Okay, I'm still here on this site. In fact I'm packing for Denver tomorrow, for the AWP conference. Christopher thinks I am a cool calm and collected traveler but this is not true. It's a myth I have perpetrated on him which in his naivete he bought. Actually it's not so much the traveling I'm nervous about as the prospect of what awaits me when I get there--50,000 writers. An aquarium full of killer whales would be less anxiety provoking. I just printed out the schedule and there are fifteen pages a day of workshops, panels, readings, parties, keynote addresses, etc. That makes forty five pages for all three days I'm there, which is the length of a one-act play.
I am a Libra. Forty-five pages of choices is completely overwhelming to me. I would be much more comfortable with three choices a day. And to have someone assigned to lead me around by the hand and sit with me at meals, and tell me what I should do next.
Of course I am also obsessing about what to wear. It's freezing in Denver right now--literally. Snow and sleet and all that. So do I bring my huge puffy down coat? What happens the next day when the temperatures climb into the fities and then the sixties? Will it be too big and bulky to carry home? I am traveling with about 25 copies of my books. What if I don't sell any and I buy or people give me copies of their own books, and then I have no room in my suitcase for my coat?
I'll have to walk from the hotel to the conference center where the thing is being held. Will it be snowy and slushy out? Should I bring my boots? I can't walk around in boots all day with plantar fasciitis. I need to wear either my sneakers, which might make me feel like a pathetic dork, or my ortho-Merrill's, which might be too flimsy and cold.
I don't want to blow this opportunity, but I'm not sure exactly why I'm going either. I don't have an MFA. I'm not in contention for the academic jobs, which are getting cut now anyway. And I wouldn't leave my house or my husband to take an appointment in Kansas or wherever even if one were offered to me. I might get to sell some books at the SUN reading. And I'll be on a panel with other SUN writers. Which is a good thing professionally. I don't mind reading--I love reading. It's just the milling around in a place that would make Grand central Station look de-populated that scares me.
I like people. Just in manageable numbers. It seems crazy to me to get 50,000 highly sensitive writer-types in one area together at one time. has anyone thought this through? There could be emotional meltdowns, relapses into dangerous addictions, extra-marital affairs, suicide attempts, drunk dialing, and worse. This conference grows exponentially every year. I went nine years ago after my first book came out, and I thought it was too big then.
Christopher is on Spring break, and so we had a quick overnight getaway to a hot springs place that was the scene of our first weekend away when we were dating. The smell of sulphur, the lovely sight of relaxed naked people (I'm a voyeur, I admit it), hills lush as green velvet after the rains, trees on fire with spring--red-tipped, green-tipped, pink. Buds, branches, blossoms, and some still bare and witchy. We passed grazing sheep, goats, cows and horses, bare-twigged almond orchards, and walnit groves. Ate mlunch in a little hole in the wall place in a town of 3,000 people--Esparto. There was a boar's head--a real one--mounted high on the wall.
I started reading Lit by Mary Karr. It's good--of course it's good--but I confess I'm a little weary of addiction memoirs. She's one of the best writers around and if anyone can enliven this subject it's her, but I'm just tired of reading about people with their head in the toilet. I understand, I feel your pain, I too have wasted way too much time on destructive behavior. Now let's just say, okay, we did bad things, and get on to doing better things and write about that. Maybe I need to read Greg Mortensen's Three Cups of Tea instead right now.
Easter Sunday I went into the city, in a deep downpour, to attend a reading of Beckett by Jean Anouilh in my friend Stuart's apartment. I love being around all these drama nerds--and he has actor friends who are fantastic--and reading a piece of great literature together. When I got home, we put the movie Becket onto the Netflix queue along with Man for All Seasons and The Lion in Winter. I am getting my English history this way, in bits and pieces, through plays--a dubious way to get it, since playwrights are known for manipulating facts to suit their dramatic purposes.
As we hiked along a muddy lane at the hot springs place I told Christopher that the English countryside is magical. It's no coincidence that this is the country that has given birth to stories like Lord of the Rings, and the Narnia series and Harry Potter. You just expect a talking rabbit or something to pop up from behind a bush or a hedge. At the risk of sounding like some of the people I make fun of, there's an energy you can feel coming from the land itself.
"Yes," said Christopher. "And those talking rabbits are more attracted to some people than to others."
"Poets are known to be talking rabbit magnets. That's all."
He brought his camera, of which he is much enamored, and I brought my small one and we took a lot of pictures of trees, bushes, flowers, rocks, and each other. I hope at least some of them come out. It's real Ansel Adams country where we were--the trees were beautifully gnarled and twisted like that--but you need to be Ansel Adams in order to capture them.