Art Ownership and a Zoltar Encounter (and Warhol)

Because the art expo was during the day, BG figured I’d be up for it because it was well before my bedtime. Because it was at a brewery, I was iffy at first because I don’t drink and I don’t eat—I live on air—and I don’t like going to things where I’m not going to support the business. Then I realized, I could buy him a beer, so I was like, We’re doing this. Because MD has been trying to get us together to go to an outdoor summer concert and because there would be live music at the art show, I told her about it, and then we, all three, were finally in the same place at the same time in the blazing sun with creative minds all around us.

When I go to fairs, I want one of everything. My strategy, then, is to visit every table and then circle back. It works because I get to then figure out if I really, truly want something, and also I don’t need to carry it around with me. If it’s gone by the time I go back, then it’s not meant to be. Because I recently paid a pretty penny to have my kitchen wall light switch repaired for the third time in two years and bought two air conditioners and paid to have them installed and had my gutters fixed and cleaned, I can never move from this house. Therefore, I’m finally looking to decorate my living room wall. It’s a big empty space. Art can go on it.

I didn’t buy anything to go on the wall. Instead, I bought magnet art and a sticker. Baby steps.

Artwork credits: Deena Hadhoud, Emily Rubenstein, Ahlicks, and JGA Creations

The bathroom was inside rather than a port-a-potty. Bless you, Great South Bay Brewery. Y’all know how I rely on bathrooms, so in MD and I went as BG stayed at a table taking a survey about his life so he could buy a custom-made notebook. As soon as we got in the door, MD was like, Omigosh it’s that thing from that movie! Helpful. I was like, what? where? Off to the side beyond the bar was a Zoltar machine. I’ve seen them in real life before and had my fortune read by one with a few broken fingers. MD had never seen one up close, and so I was like, You’ve gotta do it, handing over a dollar to her as my gift of fortune. Zoltar is pretty loud as he moves his head and hands. This one has no broken fingers but even after the fortune card spat out, his hand kept moving, and it got a little creepy. The fortune was fun, and she got some lucky numbers out of the deal for the next PowerBall.

Before leaving, BG and I made one more lap and then asked the band for their name. They played covers from a variety of decades, and at one point, they were singing a song by Four Non Blondes and I literally thought the lead from the band was singing and had to look up to see if it was her. It was not. It was The Drinkwater Brothers. BG was like, what if they were the Drinkbeer Brothers, ’cause we’re at a Brewery.

Another jaunt into the art world came in the form of another Sibling Adventure! When we last adventured, we cleaned up some garbage. This time, we planned for indoor activities. My brother’s school year finally finished, so I booked us tickets to the Nassau County Museum of Art. Because I’m now a full professor, I’m making more academic choices, which means I bought myself a membership to the museum that came with a membership to NARM, a reciprocal museum thingie that allows me to get into a bunch of other museums, too. So I didn’t actually buy art here. I bought the museum! This paragraph needs more hypertext, no?

The first part of the adventure was all about the unbearable New York traffic. My brother, who never runs late, was running a little late. I knew he thought he’d get to the museum from his house in twenty minutes. I also knew he didn’t realize traffic. I waited a bit and then went into the museum. The guy at the front said I could check in for both of us and he’d let my brother in later. My brother arrived after a 45 minute drive, all apologetic, and I was like, You were cursing in your car, weren’t you? He was like, No matter where I went, for no reason, no construction, I just couldn’t go anywhere. Yup, that seems about right.

Sidenote: Apparently, the traffic is due to not only those who usually take public transportation now driving cars but also more delivery trucks for more people shopping at home. Hey, everyone? Go back to doing things the way you did them please and thanks.

Before he got there, I got a bit taken aback by the number of people in the building. I didn’t feel unsafe—I’m not talking pandemic—I’m talking how usually I’m one of three people there. Instead, there was what seemed to be a field trip of teens roaming about. Also, there was a video shoot happening in one of the galleries. The guy at the desk was like, Gallery 1 is closed at the moment. Then another guy came over and was like, No, it’s not. So the first guy was like, Okay I lied, everything is open. Ha! The doors had been closed, but the people filming said patrons could come in while they were on break. There was equipment everywhere, so taking in the artwork from La Belle Epoque while navigating state-of-the-art video tech was quite the juxtaposition. Toulouse-Lautrec probably would have enjoyed it.

My brother found me outside Gallery 1 as I read about the art movement, and he was like, I want to see the Warhol.

Warhol again? you may ask. The answer is always, Yes, of course, Warhol again.

Up the winding stairs we went. Some of the artwork we’d seen in person before—the animals and some of the flowers. Some of the artwork was new to us: Mt. Vesuvius, portraits of characters using diamond dust, portraits of Jewish people, drawings of flowers, album covers.

Here’s a quote that sums up Warhol’s main pop aesthetic that made the two of us go, yeah wow:

Business art is the step that comes after Art . . . I wanted to be an Art Businessman or a Business Artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.

Andy Warhol

Then? Soup cans. Whoa.

In the midst of this Warhol extravaganza, a fire alarm sounded. It was one of those deafening, piercing alarms. We poked out of the small gallery we were in. A semi-frantic man was quickly walking through the hall. I gestured into the air and asked, This means we leave, right? He was like, yes, please exit now! Down the stairs we went and outside into the 100 degree weather. I entertained my brother with how I handle fire alarms on campus: I walk away from the building, and my students ask if they should follow me, and I ask, Do you want to be close to the building if it explodes?

After about ten minutes, the alarm had stopped and no authorities arrived, so back into the building we went, up the stairs, back to the Warhol. Then back down the stairs to finish off La Belle Epoque. We went to the back gallery and found a lot of Tiffany lamps. Fact: I didn’t know Tiffany lamps were named after a guy with the last name Tiffany. On the wall in the hallway hung a very detailed timeline. In very un-history-teacher-like-fashion, my brother did not read every single word of it. That proves that it really was a lot to take in. We did some scattershot observing, pointing out things we recognized. At the end of it all, he was like, Basically, a lot of stuff happened in a really short period of time. History lesson done.

At this point, Gallery 1’s doors were closed. I asked at the desk if it would reopen soon, and the guy was like, It should be open. I was like, The doors are closed. He went to see if either set of doors would be open, and they weren’t, and he was like, Sorry they haven’t told me anything different. I was like, I totally get it—there was a lot going on still. The gift shop was open, though, so back up the stairs we went. Because I bought a membership, I got a free poster. I really thought about what I wanted on my wall and also what meant something to me. I got the poster from Fool The Eye. It was between that and Energy: The Power of Art! The former won out because it may look better on my wall. Also, it may not go on the living room wall at all. I may move things around now that I’m staying in the house forever. The women at the register had a dandy of a time trying to ring it up until finally they were just like, Thank you very much for your support in being a member and we will figure this out later. Heh heh, they’re wonderful people at the museum. Also, “dandy of a time” is my new fun phrase.

Because our time schedule was off, we hadn’t eaten lunch and were starving. We found some shade and ate. Then I was like, We can drive up the hill or walk. My brother chose to walk, so in the 100 degree heat, we made our way up the road to the Manes Center for Pop Art.

The number one reason to see this exhibit together was to be able to say, Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein! in the same room at the same time. We checked out the Robert Indiana and Katz work along one wall.

Then there at the end, Good God, it was a Lichtenstein! Everything else paled in comparison.

Good God, it’s a Lichtenstein!

On the final two walls were Rivers and Rauschenburg, both very interesting. Over the final piece, a light was flickering, which caused the piece to look different every moment. This seemed to be accidental, but also, it was like performance art. Like we were part of the art. That’s what I’d like to believe.

Things I Said In Class This Semester That I Could Never Have Fathomed Saying When I Started Teaching College

You’re here! You’re, like, really here! Like on my screen! How did you know to log on? Yeah, I know I sent you seven emails in the past three days, but still. I don’t even have a plan to teach right now! I didn’t think anyone would show up!

Cameras on please. I want to see your shining faces!

I know you’re at home, but this is a classroom, so don’t do anything right now that you wouldn’t do in a regular classroom. Yes, I understand your grandmother loves you, but you can love her back later. Okay, fine, Hello, grandma, we all love you.

Your bed wouldn’t fit in your car to come to campus, so please avoid lounging in your bed for class.

Unmute yourself. No, I can’t hear you. I see you talking, but—yes, unmute.

Please stay off your phone. I mean, unless, like you’re using your phone to come to class. Then use your phone but stay off the other things it does.

Sorry about the gardener noise.

Is that a cat? I think I hear a cat. Oh, it’s a toddler. Hello, little toddler. I teach college because I don’t know how to interact with you. Am I doing it right? Sorry. Toddler? Please don’t cry. Toddler?

Hang on. Just a second. I’m lost in the Zoom.

You wouldn’t lug your laundry to campus and fold it in the classroom, so let’s not deal with our wardrobes now.

Speaking of clothing, thank you for wearing clothes. Let’s not get into why I’m saying that. I’ve heard some things.

Use a reaction emoji to show you understand.

No, you don’t have to ask to go to the bathroom, but you can type in the chat “Be right back” so I don’t call on you when you’re not there. But really, you can’t go between classes? Why are we having this conversation?

Mute yourself.

Sorry about the children screaming outside. I don’t know why they aren’t in school like we are. I’d ask them to stop, but we all know how that would go.

I can’t see you right now, so shout out your name along with your answer.

If you’re driving, please log out when you get to the next red light and then log back in when you are parked at your final destination.

I’m lost in the Zoom again.

If you don’t answer when I call on you like three times, I’m going to put you in the waiting room so you can think about what you’ve done.

Again, the chat. BRB. I don’t want to know about your bathroom situation.

Y’all, the electrician is here because he could come only during class time, so if class shuts down, give it a minute and then log back in.

Y’all, thanks for coming back into class. Power is back, but it’s shaky.

Everyone’s ceiling fan looks marvelous today.

Y’all, when the electrician was leaving yesterday, he said hearing me talk reminded him of how much he hated school, especially writing, so you have my apologies.

If you have a goofy smile on your face, I know you’re watching TikTok and not my stellar Prezi about comma splices.

Sorry, hang on. I’m completely distracted because there’s a woman on my lawn walking a 30 pound cat on a leash and it’s pulling her all over the place and she’s tugging at the leash to try to get it off my lawn and the cat is seriously huge, like I’ve never seen a stronger cat, and okay she’s given up the walking part and is now carrying the cat off my lawn. — Maybe we should end class here.

Strange days, y’all. Strange days.

Retreating Out Of The Comfort Zone

Juxtaposition! Fun to say and a literary device that comes up in most of my classes. It means putting together seemingly unlike things to show how they go together in some way. Like Reference.com says a good example of juxtaposition is “Romeo’s description of Juliet in Act I, Scene 5: ‘It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night/ Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.’.” I have no idea what any of that means, but let’s just say it’s helpful. Okay, I’m realizing that maybe I don’t know what juxtaposition is after all. Now’s a good time to remind everyone that I’m a teacher. Hence, the aforementioned classes. Hence, my current shame in not being able to explain the thing I constantly explain. [I’m tempted to go into a side note about APA citation, but that would turn into a tangent that probably won’t come back around to anything soon. I’ll save that for another time.]

So anyway, if you think of things that don’t seem to go together, you might say Me, Nature, and Anyone Under The Age Of Old. That means my weekend was one of juxtaposition. I spent Friday night and all of Saturday in nature with teens. Yes, I know, I’ll say it again: Me. Outdoors. Young people. I’m branching out, yall! Oh, gawd, branching out. That’s a pun! Paranomasia is the fancy word for punning. I’m a teacher!

If it seems I’m going nowhere fast with this, I concur. I’m still on a high from an incredibly delightful writers’ retreat I was invited to in Fishkill. The writers were in grades 9 – 12. The retreat was on camp grounds. The “what to bring” list included a sleeping bag and a flashlight. Ergo, the list may as well have included biggest fears. In the past few years, I’ve been liking nature more. I know, I’ve ranted about trees, but aside from trees, nature has been nice. I loved staying on the lake in Ohio. Granted, we were in a gorgeous house, but still, a lake is nature. I’ve been walking outside a whole lot. I sat on the ground when I was in yoga teacher training and we had lunch in the park. This is progress.

So I packed up my dad’s military sleeping bag, a flashlight, and a Kerouac book, and I drove up to Fishkill. I found the camp grounds. Shortly after my arrival, one of the chaperones also arrived. I got out of my car. Now that there was more than one person, a bear would have a choice.

The organizer who invited me showed up a bit later as the young writers arrived. They all had comfy blankets, big duffel bags, and smiles. We all made our way to the cabins. The teens were staying in bunks. The chaperones and I were staying a bit up the hill in a different building.

Buildings! Not tents! Buildings! This is my kind of being one with nature. Walls!

This building reminded me of college dorms. I chose a room with one bed because that’s all this gal needs. Roughing! It! And the room I chose had a moth in it that I found when I shifted the curtains. Now, I could have screamed. I could have taken my stuff and chosen a different room. I could have gotten in my car and drove home. Instead, I smushed it. Apologies to all my animal loving friends. Seriously, I’m sorry. It’s just that, well, it doesn’t belong indoors. I’m also more sorry because while I thought I’d killed it, I’d actually just maimed it, and one of the chaperones offered to come on in and finish it off for me, and I said, Sure, which meant omigod yes please god yes.

Then when I went to the bathroom, there was a daddy longlegs scurrying around. So I killed it. I know! I’m so sorry!

Side note: all this has happened since I realized I’m probably a Buddhist. Which I usually can’t spell right on the first try. My life has a lot going on right now, clearly.

Back to the bug murders. There were only two. The next day, a tiny spider crawled into my bag before I could stop it, and I just left it. I also moved a spider off my desk in class today instead of smushing it. Progress. Again, back to the campgrounds–I got a tour of the buildings we’d be using, which were the meal hall and the music building, which was gorgeous. There was a planetarium next door. Heaven! And a pond nearby. More nature to get accustomed to, but since I’d stayed on that lake in Ohio, this was pretty much the same, only with less corn and more geese.

We had dinner and played ice breaking games. We wrote a little. I did my best to memorize names. Being in a room of strangers has never been my most favorite place to be, and so I did take a few moments to warm up and feel out the vibes. All the vibes were positive, for sure, but still, social awkwardness doesn’t simply fade away because you tell it not to come along to the writing workshop. There was the juxtaposition of me, young people, and nature happening all at once, so the awkwardness was going to be a factor. That’s just who I am. And also who I am includes letting it happen and then letting it go, which I did. I sat in awe of the camaraderie of these students and teachers who had spent an entire day at school doing school things and now were bounding around with so much energy and jazz. I felt so tired but their energy lifted me.

Also lifting my spirits was the promise of s’mores that came true right after ice breakers. I mean, this is what being in nature is about–putting sugar on a stick and making a sandwich with chocolate and sweet crackers.

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I went to my room after a short stint eating s’mores. Going back to my room proved to be another notch in my braving nature belt. I used my flashlight to find my way back. It was the kind of dark where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I went the wrong way at first and talked out loud to myself, instructing myself where to go and not to fall. I found my way to the right path and back to the right building. I heard all kinds of critters in the leaves, and there was a huge spider crawling up the side of the door, and I didn’t try to kill any of them. Because they were outside where they belong. But also because I didn’t feel scared of them. They were simply living, the same way I was simply living, and they weren’t trying to kill me, either. This is an example of Buddhism. (No it’s not).

Workshop day arrived! Up at 5 to meditate and yoga and then a walk outside at sunrise to the pond and back. Some of the writers were already up and about, some jogging, some writing, some doing homework. Talk about dedication. These are my people.

There was breakfast and then another walk and then, writing writing writing. My theme was spaces and places. We read some things. We wrote some things. We read and wrote some more. There was a lot of talking and sharing. There were breakout sessions and regrouping. Anything I suggested was met with such creativity and openness.

Then lunch time came. I ended the morning recapping that we’d discussed and wrote about physical and geographical spaces and places. After the break, we’d be going places in our minds. Oooh.

Upholding my promise, I started the afternoon with meditation. (Hello, Buddha).  This meditation began with one mat, one body, one room. At its height, it reached out to beyond the galaxies, beyond the universe. Then we all returned home to the mind and heart. I sent them off to write what the journey had told them to write, or to do whatever their sense of self desired. This twenty minutes of doing turned into almost forty by the time everyone reconvened. Oooh, meditation. That’s what it can do.

We spent the rest of the day by the pond. At one point, a scout group came trudging around the water, some scouts with large sticks twice their size in hand. They went into the planetarium while we stayed on the dock, creating and sharing. That’s right, we stayed outside. The entire afternoon in the sun that grew hot enough to warrant a strip down; I began the day in a scarf and a coat and a blanket wrapped around me, and I ended the day with all that tossed to the side. Fireflies and spiders crept about on the wooden picnic tables. Squirrels and chipmunks skittered and scattered. Crickets chirped the entire time.

The day had been one of those blurs, ending in a circle of summing up the experience while the sun went down. Everyone headed to regroup and work on writing while I headed to the hall to write a piece that had been in my queue for almost two weeks. Then there was dinner and then I realized I had to leave if I wanted to stay awake while driving, and if I didn’t leave, I’d have to stay in nature for one more night, which actually didn’t seem so bad after all. But I prefer my own bed so I said my goodbyes, gave some hugs, and left with all the feels. Feels of pride for having been way out of my comfort zone, feels of gratitude for having met wonderful and creative people, feels of inspiration for writing and reading. What good fortune that I got to have such an experience.

Juxtaposition, in apparently my own definition, shows the difference in things while simultaneously showing how they go together in some way. I’ve learned that me and nature have a pretty good connection once I settle in. I mean, I stopped killing things after the first hour. And me and the youth? Yeah, there was some solid common ground there, too. While this retreat was for them, I totally came out of it with fresh wisdom that I couldn’t have gotten any other way and wouldn’t have it otherwise.

Oh, and I got a shirt!

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Graduating Every Year

It’s like a Harry Potter convention every year. Before Harry Potter, graduation was simply graduation. Now, it’s like Who Looks Like A Wizard In Their Graduation Garb?

Graduation garb is pretty silly. The faculty gather in the basement of the newly renovated Coliseum (here, renovation means they painted it a fresh gray) along with the graduates. All the graduates wear gray caps and gowns (so they kind of fade into the gray of their surroundings). The faculty is a mismatching cornucopia of colors and textiles.

The really fancy PhD people usually deck themselves out in heavy robes, some brandy red, some black, some deep blue. Most of these robes involve velvet. George Costanza would be in heaven. They get to wear beret-like hats that are like velvet beanies with a tassel in lieu of a propeller.

I wear a judge-like black robe (gown? it’s really a robe. otherwise, this would be more like prom and I’d need special underwear) with a zip up front. Okay, I’m pretty sure they all have a zip up front. Anyway, there was that one time I thought the sleeves were sewn shut and I fought with my robe in the parking lot until I realized the sleeves had wings and the arm holes were in a different part of the robe. Yes, I have several college degrees, and yes, robes are complicated.

I don’t get a beanie hat. I get the same hat the graduates wear–the square flat piece of fabric-covered cardboard attached to a half-head-condom with a widows peak. This year, I could not find my hat so I simply put my hair in a little messy bun because that’s somehow equivalent.

Some grads and faculty rock the medallions. I have two. One is an ODK honor society medal. Hmm. You know what? I have no idea what the other one is. Maybe next year, I’ll look at  it. Some faculty wear these huge Chancellor’s Award medals. Some students wear medals, too. I don’t know what they are either, but I think some are honors society or graduating with honors.

Then the faculty all have hoods. Your definition of hood is probably the generally accepted definition of a hood–that head-shaped fabric attached to tops that you can put over your head. That’s not the case here. In academia, a hood is a long, sometimes velvety, usually colorful piece of fabric that you wear around your neck to choke yourself through the entire ceremony. It comes with a little loop in front that you are supposed to loop over a button on your shirt. If you’re not wearing a button-down shirt, then you get to try to not get asphyxiated by your own outfit.  In past years, I’ve been able to loop through my gown’s zipper, but I’ve done that too many times and the loop is warped, so this year, I kept tugging on it instead.

I had my shoulder bag with me, which proved a challenge. How to carry a bag without looking like I was carrying a bag? I wanted to have some sense of decorum. But then I looked around and some faculty looked like they were ready for camping, so I opted to carry it low and have my winged sleeve cover it up halfway.

And so after standing in the big gray room for about an hour, we lined up and moved into the hall where we stood for ten minutes. Then we moved and stopped again for a few minutes. Then we proceeded onto the floor under the bright enough to blind you spotlight so we could be projected up on the big screen. Instead of filing into rows, we had to walk in a big circle around the chairs and up the middle and then file into rows from there.

Then the students came in. Instead of having their names called as they walk across the stage to get their diploma, they get their names called as they come in and walk around in a circle. They hand their name on an index card off to whoever is calling out the names, and they walk in, and then sometimes people in the audience cheer.

This procession of names takes about an hour. No one knows when to sit or stand. It’s kind of like church only in church it’s clearer when to sit or stand. Church also has a kneeling option. Seasoned faculty sit as soon as the procession gets to ten names. Less seasoned wait until 20. Then there’s a very scattered whack-a-mole production of sitting and standing and whispering, “Do we sit?” Eventually, we are all seated, and some of us are doing crosswords, some are reading, some are looking at phones, but all the while, we are cheering on the students we know.

Once the last student proceeded in, we all gave a cheer and stood for all the grads. Then we sat. Then the admins started their procession, so we stood for the admins. Why? Because decorum means standing when people proceed in a circle unless the procession is an hour. The person on campus who is in charge of facilities was the mace bearer. Or is it mase barer? I don’t know. What I do know is that instead of church, now I felt like I was in temple at a bar mitzvah when they walk the Torah around. This is my main memory of attending bar mitzvah ceremonies, and I have no idea if it’s accurate.

After the admins got to the stage, we all sat. Then we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance led by the salutatorian. Then we all sat again.

Then there was a very odd explanation of how NCC is a SUNY school so we were going to watch a video of someone from SUNY. Up on the big screen (for which we all needed to turn in our seats and crane our necks to see) an odd video began playing with a woman talking about students going to Puerto Rico for aid efforts. Then though I’ve never seen her on campus, she touted her work with students on NCC’s campus. Clearly, this is a moment of [insert particular campus here] but still, there was cheering because, you know, pandering.

The speeches were short and sweet. Both the Valedictorian and the SGA president (I think) spoke. They were pretty great, pointing out the challenges they all overcome to get to where they are. Two honorary degrees were granted. I don’t know if they were honorary doctorates but we are a community college that grants only associates degrees unless you’re in the four year nursing program, so maybe they were just generic “degrees.”

The chorus sang. That was neat. I wish the acoustics had been better for this performance and overall. There was constant noise, people talking in the audience and most likely the grads talking to each other, so it was hard to hear a lot of stuff.

What was loud and clear was when one of the admins called the president to the podium to bestow graduation status on the students. This is my favorite part–the tassel moving. I love it every time!

Then the faculty gets to proceed out first. I didn’t stop proceeding until I got to my car in the lot where I untangled myself from my robe and medals and choker hood to head home, having graduated yet one more time. Congratulations, everyone.

Lost In The Mountains of NY

When Bright Hill Press invited me to read in Treadwell, NY, the invitation sent me reeling to days of slippery uphill walks to class, fuzzy wool socks, wearing coats upon coats, frozen snot (it’s a real thing), and gray skies for days. SUNY Oneonta, fifteen minutes from Treadwell, was my home for a few years during my undergrad days. I knew the drive there would come as second nature, as much as second nature could be for a gal who gets lost in parking lots. Not even a slight hesitation. I said yes yes yes, packed up some books and some outfits, and off I went towards the mountains of upstate New York.

Upstate New Yorkers, would probably frown upon my description of the Oswego area as upstate. For me, a life-long Long Islander, anything above the Bronx is upstate. However, those on the Canadian-US border are kind of more upstate than where I was headed. I was really going to Central New York. Unless this territory-debate has changed over the years. You can see it’s kind of ingrained in me.

Anyway, at three and a half to four hours depending on traffic, I set out for a day or two of hilly mountain driving. I stopped in Sloatsberg for a quick bite. I stopped in Roscoe because you have to stop in Roscoe. The Roscoe Diner is there. It’s like a law or something. I didn’t eat at the diner. I visited the parking lot and moved on.

Then came the part of the trip where I veered away from the Oneonta route and headed to Treadwell instead. There were huge trucks that sometimes drove behind me on one-lane roads. My car was doing really well on the vertical roads, but I still panicked every time one appeared because I didn’t want them to think I was going too slow. I didn’t feel like I  was going slow until cars passed me. I kept telling myself that slow and steady wins the race. Then I would counter my own self with we’re not in a race.

Then I passed a milkery and knew that I was very much in the country.  What’s a milkery? It’s a very large factory where milk is made that appears out of nowhere on the side of a mountain. Many of the large trucks were coming and going from here. I figured this is where a lot of the cows I saw were sending their milk. That’s how it works, right? Right.

Rounding a bend after hours of clutching the wheel, I came upon a sign at the end of a major road that had four arrows at the top. This was not a street sign. Instead, the arrows indicated: Franklin, Oneonta, Delhi, and Walton (I think these were the four). Ahh, I was in the area. Then I followed my GPS turn by turn and then the last turn came and I missed it.

No big deal. This is the reason I have a GPS. It’s not so much for directions to get to places. It’s for directions for when I screw up. So I waited for the recalculation, and it didn’t come. I took a quick glance. There was a wide blank space on the map and a blue dot hovering in the center. I’d lost GPS. I’d lost all phone signal. There would be no phone calls. There would be no artificial intelligence. There would be only me and my brains.

No big deal. I’d pull over and turn around. Ummmm, nope. When you’re on a mountain, there’s nowhere to do that. If you miss a turn and have no GPS, you really have no idea how long you have to keep driving  until you can turn around. It could be a few minutes. It could be an hour.

And that’s when I did what any self-respecting adult would do. I started drive-crying. Crying at the GPS. Crying that I was lost. Crying that I just wanted to get out of the friggin car. This is me and my brains working it out.

I found a road, finally, and turned around. I found the turn on the way back. Then I found that I was too early. What’s a gal to do? No cell service to call or message. No nothing. No one around. No place to ask anyone in person. So I headed back over to that four-arrow sign and decided to drive in the direction of Oneonta.

The road. To Oneonta. Was closed. I shit you not.

So I did some more drive-crying, only this time, it was more of sit-in-the-motionless-car-crying. Then I chose the next best arrow. Delhi. I had no idea how long it would take me to get there. I just drove and drove, passing cows, passing farms. Drove and drove until I heard a bunch of dinging, which mean I had emails arriving, which meant my service was back on. I kept driving until I saw the sign for Delhi and then cried because I’d found Delhi. I parked on the main street in Delhi and walked around a bit. Then I saw the time and decided I needed to eat and change and get ready for my reading. From Delhi, the road to Oneonta was open, so I headed towards the Southside Mall.

Up and down and twisting around, the GPS stayed on the whole way. I rounded a mountain bend and saw a sign and started drive-crying again, this time because I was all nostalgic because this was the turn to Oneonta. Oneonta has a Panera. Oneonta has wi-fi. Oneonta is technologically advanced, at least more than Treadwell.

I ate. I changed. I messaged. I called. I charted out my way back. I realized that the way back from Oneonta was the street where I’d turned around when I missed my turn, which means that only one road to Oneonta was closed.

The reading was fabulous. I read with Tom Clausen,  a poet who writes what he calls “little poems.” They are haiku and haiku-adjacent. The poems are very lovely; a lot of them read like tiny meditations. I read about space and sci-fi and vacations. I gave away astronaut ice cream and stickers because that’s my schtick. I crashed at Bright Hill because they have a room for crashing. Tom drove back home which would take about an hour, which is not long when you live up there. I perused their library. I wrote and read. I hooked up to their wi-fi. Life was good.

For breakfast, they left for me a bagel and a banana and some other breakfasty stuff, which was such a nice gesture. I wasn’t a bagel snob. I ate the bagel, and it was good. I headed out shortly after breakfast. The morning was sunny but chilly–probably not chilly for up there but it was for me.

I. Did not. Get lost. In the mountains!

Instead, I got lost in the Bronx.

But then I found my way home. Which is always my favorite part of traveling.

 

That DC Trip I Took

In April, I went to Split This Rock. I’d never been to this festival before. I wanted to change things up from the previous AWP conferences I’ve attended. This one was in DC. It was driveable. Also, it was a way to get my mom to go away because when I told my mom about it, she said, “I love DC.” So away we went.

Here’s the rundown about some of the readings and panels I attended and participated in. Not only did I present and pick up some good info for work, but also, I got some good stuff to write about for Book Riot. I’m multidimensional.

Outside of conferencing–or, actually, since Split This Rock is a festival–Outside of festivaling, I took in some sights and sounds of the DC area. One of the first things I did was get caught up in one of the many roundabouts DC has to offer in DC traffic time. On the plus side, getting caught in the traffic and veering here and there allows for a lovely scenic tour of the city and places you can eventually go if you ever get to where you want to go in the first place.

We stayed at a Hampton Inn which meant we got free coffee and hot chocolate ’round the clock in addition to free breakfast. This was fantastic if we could only work the elevator to get to and from the lobby. If you haven’t been to a hotel lately, they’ve been installing fancy secure elevators that work only if you have a room key or that go to only specific floors of your own choosing. All I know is that we rode the elevators mostly with other people so we could make it move.

Outside of the hotel, I saw the White House. I’ve been to DC before, but somehow, accidentally seeing the White House made it a bit majestic. I’m not getting into politics here. I’m not really even talking about architecture. I’m simply talking about pretty things that make me excited. There were flowers. There was the sun. There was a large white building sparkling in the daylight. Then at night, there was the moon and some moonlight sparkle.

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Additionally, I found a place called Wicked Waffle and I took my mom there to eat lunch and it was pretty much my favorite lunch in the world and I wanted to take them home with me. Not just the waffles but the entire place. Alas, they couldn’t fit into my suitcase.

 

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part III

After a long night of nothing followed by a morning of nothing, it was time to climb out of the bathtub, open the curtains, and start packing for home. The morning was sunny but chilly. Not that it mattered. My morning was to be spent answering emails and then heading to Shreveport. When I’d landed, I picked up a map of close-by things to see, so I figured I’d see some things before checking in.

Shreveport was pretty deserted on an early weekend morning. I wonder if it’s ever not deserted because it seemed more like a ghost town than a sleepy town. What made it more alive was the public art, which was really what I was there to see. I also became mesmerized by the passing trains. Once again, it was as if I’ve never seen a train before, never been on a train, and don’t have a train so close to my house that I can hear it sometimes pass by.

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This is art on art.

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This is me getting my fingers in the way of the art.

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I usually blur out license plates, but that would defeat the purpose here.

The art didn’t take all that long to see, so I headed to the airport. You know how they tell you to get to the airport two hours early? Yeah, that’s helpful if you go to an airport that has more than like 5 gates. Shreveport’s airport has like a one-lane road in and out that is wide open. I practically had a personal TSA agent going through security because I was the only person going through security. There were three gates where I was waiting, but really, it was only one gate. Only one door to the airplane with three different waiting areas for the one door.

Across the waiting area sat a group of men clearly going somewhere for a round of golf that day and most likely heading home later that day by plane. I waited a pretty long time since I was there so early, but that meant more reading time. Then I landed in ATL and read some more while avoiding all the people in the waiting area who thought putting bare feet on seats was an okay thing to do.

 

Then I flew home on a rather large plane where I realized I’d prefer an aisle seat rather than a window seat next time. You know, like next time I go to Texarkana and there’s no tornado and I actually get to read and talk to people about poetry. Some day, Texarkana, some day.

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part II

Morning broke with gray skies. I’d heard rumblings of rain on the way, so I headed out early to eat and take in the rest of what I wanted to see. I tried to go to a local diner that was supposedly open but was completely closed. I figured I’d take a tour of the town and come back and they’d be open. Nope. But my tour was fun.

I found the Joplin mural. Very jazzy. I found another  mural. Very history-y. I found old timey buildings and a train. Very very.

Then, starving, I went to Cracker Barrel. The only drawback of going to Cracker Barrel is that I’ve had  a few dollars left on a Cracker Barrel gift card for years and I don’t have it with me. I’m clearly never going to be able to use it. Hangry (I’d been yelling at the roads and the GPS and the fact that the diner wasn’t open), I inhaled my food, which was from a healthy section of the menu, which I didn’t know about and didn’t see right away and then I felt very happy with myself for finding it and not eating a pile of biscuits that I’d later regret.

When I got back to the hotel, I went to the business center to print out a few extra poems that I’d forgotten to print. I also did a lot of my normal get points for free stuff routine. Then I came to my room and began planning my workshop and reading.

Then a little before 1, I got a call from the front desk. Someone from the college was here to give me my check. Oh, okay, I’d be right down.

He greeted me with, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Well, that’s never a good start.

You know how when we get snow on Long Island, the weather people roll up their sleeves and scare the crap out of everyone and everything gets canceled and then we get a passing shower? So, like, I’d been hearing weather forecasts of thunderstorms that would bring about hail. Then hailstorms that would bring about golf ball sized hail. Then the possibility of a tornado or two. There’s a lake effect wind warning. There’s a severe storm warning. The entire weather map bleeds red. BUT I was like, oh it’s just some rain.

Nope, the college closed at 1 PM. The guy was apologetic. He got a call from someone back at campus asking if he’d brought books they bought for me to sign. No, he didn’t. I was going to offer to drive up to the campus to sign them, but campus was closing in less than five minutes. He took my cell number and gave me his card. Then he said he wasn’t sure if the professor who’d originally contacted me would want to do something otherwise, like gather a group on his own, but that was probably unlikely. I said I was wondering if the weather reports were anything to worry about, especially because it was warm and the sun had come out every now and then, but he said that they were thinking about liability. I said I wouldn’t want anyone driving and in danger. He said it could hail for five minutes and they’d be like, Why did we cancel!?!?, but then again, it could be worse than that. It’s so unpredictable.

Let’s take a moment to recap: Months ago, Texas A&M at Texarkana found little poetic me through some two year college list of presenters and invited me to read on campus. We set up a reading for April 13, 2018. Fast forward to April 12, 2018, I took two planes and a rental car to get here. And now instead of a workshop and reading with students and the community, I’m in my hotel room, having just eaten a very large salad, sipping on a very large unsweetened ice tea, watching the weather channel for tips on how to avoid becoming Dorothy.

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Right now is about the time I’d be leaving for campus. It’s less than 15 minutes away. But I’m not going anywhere.

I did change into my poetry professor outfit so it wouldn’t go to waste. I might parade around the hotel in a bit, reading from my book to anyone who’ll listen. But first, I’m asking the front desk exactly what to do if sirens go off. I’m on the 2nd floor and I can hide in the bathtub, but since I’m not much of an expert, I’m going to get a second opinion.

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I asked the front desk. Apparently, this happens all the time in Nebraska said the guy from Nebraska. I was like, I’m from New York where it doesn’t. I learned that they would set off the fire alarm if they got word that something was on the way. Then, they would get into their back hallway while I would close my curtains and then climb into my bathtub with some reading material. They told me not to stand near the window and try to take pictures. I said the bathtub seemed like a better idea.

Then it drizzled a little. I heard some thunder. Then nothing actually happened. As the guy from Nebraska predicted, we didn’t even get hail. There were tornadoes, but they were happening in what seemed to be north and east from where I was. Now I’m not great with directions, but usually I can see on a map up down side or side. On the maps on the tv, though, I couldn’t really tell. They had black backgrounds, white lines, and then swoops of green and red. I think these are tornado maps. Or Texarkana maps. Or special maps made to confuse me.

The tv showed skits of the do’s and dont’s’ of taking shelter. Then at least one of the weather guys kept using the acronym PDS. This stands for Particularly Dangerous Situation. Which is apparently a technical term for tornado forecasting. There were reports of storms touching down as reported through storm chasers. So like that movie with Helen Hunt is real. People go outside and follow the storms.

I stayed inside even though there was no storm. I gave a Facebook Live reading.

I would totally embed the video here, but WordPress doesn’t allow embedding with iframe html code. I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. I also don’t know how this text is highlighted. So there. Anyway, you can click above or click here to see the video.

Then I got into my jammies, had some baked Lays for dinner, and then wrote and watched tv into the wee hours.