Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Up the 401

I write this at The Sleepless Goat in Kingston, after a well-attended, fun, and concise show in which Sherwin and I were joined by local poet (and Sherwin's former writing teacher) Carolyn Smart. Sherwin is a beguilingly funny performer, as I have known since I saw him read from his giant book of pseudo-haiku in New York on the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, a couple of years ago. Now his giant book of pseudo-haiku (1600 pages, bound with steel bolts through corrugated cardboard) has been re-published -- in smaller, pocket-friendly form -- by Coach House Press, as The World is a Heartbreaker (which phrase is the book's first poem, in its entirety). He read from the original book tonight, and asked the crowd to share their most burning personal questions, which were then answered by the oracle of the book. One guy asked, "Does my father really respect me?" and the poem that the book offered was: "We don't / go through the motions / anymore."

Thanks to the Sleepless Goat and in particular to Vincent, Annie, and Jackie who helped us out a lot in making the show smooth and successful. I'm being put up tonight at the home of Mary, Pat, Hector and Iris, so thanks very much to them and here's hoping that Hector won't choose too early an hour to jump on me and take all the money out of my pockets, which is what he did when we arrived. (Okay, he's 2.) Tomorrow we drive to Ottawa for our show with rob mclennan, Stephen Cain, and Max Middle at The Mercury Lounge, 57 Byward Street, 7:30 pm. And then -- finally, for me, after a month on the road -- we arrive in Montreal on Thursday and do a show at Pharmacie Esperanza (5490 Saint-Laurent) at 7:30 pm. Performers include Sherwin and I, Shannon Bramer, Stephen Cain, and musicians Amber Goodwyn and Martin Horn.

I want to backtrack a bit and flesh out my activities of the last couple of weeks, in sketchbook form. I want to mix my metaphors until they are completely homogenized...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hogtown to Hogtown

Today, from a lake-side city with the tallest occupied floor of any building in the world, to a lake-side city with the tallest freestanding structure in the world. Passing other lakes and other cities on the way, I am the tallest spoken word performer currently driving a VW Golf around North America in the world.

I'm going to be in Toronto until Tuesday, but most importantly, I will be performing on Sunday along with some great artists and friends of mine. Transcontinental Flux is on its last legs, but is about to have a burst of haiku-sized energy as Sherwin Tjia joins me for the remaining shows in Ontario and Quebec. Come see what audiences in New York, L.A., Vancouver, Winnipeg, Chicago, and Vegreville have been raving about, as they say in ads. Sherwin will read from The World is a Heartbreaker, his new book of brilliant haiku kicks in the head from Coach House Press, and he may show us some comics. Performance artist Diane Borsato promises she will make mint exciting again. Bowling nut / forthcoming conundrum press author Nathaniel Moore will read, and singer-musician Ryan Kamstra will perform.

Sunday, 15 May, 8.00 pm
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen St. W.

Also, listen in to CIUT 89.5FM on Sunday at 2 pm: it's "Howl," a show about poetry performance, and Sherwin and I will be on it doing our thing and talking about our show.

What's left to conquer after this?

Tuesday, 17 May, 7.30 pm: The Sleepless Goat, 91 Princess St., Kingston, with Sherwin Tjia and special guest Carolyn Smart.

Wednesday, 18 May, 7.30 pm: The Mercury Lounge, 56 Byward St., Ottawa, with Sherwin and Stephen Cain. Hosted by rob mclennan, with a performance by Max Middle.

Thursday, 19 May, 7:30 pm: The final show of Transcontinental Flux! Pharmacie Esperanza, 5490 Saint-Laurent, Montreal, with Sherwin, Shannon Bramer, Stephen Cain, and music by Amber Goodwyn and Martin Horn.

The last week has been good to me. The people of the prairies are stout-hearted, handsome, and remarkably civilized. More on this soon.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Red Deer to Red River Valley

I've crossed most of the Great Central Plains and find myself in Minneapolis tonight. There's a lot to report about Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, etc., but first I need sleep.

On Thursday, May 12th, I'm looking forward to a great show in Chicago with Jeb Gleason-Allured and Todd Dills. Here are the details:

thur 12 May, 8:15 PM
@ the hungry brain
2319 w. belmont, free
773.935.2118 or 773.278.7034

See you there, Chicagoans. A bientot, vous autres.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Pacific to Prairies

The last few days have been too filled with ferry rides and pine trees to write any blog entries, but here in the Okanagan Valley (at Ann and Colin's place in Kelowna) I've got a respite from oceans and mountains, so I can write.

First, know that on Sunday, May 8th (tommorrow, Mother's Day), I'll be doing a performance in Edmonton, along with local spoken word performer T. L. Cowan, about whom I've heard great things and whom I can't wait to meet, among other reasons because she's also working on a PhD concerned with spoken word. The show is at 8 pm, at the Melting Pot, 10351 82nd Ave (Whyte Ave) in Alberta's capital, and it's pay-what-you-can. I've had to cancel the show in Saskatoon unfortunately, because I'm on my own and don't have any local back-up there, but I'll be passing through for old times' sake on the 9th (I used to be a pizza deliverer there for Santa's Pizza). After that I'll be appearing in Winnipeg on the 10th, as a featured performer at the Winnipeg Slam semi-finals, at Dreg's Cafe.

The evening I left Portland did find me in Canada eventually. I stopped in Seattle for a quick visit to Confounded Books and a burrito at Bimbo, before driving to the border. The Canadian customs officer who greeted me was perhaps the most laid-back border guard I've ever encountered. "So," he said,"what are you up to?" He didn't ask for papers or anything. I told him what I was up to, and he said, "You're Canadian, right?" I said yeah. "See you later," he concluded. A bit different from the grilling and fingerprinting you get entering the US.

I stayed with Anne Stone and Wayde Compton in Vancouver that night, and the next morning got on the ferry from Tsuwassen to Vancouver Island. It was a gorgeous day - in fact, with the exception of a bit of fog and light showers between Victoria and Gabriola Island, the weather has been pretty uniformly gorgeous since I got to Canada. It had been 14 years since I last took the ferry to Vancouver Island - the last time was in my first car, a white Mercury Lynx, and I locked the keys inside while waiting in the line-up, and ended up missing the ferry. That did not happen this time. In Victoria I saw my friend and former touring partner Glenna, who is an amazing singer. We put on what I thought was a good show that night for a small but particularly enthusiastic audience - including my old Montreal friend and former Fluffy Pagan Echo Justin McGrail - featuring local poets Matt Bigelow and Joshua James. Lots of thanks to them and to the Solstice Cafe for hosting us.

The next day I drove up what I now know is the Malahat highway to Nanaimo, a small city which to me (from my Americanized-by-habit perspective) felt somehow very remote and northern, even though it is about on level with the 49th parallel. My car stayed there while I grabbed my sleeping bag and walked onto the ferry to Gabriola Island. I had never been there, and my whole 20-hour experience on the island was a pleasure, mostly thanks to spoken-word/welding genius Hilary Peach and her partner Alex, who hosted me in a beautiful woodsy house where I slept under a skylight looking at the stars and the tips of tall trees. We watched the sun set from the beach and then settled in for a few Caesars/seizures at the beach pub where a jam session was going on. Gabriola Island is a fantastic place (and by that I mean wonderful, but also I mean it's a place where elves and houses shaped like toadstools wouldn't seem out of place. In fact, I visited a house shaped like a toadstool. Or was it a golf ball?) At the pub I met some of the musicians - guitarists, mandolinists, accordionists, bassists, and percussive tap-dancers - and artists, and psychics, that make up the island's unique population. In the morning, after lots of great food and a sound sleep, we did a modicum of sniggling and then it was time to get the ferry back to The 'Mo, as Justin calls it.

On "the big ferry", on the way back to Vancouver across the Georgia Strait, I watched the snow-tipped mountains of the mainland looming higher and higher, with the skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver looking miniscule at their feet. That night Anne and Wayde read with me at the Helen Pitt Gallery, hosted by Lance Blomgren. (Thanks, guys!) This show was lightly attended, for which I put the blame on Emily Carr and her darn "conference" that was happening at the same time, but it was a fun time anyway and certainly a big enough crowd to make it a lively hob-nob between the performances and travel slides. A poet I had met in Melbourne came all the way from Hong Kong - perhaps not exclusively for my reading, granted, but it was good to see her all the same. She also interviewed me for her radio show, so for all you Hong Kong listeners out there, tune in for my interview with Mani Rao sometime soon.

Yesterday I hung out in Vancouver for most of the day and then left around rush hour with a tray of take-out sushi, only to find myself sitting in traffic in Coquitlam. But the drive up the Coquihalla Highway was mesmerizingly scenic, as I listened to Bill Bryson on audiobook explain to me how the universe was formed and how mountains come into being. Then upon arrival in Kelowna it was great to see Ann, a fellow islander whom I haven't seen in 10 years. I love to travel, but when I do I usually manage to feel like I still don't do it enough. This afternoon I will cross the Rockies, quickly and slowly depending on which side of the hill I'm on and how many mountain goats and elk are in the way, and get to Calgary sometime tonight, with the Canadian prairies and the American midwest stretching out ahead of me for the next week.

Monday, May 02, 2005

California to Canada

Drove up the 101 from San Francisco, a road that at one point took me and my car right through the middle of a giant redwood.

I'm writing from Powell's Books in Portland, one of the book-related wonders of the world. A whole block filled with books. Last night I did a fun gig along with Jack Saturn at Reading Frenzy, for a small but very engaged audience of cool Portland readers. Thanks Jack and Emily and Chloe at Reading Frenzy. Afterwards, a group of us went for Thai food down the street (I ate at the same restaurant I ate at the last time I was in Portland for a day - this is a habit of mine; I did the same thing in Albuquerque and San Francisco.) and then Jack and Amy and I went to The Alibi, a classic Tiki lounge with dark wood walls and fruit-adorned drinks, to indulge in Jack's latest passion: karaoke.

I am soon going to get on the Interstate 5 and head north towards Canada; it's not certain yet whether I'll actually end up in Canada tonight, and if so whether it will be in Vancouver or Victoria.

But in any case, tomorrow night I'll be performing in Victoria, thanks to the good graces of Glenna Goodness, at the Solstice Cafe. Details: Tuesday, May 3, 2005, at 7:30 pm. The Solstice Cafe is located at 529 Pandora Ave, Victoria. Phone (250) 475-0477. Admission is free, but a hat will be passed around. I'm not sure whose hat, because I don't have a hat. Perhaps a hubcap. Ferries to and from Victoria are expensive. Appearing with me will be locals Matt Bigelow and Joshua James, and Glenna will be presenting. My first reading ever in Victoria; a memorable event, to be sure.

On Thursday the 5th I'll be in Vancouver at the Helen Pitt Gallery, hosted by Lance Blomgren and joined by Anne Stone and Wayde Compton. 882 Homer Street, Vancouver. (604) 681-6740. At 7 pm. Free, with a similar arrangement. This will be a particularly multimedia-heavy, performative, untravel-intensive show.

I'm looking forward to seeing some red mailboxes again and colourful money.