Going to the gym to use the wi-fi is not “working out”

wi-fi

Just remember that.

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NEW STUFF/writing from summer travels, in progress

NEW STUFF/louisville writing in progress

If I could only choose one reason, I love Louisville because it’s the city that hatched Hunter S. Thompson. I feel that Gonzo spirit in the air when I’m down there. And The Greatest? Of course, Muhammad Ali too. At the very least, this love for old weird Louisville is justified by two men with the city’s own fighting, refuse-normal spirit.

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A text message arrives to my phone, waking me from a hot sunny day post-workweek stupor. My friend Mark has sent a picture of the “airplane bedroom at the auberge, dogs welcome,” inviting me and my date to visit this summer. He hit the Virginia road last night, and is already back home. With a wedding two hours from there next month, I am sure we will.

This contact warms as I sit hotel poolside, in post-reading cool loneliness. I’m not by nature a lonely person. Good in my own company (or better yet, with dogs). But when I sit here the morning after, every year, I feel a deep ache for friends already back home, on the road, and in the skies. Virginia California Texas Colorado Missouri Indiana Illinois North Carolina Washington. Seattle Chapel Hill St. Louis Denver Dallas San Antonio Palm Springs Long Beach Fresno Eureka Hobart Blacksburg Harrisonburg and on and on. I sit alone though surrounded by the hotel’s new temporary inhabitants, names and places rolling through my head like poetry. Scattered to the winds like the best shimmering multi-colored glitter. We were here, then we were not. But when we return, it feels like we never really left.

Mark is an old-school English professor who’s not old-school himself. He has a shiny tenured academic job he knows he’s lucky to have had, yet talks about the pitfalls with a good salty bad attitude and a rebel yell. I love him. Loves to drink beer and swear and talk about sports and shitty politics. An older American lit prof version of Anthony Bourdain.

We first met five years ago now. We were assigned to stare at each other and giggle at bad or accidentally dirty writing across a table. Nothing like being forced to sit within a few feet from a stranger for 8 hours/7 days straight. At its best, the arrangement can birth an odd but lasting relationship. It’s a friend you’ve known for years, may feel you’ve known longer, so well, but really don’t. Kind of like some people and their relatives.

He lives and works in Virginia now, but Mark’s grandmother actually lived in Detroit in his childhood 1950s. He did some growing up there as well. When I went home just after we met, he asked if I could find the house for him, take some pictures. Just happened to be on my pre-dawn newspaper delivery route, on a scrubby street squeezed between Mexicantown and the abandoned Michigan Central train station. The house is long gone and the grass lot faces the back of the station. Mark remembers grand windows but by the 21st century only rectangular holes remain, and sunlight streams through each morning and evening. It’s a gorgeous and eerie reminder of Detroit’s mighty industrially driven past, and the puzzling realities of its physical present.

Mark thanks me for the photos and news, and we’re bonded as Michiganders, Louisville readers and cranky academics forever. We text “Go Blue” and commiserate during Michigan Football games, and give the occasional holiday shout-out. And, we just keep returning to Louisville to read. And drink and chat. He symbolizes what could have been for me and a career in earlier times, but what most likely now never will be. I call his position old-school because of today’s American higher-ed reality, it is just that. But can’t compare that security to and the different kinds of adventures and possibilities that a drifting life brings. He seems to have it all, but in a way, so do I. At least in these moments, so do I.

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“Hey, you got ma tattoo!”

This is how I meet a guy with matching ink.

A blue Old-English D that Michiganders know as The D, Detroit, Detroit Tigers baseball. Mine on the left forearm, and his on the right bicep. He’s a building staff guy who walks past as I sit writing in what we call the “Fish Bar” of the GH Hotel. A beautiful and strange glass tunnel between the Suite and cheap sides of the two-towered complex. “Fish Bar” for the aquarium fish forever trapped in the glass encasing of the space’s main bar.

The tattoo comment is friendly and delivered with a faint Kentucky accent. We compare ink (his is larger and higher on the arm), and notes about being Michiganders.

“I’m moving back there for a  bricklaying job,” he says with some excitement.

“Well, I’m trying to move here!”, I reply. He laughs and smiles. I wonder if he left our home state a few years back when the construction economy completely fell apart, much like it did in so much of the country, but somehow feeling worse and more long-lasting in Michigan.

We talk a bit more about the L versus the D, and soon his boss glances over and he needs to keep walking.

After a few steps, he turns back and calls from the atrium doorway: “You’re Michigan too, right? No Michigan State Spartans?”

“No, I’m Michigan. I went there.” He looks satisfied with that answer, smiles again and nods, then walks on.

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CREATIVE READING NIGHT: STUFF I READ

DIVAS

I get the feeling

That in every high school musical

There’s a freshman girl

Who: thinks she’s a senior

Who: wipes off her red lipstick

Who: trashes her wig every night

Retying the blue scarf around her head

Until she looks like a girl-gang member

Or a pirate

Instead of a doo-wop girl.

I get the feeling that

There’s another girl

Who fights off a bouffant wig

With all the teenage vanity

A young girl can muster

Whose long, smooth locks onstage

Are more Lady Godiva

Than Little Shop of Horrors.

I get the feeling that

In every high school musical

There isn’t a girl

Who: voices a traditionally male part

“Audrey II,” they call her

She growls and makes the audience swoon

“Feed me, Seymour! Feed me all night long.”

Her carnivorous plant makes us all believe.

I get the feeling that

Springtime teen musicals

Are always that much

Exasperating fun.

Oh teenage moods.

Can’t wait to be over,

And so sad, so soon it will end.

DAY FIVE

That moment when

Your shoulders shudder

In the infinite silence

And you take a deep breath

And you close your throat

Because some darling teenager

From Des Moines

Or Wichita

Or Detroit

Or Boston

Wrote a single word

On the page

In their delicate, black-inked script:

“Butt.”