Thursday, October 16, 2014

Road Trip, October 2014

View from my hotel room
Last week:

I drove to Viera, Florida to spend time with Kathy, a friend I’ve often talked with, but hadn’t seen since 2006. I knew it would be as if no time at all had passed and that’s exactly how it was. I feel like I’ve been injected with a massive, nourishing, dose of connection. My emotional health is sturdier, my supply of appreciation is refreshed, my regard for my friend, always high, has risen. We’ve lived through much of the whole boomer enchilada in the years since we’ve known each other and I’ve decided we’ve done well. We carry on with grace and courage. I happen to think most of us do, you know, but Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, good friends help!

I met more Florida Democrats: Kathy’s friends in Viera. I now live in an area nicknamed the Redneck Riviera, the Florida Panhandle, a place replete with white sand beaches, mega-churches, and Republicans. I practice tolerance, almost always, but I’m an aging hippie, artsy-fartsy, New York Liberal and it’s delightful whenever I can say what I think without getting frowned at and prayed over. Plus, Kathy’s friends live on a lake popular with all kinds of seabirds. There was a giant Great Blue Heron resting peacefully right outside their screen door while we were talking politics.

I was a Groupie for three days. I’d never been a Groupie before, but there you go. This road trip to see Kathy seemed like a good time to include a poetry festival if I could find one that fit my plans. Sure enough, Anhinga Press was holding a timely festival and it would even be on the way home, you know, if I went home via Tampa. So I registered for three days at the swanky Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay and settled in to attend days and nights of poetry.  I heard some extraordinary poems read beautifully, talked to friendly writers, editors, and teachers from all over the country, and generally got a big kick out of the biggest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The last night they held a banquet and I toddled to that, too. And at the banquet the penny finally dropped that I was the only poet there who had not been published by Anhinga Press. Anhinga has been a successful small press for forty years and that’s what they were gathered to celebrate. The event was open to the public, but I was the only public! Huh. No wonder I kept getting asked about my connection to Anhinga! After the speeches, after eating one of the best desserts I’ve ever had in my life, (cinnamon ice cream and a chocolate extravagance) I slipped away without ado. I was only sorry I didn’t say good-by to David Kirby, who I’d had a weeklong workshop with a couple of years ago and I adore, but it couldn’t be helped. Shyness, finally, overwhelmed me. Back in my room I made a cup of tea and thought about things and decided it was all good, after all. But…

I got pissed-off by one thing during this road trip. I’d signed up for a manuscript conference; I’ve had six or seven conferences with various writers over the last few years and they have all helped me immensely with my own writing. This conference did not go well for me. I’m not going to whinge here, but after the hour I spent with this woman I decided I hated poetry, skipped the next session of readings, took a walk, gazed at more sensational seabirds, and ate a big, healthy, breakfast. By afternoon I was happy to listen to poetry again, felt my proper age, and knew I’d keep working on my new book.