Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tour Diary: Portland DAY THREE mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

Monday was day 3 of my Pacific Northwest trip and I had big big plans.

I was scheduled to read at the monthly Northwest Renaissance/Striped Water Poets reading at Auburn Station Bistro (about 45 minutes outside of Seattle) thanks to the wonderful organizer and current City of Auburn Poet Laureate Marjorie Rommel. 

Since I had never visited Seattle, Sally K. Lehman (written about in my Day 2 blog post) generously offered to drive Jessica and me up in the morning so we could all have lunch in the Emerald City, then check out all of the stereotypical touristy stuff before my reading. I vowed to do it all. Throw some Pike's Place Halibut from the top of the Space Needle against the Gum Wall while listening to Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger. Nothing would be too touristy for me.

Unfortunately, we didn't take into account that the Seattle Seahawks were playing a rare Monday night football game that evening, so traffic was horrendous and the 3 hour drive took over 6 hours! I felt so guilty for dragging Sally and Jessica into this roadtrip gone wrong. Lucky for me, they are two of the kindest souls I have ever met so they never even complained once. We actually had a good time just telling stories and laughing the entire time as we inched past an Alpaca Farm and all of the other points of interest along the coagulated Interstate.

We finally made it into town with about 45 minutes to kill before hurrying to the Auburn reading, so we had a delicious bite from a local sandwich shop and popped into a Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room that was next door like a Willy Wonka factory for caffeine.

I had some kind of Black Pepper Butterscotch latte, so I was ready to perform. But first we detoured to see the Fremont Bridge Troll on the way out of town.

I had to climb up his shoulder to show scale, but keep in mind that he has a VW Bug car under his hand. Washington poet Kelli Russell Agodon tells me that the VW is a time capsule, so that makes it even cooler.

There was a Star Wars urban legend that these port loading cranes were George Lucas' inspiration for the AT-ATs in Empire Strikes Back:

Upon reaching the Auburn Station Bistro in the nick of time, we were informed that the bistro had gone out of business the day before!!! But the owners agreed to come open the doors for us to do that final reading. I know what it's like to lose several of my most beloved venues in Phoenix, so I completely understood what these regulars were feeling. It was sad but also an honor to read at this final event and try to send it out on a positive note.

A few people were dressed up since it was the Halloween month edition of the event,
so this happened upon entering the room:

There's a poem in my book called "Kentucky Freud Chicken" so I told my friend that it was like having someone cosplay my poetry.

The open mic was emceed by the multi-talented and charismatic Emilie Rommel Shimkus 

I was proud to co-feature with Philip H. Red Eagle:

After the reading, Cindy M. Hutchings and I proved that AZ Cardinals and Seahawks fans can call a truce and peacefully coexist in the name of poetry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Behind The Poem(s) posted at Drunk In A Midnight Choir

I've got a new trio of poems posted over at Drunk In A Midnight Choir and they can be read IMMEDIATELY and FOR FREE just by clicking this magical link:

So I decided to give a little background for each one.

Emergency Quarters for Phonebooth or Arcade

 That picture is worth a thousand explanations.

The Love Song of J. Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee was the official pseudonym used by Hollywood directors who did not want their name attached to a movie they weren't proud to stand behind. Some of the films that ended up getting credited to the infamous Alan Smithee include Twilight Zone: The Movie (mostly because actors were killed during a helicopter stunt accident), The Shrimp on the Barbie, Hellraiser: Bloodline, etc. There are also music videos by artists like Sarah McLachlan, Puff Daddy, Jennifer Lopez, and Destiny's Child that are credited to the hardest non-working director in the biz.

The Streetlamp Clowns of Wasco

There was a "trending" story on Yahoo that caught my attention about a Californian city I'd never heard of (Wasco) getting overrun at nightfall by people dressed as clowns. Surely the stuff of nightmares, so I couldn't stop thinking about it. The next week I went to California to read at that year's Long Beach Poetry Festival. I googled the whereabouts of Wasco to see if it was close enough for me to visit in person, while I was over there. Fortunately, it was too far away to be worth the drive.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tour Diary: Portland DAY TWO mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

continuing with Tour Diary post 2 of 5:

So I underestimated HOW FREAKING COLD it gets during the night in Portland, but I adjusted my calculations when I woke up shivering at about 3am, because the window next to my bed was open. Brrrr.

Jonathan had to work Sunday, so we were stranded at the house until the reading later in the evening. But my friend Kelly came over and abducted us for brunch at the Arleta Library Bakery Cafe. She said you're really not experiencing Portland unless you're waiting in line. This was my initiation but the tasty food was worth the wait. She dropped us off back at the house so she could run some errands but vowed to see us again at my reading that night.

Fun fact: there's an enormous sprawling gated compound that covers an entire block near the house. Jessica hopes this won't be the site of some future Waco-like standoff.
Keep Portland paranoid:

Fun fact #2: It wasn't easy to get a reading in Portland. understandably, part of that was surely because it was a little bit of a late notice. Part of that was surely because I am not that big of a deal. But one bookstore declined my inquiry because "they don't have good luck with poetry readings." Boo.

So my point is that I was extremely grateful for two Portlanders who went out of their way to welcome me and arrange some readings while I was "in the neighborhood." The first was Josh Lubin, but I'll write more about that when I get to my Day 4 post.

This entire Sunday night reading was made possible by the kindness and support of writer Sally K. Lehman.

She found an awesome venue, invited some kick-ass writers, and basically made everything happen. All while she was in the final stages of preparing her own book for publication (which has been officially released now by Black Bomb Books so you can check it out by clicking right HERE).
Basically, I am eternally grateful for all of this:

Our reading took place at the American Legion Post 134:

Forget about those snobby bookstores...this was a perfect venue. It had a big stage, comfy couches, a cheap bar, but it's technically a private club so under-21 folks are equally welcome, and it's run by folks who are supportive of what we're doing and happy to have us there.

Sam Snoek-Brown opened the night with a hysterical piece and then hit us right in the heart by addressing the recent tragedy in Umpqua.

We were also lucky to have readings by Holly Goodman, Josh Lubin, Andrew Gurevich, Bakeem Lloyd, Mo Daviau, Jessica Standifird, and the musical stylings of Jonathan Oak.

I was ecstatic to see some old friends I've known for years and meet some new ones I hope to see again. 

We weren't as exhausted as Bakeem makes it appear, but we were pretty hungry
so we ended the night in the best way possible at Pine State Biscuits with shiitake mushroom gravy, fried green tomatoes and all the exclamation points in the world.

This was a brief reunion of the Rorschach Poetry Collective that put together some cool literary events back when these three lived in Arizona with me (including the monthly Free Association reading that still happens at Glendale Community College).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tour Diary: Portland DAY ONE mini Book Tour of the Pacific NorthWest

Last week I traveled to the Pacific Northwest to do four readings in four nights around Portland and Seattle. That's almost like a legit mini book tour and it was all kinds of exciting. I'll post a highlight recap for each day over the next week or so.

DAY ONE - Portland

I landed in Portland at 5pm on Saturday with no idea of what my plans would be for the evening. My friend Jessica from Blue Skirt Productions picked me up from the airport and said we were going to an intimate artist salon type of dinner at her friend's house. She mentioned that after dinner, we would each take turns sharing something that we do with the group. I expected to read one of my poems, but I found out that each person gets 10-20 minutes on their turn so it turned into a proper "setlist."

There were writers and musician/songwriters and more. The woman who sat next to me read a chapter from her upcoming novel and it was terrific. Her name was Mo Daviau and her book Every Anxious Wave is due in 2016 from St. Martin's Press. The title is taken from a Lou Barlow lyric!!! so that made it even cooler for me. I wish I would have told her about the Lou Barlow poem in my book, but my brain was barely keeping up with everything that was happening around me:


Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Existentialist Cookbook turns one year old

Hard to believe that my book has now been out for a whole year.
I couldn't be more grateful for the kind of reception it's received,
even when I ventured out of state for a few readings.


Infinite gratitude for Raymond Hammond and NYQBooks 
for publishing The Existentialist Cookbook and making it turn out
better than I could have ever hoped:

I was fortunate to have it reviewed by Donna Vorreyer in Stirring:

on McKenzie Lynn Tozan's blog:

It got a cool write-up in the Downtown Devil:

It also got me interviewed for the Phoenix NewTimes' list of 100 Phoenix Creatives:

and on Drew Myron's Fast Five blog:

Another enormous heaping of thanks for everyone who supported and encouraged me along the way (since this book was more than a decade in the making) and to everyone who bought a copy!

Can't wait to see what happens in the next year...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I am not your autumn moon, I am the night (some posts start off happy but end on a sad note)

I was excited to get great tickets for an upcoming Chris Cornell solo acoustic show at The Orpheum. It even looks like this Phoenix show will be the kick-off date for his new tour. I saw one of his acoustic shows a few years ago and it was amazing. One of my favorite songwriters and vocalists of all time.

But let me go back to an older show. It was back when his first solo CD came out. 1999's Euphoria Morning. I remember talking to my friend on the phone and we were commiserating about us both being such huge Soundgarden fans, but being too broke to go see the Cornell show that was happening the following week (partly, because my son was born a few months earlier which meant that I would likely be poor for the rest of my life). Just then, someone called on the other line and I put my friend on hold. It was Cornell's tour manager saying that I won two tickets to the concert and he couldn't make any promises, but he might even be able to introduce us after the show. Righteous! I clicked back over to inform my friend that I was no longer a loser who was about to miss out on that show and he could go ahead and have fun without me in Loserville: population him.

I expected one of those hurried meet and greet table lineups if anything, but after the show my wife and I were taken to the backstage dressing room. It appeared that we were the only people who didn't belong there with the musicians and crew but Natasha Shneider came over to talk to us. She and her husband Alain Johannes had a band called Eleven, but they helped Chris record his solo record so they were playing with him for the tour. She was immeasurably kind and even made us feel welcome, while Chris changed shirts before wardrobe got packed up for the bus.

I wanted to bring some sort of thank-you for the free tickets and backstage passes, so I did something embarrassing and gave him a folder of poems I was working on, in case he got especially bored on the tour bus. I was young and dumb and hadn't even had anything published yet, so I'm sure they were horrible, but it's funny to look back and realize that this was technically the first manuscript I ever put together. I doubt any of those poems ended up in the book that I finally got published 15 years later, but things had to start somewhere.

It's also funny that the first time we ever left our son with a babysitter was to go see this concert, but soon we'll probably be taking our son with us to see Chris' show at The Orpheum.

Now for the sad part of this post:
when I went to read at the Long Beach Poetry Festival that I mentioned in my last blog, we visited the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We made sure to see Johnny and Dee Dee from The Ramones and I have to admit that I was happy to visit the gravesites of Mel Blanc, Cecille B. DeMille and others...

But I got really choked up when I got here: