NC BOOK TOUR IMPRESSIONS (or further evidence of how complex a day can become in an instant)

/4.13/wake 4:30 am on 149th St. to catch plane to NC / tenor custodian breaks into song in jet blue terminal, broom for a mic, words spanish, feelings universal, my translation: the best light i can find is in your eyes, with that light i can read skies / smooth flight to state we’ve never before visited, wife a. and i / on rental car contract my signature grows a flower / inch out of charlotte toward wilmington / spot first azalea blooms in Wadesboro, bush rooted to foundation of crumbling bungalow like a pink prom gown rising out of the basement, liberated from oblivion / wispy cones of wisteria pushing through limbs of spruce trees circling parking lot of wendy’s  / notify publisher e. we’re on way / America is a lot, i think / 89.9 interview with ronnie reno who played with merle haggard / arrive at e.’s beautiful marsh pad furnished with lyric poems / drink “on the water” with e. and editor b. / chef  k.’s magic of fried oysters, calamari, lamb shank, brisket, espresso brulee /4.14/cooing morning dove calm / neighbor gleefully describes recent venomous snake encounter / drink coffee on porch with legs elevated and out of striking range / cardinals, mockingbird in berry bush / bluewater grill lunch view of black dog poised like george washington on prow of motorboat / locate and check into beachfront holiday inn / swim in outdoor pool too cold for most guests / barefoot beach walk next to green cellophane ocean / dress for event, snapping on hickey bow-tie, slipping on (no kidding) lucky black knee length socks i was married in / book launch, uncw kenan hall: set up portable record player and spin “winchester cathedral,” presented with best broadside in world created by a.c.a with text printed on both sides of 45 rpm record facsimile that slips into sweet sleeve, photogenic book cover cake, bob c’s moody urban iowa images gracing walls, wanting twenty foot long arms to hug simultaneously all the gathered bow-ties who helped make river bend chronicle possible and not having twenty foot arms, not nearly / drivel alert / tickle of sand in my shoes / e.’s lovely intro referencing skid-ender boots and the cigarette purse / sing “blue skies” (irving berlin) / read “sequins” hoping i won’t weep / do not weep, smile/ a & q / unslippery squid suddenly enters discussion to the shock of many, including me / spontaneous “delta dawn” duet with d.g. / sign  and sign and sign books in my baroque fashion / moral support in the form of a plastic cake fork from m.w. / drink in book buyer eye warmth / b.s. informs me about the history of albino alligators (they all come from the same nest) / pose for photo with bob c’s old neighbor w.j. from cedar rapids (now a wilmington resident) and his handsome young son, bumper car champion / last to leave party i never want to end, carrying record player, a. by my side, exhausted/4.15/early a.m. fitness center bike ride next to window overlooking rain-lashed beach / perch and eggs at causeway café with the yellow submarine painted on wall of bathroom and a fetching fish with a musical note balanced on its red tongue / at adjacent redix store buy riverboat whistle for $3.99 and blow it in parking lot and hear a glimpse of the mississippi / blow whistle in rental car, toot, toot, we’re off / blow whistle in kenan hall parking lot / blow whistle in kenan hall where my book bubbled into being / blow whistle during second floor pub. lab tour: machines that bind, machines that staple, machines that glue, machines that copy, machines that put love on paper / exxon promised by the interstate sign nowhere to be found / strawberry farm / a.  a good sport but still exhausted / duke inn where guests are deep in the blue duke of things always, walls decorated with medals despots presented to grinning ambassador duke / if you stay here, stay here for the stationary, creamy and old style / sun dried tomatoes and thee / poolside phone conversation with b.b. about tonight’s event / kind b.b. and r. picking me up and driving me to the regulator / carrying in records, the player, bonus essays, b.b.’s homemade cookies in tins, spicy pecans in a bowl / convivial d. of  the c.d.s., chipper lookout books field-trippers / spin “ostrich walk” / read “ghosts of mississippi” from a cinder block pulpit also serving as the store’s emergency exit / sweeping discussion with b.b. and gracious audience / bonus essay distribution / draw flowers in books / geer street garden outdoor picnic tables lit like a fair i’ve been to before / fried green tomatoes and hopping john and bratwurst and deviled eggs and miller high life and laughter/4.16/woozy early morning drive from durham to greensboro with lookout interns to do tv spot / intern levity, intern stalwart positivity / fraught minutes in fox 8 green room with earless abused dog that has become a hero to many / surreal “meet the author” spot with blond anchor cindy / “an ancestor of mine is buried in rock island” says the male anchor, spongy personage, during the commercial break / drive back to durham to get my tired a. / return to Greensboro after driving 50 miles in the wrong direction / o. henry hotel with its “cigarette preserve” for smokers and deep tub to bathe in and monogrammed robes and surprise ending guaranteed for every guest / tea in the lobby with a. and talk of day job weariness and writing hopes: hopeful weariness / when you spend most of your life in a desperate flutter over large and small details your status quo is that of a hummingbird’s / memorable woman in lobby celebrating her birthday by herself, flower in her hair, lips pursed and blowing out a candle stuck in a cupcake, smoke curling off the wish wick / lobby oil painting of corpulent reclining o. henry / set up record player at barnes and noble across the street / intern tells me the rbc book paper contains clay / clay in the paper, clay in the paper, tear up at the thought of clay in paper: book re: river city scented with silt /  “is that bix beiderbecke [i hear]?” asks a stranger, who quickly becomes a pal, telling me of recently reading melville’s confidence man and of his grandfather who brought bands to duke in the 1940s, what luck to meet this individual in the gray sweat shirt / another man, flamboyant mustache, sits down and while recharging his laptop computer sings the most hilarious lines from H.M.S. Pinafore / learn that the first name of the mayor of greensboro is robby / joined by a shy short story writer, and music lover (ordinary mustache, dark blue knit cap) who identifies what is wrong with the singing style of sammy davis jr.–it’s too “mechanical” / these are my readers, I think, only they don’t know it yet / people who fly under the radar of the city are the city, listen to these voices filling rows of empty chairs with notions about the america’s past, present, future / smokehouse manhattans and duck “three ways” at green valley grill off o. henry lobby / one-legged waiter walking faster than the two legged waiters / read “gift of the magi” in bed: what a relief, writing not my own / honey you’re snoring turn over / turning over/4.17/less-is-more morning under sheets  / seared cauliflower steak for lunch at green valley grill while watching sparrows land on lip of small, fern-enveloped, pebbled fountain in hotel courtyard / greener and greener it gets as we close in on asheville / rest area with artificial (miniature golf course like) creek running thru it / rain / think: they made the road as straight as possible which was hardly straight at all / hotel indigo mountain vista / fitness center bike ride next to window overlooking natty asheville bricks / auditorium marquee: DYLAN 30TH / town of angles, town of slopes, town of stitches / think: “hotel without a city,” possible story title” / think: “no chalk, no hope” / F.W. WOOLWORTH facade / green quilt to die for suspended over indoor shopping arcade / malaprop store graciousness: table for record player, author gift bag tied with ribbon, author page in journal to fill, hot mug of coffee courtesy of host c., portrait of t. wolfe gazing fatherly at podium where i stand, audience including some quad city natives and j.o. who interviewed me for asheville scene / read “ghosts” for my a. who missed hearing it at regulator / asked “who’s your muse?” i answer: “my feet” / new friend j.j. (ex of moline) spinning discs during signing: what a little moonlight can do / jack of the woods bluegrass jam: oh i like it how the players in the circle, men and women (mostly fiddlers), are not playing to any audience but themselves / pork belly blts and local beer black as bear/4.18/walk to t. wolfe “old kentucky home” and meet up with tour guide / as guide, key in hand, leads me toward the front door (past a forsythia bush) wind pushes porch wicker rockers back and forth as if ghosts of boarders were occupying them (hats, pipes, shawls, shoes) / “old kentucky home” actually smells like an old house–gently sour odor of decay, stagnant warmish air, back porch screen door creaking (guide says a man visited the house the week before just to hear screen doors creak: what sentimental man? from how far away? lugging what  memories?), wolfe family things of glass and leather and enamel and paper / “what is there to say?” wolfe wrote about returning home after seven years–that question every writer must keep answering–what’s there to say at last? in the beginning? what? / mountain trout and eggs and homemade jam at early girl cafe / music on street corners: guitar, banjo, dance shouts / asheville has the feel of a beach town, people just seem to have washed up here with their instruments and stares and facial hair / S&W cafeteria façade / last asheville discovery: collages by alber’s student john urbain at black mountain museum: colors bursting with light, with dark, with emotion, with thought, with accident, with craft / “visual and physical properties of materials” / please let a. and i stay here forever figuring things out, please / but there are no forevers,  there are schedules and vast valleys of green swallowing the rental car and upchucking it / then things got wonderfully confusing / “spartanburg ahead” / spartanburg?! / spartanburg  i hear in e’s crackling south carolina voice / steer like a slaloming skier to reach hampton inn somewhere in charlotte / pool is closed, no bikes in fitness center, halls drenched with dry businessmen: plastic promises in plastic places: burst facial capillaries / buy dark brown shoestrings (nc wanderings broke ny pair) from trembling shoe store salesman sentenced to a career in a bulbous outdoor mall, “bless you,” he says as if I made his day / hotel shuttle to park road books, where reading is scheduled to occur at seven / as usual set up record player first / spin armstrong (with teagarden) while my a. wanders / hip host m. hovers, talking roots music, keeping me company / e. arrives from wilmington like the cavalry / always good to see the cavalry coming to the rescue / a. drifts into sight after exploring park road shopping center: the oldest strip mall between d.c. and florida, intricate soulful brickwork/ wishful reading (as opposed to wishful thinking) / “would you like me to sing–i mean, sign–stock?” / sign stock with ever-flowering vines of my signature / ride from e. to hotel: “would you like to eat at roaster’s? that’s where I took edith” / soon as i say no, we should get back, it’s easier, we’re all tired, no more driving…soon as I say no i wish i had said yes–just to see where the two e.s ate once upon a book tour / fifty yards from hotel a wolfgang puck pizza bar looms, an inescapable trap / tall booth made of boards like a faulknerian coffin for four / cocktails just released from corporate taste lab in california lumbering into palms / sadly wooed by a thin ribeye / redemptive elevator hugs/4.19/charlotte free day dawns dimly / drive 18 miles to reach bobbee-o’s bbq for a reason: everything is right about bobbee-o’s, bouncy collards, firm ungummy mac and cheese, smoky brisket, moist ribs that pop when you bite them, a respectful blanket of foil over the meat (styro cups of the sides on top), old men shuffling in with their wisecracks and diseases / revisit enchanting park road shopping center / KEYS MADE at brown shingled parking lot hut / a. buys me a cigar at  mcranie’s tobacco shop and while smoking it outside at the metal patio table m. from park road books wanders over and we talk about his imminent move to philadelphia / tornado warning / refuge in edward halley’s pub located at the bottom of stairs at the end of a curious shopping center breezeway / more important married talk of how to free ourselves from day job stress, ny stress–ways to free ourselves to create the work which we have not yet created / procure supplies for “farewell nc” supper in hotel room (turkey sandwiches, gigantes, green beans, squash, spanish wine) / play records in room and sway / invent language consisting of one word from every language: oui ola aporia gesundheit… / tour blur symbol of shopping bag full of bags collected by me for a reason i can’t rightly identify / hotel entertainment system genitalia drooping as my record player speaker blares: “bucket’s got a hole in it, oh the bucket’s got a hole in it” / imagine calling desk clerk to complain of bucket with a hole in it, “the bucket, sir? you mean…the ice bucket? right? sorry! i’ll send another up right away…” / blues: the song of having nothing but a song / friday, that it is, that it still is–jogging restaurant valets visible below / question: “would veal dry-aged for three years still be veal?” /4.20/airport apple / squiggles of rivers down there / on plane read t. wolfe essay “return” / hit ground sleeping / pinched awake by terminal adrenalin / drag bags to train / reach door that is all doors: the one our key fits

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