September 21, 2012

You remember that time
we sat on top of the whole world
and told each other jokes about the ocean
’til everybody crumbled
into tattoos of bakeries?
You wore a banana croissant
and chocolate waders.
Smelled good.
Felt right.
so much.
That night
was always lookin’ for a 4-leaf clover.

Nothing to do with luck.

Any revelation.
Any size.
If we thought it would help
we would tell it to you
like a drunk octopus
riled up and wasted on light.

Like this:
can neither be created
or destroyed.
That means, we are all
exactly the same age.
That also means – we both
saw the same psychic
(the one who said, “You
have been here
since the very beginning.”).
to a room
full of arrogant “old souls” in juvenile clothes
blow the cake off your candles
and the starving off the words that are stuck to your throat.

Thank you.
Uncontested thank you’s.
One month.
August 9th to September 8th.
Texas to Netherlands to Ireland to Wales to Scotland to England to Denmark and back to Seattle.

First stop: 20-year high school reunion, Baytown, TX.
Stephanie Jennische and me:

We reunited a few years ago by accident after she ordered a CD.
She had known me by a different last name when we were kids
and didn’t realize the Buddy she’d found.
After the reunion we went for pancakes and funny stories with old friends.
Funniest thing…
This is Cyndi Chapa and me:

When we were in 8th grade together
we both won “Class Clown.”
In high school, we would stay on the phone some nights around bedtime
and make each other laugh to no end.
After the reunion we got to do that again.

It was sure a pleasure to see everyone who made it to the reunion.
Thanks to Vangie, Kathy, Cyndi, Christina, Angela, Luis, Carmen
and all the folks who organized.
Mom and David too.
They let me use the truck to go to my high school event
just like old times.
Thank you.

After the reunion
I flew directly to Amsterdam,
took a train to Rotterdam
and reunited with three lifelong friends.

Thank goodness.

On August 16th
the tour went into effect.
There was a show 23 of the next 24 nights.

It started with a literary picnic in Utrecht:

Apparently I was nervous and ate like a squirrel:
The next day I left for a festival in Groningen
where over a dozen of the dancers from Derrick Brown‘s “Strange Light”
came to watch my set just because Derrick and Timmy Straw recommended they do so.
That was a great surprise.
It was also nice that one of the women who played Jane in the original Tarzan
swung by to enjoy the night:

I rode in a taxi with the lovely and generous host of 3 of the Holland shows, Gina.
She ran with me through the train station in Groningen that night
so we could free my bags. It is a springing free and childlike run she gets to have,
and it made me smile.
Thank you.

Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen was the next day.
The venue where I performed was called the Titty Twister.
Evidentally, it was the place to be come nightfall.
There was a 2-story middle finger rising from either side of the entrance,
with flames shooting from the tips of each,
and this sign was posted up as a reminder:

The hospitality was incredible.
Saskia Lous: thank you.
Denvis Deadly: thank you.
I got to see Alt-J, Foo Fighters, The Xx, Kasabian,
sat by myself backstage to watch Wilco
then danced in the Titty Twister with about 1000 people for raucous live-band-
karaoke, complete with female bodybuilders, zombies, and leather clad pole dancers.
“Eye of the Tiger” stole the show.

The next morning I high-tailed it back to Amsterdam,
hopped a plane to Dublin, then did a fun set with a ready room
after Antony Furey and The Young Folk.
The hosts in Dublin were grand.
The night was a real treat.
Thank you.
*Also, a quick shout out to Blazing Salads just for existing with all that delicious food.
I was frickin’ starvin’, man.

I stayed the next night for one more show in Dublin.
It was in a private room on the backside of the bar.
This is what the locals were up to after the show was over:
Irish Pub Video
Thank you.

I was excited for Wales.
Took a ferry across the Irish Sea
and was picked up by Martin Daws.
Every poet in the U.K. and Ireland seem to know Martin
and speak well of him.
I hadn’t exercised in a few days,
so Martin let his dog go for a run with me off-leash
through some fairly breathtaking Wales countryside pathways and roads.
There were train tracks, sheep, a mountain of slate from the quarry,
rolling green hills and a waterfall included.
Thank you.
Here’s Martin (less hair) with Leigh out back of Martin’s house:

Leigh is a trusted friend from when Andrea Gibson, Katie Wirsing and I
did the I Am A Lagan European tour. I wrote about him in Gentleman Practice.
He showed up to drive the rest of the tour except Denmark.
He is all the marbles I thought I lost,
much of the patience I wish I had,
loads of the smart choices I can still make,
and of the fairest comrades and clear communicators
any working artist, curious wanderer, or traveling human guest
could ever hope to have on their side.

He met up with Martin and I at the venue in Bangor, Wales.
The show started as Leigh arrived, so we shared a drink as part of the audience
and I chuckled with anticipation and excitement
to get to ride most of the rest of the way with Leigh.
Leigh’s experience driving on the flip side of the road,
touring with me, and being an incredibly
fun (less the dailure [failure at completing a dare]),
insightful and patient friend and gentleman was welcome to say the least.
Thank you, sir.

After Bangor, Wales we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland
for a performance during the fringe festival.
The hosts and organizers throughout the tour
went above and beyond the call to make both Leigh and I comfortable at every stop.
Matt MacDonald in Scotland set it off right, treating us to a delicious meal
and dessert
before our show at Fruitmarket Gallery.
Someone requested “Pretend” that night, so I did it, with the help of a singer/beat boxer
named Pete the Temp.
Near the end I pointed way up to reference The Big Bang
at the exact moment a power boom of fireworks set off in the sky.
The crowd, me and Pete the Temp were all sent into a spontaneous
and uncontrolled celebration.
I felt Pete the Temp’s heart beat faster than his mouth can.
Wow, Edingburgh sky.
Great timing.
Thank you.

I caught this picture early on.
I saw it as more of a direction than a notice:

Thank you to the energetic, committed and fully encouraging teacher
named Vicky Morris in Rotherham, England.
Because of Vicky, I met Joe Kriss, who locked down five of the dates for this tour.
Rotherham was the first of the shows with Joe.
Despite the number of dudes who love steroids in that town,
we sure loved the Rotherham show,
which took place on the top floor of a bar called The Bridge Inn
where we were kindly greeted by the warm and accommodating new owners, and
a gang of five excited puppies who the owners were looking after for a friend.
This show lent serious good momentum to the tour,
not because the beer tasted like pot, or because of the man who looked like Herbert
(the creepy old fella from Family Guy), who – just before being asked to leave –
stood up and yelled, “Give me young colonial boy!”
twice, but because Leigh and I really enjoyed the crowd through and through.
Thank you.

We got to see Joe the next night in Sheffield as well
where we were spoiled by Leigh’s friend, Joye,
who let us use her big clean cozy home for two nights while she was away.
It goes without saying that I’ll forget to specifically thank loads of folks and hosts
and instances that helped make this tour one of the smoothest of my career
(e.g. the musicians, bar staff, randomly encountered fan, and long-distance drivers of Sheffield!),
but that doesn’t mean I don’t whole-heartedly include you in the this quite long journal entry,
which could be summed up with, “THANK YOU.”

Things only got better.

Dear Shambala Festival,
Front to back, top to bottom, in, out, over, around,
every band and poet and host and organizer and musician and dancer and surprise (Martin!)
at the Wandering Word Stage, from Leigh and I both, especially to Sally Jenkinson,
Thank you.

We stayed up late.
We woke up early.
We drove in a haze to Bristol for the next show
where we stayed with HAZEL HAMMOND!

Thank you for your warm home and hospitality, delicious risotto and keen sense of humor.
And thank you, Andi Langford Woods, you humble, delightful woman for making it happen again.
The poets and host and sound man were kind as they come.
And to Anthony Green, who you probably didn’t meet that night in Bristol
for reminding me how important one word is to me.
It wasn’t the first time or the last that I’ll be in Bristol.

And then, like that, off to Southampton.
There is much to be said (from stellar workshop participants to Anna Freeman
to breakfast upstairs at The Art House Gallery Cafe),
but the focus should be kept on the organizational guru and thorough gentleman,
Pete Hunter. Thank you. You’re good people, Pete.

Same goes for the next night in London.
So much to say about the fantastic show/space,
and seeing E. Amato from L.A., and Leigh’s friends visiting,
and an accidental high intake of caffeine,
but the focus of my thanks goes to Ross Sutherland,
who continues to make me feel right at home and in good company
every time we cross paths.
Thank you.

Our new buddy, Piers, was at the show in London.
He hopped in the car that same night and directed us to Old Hall,
where he lives with his folks and a community set on sustainable living.
I was startin’ to miss home a bit by that point
so I could hardly wait to meet the geese and chickens where Piers lived.

During our informal tour of the grounds
Leigh noticed a cow chowing down on a placenta
and realized a brand new calf had just been born.
It was laying in the field right in front of us.
Sideface and the Calf
That day the weather was real moody.
I didn’t at all feel like performing for the fifteenth night in a row.
Leigh and I leaned against his car eating biscuits and drinking beet root juice,
trying to get cell phone service and watching it rain.
Folks seemed a bit distant and uninterested,
probably because of the sheer number of visitors they get passing through such a great place.
While we ate dinner before the show that evening
my heart was kinda sunk in the realization that I would be performing
for the same twenty or so fairly quiet folks eating at the tables around us,
despite the fact that I was amped about being on the Fun Board:

After dinner, I walked back to the performance space
and opened the door to a full ballroom of cheerful town folk
filling the place with upbeat exchanges.
19-year-old Piers really pulled through in every way for us.
Eyes wide and renewed, following two refreshing openers (including Piers)
it was the most present and effective I’d felt on stage.
Thank you.

Things only got better.

Leigh and I decided to drive straight to his home/gallery in Hinckley, England that night.
We were both lookin’ forward to seeing Sarah (Leigh’s girlfriend of 19 years).
They live in and own The Factoryroad Gallery.
Sarah‘s pretty crafty, to say the least,
and makes a fine living from her art
doing odds and ends here and there,
like illustrating the October 2012 cover of Playboy:

Her and Leigh had even asked Stanley Chow to do a poster for this tour:

I very much like that he used the last line from “Horsehead.”
Thank you, Stan.
Too bad it turned out so frickin’ good
because I haven’t been able to stop accidentally showing it off.
Only 30 embossed posters were made. Who cares, right?
I don’t give a care about the awesome, or the last two prints,
which I own,
hidden in the bomb shelter we don’t even have.

It was about 1:30am when we arrived at Leigh’s.
I knew their home/gallery would be clean and sharp, thoughtful and lively, warm and green
and filled with he and Sarah’s touch everywhere.
I did not expect what happened next…

This is the first thing I saw when we walked in:

Leigh’s pretty ornery about some things,
so I was certain that I was looking at
the anti-coffee table.
Leigh clearly didn’t want people just setting their drinks on trendy coasters
and propping up their boob tube feet,
not when they could be planting rooftop gardens,
making homemade bread, and taking photos of obscure phallic symbols.
The sculpture was perfect and made me smile, but I didn’t say anything.
We were drained. He showed me to my cozy room that rises above
the garden on their side roof.
Leigh asked if I wanted tea.
Typically, tea time was my cue to poke fun at him
for absolutely living up to the English stereotype every morning and evening,
but that night I thought it sounded like the perfect idea.
So I went downstairs to the kitchen and joined him.

That’s when I saw this on the wall:

The card hadn’t been mounted next to it yet,

and I couldn’t get passed the harmonica to read the text on the illustration,
so I didn’t realize I was the author of the text on the image.
Thank you, Patrick George.

My eyes darted left to the next image on the wall, still clueless:

I was surprised to see words I had written, tattooed onto the neck of the image.
Here’s the accompanying card, which had also not been mounted yet (Thank you, Max Ellis):

BUDDY: Hey, wait a minute. Leigh? Those are words I wrote.
LEIGH: Yeah.

This next:

Leigh and Sarah had waited till the next day,
the day of the opening/show,
to hang the artists’ explanations next to their works, so I was just observing images,
but I’ll post the cards here so you can see what I eventually got to see:

Then this by the same artist:

Thank you, Aaron Barr.

I started waking up.
All of the sudden there was a house full of art
based on my…

BUDDY: That one was from “The Information Man.” This is so cool, Leigh, which of the works here are from my writing?
LEIGH: All of it.

I made my way from one work to the next, in awe.


Thank you, Nomoco.

I wish I had a more clear photo of this one. I love everything about it,
right down to the frame made of piano wood:

Thank you, Andrew Bannecker.

This just in (sans piano wood frame):

It wasn’t the anti-coffee table.

It was entirely more thoughtful than that:

Thank you, Peter Lorimer and Fabricated Valentine (lookin’ forward to the website).

When I first walked in and saw these works,
before I realized I was at an art opening inspired by stuff I’d written
I wondered how Leigh and Sarah managed to sweep and vacuum
around this 3-part piece in their home (notice the bits on the floor underneath):

It stung to read:

Thank you, Joe Rogers.

That’s enough, right?

But then:

On the night of the opening,
I was pleased to tell the artist how much I liked the work
before I knew she was the artist.

Thank you, Melanie Tomlinson.

And just above the fireplace:

This artist was such a comforting presence in the crowd
when I was on stage later that evening.
Vulnerability abounded, and his telling face and silent encouragement were sure appreciated.

Thank you, Peter Horridge.

I was so pleased to get to hang out with the next artist,
and hug her.

These were hanging by elastic strands secured to a solid metal belly crafted by Peter Lorimer
(the sculptor who did the Jean Heath work),
which was hanging from a beam supporting the house.

Thank you, Rose Allinson.

Still moving from gift to gift with Leigh in wonderment
I knew immediately what this was:

A [vinyl] pitch black woman dressed in a slow tornado.
And I got to hang out with the artist of this piece as well,
where I was, again, and from my thanks, fairly speechless.

Thank you, Alisha Miller.

The photographer who took all these photos is an architect.
He’s an architect who developed an entirely exploratory computer file of “My Town.”
He chose these panels to represent his work.

I quickly realized it was based on the poem “My Town,”
but it took a minute of enjoying it with Leigh before I realized
with much excitement, it was the bridge in Baytown where I grew up.
It was actually my town!
I couldn’t stop the smilin’.

It indeed caused the desired reaction.
Thank you, Nigel Axon.

At the show in Bristol I got to meet Leigh’s super sharp and funny friend, Ed.
All of Leigh’s folks were such a pleasure to be around.
Having not written much in the last year-and-a-half,
Ed’s piece sparked something new and ready in me. I told him so:

It was Ed, Leigh, Sarah and I who stayed up and hung out long after the show,
and laughed about stuff, and ate cake, and laughed about more stuff.

Thank you, Ed Garland.

I thought this was bone inside rock:

I was surprised to find out it was far more delicate.

What a kind gentleman this artist was to me.

Thank you, Tom Hare.

Somewhere in the excited dream state of it all
Leigh and I opened this package handed off to us in London
by Leigh’s friend, Boyd:

I’d met Boyd before,
and got to cross paths with him twice on this trip too.
What a pleasure.

After the last show in the U.K. (back in London),
I had a chance to thank Boyd for his work and comment on some details I noticed.
Boyd, a calm man, looked at me real blunt and – regarding the process – said,
“It was intense.” While I aim to dissolve the intensity with age,
thank you, Boyd.

You gotta know this one hit home:

Yes, of course, there were some things I considered stealing right off the wall.

Thank you, Anthony Saint James.

This morning, while stretching at CrossFit, noticing my dents,
highlighted by a scabby “axe-ident,”
I know doubt thought of this photo:

Most times when I look at my shins
the lines from Bedrroms & Battlescars cross my mind.

Thank you, Leigh Addams.

And this was the last piece brought out, saved for the night of the show.

It’s Sarah’s piece… I know.
If only you could see all the details.
It’s attention to details that turn up quality.

Thank you, Sarah Coleman.

When I finally paused to go to the bathroom…
I joined me:

I was pretty chuckled up and somewhat shy about my face
taking up the whole bathroom wall,
so I gave myself a good talking to about ego and how to not react to it all,
just feel thankful, and to not have an ego about how thankful I got to feel,
and to not have an ego about recognizing I shouldn’t have an ego,
and to… Thank you.

Way cooler than my face on a wall was Leigh and Sarah’s toilet:

(Caution: proper technique required for flushing.)

We’re not done yet.
You still have to see this close-up.
Can you tell what it is?

How ’bout now?

Brook, the assistant at The Factory Road Gallery
supplied the backdrop for the stage with this rad print based off her stencil.

Thank you, Brook.

Not only did I get to perform in front of layers of Brook’s image,
but everyone got to have coconut popcorn out of it,
thanks to Jed (the chef who did the previous event;
flavors = coconut palm reader, weed ‘n’ seed and chilli chilli maple maple):

Not kidding.

All-out on the goodness.

Thank you again, Brook.

The Artist Roster:

Thank y’all.

After having the opportunity at the opening to observe all the work in more detail,
and get to talk with some of the artists, and – to my post-event surprise – have
way too many photos captured of me double-fisting coconut popcorn and beer,
it was time to do some poems and speak with everyone from the stage.
I had originally thought this was the only reason I was going to Hinckley.

Here’s what I look like when I’m trying to say thank you with more than two words,
but not having much luck other than to well up with overwhelmed-ness.

Once when I was on the road, and worn out, and insecure about things,
Snook said, “Would you stop forgetting that I love you.”
Snook doesn’t often waste words.
At the show in Hinckley that night I recognized how
the degree to which I felt thanks could only be expressed in exact terms:
Thank you.
Without overstating it.
Like the way Snook says “I love you.”
Consider this journal entry a pressure release valve for all the thank you’s
I may not have released in the moment.

This is what I look like when I still can’t get the words out:

The whole show felt like a family effort with even more contributors
like Bob Neely , who provided music,
and the folks filming (Elliott and Alex),
and Sarah’s sister, Joey (who sure made me feel like a million bucks).
Everyone was so willing and present.
Thank you, Leigh and Sarah not just for the pieces you contributed,
or the work that went into making this show happen,
or the surprise birthday party I never had,
but for every detail I spotted, the ones I never noticed,
and the ones I was allowed to keep for myself.
If you happen to be nearby, the show is still going on
for another week at The Factory Road Gallery in Hinckley, England.
Thank you.

All photos by Nigel Axon (the My Town architect).
Thank you again, Nigel.

I wanted to go home now and be done with it,
exactly on that note in Hinckley,
but there was a tour to finish. Thank goodness.
Next stop: Birmingham, England where I got to see a very generous
and talented old acquaintance, Bohdan Piasecki.
The day proved to be a wave in the right direction as I crossed paths with a fellow Vipassana meditator, and hosted a workshop that felt downright
Thank y’all.
Sarah got to go with us to Birmingham and I was sure glad she did
because – just when I thought I was out of steam – I gave my favorite show of the tour…

…Until the next night in Cardiff, Wales!
Well, when the room is empty just before a show is about to start,
that can be a real bummer.

When it gets packed to standing-room-only in about 7 minutes,
not a bummer.
Owen Bowley, the host, surprised Leigh and I both when he and his band mate
sang a song they had written, acapella, with style, and new-
and brought the house down.
I think a DVD project may be in the works next year,
and I sure wanna have that song on there, Owen.
Thank you for it.

No offense to people who hate pretty things,
but the drive to Cornwall was so beautiful I just kept saying “beauty” and pointing,
not because anybody needed it pointed out,
but because kids do stuff like that. I don’t give a care.

The actual show in Cornwall, thanks to Clare Howdle, was in a comfy room with loads of pillows
and chairs designed for extra chillin’.
This was the one night Leigh pushed the party passed curfew.
Here’s random video taken of the last 5 of us out that night,
which supports my theory that tea is either being suggested or talked about
at nearly all times in the U.K.:
Tea Talk
These guys were sure a lot of fun to relax with.

Then it was onward to the last show in the U.K. (London),
and the last night hanging out with Leigh.

Neither of us spoke much about it much, but there was some sadness in the air.
The last London show, hosted by Dan Simpson,
and sponsored by Apples and Snakes,
could not have gone any better. A riled up and energetic full house it was,
and what a treat to get to find out that Shaka Campbell
(formerly of Slam teams L.A., San Francisco and Nuyorican)
was in the house and willing to do a piece with me.
My old buddy, Liam Clayton, even came and played guitar.
While I waited for this show to start, the friendly manager of the cafe showed me
to a clean, giant wooden room with a huge polished wooden table,
and a piano, and a couch. I used them all. There was peace and quiet.
Thank you, Gallery Cafe.

If anyone has a photo of Leigh and I together from this tour, please send it along.
Until then, I’d like to leave you with our casual surprise drive passed Stonehenge,
before Leigh and I parted ways, and I headed off to Denmark:

Peter Dyreborg may be the most detail-oriented host I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
He applied for and was awarded grants on both of the final shows in Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark,
where he packed the houses with fun crowds and helped me end the tour on such a fine note.
In Aarhus he even put us up in a little cottage on this street:

Thank you.

In Copenhagen, my dear friend Steven Arrowood,
who I first traveled Europe with in 1998, and who I’ve been inspired by
or written about in every book,
was there on business a few hours away,
so he and Liesl and James (great acquaintances from working summer camps together)
rushed over via train for the last show,
where after my first poem, this lovely woman shoved her thumb hi enough up through the air
that she nearly lifted herself off the couch before anyone had a chance to clap:

I asked that no one clap because I’d never seen such an enthusiastic thumbs up
and I just wanted to remember it.
Thank you.

Turns out that Steve had to catch a train near my hotel the next day
so he stayed on the extra bed at my hotel.
He left very early and chose to not wake me.
When I departed I realized Steve had covered the Do Not Disturb sign outside my door
with the following announcement. Danish housekeeping masked their concern.
I was surprised to learn of my condition:

Sweden’s Oskar Hanska and I saw each other off
at the train station in Copenhagen
where I first began to wear glasses instead of my contacts
so the “epidemic karato conjunctivitis” in my eye could heal faster:

I suspect catching the bacteria from a pillow in a yurt
at Shambala Festival that John Cooper Clarke stayed in the previous evening.
Thank you.

An unexpected treat at the end was the gentle layover in Iceland
where I got to reflect a little,
then learn all about Iceland from the myriad Icelandic tourist videos
which were available to watch throughout the 8-hour plane ride home.
Iceland loves Sigur Ros. I pretty much do too.
The documentary, Last Days of the Arctic,
about a photographer named Ragnar Axelsson, was penetrating.

Thank you.

You remember that time
we wrote out the sheet music to green lights
then led the charge of all charges
through the heart of your heart
to extinguish your volcanoes
with a snow
so you didn’t have eggshell step around yourself
or the glass you shattered
or the milk you spilt?

We do.
It was fun.
Went well.
Thanked you.
Just enough.
That day
filled the black hole in your chest with breath
and we were cooled in the jets
and kept in the head
and there were gospels comin’ outta the Northwest witch

and any questions
from any angle
we got you,
like, “Once we dissolve these sensations
from the surface of our bodies
and pierce the skin to get beyond all this,
will our cravings
for annihilation
be laid to rest
with the apocalyptic porn
and the compounding stress?
Will you still be there magic marking us
if we’re still de-haunting happiness?”
said the answer.
said the breath,
“The consequences are immediate.
So when you clap –
you might try freeing both hands up.”

Big Rock Candy Mountains to you,