I write this on a Greyhound, passing through the Midwest with Neeko Ford, en route to New Hampshire, lugging backpacks full of books. The bags under my eyes are steeping in exhaustion. Greyhound windows have framed desert, mountain ranges, open plains of flat, bumps of hills, and now thick green forest as we pass through Ohio. Once we hit New Hampshire, we’ll be camping alongside the river and train tracks of my childhood, as we make final preparations to hit the New York City Poetry Festival.
Books & Shovels, our traveling bookstore, kicked off our most recent journey in Tucson, Arizona, in mid-June. Neeko Ford, Sam Lennon, and I climbed into Sam’s pickup truck. Under desert sun, we began racing boredom and passion to the Pacific. We met a group of girls camping at San Onofre Beach, an hour or so North of San Diego, and had a couple beers around a campfire sharing stretched travel tales.We drove into Los Angeles without much transition. We set the traveling bookstore up on Venice Beach to try and get the gas money to make our way further North. Venice Beach did not treat us well, but we met some interesting folks. We were the new kids on the boardwalk. Veterans and cats who had been doing this for years, people who make a living, support their kids with street vending, had initial claim. Some of the older guys showed us the ropes of their community as we set up. After a good seven+ hours of cooking in the sun, and not many sales, we packed up the store. That night we found ourselves in the back of a smokey short bus as a new friend bumped jazzy beats for us to free style / yell poems over. We dipped out in the morning for Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is saturated with traveling kids. We arrived in the late hours of the night, wandering downtown, whiteboxing food and trading jokes for smokes. I was the first to wake in the morning, dazed with caffeine dependency. I walked into a cafe, soaked up coffee with cinnamon + no cream, hungry, but killing that gurgle slowly. I spent the morning writing.
We hit The Art Bar & Cafe open mic, set up Books & Shovels, and began doing our thing:The Santa Cruz poetry community really had our backs, and Books & Shovels received financial + morale support. The real kick to our travels came after the show, after the store was packed up, and after the open mic’s after party gathering.
When we began this trip, we were gambling finances and time. Setting out with enough money to make it almost to the Bay Area, we had no where near enough in our wallets to fill the gas tank for the trip to New York City. July 11th was Beast Crawl, Oakland’s Literary Festival, and July 25 + 26 is the New York City Poetry Festival. We needed to get to the North East early enough to set up and make final preparations for the event. That did not leave us with much felixbility.
Now, with that in mind, Sam received notification of an emergency he had to attend to back in Tucson. We were in Santa Cruz with time tock-tock-talking, never shutting up.
I wasn’t sure what the devil we were going to do. There’s no way in hell we were going to ditch the books folks across the country had donated to Books & Shovels. At bare minimum, we needed to get up to the Bay Area to hit Beast Crawl. We could figure out our next moves from there. Christopher Morgan ended up saving our asses.
Christopher lives up in the Bay, and we already had plans to meet up, grab a drink, and discuss the chapbooks we’re debuting at the poetry festival in New York. Christopher drove down to Santa Cruz, picked Neeko + I up, along with the crates of literature we’ve been carting around the country.With the books safely stored at Christopher’s, Neeko and I backpacked around San Francisco, street performing, wandering Mission St, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, getting lost in City Lights Bookstore, and performing at a house show at the end corner of the Mission.Shout out to Chris Salas for chatting it up with two dirty traveling poets at City Lights Bookstore. Chris lodged Neeko + I thru Beast Crawl, as we waited for July 11th, and with that day, Beast Crawl. Our little Bay Crew hit roof top ciphers, disenfranchised poem walks, garage shows, street corner open mics, and a slew of adventures that would ramble this blog post into a novel. & then July 11th hit. At Beast Crawl, more than one hundred writers performed for the 4th literary take over.
I performed during the First Leg with Word Performances, alongside poet and author Zarina Zabrisky, dancing poet Cybele Zufolo Siegel, cabaret singer Nikola Printz, novelist Sabrina Seidner, wordsmith Todd Siegal, and violinist Autumn Turley. Christopher Morgan and I set up Books & Shovels, and watched the artists unfold on stage. Our Venice Beach smokey short bus friends, Alex and Brendan, had made it out to the Bay, and joined us.
After the gathering depopulated, we packed up the books into a padded tote bag. Christopher left for prior engagements, and our odd ball Bay Area crew began mobbing.
We bumbled over to an open mic where you received a shot of bourbon for performing. We shared poems out front with other cats gathering from Beast Crawl as the open mic set up inside. Here I met Clay Bugh who’d read at Beastly Be About It, curated by Alexandra Naughton. Clay, Alexandra, Neeko, myself, our smokey short bus friends, Brendan and Alex, among other great poets, after that shot of bourbon, performed. There was a young child that giggled every time someone said fuck or shit.
Rolling through the mic’s performances, Neeko + Clay + Alex + Brendan + Chris gathered our dis-coordinated crew, and rushed to the after party of people group sweating and cramming into the tight patio space of a restaurant. Thoroughly drunk on the day, evening, night, and beer we’d been wandering with, we caught BART back to San Francisco and walked Mission St. through the night into the sunrise’s foggy hello.Neeko and I had tickets for Manchester, New Hampshire, from Oakland, departing at 1:30 am July 13th. Before we said goodbye to the Bay Area crew, we had a dirty poets cipher in San Francisco. We are to arrive July 16th in the mid-afternoon. It’s the afternoon of day three riding among artists, writers, youth, junkies withdrawing, stoners, babies screaming, bangers, traveling kids, well worn people, bags-under-eyes people, people of America, cramming into a confined space, dazing away with the miles.
Soon we’ll be back East, soon we’ll be at New York City, soon soon soon these new chapbooks will debut.