My partner & I drag drunk threats to call the police on us to a 2am Greyhound station. Our homie drops us off & apologizes again for his dad. Hugs goodbye.
It’s 7:21am. Fox news blares. Which side of the same coin would make a better president? A small man with wrinkled hands sleeps. His neck dangles loose. Eyes covered with faux velvet sleep mask. A large security guard sits in his golf cart. He stares me down, smoking a cigarette. It’s my shift to watch our shit.
All the titles & chaps for Books & Shovels are stored in our homie’s closet. Sioux Sioux is dead, left in Naples. We’re exhausted. Our bus doesn’t arrive till 6:10pm.
Sid sleeps under our bench seats. Back inside, I listen more to my yearning for something to listen to than the music I’m listening to. Passed the 24hr mark. Long passed.
Miami is the East Coast Los Angeles with less mercy.
More coke. More cafe con leche. More selfies.
“Tell her she can’t sleep on the floor.” I wake Sid up. She curls on the bench, between the raised bars preventing folks from laying out. The sun’s hacking up.
Love to those, especially our homie Brendan, a poet I met out in Venice Beach, a dirty kid kicking it on a short bus cross country, that saved our asses this round, helping us get far enough to write this. Florida has alligator serrated humor, & I was foolish enough to go touch one (photos later).
2016’s motif for Books & Shovels is the road flaunting her lack of care for our plans or whims.
NOTE: Another theme has been men (esp. those w/ small bits of power, i.e: greyhound attendant, bus drivers, etc) have been afraid of Sid (our assumption is due to her short hair & androgynous dress) & lashing out towards her.Dig deeper in follow up posts w/ Sid & expand upon these experiences on the road. & be aware that you are here to share + support, not speak for anyone.
“What’s that squeal?”
But we’re skipping ahead here. This being drafted in Miami (& edited in Kansas City) is irrelevant to what I’m willing to project to you atm.
To reel back to where we left off:
We’re in Tucson. Sid & I are prepping to dip outta town w/ Sioux Sioux, Sid’s 2002 Chevy Malibu. Bought from a trusted mechanic, a cat who’d been doing work for her mum for over a decade, we were confident in circling the continent.
Damp, my Town & Country from the first leg of the tour, beat himself some engine gut rot w/ misfires for 6000+ miles. He’s deservin’ of rest.
& he’s rent when I get back & scrap the bastard.
We’d emptied Sid’s apartment & she was off w/ a friend grabbing mace. Books & Shovels’ shelves are fat. I threw the shop in the trunk. Blankets & pillows & layers. Squeeze & arrange. Sid’s back, grabs the food bag & tosses it in the back seat. The trunk is full.
Off we went, Eyedea or Nick Cave or PJ Harvey jostling the speakers, night closing down over day pining like it forgot to accomplish something, something important & forgotten, something left behind that night may surely take, a vibe that need a dose of heat.
Day remembered an hour or so past Phoenix, reds & blues lighting off, jolting my spine straight & Sid’s seatbelt on. I pulled over. In the dark the desert folded into Northern Arizona pine.
IDs, insurance, “ya know why I pulled you over?,” etc
We told the officer we’d replace Sioux’s license plate bulb in Flagstaff. After Arkansas, having shit on file, every routine “what’s this kid w/ the framepack doing?” stop sets lungs flapping.
But we were left alone w/ the highway once more, Gabriella’s blue threads woven thru smiling muscles, naive & happy to be in motion, in Sid’s new ride, ready to roll maps under reality from Tucson to my romanticized rendition of New Orleans, to unknown Miami & the swamps he coughin’ up bloody clot loogies thru (*sniffs* “christ man, hell of a rush”), to New England, where Sid & I have pasts to reclaim, thru to Detroit’s steel shimmy chain smoking like that old man in a rocking chair watching day die w/ a wry smile knowing he’s ready for bed (but won’t go), thru Badlands thru Rockies thru Salt Flats, to the Bay, for my LitQuake feature w/ The Arts Resistance, to Portland to Seattle to Boise & back, zig zagged & rolled on up in an experiential orgasm fleeting quick & soft, like a Detroit’s cigarette filter crushed between two pudgy pink fingers.
We shook the drive out of our bones easily. A lil more mileage than this night’s is needed to gather us in dust. We passed out at our homie Eric’s, a past B&S vendor who caught out w/ us out with the NYC Poetry Festival + This Lil Lit Fest.
That tour constructed new guard rails. I’m trying not to stare at the guardrails. Aware, but not getting all caught up in the future. I know there’s debt from that trip, but where you stare, you steer.
Flagstaff was our launch point for the painted desert. I had Nostrovia! work to catch up on, some red dust salted coffee, & was in the process of digging thru the past couple years of poems to compile a portfolio that I have since scribbled into a collage of confused images speed dating, shaking shakey hands, tryingta see who’s carrying what.
Intentions of a day or two fell thru. I didn’t finish the portfolio. & we had a failed alternator pulley.
Frustrated we’d just left & mechanical issues already rearing their head, we threw down the $$ for the repair, “we can make it back easy, no need to do it ourselves,” & dipped to the painted desert.
Albuquerque dead Walmart lot morning. Booted out of their gas station for jugging. Off to the next pumps. “Christ, I need a coffee.” “I need veggies.” We read “Jitterbug Perfume,” by Tom Robbins, while we jugged, cardboard reading “Need Gas to NYC.”
Filled up, we shot out towards Austin + Houston, noting Chaco State Park for our return as closure to the tour.
Thru Austin’s neon & graffiti, Texas BBQ & old homies, love to Megan, & off to strange Houston & another Walmart lot; “too much asphalt too much light walking ain’t doing shit weed barely soothed nerves sweat switch flicked shit it hurts it hurts.”
We left Houston for a small park & slept thru the day. “Can’t sleep here without a tent,” security said. We pitched one & passed back out. Texas sun mugging the air of breath.
We stole a nonstick pan out an empty fire pit, & dipped.
“I need to carve the space to care for myself, to do what I care about,” Sid says. “I need to adjust to not being able to go home & to my own space. I need to plow it for myself.”
Mosquitoes large enough to carry you off.
Fat bulbs of blood bursting under slaps. Hose nose twitching. Central Louisiana rest stops hungry w/ their hum.
New Orleans’ Heels Are Sharp
Our time in New Orleans kicked off w/ free lodging at a Days Inn & drunk river meandering thru the French Quarter as Decadence Festival prepared to swing its white dick out & wild.
“Careful what bar you head into the back of. Whether you like it or not, someone’s gonna go down on you. Now, man, I was fine with that. I was looking down at this hot dude sucking me off, & I was like, ‘well, alright,’ but fair warning if that’s not what you’re into.”
We didn’t go to any clubs or bars. Sid went dancing. “I needed that release.” We walked thru the neon & watched the tourists stumble about doorsteps, pissing, yelling, green hand grenades of bourbon, police w/ tickets ready to be stapled against anyone prying their boredom, the saxaphone, lil tap dancing children, the graveyards, the candles of Jackson Square, the graffiti, damn, that graffiti.
We stockpiled the continental breakfast & showered w/ the sorta smiles only Southern stick dripping off skin can produce. I compiled & printed my portfolio, along w/ copies of my most recent manuscripts, checked out, & bounced between Sioux & couches.
Rain battered New Orleans after Decadence weekend closed up. We should of been setting up thru the Festival, but, aye, New Orleans isn’t a city folks go to work, & we wanted to explore it’s shadows & see what’s happening around town. The story of serotinin’s french lit black hole.
Doesn’t need to be that way, & it’s less New Orleans, & more relationships with ourselves, but it’s so much easier to keep moving forward w/ these chains if you’re rattling them w/ someone else’s vocals.
The morning we wake early to set up B&S, rain set up its own shop. Rain’s “open” sign flickered on, gray & smiling. We looked up at the display, & embraced its wet. At first. As days passed, a staring contest weighed w/ contempt kicked off.
& after 3 or 4 days, we finally were able to set up Books & Shovels ☔️
This was Sid’s first round w/ the shop, & she kicked ass, selling lit + attracting folks over to the table 🔥☄
We busked “100 Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel García Márquez, w/ Books & Shovels on Frenchmen St. We hit some open mics, but the last minute contacts didn’t work out. Money wasn’t coming as easy as predicted. Gas jugging was more fill ups than cash, & New Orleans busy season was a month off.
I still bought beer. The necessities, right? Self care, right?
NOTE: Idea for an invention: a cuckoo clock that squeals “self-loathing!” every hour
I love New Orleans. I love the vibrancy & colors. The cracked streets. The oil lanterns.
It’s the only city I can see myself making a living as a stationary poet. It’s easy being the shiney new thing when you’re in motion, hitting open mics & slams, festivals & street corners.
But to remain in one place? With bills & what not? & have poetry be the focus? That’s a different stanza I haven’t danced much thru.
We continued setting up Books & Shovels thru the week. Hiked thru marsh. Saw jazz bands. Wandered graveyards. Cafe Flora writing.
We kicked it w/ old homies. A palm & tarot reader lookin like Jack Sparrow. A witch w/ thick momma like eyes. Another witch, older, wiser, w/ historian tongue. A red haired man w/ a photographic memory who looks like the devil. A shadow. Poets clacking away at typewriters on Royal + Frenchmen.
New folks too. A black lives matter activist distributing anarcho leaflets. A skate rat trying to escape the race. A cancer survivor w/ a laugh flavored futility. An estranged scientist, a cat who went so far down the line w/ his rambles that our context waned, but the ramble, that energy, the lil bulge of eyes & that flail of hands, that remains deeply appreciated.
What he said is steam out of the boiling pot of memory, but the way he said it sticks like lime to tequila.
& off we went to Miami.
NOTE : It’s strange balancing between telling the story w/ honesty & what others are willing to have shared, what I’m willing to have shared & capable of sharing where I’m at as a writer + human being.