Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Stupid Californians: Road Side Adventures and Poetry Class

I’m newly back from this year’s Sea Ranch writing retreat which is always an exceptional bit of time away by the sea to write with a group of women I love. We write solo, then as a group, then take turns cooking and reading formally for one another each day.

The return trip home was marred by the van breaking down as we headed up the Grapevine, I5 before LA, in the anesthetizing 99-degree heat. I had just finished telling my daughter the story of another desert sojourn to La Posada Hotel without air conditioning (see below). We’d stopped twice to cool off in gas station mini marts, bought two cold gallons of water, dowsed ourselves, and tanked up on popsicles; our ETA for San Diego was a scant four hours away depending on traffic and I was determined to get home.

But just after we passed the town of Grapevine and headed into the pass, surrounded by campers, one lane over from the fast lane, semis creeping up in the slow lane, the van suddenly began to decelerate. I managed to cross three lanes of traffic before it completely died. Of course my phone was at three percent, but it managed to hold on long enough for me to reach Triple AAA after a failed attempt to reach my husband. I am eternally grateful for Triple AAA and didn’t even mind that it took three hours for the tow truck driver to appear, and that when he did, he was missing a tool he needed that had to be delivered by another driver.

Because truly, it could have been worse. Once we got underway, within three miles, we passed another van engulfed in flames, the family standing on the shoulder of the road, the fire truck barreling toward the scene. Here we were, safe, dead van in tow but definitely not on fire, cell phones happily charging in our driver’s air-conditioned cab.

Though…it could have been better too. We stopped for fuel at the Flying J truck stop where I snapped this beautiful 1968 Couture magazine, framed in the hallway on the way to the restrooms. But when we stepped out into the darkening parking lot, we could find no sign of our driver or his tow truck. We circled the Flying J and inspected the row of parked semis. Wouldn’t it be funny if he took off without us, said my daughter, who then, like the happy teenager she is, quickly made the best of our time, borrowing my phone (hers still in the tow truck) to take a video of a bedraggled gopher popping up out of a tiny strip of grass.

But as she bent over to video the tiny creature in her white tank top, tugging her red shorts down, I noticed a man on a bench in front of her taking a video of her. Where was our driver? Several trucks cruised past us, slowed, and catcalled. Mercifully, our driver rounded the bend and we clambered back into his cab. As we drove our allotted hundred miles of free towing towards my husband (who was driving his one hundred miles from San Diego to retrieve us) we enjoyed lively banter from our driver. Turns out he is a former police officer, ongoing preacher who co-teaches workshops to husbands on making marriage last while his wife teaches the accompanying workshop to the wives, and a tuner of pianos on the side.

Second Saturday: Poetry Draft, Craft Submit

I’d love to see you this Saturday at my ongoing poetry workshop at San Diego Writers, Ink. We meet from 10-12 noon. Our July theme is Visitors. By now this summer, I imagine you have either been a visitor or had a visitor! Come on out and free-write with us; we don’t even mind if your free-write comes out as prose or poetry. All level of writing welcome. This month’s worksheet includes a poem about young composer Bela Bartok and his passion for recording the songs of Transylvania... "think of him / arriving at your clot of low thatched roofs / with his walking stick.../ vest unbuttoned, tie loose / at the neck / young as a grown man can be." (An Answer for B. by Mandy Kahn, Glenn Gould's Chair, Eyewear Press 2017). 

Feel free to drop in, or to sign up ahead of time, visit:

Second Saturdays: Poetry Draft, Craft, Submit

The Meadow 2018, artwork by Wes Lee
Poetry News

Stupid Californians is out in print and available to read online in The Meadow, Literary and Arts Journal of Truckee Meadows Community College thanks to Poetry editor Lindsay Wilson and Associate Poetry editor Arian Katsimbras. Cover Art pictured here for this spring 2018 issue is by Wes Lee. "Stupid Californians" hails back to a 2014 road trip when we drove through the desert without air conditioning…here’s the full backdrop post: Tripping with the Girls at La Posada: Architects, Painters, and First Ladies. You can see (above) we haven’t learned our lesson about driving without air conditioning. Same vehicle…end of story.

The Meadow 2018, artwork by Wes Lee
Here’s a word cloud for the issue made up of one word from each poem:

    Springsteen     buck knife     raccoons      engagement ring     Polaroids     projectiles     pumpkin jade     skid marks     grave     key     bullet     villain     Grace     collarbone     thunderheads     cow     Atlanta     monotony     kindling     sine waves     rifle     hyacinth     defibrillator     corner     marriage     dandelions     I-95     antidepressant     clown     sirens     funeral     sandstorm     whiskey     therapy     nurse     brother     sagebrush     locomotive     Jack Kerouac     hamstring     twins     Frances     NASA     pinky     nightingales     reception     ICE     Mexico     samosa     Red Sea     circle     quill     effigy     winter     guitar     prairie     pupils     storm     warrior     planets     shadow     web     futures     goldenrod     beets     zoo     vernacular     donuts     dinner     holy statue     Okies     popsicles     coyotes     church     man     

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