A day driving interstates. After staying in Toledo the night before I drove north into Michigan for a program at Emeritus in Brighton, another retirement/assisted living place. A nice turnout and good conversation with some of the residents who were very appreciative of my coming there. Althea gave me a couple of poems she had written and showed me two others. She still writes and has had a poem published. The ones she showed me were quite good. Also had good talk with Janet, the life enrichment director. A former teacher who likes poetry.
On the way to Brighton I got off the highway and drove through Ann Arbor. A good friend, Steve, spent 10 years there. I had called him earlier and asked if there was one picture I should try to take, maybe a sentimental place for him. He didn't hesitate - "Michigan Stadium."
Ann Arbor and Brighton were places I would have liked to explore more. But, I wanted to head to Indiana and camp for the next couple of nights. The weather has turned cool and also clear, perfect for camping. So instead of lingering in Michigan I hit the expressways and drove to Pokagon State Park in northeast Indiana. The park is only about 10 miles from Angola, where I have a reading Wednesday evening.
A Cosmetic Injectables and Med Spa in Brighton.
The interstate driving gave me time to reflect a bit on the journey. I thought a lot about the people I've met, already a good number of folks and I've only been through about a quarter of the tour so far! It has been rich in that way. Wonderful new friends met and memorable reconnecting with old friends. So far it really has been a very people oriented trip. Some time has been spent out in nature, but much less than I would have anticipated. I'm sure that will balance out more when I get into the western states.
I arrived about an hour before dark, set up camp and then cooked a lake trout for supper that I had bought earlier in Michigan. I sautéed some red peppers and hot peppers along with the fish and then topped the meal off with some zucchini bread Bob had given me when I left Ohio. Not a bad way to end the day.
A morning at the campsite then a quick trip into Angola, just a few miles away, where my reading is scheduled at the library.
When I entered the library I found that there were no fliers available though I had emailed one to the library. We had only set up the reading a week ago and the contact person was going to be away all of this week. The reading was listed on their whiteboard at the entranceway though.
I wasn't expecting much because of the last-minute booking. But I really wanted to read in this library for a few reasons. First, this was my first reading on the original US 20 journey in 1996 which is chronicled in my Twenty Days on Route 20
This from the book:
"Angola, population of about 6,000, is the county seat of Steuben County. The Carnegie Public Library sponsored the reading and about 25 people turned out. This was the first poetry reading in town as far as anyone remembered. The audience ranged from a number of high school students to an 87-year-old black woman who shares the poetry of black poets to interested groups. She recited two Paul Dunbar poems that the audience loved. The library was very excited about the turnout and I encouraged them to build on this enthusiasm and to schedule regular poetry readings. It was especially exciting to have such a range of ages in attendance. People left afterwards with ideas already beginning to be generated on what to do next. Planting of seeds along the way."
The following year, Grayson, then 6, gave his first presentation of a poem in public when he was with me on a book tour for the book. We were traveling for a month together and this was our first event. We had put together a small chapbook of 10 of his poems which we called The Real Poet. He had been orally creating poems since he was four and I was writing them down. We were selling the chapbook for a dollar and on the way to Angola I mentioned to him that if he could recite a poem to the audience he'd sell more books. So he practiced in the car and was doing a great job. I wondered what he'd be like in front of an audience, whether he could do it or not. Well, he stole the show! People loved it and he sold a bunch of books. So, another reason why I wanted to read here.
Thirdly is that the old Carnegie building that we read in has been preserved in whole by the new library which totally encases the old! A fascinating way to preserve the old when it no longer is sufficient for the times. The old library is the reference and Indiana collection space.
The old library within the new.
I headed back to the campground for the afternoon, had a great swim at the beach and arrived back at the library a little before the reading time. As 6:30 approached nobody had arrived. I was thinking I might take up Charlie Rossiter's idea of giving a reading to Lake Michigan from the Indiana Dunes. Then one woman entered the room followed by another a minute later. An audience!
Pokagon State Park beach.
It turned out to be a terrific hour talking and reading poems. Both Sandra and Lou Ann very much enjoyed the time and bought quite a few books. Lou Ann has a blog, "Stories From a Small Town" and is a storyteller and writer. She videotaped me reading "Liberty Street Poetry Reading, Bath, NY" and may put it up on her blog
Afterwards Lou Ann invited me to dinner at her daughter-in-law's. Had a great home-cooked meal, met her two grandchildren and a young woman from Argentina who had been living at Lou Ann's place. I recited "Seeing Eye to Eye With a Chickadee" for the boys, learned a lot about the Underground Railroad connection the new old house her son's family was buying in town, sipped a little wine and have invitations for places to stay when I come back this way again. Again, much more than I could write about here, but the evening turned out to be another one of those terrific experiences this journey has so far been blessed with.
Lou Ann's jeep.
As I drove back to the campground late that night I told Lake Michigan that the poetry reading from the Dunes will have to come some other time.
At the campground in the morning I got into a pleasant conversation with a mother and daughter, Eileen and Marley, from Long Island. They were driving out to southern Minnesota for a music festival, Wookiefoot's Shangri-la
. It seems like Wookiefoot is doing good work and are involved with charitable work through Be The Change
Again, another great conversation with folks just met. Organic gardening, health, traveling, etc. Marley is a hoola-hooper and demonstrated a bit for me. A pleasant meeting just before leaving Pokagon State Park for the Chicago environs.
Marley hula-hooping in the morning sun.
The drive through Indiana was on a smaller road for about half the distance to the great metropolis of the Midwest. Farmland, Amish buggies, sparse traffic. Easy, relaxing driving.
Then the greater Chicago region. I drove on the interstates for much of the way to Oak Park, getting off onto the regular streets about 10 miles or so from where I was going. What a contrast from the rural Indiana road I had been on! Four lanes of highway, scads of huge trucks and cars zipping constantly between lanes. After getting off the expressway it was a little better, but still hectic driving. As I approached Midway Airport it seemed as if every two minutes another jet was taking off into the blue. Chicago, a big city.
US 20 again in one of Chicago's suburbs.
The Rossiter's Duct Tape Peace Wreath. An old Christmas tree wreath
covered with duct tape in 2003, before the second Irag War began.
I was able to relax a bit at friend and FootHills poet Charlie Rossiter's house before heading to the Oak Park Library to facilitate my Palm of the Hand Memoir Workshop. What an amazing success it was. 48 people attended! With that large of a group I had to alter a little bit of what I do but it flowed well, I was able to get everyone enthused and I think many of those who attended will use the method in their writing. Debby, the library contact person, was extremely pleased and many people spoke to me afterwards about how wonderful it was to have attended. Now, to get that nice of a turnout for one of the poetry events!
Good talk with Charlie at the house late into the evening, sipping sake, catching up on life since last seeing each other in May back in NY. Tomorrow evening the poetry reading in Charlie's house, a Poetry Parlor event.
Just before posting this entry I noticed that Garrison Keillor's book store, Common Good Books, just posted this short blog interview with me.