Los Angeles, CA & San Francisco, CA / Edwin Torres

It’s Saturday night in LA. “I look fabulous, for someone my type,” sez the starlet on the rooftop bar . . . looking for a drink from this experimental poet.

“Yes you do,” I said.

She held out her hand, “I’m sure,” she cooed, and so began a meaningful relationship of 30 seconds where I knew everything about her life and then she found her friends.

Whew! What a strange ambience to this hotel, like sweat without the skin . . . everyone; guests, bartenders, maids, the walls on the gym . . . any physical connection to this place has an undercurrent of seedy copulation! I could search for some analogy to the physical honesty explored by the Impunities conference . . . but I’d run my decadence into the ground. The conference was fantastic, performances and panels hugely expansive—including a lovely bonding moment with Eileen Myles concerning the last reading which beautifully exposed the understructure of the entire conference—yeah, it’s just time to leave LA, put a twenty on the night table, along with my business card (‘cuz you never know), and join the bus in San Fran.

Golden Gate Town . . . I feel truly blessed to partake in the momentous breath of life that is, Poetry Bus! On the flight, I reflect on the building of community and how vital the connection. Whether it’s an academically torqued conference or a grassroots charge across the country, the desire of the reach is humbling.

I arrive at the airport at 2:30, call Travis, “announce my arrival” and head to The Make Out Room, where the afternoon reading is. Like a lemming with backpack and books, I navigate the BART system and marvel at the cleanliness of the tracks, suddenly feeling a drop of nostalgia for NYC grit. I get out at Mission and 24th St. and find it. Walking on Mission Ave. just two blocks from the station, forgot that SF blocks are mega-blocks. Looking for the bus as my marker, excited to see it parked, ready, waiting, confident . . . yay, I’m here! The reading is winding down as I show up at the door, packed place . . . great!, good to see Travis & Joshua. Noelle Kocot is reading . . . fantastic, spiritual, transformative, grounded, just pure, natural writing . . . yeah!

I’ve dropped my bags off at the bus and will meet them later at Club Deluxe (oohh, that sort of rhymes huh). I’m having dinner with Albert DeSilver, poet, publisher of Owl Press, fellow nomad. He lives in Marin County and has come down for the night’s reading. We’re meeting in front of the club, located in what they call The Haight. From the famous Mission District to the famous Haight Ashbury, Poetry Bus is seeped in famousness. So I looked at the map and didn’t think it was such a long walk but let me tell you . . .

Although I was peeked and sweaty as I negotiated the hills and mega-blocks it was a beautiful way to see the city. Thai food, fresh coconut juice, fantastic, I was pumped for the reading. Club Deluxe, funky place with a raised stage for a jazz quartet and a smaller circular stage for the poets.

Ingrid Keir & Jennifer Barone, were the mega-hosts, they run a series there and intermingled some from their crew into the mix. We had a band to work with too. Interesting how throwing music into the prospect of a reading changes your approach. I had a preconceived set for the evening, but the vibe, once I showed up, with jazz and drink . . .

The first reader, for me, was the most successful with the music . . . for the wrong reasons. Andrew Joron read some terriffic interpretations of DaDa pieces while the band played jazz allusions that never quite matched the text, except in volume. Andrew’s nervous conduction and the band’s offset syntax had a continuous tension that kept me on my toes and illuminated the narrative hiding in the text. Although the rest of the poets who worked with the band had moments of cohesion and coolness and dialogue, it was more expected . . .and for me, especially just coming from that conference in LA . . . I was more tuned into the possibility and new direction that comes from friction and dissonance.

But, having said that, Noelle Kocot was particularly effective and moving with the band. Something she’s never done before she said, and adding music and her own infectious exuberance to the mix made for a fabulous experience. I had fun with the band too, trying to push them into noise-band territory (Mars/DNA) we did a cacophonous love poem segue-wayed into a dream trance.

Great to stand on my circular stage, bathed in light, wood paneling around us all. William Taylor Junior went solo, had some very well crafted pieces filled with satire and wit, Joshua’s low key air gave some bite to the evening, Ingrid and Jennifer did a lovely job with their readings and host duties.

Afterwards, I wasn’t sure about spending my first night on the bus after flying up from LA earlier, I’m ready for it during this week, but I needed a bed and was offered one by local artist, Kyle Knobel. Poet’s Magic: a poet will always find a way. Kyle lives in a sun-drenched studio in a house that overlooks the valley. Waking up on Monday morning with the fog, shadow, sun and blue jays . . . was a truly, how corny to say it, but damn, it was poetic!

Made my way back to the bus, breakfast of chorizo, eggs, black beans and tortilla in The Mission. Set for the voyage ahead. As Joshua said . . . the stops, the cities, the readings are all fantastic . . . but the bus, the continually changing collective, the conversations, exchanges within, the inherent motion of the bus . . . is what makes it all roll.

Originally Published: October 23rd, 2006