Seattle, WA / Bill Wesley, the bus driver

I left home (the Green Tortoise bus yard in Oakland, CA) on July 7th deadheading a bus to Anchorage, AK with a crew of two other drivers, then drove two 14 day camping trips around the state, then drove that bus down to Seattle, to await the arrival of the Poetry Bus. During that time I called my boss, Lyle, and told him I didn’t want to work Burning Man this year, mostly because of the alkali dust that permeates everything there. A few days later Lyle called to tell me about the Poetry Bus and I was immediately fired up about it—I was excited to be meeting and working with poets, I was excited to be driving to new places, and I was excited to be doing a trip where all I had to do is drive—no setting up camp kitchens everywhere, cooking, shopping, all the stuff I have to do on a daily basis to make sure my passengers have a fun, safe, unique vacation. It turned out to be all that and so much more-truly a life changing trip for me. I now feel like I’m connected to a network of creative, engaged, articulate friends around the country, and I can’t help but feel I’m part of the Wave Books “family,” all of whom are just amazing, wonderful people.

We managed to eke out a little more Poetry Bus tour as people piled on for the short drive from Wave Books to the Space Needle reading. We were up at the 100 foot level, just under the revolving restaurant, surrounded by great views. Monica Fambrough had been working feverishly over the last two days putting together a DVD slideshow of the trip, which was to be shown before the first reading, exclusively for Wave Books subscribers. Technical difficulties stalled the slideshow, so we socialized, ate canapés and partook of the open bar, and then it was time to read. The first part was a group of three readers; myself, Monica Fambrough, and Matthew Zapruder , followed by a Q&A panel consisting of myself, Joshua Beckman, Travis Nichols, Monica Fambrough, Matthew Zapruder, and Liz Black. Then the rest of the audience was let in for a reading by Laura Jensen, Survey results by the Vis’ a Vis’ Society, then the final reading.

I was first up, and I had some new poems to read, which felt good, and seemed to go over very well even though one poem was a little bit “blue” as they say in stand-up. Monica and Matthew gave stellar readings, as usual, and then it was time for the Q&A. Joshua, Travis, and Matthew answered most of the questions, including the inevitable “Was there any hanky-panky on the bus?” and the inevitable disappointment at the answer—no. Several news organizations were quite disappointed by this answer over the course of the trip, causing some to lose interest altogether-including the Jim Lehrer News Hour.

I was told that Laura Jensen hadn’t given a reading in 20 years, so it was quite a privilege to hear her and her recorder—very nice. The audience was seated facing out to the city views, away from the podium for her reading and for the final reading which consisted of 9 or 10 poets giving brief readings one right after the other while the audience gazed out at the skyline. I was engaged in trying to solve the technical problems with the slideshow which involved my laptop and the interface with a DVD projector. We solved it in time to catch Edwin Torres, Joshua Beckman, and Matthew Zapruder finish out the reading beautifully, then we all gathered in the back room and enjoyed the slideshow, which was beautiful and quite poignant coming at the end like that.

Then we squeezed in a little more bus time as everybody piled in for the last short drive from the Space Needle to my overnight parking spot a few blocks North. Of course it couldn’t be that simple-we got caught in a massive traffic jam due to a High School football game that just got out—extending the tour just a little more-nobody seemed to mind. We hung out on the bus for a couple more hours-it was very hard for everyone to let it go and say our final goodbyes, well hopefully not final, just goodbye for now.

Originally Published: October 27th, 2006