrote my piece, a poem called “Growing up Misfit” which I’ll post in a day or two. [Done]. I picked out an appropriate Senegalese kaftan with Djellaba stylings (minus the hood, of course,) made by the excellent tailor Dantata near the Muslim Quarter, Bogobiri Corner, of Calabar. I was ready. After an uneventful trip Friday morning I arrived at LaGuardia and took the shuttle to the hotel, taking a moment to puzzle at the groups of soldiers with prominent sidearms hanging out ostentatiously with police at the Queens–Midtown Tunnel. “What, do they think they’re the Comitatus Posse?” I wondered.
I checked in at the midtown Holiday Inn, put my feet up for a while, and then headed to Chinatown to meet Kimberly at Nam Son, a little traditional Vietnamese bistro. Kimberly had told me it was by the markets whose smell so reminded her of Taiwan. Emerging from the Grand Street tunnel, I immediately sensed what she meant, except that for me, it immediately took me back to the markets of Calabar, whose unbelievable explosion of every variety of edible thing must be the closest counterpart to, say Thai or Vietnamese markets. It was a perfect way to set the atmosphere for my later reading. And I was suddenly craving seafood.
After the palpable pleasure of meeting Kimberly in person, and a towering appetizer plate of breathless conversation, it was time to get down to business. We both got the same dish: Pho soup with seafood, including fish balls. And in case you had not been previously aware, fish do have balls, and they’re quite scrumptious in faux soup.
Thence to the Happy Ending lounge, which still does have a somewhat grotty exterior, in keeping with the origins from which its name. Walking inside was like a step through a dimensional portal. It was tidy, tastefully decorated, rather mod, and yet cozy. I could see why it is a popular venue for literary events. A welcome departure from the old dais among tea parlor chairs.
I met my fellow readers, and a good number of the guests as they filtered in. And then Kimberly started things off.
There was no set reading order, and instead Kimberly pulled the first reader’s name from a bag, and then had each reader pull the name of the next. I happened to be first. Since I’ve not been admitted into the out-of-body photography guild, I am unable to furnish a picture of myself in action. It was fun reading to such a bright and engaged audience, although I am sure video evidence will reveal that I ended up reading too quickly in bits, as I is my unfortunate tendency. I hope the bits I tried to read in a moderately suppressed Nigerian accent were not entirely unintelligible.
Unfortunately, as you can see, the pictures from my iPhone are not of the greatest quality (which is probably why I was never even considered for the out-of-body photography guild), and some of those I took look more like spectral ghost-hunter photography than anything else (sorry Tod, Jason and Laura), but here is Daniel Roberts:
And Kristen Elde:
Special mention of Peter Schwartz, who brought along a rollicking fan club, complete with big pink foam pointing hand, of which my pictures are unfortunately unusable.
After the readings, a group of us retired to The Grotto for some late-night Italian dishes to cap the night. I spent the next day writing in cafés (the best part of such events being the compensation in inspiration), and seeing a few sights, including the Museum of Pornography, which styles itself the Museum of Sex.
United Airlines, the rather unexpected genius of the entire expedition, from my perspective, completed the trick by affording me an automated upgrade to first class, which meant I could catch up on much needed sleep on the way home.
Thanks to Kimberly for organizing the event, to my fellow readers, and to the audience. I’m refreshed, inspired, and ready to welcome the AWP refugees seeking asylum in my own patch to the next installment in this wandering adventure, TNB LE Denver.