Feb 23, 2019
We arrived in Venice, California, in early afternoon at the Breeze Suites right on the beach. We unpacked the car and Barbara went to park it in a nearby lot. As I lugged our bags into our room I could see out the almost floor to ceiling windows facing the ocean a mardi gras style parade coming up the boardwalk. People in all manner of wild costume came carrying a huge banner that proclaimed I Love Venice. Singing and chanting with drinks in some hands, walking and riding decorated bikes and scooters, they were a jubilant welcome. I love the ocean especially the Pacific so I had to pause even after they passed and looked out on the light sand and the two white sailboats out on the blue water. The elevation here is 10 feet and having the Pacific a short stroll from the door made me utterly happy.
Almost immediately we went down to the street to meet Harryette Mullen, terrific poet and writer who lives in L.A., who was picking us up for a late lunch. She drove us to a busy, happening restaurant, Café Gratitude, where we had a lot of fun mixed with serious talking and eating. (MO)
We left San Diego in the morning of the 23rdand stopped in a Cafe to write. We were a bit concerned that we might get to the Venice Breeze Suites too early to check in and there is no parking there. So we stalled. Then we drove to LA. It was Saturday so the highways were not too jammed. We made one wrong turn, but still made it there at 1:15, quickly unloaded our things and went down stairs, stashed the car in a public lot, and watched Venice beach folks dancing, singing and trotting down the boardwalk. At 2 pm Harryette Mullen picked us up for lunch and we went to Cafe Gratitude, a vegan restaurant, arranged because of my diet preferences. Thank you Harryette and Maureen. (BH)
Then at night Maureen and I decided to attend a reading at Beyond Baroque. Brenda Hillman was scheduled to read with two others. I admire Brenda’s writing and was easily coaxed out of my burrowing-into-nighttime idea. We took a cab and it was worth it. Brenda read from her new book, Extra Hidden Life. I was moved by her poems dedicated to C.D. Wright. I’m now reading a few of her poems every night before bed. Probably I’ll include some of these in the class I am teaching at the Poet’s House in April on Dedications, Portraits & Elegies. Harryette was at the reading and she drove us home. Enroute we cut down the alleys to the hotel, and I noticed lots of people sleeping outside in tents or in corners. Harryette told us a story about an advocate for the homeless in LA, Andy Bales, who was working with the homeless and picked up a terrible skid-row disease; his foot and part of his leg had to be amputated. According to Harryette, he continues to work with the homeless and his experience has lead to some positive changes in the way LA is dealing with the homeless. (BH)
That evening we went to Beyond Baroque to hear Brenda Hillman, Sara Mumolo, & Vanessa Angelica Villareal read their work. Sara is the author of Mortar from Omnidawn and Vanessa is the author of the poetry collection Beast Meridian. Brenda read from her latest book Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days. Their words and energy filled the theater like space. I felt lucky to be in the audience. This was my intro to Sara and Vanessa’s work, but I have been a long time fan of Brenda Hillman’s and it was especially meaningful to get to meet her in person and say hello. (MO)
February 24, 2019
After yoga we asked the desk clerk for breakfast place suggestions and he highly praised the Fig Tree Café just a ways up the boardwalk. The sun was shining and we began to warm up from the chilly weather that has accompanied us on our travels. As we ate, I had a dish called the Lulu also recommended by the desk clerk, a singer named Dale serenaded the boardwalk and our table with covers from Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Walt Disney, U2, and the Beach Boys. He and his guitar appeared to have been at their gig a long time. We wished the best for him and donated. More people, bikes, scooters and skateboards joined walkers and joggers on the paved beach path and boardwalk, as we headed back to prepare for our reading. (MO)
In the morning we walked the beach. Even though it was not swimming weather, there were crowds of people out celebrating sunshine and sand. In the afternoon we went over to Beyond Baroque to read. Unfortunately, we did not realize that we had scheduled our reading on the same day with the Oscar’s and this is LA—even poets stay home and tune into the Oscar’s. So it was a small audience, but a very special audience. In the dark as I was reading, I could sense a few people slipping in and settling down in the theater seats. It was wonderful to read for Harryette Mullen, Dale Herd, Bill Mohr and the others who were there. We went out to eat later with Dale and Harryette. Of course, I love Harryette’s writing; the book of interviews I did with her, Looking up Harryette Mullen (coupled with her poems in Sleeping with the Dictionary), has probably inspired a lot of young poets to experiment with language. I’m also an admirer of Dale Herd’s stories. We have been in correspondence for quite some time, and I include his stories in every class I teach on tiny fictions. Check out his new collection: Empty Pockets: New and Selected Stories (Coffee House). Overall it was a poetically inspiring two days in LA. (BH)
We left our car in the parking lot and took a cab to Beyond Baroque. Richard Modiano instructed us on the finely tuned pickup of the microphone, and the director at BB, Quentin Ring, introduced us to a small but engaging audience. After the reading we had a great time talking to Dale Herd, astoundingly wonderful short story writer, his latest book is Empty Pockets from Coffee House and Bill Mohr, who David Wilk had told about our reading. We hung out in the fine little bookstore there with Harryette, Quentin, Dale, Bill and Emmitt, who manages the bookstore. Then we went out for a bite with Harryette and Dale. I was so delighted to see Dale who I’d met years ago at the Poetry Project at St Mark’s and have been a fan ever since. It was very special to have him in the audience. (MO)
Thanks to Quentin Ring, Richard Modiano and Emmett Conklin for setting up the reading and selling the books.
Back in the apartment, my shoulder was hurting a lot, some pinched nerve. The woman at the desk found a massage center in Venice still open and they made an appointment for me. I took a cab and a young Chinese woman worked on my shoulder for an hour. She told me that a bad spirit had woven itself into my neck under my skull and she had never seen anything like it before. She huffed and pressed into the accupuncture points and released the spirit. Then she carefully undid every knot in my shoulder girdle. For some reason on this trip, I lost my sense of alignment—maybe from not walking enough, driving so much and talking so much (usually I’m alone); she was incredibly helpful. I was concerned about her at the end though because she was tense about her next client, a man and it was kind of late by then, 9 pm. I asked her why she was working so late and she said, “I need the money.” (BH)
February 25, 2019
We woke up, had breakfast, I did my yoga practice. Then we started driving out of LA, on 101 north to Paso Robles where we were stopping for the night. The mountains and the Pacific were awesome. (BH)
I woke up early and looked out on the boardwalk. Last night a masterful drumming session went on till about 10 p.m. continuing the ambiance of the unique, but sometimes less than glamorous, life styles here on the beach. Now it’s Monday morning quiet and a slightly pale light flutters over the scene. A young woman on a skateboard, a cup of coffee in her hand, glides up the paved beach path that weaves along the boardwalk. Some joggers, a fellow with a backpack, sipping coffee as he steers his bike by a couple of old timers sitting on the benches. The old timers bent forward, look tired and worn, probably having spent the night in a makeshift nearby. We packed up our little traveling caravan and headed out on 101 north to Paso Robles, the first leg of our drive to our San Francisco. 101 follows along the ocean through green, lush hills. It’s truly a gorgeous drive. When we wanted to switch drivers and needed to stretch our legs, we took a side road down to the beach areas and got out to stretch our legs. When we looked down over the cliff edge we saw a campground of RV’s. They could have been camping or living in that perfect spot. We wondered if one could just pull in there and park for free. It almost looked like it. As we drove further we saw a long line of RV’s parked right alongside the road. One after another, with spaces to park their cars and all.