Monday, March 5, 2012

Special Ops

This little post comes from the FB page of Benjamin WhitmerSo Daniel Grandbois, gentleman that he is, leaves me a message saying that he's drinking a beer at the AWP with TZ Hernandez, and, man, they think Stephen Graham Jones is around, too. And I think, Jesus, that's really nice of them to think of me, how cool does it sound to shoot the shit with those guys? So I get on the computer and search Google Maps for an AWP Bar in Denver, figuring maybe I'll sneak out, 'cause I could hang out a little, it's been a helluva week. But then I get frustrated trying to find it and give up. - and before last weekend, Ida been in the same boat, but not no more. AWP (pronounced 'op') stands for Asshats With Phd's and is a nomadic conference for writers that descended this year upon Chicago. I know this, 'cause I was there, and Ima recount my experience for all yall less fortunates (you too, Whitmer).

Three flavors of sexy
Thursday morning I jumped a train for Chicago, which was a first, but is prolly my favorite way to travel now - as I was able to immediately jump into a book. Couple hours later I had a new seat mate also on her way to AWP - Amy Sayre-Roberts of Quiddity magazine, but you degenerates may know her name from Akashic's Chicago Noir. We had plenny talky bout shared interests like human trafficking, modern slavery and best practices for running your own prison industrial complex. Liked her. From there I essplored downtown Chicago for a cuppla hours before, that paragon of phlegmaticism, Tim Hennessy picked me up and we tooled bout town eventually trolling the bar at the Hilton for familiar faces hoping for details on The Wrong Kind of Reading event. None to be found. Had to settle for brief encounters with Alan Heathcock and Benjamin Percy before finding Libby Cudmore and Matthew Quinn Martin to rescue poor Tim from the aggressive advances of a ravenous cougar (Tim's eyes really are piercing). 

David James Keaton brings us breakfast on head.
Upon arrival at the Galway Arms we found the likes of Jason Stuart comforting a whimpering David James Keaton with liquid courage and strong words along the lines of 'if you choke up there, I'm telling them about Vegas'. Upstairs John Weagly was setting up the room while Robb Olson and Livius Nedin prepared for more damning evidence collection for blackmail at Booked. Sean Ferguson provided security and was probably the only factor that kept me from trying to strong-arm the N@B files away from them right then and there. By the time the event began N@B alum Pinckney Benedict, Kyle Minor, Anthony Neil Smith, Caleb J. Ross, Gordon Highland and Nic Young were imbibing with and tolerating various mortals scattered about the room including Nik Korpon, Kent Gowran, about half the contributors to Warmed & Bound and various Flywheel and Burnt Bridge folk. 

Must find cock-heavy passage
Nikki Dolson kicked the event off with a tale of Viagra's dark side that really set the tone for the evening. The event really shoulda been called Cock-a-doodle-Don't. Weagly recited a backward piece for the benefit of the dyslexic among us and DJK brought the house down with the trials of a day in the life of a blue movie director - 99 problems... and a bitch ate one. After a much-needed refreshment break, Neil channeled Herman for his dog's eye view of murder by methheads, and ball-biting. "Minor Injuries" Kyle was next up (barely - dude was on crutches) with The Truth and All Its Ugly and Senor Benedict brought the legend of Pig Helmet to the great unwashed. Seth Harwood closed out the printed word for the evening, spontaneously ditching plans for reading from This Is Life and furiously searching his electronic telephonic device for files of Young Junius and a proper blow-job-for-crack exchange to keep with the evening's anatomical theme.

This man does not snore.
I strong-armed Mr. Stuart into putting me up for the evening and picked up a copy of Raise a Holler to add to my scores of Keaton's Zee Bee & Bee (in print - I already had it electronically), Weagly's The Undertow of Small Town Dreams and Buffalo Bill in the Gallery of the Machines by Mark Rapacz that night. Good hanging with Stuart and talking writing, publishing and Dunkin Donuts. Spent the rest of the morning at the Hilton reading in a comfy chair outside the bar. Round noon Harwood walks by and inquires as to my engrossing material and I show him Nick Arvin's The Reconstructionist. If it's not completely unethical to meet the man whose work you're half-assed reviewing before you've written the piece, he'd be glad to introduce me to Arvin later in the afternoon. It may be unethical, but that didn't stop me. I met those two a couple hours later for drinks and that was it for my AWP experiences. In between those encounters, I had brief words with Urban Waite and Tom Franklin. One particular writer mentioned in this piece loaned me his glossy ID to grant me access to some of the places I'd been booted from earlier in the day for not having paid for the right to be there. I checked out the book room for an hour and only saw about half of it. Saw some cool-ass shit and a looooooot of boring-ass crap with cool-looking respectable formatting. I happened by the Press 53 table and saw copies of Surreal South '09 and Surreal South '11 on display, which was kinda cool. I wanted to stop people and say 'yo, my shit's in there', but I remained too classy by half. I mean, what if they wanted a signature, but my name didn't match the one on the official glossy pass hanging about my neck? Actually, one person did call bullshit on my identity. Turns out he knew the author I was impersonating, but he thought it were a big funny, so good on him. One notable book I picked up on that tour was The Good Neighbor Policy: A Double-Cross in Double Dactyls by Charles Ardai - it's a poemtry. Yup. Gonna read those shits quick-like.

I finished The Reconstructionist on the train home, as well as Les Edgerton's The Bitch - both those'll throw you for some fucked up emotional loops... heightened perhaps by fatigue induced delirium and large Slavic gentlemen snoozing in the next seat. Things waiting for me when I got home: This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs and a package from N@B star Jane Bradley - thanks, lady.


david james keaton said...

so glad you made that journey, dude. you are one smooth M.C. you probably host dreams in your sleep. can't wait to see FLOST defile some celluloid soon..

Caleb J. Ross said...

Both events, the Galway Arms reading and the Billy Goat Tavern reading, both such a damn fine time. Thanks to all involved for keeping everyone else from beating on us members of the rowdy table.

Hennessy said...

Funny, I recall the cougar eyeing up Mr. Ayres, whom she even told, with a coy wink, "I've been married 24 years."

Good times indeed.

matthew quinn martin said...

"Asshats with PhD's" Brilliant!!!