Portland, OR / Bill Wesley, the bus driver

I’m sitting in a doughnut shop in Portland when Joshua and Linas come in and ask me to go back to the bus to re-enact for the camera the many times Joshua has gently woken me with coffee and doughnuts/scones/muffins in hand—thanks Joshua! After my nomination for worthy performance as a lifeless lump we drive back by Mississippi Studios to pick up NPR reporter Jake Warga, who thinks he’s just going along for a ride to Seattle-interviewing us all on the way—instead we drag him across Portland to a U-Haul store where we rent a pickup truck so Linas can get some exterior shots of the bus on the road, and then on to I-84 East through the Columbia River Gorge to the deserty area of eastern Washington around Centerville for some scenes Linas wants.

The scenery is incredibly beautiful along the Columbia River—some of the nicest I’ve seen on the whole trip! The river on our left, majestic bluffs and cliffs on our right, firs and pines mixed with yellow and orange leaved aspens and birches. It’s a little hard to concentrate on the view though, since I’m constantly passing and being passed by the pickup with Matthew Zapruder driving and Linas, windblown and freezing his ass off, in the back filming like a madman! Meanwhile, I’m pecking out my blog when we stop to eat or pee, and Jake is interviewing away with his voice recorder. We are sitting in a pullout on the Washington side overlooking the river, while the pickup goes ahead to scout locations, when Jake brings his microphone up for the first time asking me what poetry means, how I came to write mine, and what was it like reading my poems in front of people for the first time—we are interrupted when the truck returns for us.

We finally get to a deserted stretch of country road that seems to suit Linas’ needs, and proceed to line up and block out his shot, which is of him walking down the road and the bus pulling up to a stop, and a group of poets getting out and lining up on the road in front of him. It’s supposed to be a kind of fantasy sequence that he wants to open the film with and I get to stretch my acting muscles again with a weird staring shot. I learn to hit a mark with the bus, and we shoot the scene several times before calling it a day. I continue to play leapfrog with the camera truck on the way back and Linas is really getting blown around back there—until it’s not light enough to film and he returns to the bus. While Matthew and Sierra take the truck back to the U-Haul, I get more mike time with Jake.

I’m too tired to drive straight to Seattle, so we all sit down and have dinner at an Elmer’s diner in Portland so I can rest and caffeinate for the last leg of the Poetry Bus Tour. Linas stays up and keeps me company—DJing while everyone else sleeps.

When we finally get the bus parked in front of Wave Books, at about 1am, it’s kind of sad and joyous at once—we’re all hugging and acting deliriously stupid for Linas’ camera, and Jake asks me to read him one of my poems, which, of course, Linas films. After everybody leaves I get out my laptop to add up all the tolls we paid during the trip ($108.40), so I can get reimbursed, and calculate the final mileage: 12,333!

Originally Published: October 26th, 2006