Writing from Fresno today, after a long weekend in LA at the book festival working the poetry corner and a fine day and evening with wonderful friends in the Santa Barbara area.
The book festival brought writers and readers from all over the southland, and that it continues to feature a venue devoted entirely to poetry is what keeps me going back every year. Highlights this year included David St. John, Mark Doty, Erin Belieu, a tribute to Bert Meyers, Charles Harper Webb, Jane Miller and Jane Mead, old friend Richard Beban, and many others. The only problem with working the corner is that it makes attending other events difficult. I missed out on a pre-teen fantasy when I missed Tina Louise's reading of her new children's book, though, I was always a Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) fan, to be honest. On the plus side, I missed out on Christopher Hitchens' boorish tantrums. Apparently, he calls security if someone asks a question he doesn't like. He must have missed the first amendment question on his citizenship test. At any rate, the poetry winner, Frederick Seidel wasn't there, so we pressed on. The lack of winners at the award ceremony perhaps made the after celebration a bit more muted, but since I was with my dear, wise friend Margaret, I had a delightful evening; she helps me see through my self-blindness. My love, Amy, adores her as well (We missed you, Amy). Friend and fellow poet and emcee Elena Karina Byrne (who should have been reading) was an ever-smiling spirit-being organizing the tent area, and Noah Blaustein dropped in to help us find good restaurants to eat and dine and tell stories in. His wife, Cristina, is lovely as ever, and I finally met their new daughter, Siena, happy and intelligent well beyond her 10 months. Paul Willis, Phil Taggart, and Jackson Wheeler, all old friends, also dropped in.
In LA, I stayed in the Tradewind Adventurer's motel in Inglewood on Century Blvd, near Hollywood Park. Strange place to be in. Jets pour noise over, white noise syrup, but the courtyard was peaceful otherwise and filled with travelers, many backpackers from Europe, so I enjoyed the international atmosphere. Not the cleanest place, but if you've backpacked Europe and Asia, it'll do, it's cheap, and it's near the 405. The nearby Indian restaurant on Century and La Brea boasts at its grand opening that it serves the best Indian cuisine in LA. It doesn't, but it was fine; it's not often that I find chicken makhani on a lunch buffet, and the naan was served fresh, crispy, and hot.
Tomorrow, Santa Barbara, Wine, and Fresno in the "breath-taking central valley."