I’ll be travelling around Canada and the US & doing readings & things for the next month or so. I’ll try to blog my way through this period of my life, with updates in pseudo-real time, though I currently feel like this experiment might end in total failure. We’ll see, I guess.
09/22 – Winnipeg @ Thin Air Book Festival 09/25 – Kingston @ Writers Festival 10/02 – Chicago w/ Rachel Bell, Rachel Hyman & more 10/04 – San Francisco w/ Alexandra Naughton, Jesse Prado & more 10/08 – Los Angeles w/ Mira Gonzalez, Melissa Broder & more 10/10 – Seattle w/ James Ganas & more 10/12 – Vancouver w/ TBD
10/16 – Calgary @ Wordfest
-Got up at 6 am to get to the airport. Felt surprised that the 6 am bus wasn’t empty. Everyone looked like they knew each other, like they were used to seeing each other every day at this hour or something. It felt like having stumbled on some sort of underground secret 6 am bus society.
-Realized twenty minutes into bus ride that I had forgotten a small bag with copies of my book in it at home. I texted Jill being like, “Shit” & she miraculously texted back telling me that I maybe still had time if I wanted to come back & get them. I said, “It’s okay, maybe I don’t need them, maybe I can do without, maybe this is a good thing” & then she texted back, “Wait, you also forgot your laptop.” I was like, “Okay, this is completely unacceptable, I am coming back.”
-Jill ended up coming out & meeting me directly at the bus stop to hand me the bag. I said, “Sorry I suck” a few times.
-I felt weirdly happy on the second bus to the airport, like I was thinking, “Wow, that was super fun.” Maybe it was because I had had to run, which had produced dopamine in my brain, but happiness seemed like a really stupid emotion to be having at that moment.
-Guy next to me in the bus had glasses with the word “embergsbik” written on the side, which sounded like a made-up brand.
-Looking around for the Air Canada booth at the airport, I saw an airline called “Sky Priority,” which I misread as “Sexy Priority.”
-Airport staff was very polite to me until they realized I was late, at which point they immediately shifted to panic/frenzy.
-I was put on standby & had to wait to see if I would be able to get in. Lots of nervous-seeming airport employees calling different terminals, feeling powerless. Almost got stuck having to wait for the next flight, but then was able to go in at the last minute. I felt like I had annoyed the flight, like the flight was mad at me, like I wasn’t wanted anymore by the flight.
-Was asked for ID I think three times at the airport and then it dawned on me that I was going to spend my next month being repeatedly identified, being repeatedly confirmed by airport staff & other strangers that I am me.
-This plane has cheap touch screens built into every seat, which means passengers can individually select which movies or tv shows they want to watch while flying. I didn’t touch my screen, but as I was I falling asleep, I watched, without sound, the movies that the three passengers sitting in front of me were watching. It didn’t feel like three separate movies, but just one movie in which a confident-looking Cameron Diaz was pushed into a bush, then some sort of tree creature was running after Angelina Jolie, then teenagers were singing along to a song in a car. It seemed like a good movie, lots of plot twists.
-Now that I think about it, I am probably glad I wasn’t around during the first maybe 60 years of modern aviation.
-There was some turbulence mid-fight at one point, like the plane hit an air pocket or something. People around me seemed anxious, and I was also going to feel anxious by default, except a voice went off in my head saying something like, “It’s okay, you need instability in your life” and after that I just found the turbulence calming.
-If you created a city that blends together all the cities, big or small, that I’ve ever visited, feels like you’d probably end up with something like Winnipeg.
-I think I am surprised that this festival is actually real. As a writer, I don’t live a glorious lifestyle and usually survive on a combination of rice and buying nothing, so being remunerated to do a reading and lodged in a hotel seems very surreal to me, like some sort of elaborate illusion, like I’ve been hypnotized.
-I did a “book chat” in the afternoon at this surprisingly large, seemingly thriving independent bookstore located somewhere in Winnipeg. The festival had paired me with a writer who was maybe in her late fifties and whose book was a collage of fragments from older books. There were maybe 30-35 people in the crowd, almost all of them women probably age 50+, except for Dave Shaw and his girlfriend, who were sitting in the back. I read a scene from New Tab in which two people chat online on Facebook, material that seemed, to me, like an almost comically bad fit for this crowd, but people laughed here and there and seemed okay with it.
-At one point during the Q&A, I felt myself mentally drifting away for a few seconds while someone was talking, the same way you sometimes tune out at readings. As an automatic reflex, I kind of wanted to check my phone, except then I remembered I was currently on stage.
-So far, I’ve mostly felt like I am everyone’s little brother.
-Feel so out of my element that it’s my like my element is some sort of fantasy to me.
-They should do a thing where if you win a national book award, you automatically get to write WWE Monday Night Raw for three weeks.
-I was part of a mainstage reading, which was held at a theatre that usually presents plays featuring children and young adults. This is a screenshot of the venue’s website:
-Read first out of six performers. Unintentionally did my usual “looking confused and mildly anxious” routine behind the podium on stage, then read a thing from New Tab. I did a good job overall with the reading thing I think, except my excerpt had mentions of casual drug use, which I wasn’t sure was cool with this crowd or not. Maybe it was from being in a children’s theatre, but I felt aversion to reading these passages live, so I kind of ad-libbed a few lines on stage to soften that aspect of the book a little. It was like when they censor Japanese video games to make them more acceptable for American audiences, like they’ll replace beer with coffee even if it doesn’t make sense.
-Felt like I wanted to make a “big speech” about school spirit or something from behind the podium.
-Just thought, “Feels like Ashley should be reading at this reading,” though I probably feel that way about every reading I do.
-Everyone is so impressed by how I am Francophone but I write in English, this must be how Koko the talking gorilla feels.
-My hotel feels to me like it was imported from the year 2145.
-Saw an ad for a kind of motor oil whose slogan was, “Engineered to move you,” like the motor oil wanted me to have a profound experience of art or something.
-Feels like I am living inside a game show called, “Whose Wi-Fi Will I Use Next?”
-Spent the afternoon holed up in a Starbucks. Took Dexedrine to reply to emails and work on Marie Darsigny’s book, which I am editing for Metatron. Marie, like me, is French Canadian but writes in English, so we have this weird kinship. Her book is kind of like an AK-47 of feelings. Here’s a small passage from it:
You used to text me all the time in the middle of the night
and I told you that I loved this dim presence,
but let’s be honest here: your presence wasn’t dim at all.
-Also worked on grant stuff, here’s a paragraph from my grant application:
For the overall tone and structure of this new novel, I am drawing inspiration from the works of writers such as Elena Ferrante, Ben Lerner, Osamu Dazai, Lorrie Moore and Tao Lin. My work, I feel, is firmly rooted within contemporary literature and tends to explore themes and subjects which aren’t overly represented within Canadian literature. With the support of the Canada Council for an eight-month period, I hope to be able to complete the manuscript for this book.
-Dave Shaw and his girlfriend, Patricia, came to pick me up at Starbucks and then we drove to their apartment. I became online friends with Dave through probably Steve Roggenbuck maybe two-three years ago. Dave was very nice and chill and we got along pretty much effortlessly, I feel.
-Dave and Patricia’s dog seemed meme-friendly to me, here’s a photo of her:
-Patricia was born and raised in Mexico and moved to Winnipeg for school. At one point, we talked a little about racial profiling and how to overcome racial stereotypes and stuff and I said something like, “Well, obviously, it’s easy for me and Dave, we’re white dudes, we have it the easiest” and Dave was like, “Yeah, we should maybe high-five to that” so I high-fived him as a joke.
-I wanted to give them a copy of my book as a thank you for hosting me and feeding me and being nice to me, but they already had it, so I gave them lemon-scented body lotion that I shoplifted from my hotel room instead.
-Flying to Toronto today, taking a Megabus to Kingston very early tomorrow. Not even sure where I am saying in Kingston yet, might have to try couch surfing or something.
-The pizza hotline and the crisis prevention hotline should be the same hotline.
-Someone on Facebook was like, “When is your tour coming to India” and I imagined myself putting together a reading in a Buddhist monastery, which seemed really good.
-Planes seem like such a fuck you to gravity.
-The video that tells you what to do in case the plane crashes kind of feels like a huge tease, like an exciting trailer for a bad movie.
-That being said, I could totally see this plane being the plane from Lost, like crashing randomly on a remote island somewhere.
-Randomly thought of this story my friend Julie was telling the other day. It was something like, a couple of people, all with English or Creative Writing degrees from different schools, were hanging out at her apartment and talking about “Who had the best education.” Then her faucet broke somehow and water started flying all over the place and none of them could figure out what to do and they were all stressing. Then a few more people arrived and this one guy who was with them was visiting from New Brunswick and he was like, “Oh wait, it’s easy” and fixed the faucet in like two minutes. He only had a high school diploma, which made everyone feel really bad about their education, like they actually had developed no concrete real-life skills whatsoever.
-Got lost in the Toronto airport for about 30 minutes.
-I holed up in a Starbucks for a few hours, then Sophia came to get me. Sophia had to go to someone’s apartment to get a thing, but the person wasn’t there, so we couldn’t get in. While waiting, we looked at a pile of discarded photographs that we had found on the side of the road. One photograph was of people partying inside what looked like a giant robot and felt like a mix between Pacific Rim and American Pie.
-Sophia was supposed to read poems on Spreecast for a thing, but we were running late, so we ended up stopping at a McDonalds and broadcasting from there. People in the chat liked our initiative, I think:
-Reading poems while “Anaconda” is playing in the background.
-We ended up flaking on pretty much everything else that we had discussed doing and later ordered pizza, which seemed about right.
09/25 (Morning, or, like, not even that)
-I got up at 5 something am to get a Megabus to Kingston. Two bros in the Megabus were discussing how the FBI “wasn’t called the FBI at first, it was called something else.”
-In a meeting room at the hotel, I was introduced to festival staff members. Eleanor Catton, who won the Man Booker prize for her book and was probably the highest-profile writer at this festival, was there. She ate a cookie semi-nervously and later said “Oh dear” aloud in a tone of voice that made her sound exactly like Lucy K Shaw. I kind of wanted to ask her, “Do you know Lucy?” but it didn’t seem like she did.
-I get to wear this badge that says “Author” along with my name, which means random people in the hallways think I am important and then engage me in conversation about my art practice.
-My thing was a short reading and talk early in the day that the festival had titled “Status Update, or What Should I Do With My Life?” I was paired with a poet whose latest book was a collection of poems made from status updates on Facebook, and the crowd was maybe 100-125 people, 85% of which were teens from probably a local high school. I decided that maybe I should ease up on the scenes that contain casual drug use, so I read two less flashy scenes that were basically just sarcastic dialog, which the teens liked, I think. They were laughing throughout and seemed to enjoy the lines in which I shit-talk Concordia University.
-The writer I was paired with read a poem about “Stealing things from your workplace” and after her reading, I asked her, “What about stealing stuff from work, have you ever done that?” and she was like, “Well” and I said, “I just want to make sure that we establish that we’re excellent role models for you guys.”
-What I like from the teen audience is that they actually prefer it if I don’t look like a serious author who takes himself seriously.
-There was a q&a at the end and a teen asked “What’s your favorite poetry?” and the writer who I had been paired with gave a very elaborate and well-thought out answer and then she turned to me and I was like, “Hum, I was just going to say ‘depressing poetry’” and the crowd laughed.
-Some teens asked me to sign their notebooks and stuff after the reading and it felt like I was Bono or something. I just wanted to shout, “I AM BONO” and trash my hotel room.
-An hour later, I went outside the hotel and found a coffee shop and waited in line. A teen talked to me and said, “Hey, I was at your talk, it was really funny, I am going to have to get your book” and I said, “Oh, wait” and then just gave her a copy of New Tab from my bag and she seemed, like, emotional and really happy.
-I want to make this liveblog “next level” somehow, not sure how, is this next level?
(I look insane and very terrifying in this, this is probably why I prefer not smiling in photos)
-Hotel room selfie #2.
-The festival had organized an hour-long cruise to get authors and staff members to mingle a little and network each other and stuff. I talked to Sandy Pool, a writer I know from online but had never met in person, and we decided that we were going to be each other’s friend on this thing, since we both didn’t know many people. Whenever I didn’t know who talk to, I would just join whatever conversation Sandy was in, or she would join whatever conversation I was in. This system felt like a kind of safety net for my anxiety.
-There was a short announcement at the beginning telling us what to do in case the boat crashed. Sandy was like, “We would be so fucked if this boat drowned” and it felt she was pitching to me a sequel to the movie Castaway in which 45 award-winning Canadian authors are lost at sea together.
-Here’s me talking with Eleanor Catton, she was very nice. I look less terrifying in this than in the previous photo, but still mostly terrifying, I feel.
-Chatted with Jill from my hotel room, here’s us hanging out on FaceTime:
-A lot of people in Kingston asked me what I normally do for a living and each time it felt like what I wanted to respond was, “Um, I just don’t spend money.”
-A teen who was at my thing yesterday talked to me in a hallway of the hotel and said that she liked the part where I said, “Revenge is a great motivation for writing” about getting rejected by literary magazines.
-I met Adam Wilson and we traded books. Adam is a New York-based author who was also performing at the festival. We had never met in person, but had enough friends in common and basic understanding of one another to be able to put together a conversation and hang out a little. Earlier in the day, Adam had flew from New York to Syracuse, where a volunteer from the festival, who was a former correctional officer at a prison, had picked him up and then driven him to Kingston. The retired officer was overly talkative and wanted to get to know Adam too much and asked about “what kind of hobbies he had.”
-Adam told a story about being asked to judge a “pun competition,” which is apparently a thing. He wanted to have fun with it, but apparently the participants and the other judges were all taking it very seriously. Adam said that one of the other judges was also the author of a book called, “The Pun Also Rises.”
-Sent my grant application to Canada Council using the free wi-fi in a Tim Hortons, which I am hoping makes my application look extra pathetic, like I really need this. I won’t know until maybe March whether I get the grant thing or not, seems likely I’ll have to find some form of employment when I get back to Montreal.
-Read two stories from Adam’s book while waiting for my bus to Toronto, here’s a short paragraph from it:
There’s something unsettling about a shaven head. Maybe it’s that you can really see the skull, the shape of it, all its lumps and juttings, skin stretched tautly over bone. So little separates our brains from the world.
-Slept for maybe an hour and a half in the Megabus. I arrived in Toronto in the middle of the night and didn’t know how to sleep anymore, or even where to sleep, so I found a Denny’s that was open 24 hours and ordered food. I was also really cold for whatever reason, so now I am wearing two sweaters and a hoodie while randomly listening to The Aquabats in a Denny’s at 5 am.
-I tried watching anime out of boredom and low brain power, but couldn’t understand anything of what was going on and gave up maybe ten minutes in.
-Saw a Chinese restaurant named “Regal Garden,” which I misread as “Rectal Garden.”
-Felt fucked and really tired around eleven am, so I found a small park nearby and slept in it for two hours. Seems amazing to me how quickly I’ve devolved from mediumly successful published author to homeless person.
-Stumbled on this cool alley in Toronto.
-Hanging out with Meghan in a coffee shop. Meghan just moved back to Toronto after being abroad for a little while, she seemed more confident and probably happier than the last few times I had seen her. She just got this job as an administrative assistant for OCAD, part of her duties involve giving prospective OCAD students a tour of the school. Some of the teenagers ask her if she went to OCAD as a student and she says yes and then they ask her what she does now for a living and she says, “Well, this” and then they look disappointed.
-Seems funny to look around you in a coffee shop and imagine that everyone else here is on a date.
-Meghan went to a show with other people, seems like there was potential for interesting interpersonal human drama. I stayed behind at her apartment to sleep on her couch and I said, “If anything strange happens, you can just wake me up at three am and tell me about it.”
-The wifi password here is “muppetsfromspace.”
-Slept for twelve hours, then saw that I had received a text from Meghan at two am that said, “Oh no, now I actually want to wake you up and talk.”
-Took Dexedrine at Starbucks and then edited Marie Darsigny’s book some more. I asked this guy sitting next to me if he could watch my stuff and I went to the bathroom and my laptop charger was gone when I got back.
-Weird how my life goes from “acceptable” to “total living nightmare” just from getting my laptop charger stolen.
-I feel like I was bound to lose something or break something or get something stolen from me on this trip, so I am kind hoping this fills some sort of secret quota and that I don’t have to worry about anything anymore.
-I went to the mall to get a new charger, could really see myself getting PTSD from working in an Apple Store.
-Back to normal, just nibbling on some Dexedrine in a coffee shop.
-Briefly went to a reading to hang out with Toronto lit people. After his reading, the first performer distributed cards with his name on it so that people in the audience would look him up. The card says that he’s an author of “Canadian Science Fiction,” which I didn’t even know was a thing.
-Just googled “Canadian Science Fiction,” turns out there’s a Wikipedia article for it. Here’s an excerpt the from the Wikipedia article for “Canadian Science Fiction”:
The first recorded Canadian work of science fiction is the 1896 novel The Electrical Kiss by Ida May Ferguson of New Brunswick. Set in late 20th century Montreal, it features an “electrical genius,” a “learned Chinaman” who woos a Canadian wife through his superior scientific knowledge as embodied in “the Electrical Kiss”.
-Went back to Meghan’s house after the reading to hang out with Arielle, Christian and Meghan. Christian was playing around with the camera functionalities on his new phone and took this action-packed photo of me sitting on the floor.
09/29 (Day & Night)
-I am in a bus to Chicago and the bus is making what appear to be spaceship noises.
-I am really bad at plans, so an interesting subplot in my life right now is that I have to survive a fourteen hour bus ride on three cereal bars and a banana.
-We stopped in London, then Windsor, then Detroit, where we had to go through US customs. My customs guy seemed, to me, lethargic and depressed a little, like his dog had just passed away or something. He barely asked me any questions, just processed me like I was cashing out at a grocery store. I kind of wanted to ask him, like, “Are you okay, bro?” but then it didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it.
09/30 (Day & Night)
-Rachel Bell came to pick me up at the bus station. I’ve met Rachel earlier this year, so we’re already comfortable hanging out with each other. One thing I like about my internet friendships is that it really doesn’t feel like we’ve only met once.
-Rachel needed to go pick something up from a friend of hers but wasn’t sure she wanted to go alone, as this person’s apartment was located in “hotly contested gang territory,” so I tagged along. The person’s apartment, it turns out, was gigantic and had a small pen outside in the back in which they kept a live chicken.
-Bought takeout food from a small Chinese restaurant that also sold smoothies and hot-dogs for whatever reason.
-Nathan came with us to this thing at which the band Beach Fossils was playing. The show started at 6h30, which seemed early and weird, but we just went with it. Rachel vaguely knew this one guy from one of the opening bands who scored us tall cans from the backstage area, so we stood in the back and got 40% drunk.
-After the thing, we stood outside and chatted with random people for a while. Rachel was yelling at skaters to do tricks, like she would shout “Kickflip” or “Ollie,” hoping they would pull off the trick on command. A girl with short, extremely even black hair and a nose ring came up to us and said, “Can you believe this?” and seemed upset. Nathan asked her what had happened and she said that she had bought this guy a ticket to Beach Fossils and had even paid for their Uber and then he had just ditched her. She asked Nathan if he had ever been on a date where the girl had paid for everything and he replied, “No, but I am gay” and she said that she was pansexual and important in the local gay community. She added Nathan on Instagram and started talking about her shoegaze music project and then turned to me and said, “Are you gay as well?” and I said, “Hum, no, just… boring heterosexual white male.” She asked me if I liked shoegaze and I said, “Uh, yeah, sure” and she said, “Come with me, we’ll go back to my apartment and listen to shoegaze” and she grabbed my hand, trying to get me to follow her. It felt like she wanted to kidnap me a little. Rachel joined our conversation and petted the girl’s head a little, trying to comfort her and be nice to her, but the girl grew angry and shouted, “Don’t fucking touch me, don’t pet me like a cat.” She asked me if I was coming and I said, “I think I am just going to stay with my friends.” As she was leaving, Rachel said, “Thanks for yelling at me” and the girl shouted back, “You’re a slut” at Rachel.
-We stopped at a McDonalds and sat down and briefly watched “Shark Tank” on a television monitor. A group of teens wearing matching yellow polos presented Mark Cuban with their prototype for a “smart wheel” that beeps when your hands aren’t in a safe driving position, like when you’re texting while driving or something. Mark Cuban didn’t like it and shot it down and seemed exasperated.
10/01 (Day & Night)
-Rachel took Austin Islam and me to the Garfield Park Conservatory in the afternoon to look at plants and things. Rachel just paid rent and I am not a wealthy human being right now, so we just wanted to do something that was free. Here’s me chilling with nature.
-In the children’s garden area of the conservatory, Rachel did a “dramatic reading” for Austin and me of a heated text message conversation with one of her ex-boyfriends.
-Here’s a photo of a cool plant called “Flaming Sword.”
-Driving around with Rachel and getting to hang out with her friends and stuff basically feels like I am borrowing her life. There’s something powerful about staying with different internet friends for short periods of time throughout this trip, it feels like I am borrowing and then returning several people’s lives, which helps me realize the pros and cons of mine.
-We drove to Logan Square. Rachel said that she often decides whether to drive or take public transport based on her phone’s battery, because driving also means being able to charge her phone, which I thought was funny.
-We met up with Keller and then drank wine in a park. Rachel told Keller that the first night she met me in New York, we ended up with Elaine Sun at this party on a rooftop that was roughly 80% bros. We found an oversized bottle of Vodka that was 1/5 full and drank from it. Elaine was meeting this guy who works for Rhizome, and he was wearing a white outfit with various logos on it, like he was some sort of stylish Nascar driver. Later, he showed us a photo on his phone of himself and Marina Abramovic both wearing Google Glass.
-We went to this small bar where a friend of Rachel and Keller was djing. After a while, we grew bored and left and Keller pasted a drawing on a wall outside of the venue. Later, I used Keller’s silver marker to write, “Enjoy your problems” on a thing. Here’s a photo of Rachel next to it:
-Felt bad for asking Alexandra Naughton and Lucy Tiven if I could stay with them when I am in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I am grateful for them agreeing to host me and I am excited to get to meet them, but in light of everything that’s been written/said/revealed in the writing community as of late re: heterosexual male writers abusing female writers, I’d love to avoid accidently making anyone feel unsafe. As a guest, I am very low key and uncomplicated and I think I would get positive reviews from everyone I’ve stayed with so far on this trip, but I am still more or less a stranger that they’re agreeing to lend a couch to. The revelations that have hit the writing community as of late come at a strange time for me, as I am currently travelling throughout Canada and the US and staying with internet friends. So far, I’ve been overwhelmed by how kind everyone (Dave Shaw, Patricia Perez Rabelo, Sophia Katz, Meghan O’Neill, Rachel Bell, Nathan Masserang, Kickflip McTwist, Austin Islam, Alexandra Naughton, Lucy Tiven, Mira Gonzalez, Melissa Broder, James Ganas, many more) has been to me, so it’s definitely dismaying, disturbing and disappointing to read about evil, perverted shit when the very same community is so clearly capable of kindness and goodwill.
-Illegal streaming website wants me to watch a tv show called, “Dog with a blog”
10/02 (Day & Night)
-Really like how Jill congratulates me when she’s on her period
-“I want to be held accountable but in an educational way” would make for such a good, stupid catchphrase
-Heiko stopped by Rachel’s apartment before the reading. He seemed down a little and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I just don’t know if I feel like celebrating alt lit tonight.” I agreed that the timing was weird, but I said that the goal of this thing was mostly to generate good vibes and that it was important for communities to come together after traumatic events in order to be able to heal. Still, in the bus on our way to the reading, it felt a little like we were heading to a funeral or something.
-The space that Rachel Hyman had secured for the reading was the social room of a tech company, which was the perfect size for our needs and looked like a cross between an office and the television set of some sort of low-fi sitcom.
- asked Rachel H. for the wi-fi password and skyped Sophia in, who was supposed to travel with me to Chicago but ran into passport issues. I talked to Sophia a little, then showed her around the room. I carried my laptop around and brought Sophia into various conversations with me, which felt a little like having a robot sidekick.
-I met Emily Sipiora, who I had asked to read. Emily lives in Rockford, which is about two hours away from Chicago, and she’s a senior in high school enrolled in this gifted program. About a month ago, she asked me if I could “mentor” her for a writing project for school, which basically meant giving her general advice from time to time re: writing and literature. I said yes, hoping to be a positive role-model. So far, I haven’t to do much, as Emily is kind of killing it on her own (she secured a publishing deal with a small Chicago press for her book).
-Kickflip McTwist and Rachel Hyman read first together, which felt fresh and interesting. They sometimes read lines simultaneously and sometimes went back and forth, with really good cadence and pacing. They even had built-in pauses, which seemed like an interesting device to give certain lines more weight.
-Sophia read next. I stood up and help my laptop open so that everyone could see her. After her performance, I said, “so much clapping” to make sure she understood that people were clapping enthusiastically and not just fake clapping.
-Emily read next, then we took a break, then Sam Pink read a part from Rontel about taking a bee-keeping class and “wanting to learn to control nature,” which went over well with the crowd.
-Someone should publish the shit out of a book of love poems by Rachel Pattycake Bell, they’re really good.
-I read last and everyone seemed happy with the reading and looked like they were feeling good, then a size 3 shitstorm immediately broke out when a neighbor came by to complain that someone who had attended the reading had drew over an important mural during or before the reading. The neighbor seemed very upset and there was talks of “calling the cops,” which didn’t, to my knowledge, happen. All of the sudden, it seemed like one person had taken a huge dump on the positive vibes that we had been able to generate with this reading, which felt frustrating and dumb.
-I followed Kickflip and a small group to Jack and Lydia’s apartment, who were at the reading and lived close by. We drank a shot of this Chicago liquor (“Molt”?) that tasted like orange juice mixed with dry cleaning products and drank beers and then Jack recommended to me Kenzaburo Oe, who I still haven’t read. Jack and Lydia’s living room was decorated with a print of Carmen Electra and a tiger holding hands on a desert island and a poster of a generic anime girl riding a skateboard.
-Just looked it up on Wikipedia, it’s actually called “Malort,” which means “wormwood” in Swedish.
10/03 (Day & Night)
-Here’s a quote from a Paris Review interview with Kenzaburo Oe. Not even sure what that really means, but I think I like it.
“The writer’s job is the job of a clown,” Oe said, “the clown who also talks about sorrow.”
-Rachel said, “Speaking from a place of privilege, phone data plans are extremely oppressive.”
-I messaged Alex from Blue Hawaii, who I know from Montreal, about getting Rachel and me guest list for a thing Blue Hawaii was DJing at in Chicago. When it came time to go out, Nathan, Rachel and me couldn’t get ourselves to leave the house, so we watched movies and did nothing instead, which felt really good. One movie was about Sam Rockwell living on the moon and choking a second Sam Rockwell while a robot equipped with emoticon technology resuscitates a third Sam Rockwell. I fell asleep during the third movie, which had Tom Cruise running towards things in it.
10/04 (Day & Night)
-Rachel gave me a ride to the airport at four am. Chicago was cool as hell, probably my favorite city on this trip so far. Here’s an excellent photo of Keller, Rachel and me.
-Wanted to get some work done, so I spent half the day at the Starbucks inside the San Francisco International Airport. Guy next to me was playing what looked like Sexy Sudoku on his phone, and someone else was reading “Men’s Fitness.” The sentences on the cover all contained verbs like, “Shred”, “Amp up” and “Max Out,” which made me wonder what would happen if I started regularly using verbs like “Shred” or “Amp up” in casual conversations.
-Got lost from the airport on my way to the bookstore in Oakland, was worried about being late but it hadn’t started yet when I got there. I met Alexandra Naughton, who was hosting the reading and who I am staying with for three days. The bookstore was beautiful and looked like it had been decorated by Ashley, with posters saying things like, “We are a temporary concentration of light” adorning the walls.
-Thought about “Maxing out my feelings” and “Shredding this reading” before going on.
-The crowd wasn’t super huge, but it was nice to do something simple and intimate. Compared to the Chicago reading, it didn’t feel like an alt lit reading at all, just a chill space. Alex opened the reading by reading a letter her lawyer had sent Janey Smith’s lawyer, then Thomas read love poems about different body parts, then Jenny read a story about a woman having sex with alien, then Jesse read dry one line poems that were funny, then I read a thing from New Tab. There was a weird subplot where the lights were on motion detection, which meant the performers had to move around a little while reading to ensure the lights stayed on.
-We went for a beer at this bar after the reading, but the music was too dumb and too loud and the bar was too sweaty, so no one seemed happy with our bar choice. I asked Alex where I could go to get food and she mentioned a pizza place near-by. I thought she meant some sort of convenience store that sells individual slices, but it was an actual pizza place that makes fancy-ish pizzas. I just wanted warm food, so I was like, “Just give me a vegetarian pizza” and the person was like, “What kind? It’s choose your own toppings” and I said, “Whatever, any kind” and he looked at me and said, “Can I propose something?” and then paused and added, “Pesto and pine nuts,” with emphasis on each ingredient. I think to wanted to impress me by proposing quirky pizza toppings, but I was just like, “Yeah, sure” and he looked disappointed a little that his creative proposition had generated zero reaction on my end.
-People say ‘Hella” a lot here, like “I am hella going to this party.”
-After the bar, we walked to Jesse’s car and went to a house party somewhere in Oakland. In the kitchen, I talked to a girl who told me the bean dip was excellent and then asked me if I liked tennis. I didn’t. I tried to think of a modern day professional tennis player but drew a blank and said “Pete Sampras,” who is probably no longer playing tennis on a professional level today and might even be 50 by now.
-Googled “Pete Sampras”, he’s 43 now and continues to play exhibition games from time to time, in which his serve is said to “still be able to approach 200 km/h.”
-Slept on the floor at Alex’s apartment.
10/05 (Day & Night)
-Chose yogurt at a grocery store in Oakland according to how cute the cow on the packaging looked
-Another subplot in my life right now is how my backpack is starting to fall apart, which doesn’t seem promising as I still have another two weeks+ of travel.
-I explored Oakland, or whatever you call where I currently am, then met Alexandra, Jesse and Alex’s friend, Amy, at a bar not too far from Alex’s apartment. Seems vaguely funny how I have to explain my entire life story to people when I meet them, like otherwise I automatically assume that my name, French accent, overall demeanor and appearance, none of that will make sense to anyone. I kind of feel like I want to stop explaining my life story to people and not make any sense at all and then just see what happens.
-Bought food from a taco truck and they gave me this chill-looking religious flyer.
-We went back to Alexandra’s apartment with Jesse and recorded a podcast for Alex’s series. I talked about how I felt like literary agents “weren’t real” or maybe “lived in forests away from human civilization.” We also talked about quitting literature & getting into sound effects.
10/06 (Day & Night)
-Spent almost my entire day working on a brand new essay. That’s a bad thing because I have two others essays + so much other shit I need to get done. It’s a good thing because I couldn’t think of anything else, so I just felt like I needed to empty my brain of this new essay and then I would be able to focus on other stuff.
-I read Jesse Prado’s chapbook, which I really liked. Here’s a page from it:
-A dad in the train was asking a little girl, “Are you warm? Are you cold?” and the little girl wasn’t responding, so he asked her, “Are you a fish?” and she was like, “What? No” and then, “No, wait, yes, I am a fish.”
-I walked into a Goodwill store in Oakland. I wanted to buy this one sweater, but then a lady near me asked her friend if she thought any of the clothes here had bedbugs on them and her friend said, “Sometimes,” which made me want to not buy it anymore.
10/07 (Day & Night)
-Didn’t sleep that well, feeling my stamina starting to dip for the first time on this trip.
-At the airport, I misread a sign that said “External Defibrillator” as “Eternal Defibrillator.”
-I went through the metal detector thing which didn’t beep, but then a security person asked me if I had anything in my pockets and I said, “Just my wallet” and she said, “I need to see it.” My wallet is totally fucked. I’ve had it since 2001 and it’s falling apart. I barely use it as a wallet, it’s more like a card holder for the weird cards I need from time to time, but don’t use regularly. It was really funny to show the security person my wallet and observe her reaction, like, “This broken, horrible thing is your wallet? Why? Just why?”
-Took some sort of pseudo-shower using a sink in the bathroom inside the San Francisco International Airport, which wasn’t fancy but made me feel refreshed and 10% more beautiful.
-Read Alexandra’s book in the plane.
-Los Angeles seems terrifying to me right now. Each new city I land in, it’s almost kind of like, how did I get here? I just sat inside a thing for a while and now I am here? How does that work again? I am, like, lost. I am not, but I am.
-Took the Super Shuttle from the airport to Lucy Tiven’s apartment, where I am staying for the next 3 days. I had never met Lucy before this, but she hugged me when she answered the door and was friendly and warm and welcoming and nice.
-Lucy’s job involves looking up for stock photography for a magazine that she works on. Her boss has particular tastes and seems to prefer “magical realism,” like pseudo-realistic photos with a unicorn photoshopped in the background, or maybe a cat the size of a human next to a human the size of a cat. When I got there, Lucy was looking up photos of potatoes.
-Later, we went to a friend of Lucy’s apartment and hung out and watched “Millionaire Matchmaker” on his extremely giant, borderline intimidating television set. I was low energy and talking was like this fucking nightmare of getting all tangled up into words so I felt, like, afraid that I wasn’t making a good first impression.
10/08 (Day & Night)
-I am almost out of Dexedrine, this is really sad. I keep thinking I have an endless supply of Dexedrine but then it turns out I don’t.
-Palms tree are fucking insane
-Here’s a place called, “Expression Market”
-Felt powerfully depressed all day.
-Got a ride from AJ, Lucy’s boyfriend, to the reading, which was located in “Culver City,” which didn’t sound like a real place. The venue we had was a bar with a space in the back that had a mic and cartoons projected on a screen behind whoever was reading. The crowd wasn’t huge, but it felt like a positive space, like a family and friends kind of reading. It was cool to see friends from Montreal like Devon and Matt from Majical Cloudz, who are on tour, Neal and Tyler, who are on tour with them, and Claire, who moved from Montreal to LA.
-Met Paige Gretsy, Paige was good.
-Talked to Melissa Broder before the reading and I asked her how she was and she said, “I think I am happy, is that bad?” and I said I was also happy in general I think and then we debated whether or not it was bad that they were both “happy.” We both didn’t want to say that we were happy, which sounded like a defeat or something. I said, “If I am happy, everyone I know will hate me.”
-Here’s my friend Tyler reading, Tyler’s good. I like how Tyler is a musician but he has better literary contacts than, like, a bunch of writers I know.
-The reading was pretty short all things considered, which was actually a positive thing, like everyone gave short but good performances and people seemed happy and in a good mood to socialize after the thing.
-Talked to Melissa again, she said “You’re so funny” and I said, “I am trying” and then I paused and I added, “You’re funny too” and she said, “I am trying.”
-Went to tell Lucy, who was smoking outside, that we were leaving and she said, “Where are you guys going” and I said, “I don’t know, some restaurant” and she said, “Do you know the name” and I said, “I don’t remember” and she said, “Is it walking distance or driving distance” and I said, “I don’t know” and then “I am like the worst messenger right now.”
-Across the street from the restaurant, there was an unknown store called “Animal Crackers,” which would have been a great theme for a restaurant.
10/09 (Day & Night)
-Really didn’t feel like spelling “Guillaume” so I told the barista at Starbucks that my name was “Gerald.”
-I had sort of made tentative plans with Mira, which obviously fell through. I didn’t have a car and it was impossible for me to get to where Mira was via public transport, so I was fucked. Felt depressed again after that, I feel like I am the only person who goes to LA to be depressed and then completely forgets to, like, go to the beach or something.
-How do people in LA know where everything is? It seems like you would have, like ten countries’ worth of stuff to memorize.
-There was a Buddhist temple located not far from where I was, so I went there and walked around gently and felt a little better, like someone had bought me ice cream or something. A few streets from the Buddist temple was a Zen Center, which I went to next. I thought, “I am home” while reading the sign. I felt like I wanted to move in, maybe organize readings there or something.
-Travelling and being on tour makes me really appreciate and admire Steve Roggenbuck travelling for an entire year. It’s hard to stay in the moment, it’s like I am always thinking about where I’ll be next.
-Started reading “The Disaster Artist” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, which is about the making of the movie The Room, “the greatest bad movie ever made.” Seems really inspirational how everyone thought Tommy Wiseau was insane until his movie became in an improbable success story. The key to The Room is that Tommy Wiseau was totally oblivious to true qualities of his work.
“I started showing them some of Tommy’s greatest acting hits. “Oh my God,” one of them said, laughing. “This is so terrible.” Another one, looking back so as not to be overheard by anyone, said, “Seriously, Greg. Does he think this is serious? This is real?” “Completely,” I said. “Tommy thinks this is the next Streetcar Named Desire.” “What’s he planning to do with this movie?” “Submit it to the Academy Awards.” Everyone laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. That was Tommy’s stated goal.”
10/10 (Day & Night)
-Took the Super Shuttle to their airport, finished The Disaster Artist in the plane to Seattle so I starting reading Kenzaburo Oe.
-Angela Shier and Jakob Meier came to get me at the airport. They live in Tacoma, which wasn’t too far from the airport, and they were both nice and easygoing. I gave them each a copy of my book, because why not.
-Bought this gigantic burrito thing from a corner store near the venue. While waiting for them to finish making it, I noticed that there was a copy of “Garfield Hams It Up” that wasn’t for sale lying around, so I started flipping through it and then briefly considered borrowing it and reading from it at my reading.
-Angela had bought a pinata for her reading. She was planning to smash it after she was done reading, which seemed like a good initiative.
-The reading was at Hollow Earth, a radio station. I talked to James Ganas, who I am staying with while in Seattle, then with random people. The crowd was a good size and pretty young, all early twenties or so. Brie read first, then Angela, whose pinata wouldn’t break after her reading so she had to tear it open manually like Hulk Hogan tearing apart a t-shirt, then James, who the crowd clearly liked. Then I read. Here’s Angela reading.
-After the readings, Calvin Johnson played. Calvin is a local music legend and was part of the band Beat Happening in the 80s and 90s. His set was maybe 5 songs total, along with some demented standup comedy in between songs, like just him telling long, complicated stories to the audience about DJing at a radio station when he was younger.
-Here’s Angela and me after the reading.
-We went to James’ house after, where Calvin was also staying. Calvin seemed drunk and like he no longer really wanted to socialize and just wanted to pass out somewhere. He was very nice and very gracious to everyone who wanted to talk to him after the reading, but by that point, around two am, it seemed like he was starting to give people weird vibes.
-I should mention, I think, that I have done zero drugs on this trip minus Dexedrine, which seems impressive.
10/11 (Day & Night)
-Woke up before James, so I went out to find food and walk around Seattle a little. Seattle, it turns out, is really cute and charming.
-Facetimed with Jill using the wi-fi connection from a Starbucks located inside a hospital.
-Really need to finish that fucking St. Bernards essay thing for Ryeberg, it’s, like, not funny anymore.
-One of James’ roommate owns a dog, so his house two cats and one dog in total. The dog, Huckleberry, wears a teal dog sweater and a little scarf thing when he goes outside for a walk, which makes him look like a college graduate. Forgot to take an Instagram of Huckleberry, but here’s a photo I found on Facebook:
-Angela came over to James’ house at night and we hung out and watched tv and drank beers for a bit. James showed us this tv show called “Tattoo Nightmares” in which people with bad tattoos of Elvis get retattooed something less horrible on top of their original tattoo, to cover them up.
-We went to get food at this local restaurant that had a photo of a smiling, younger Oprah Winfrey up on the wall, or at least I think that’s her.
-James suggested we play a board game for fun, so we played Trivia Pursuit. Though James is maybe ten years younger than me, and wasn’t even alive during that decade, he apparently knows way more than I do about the eighties.
10/12 (Day & Night)
-Bought this 2$ t-shirt for my friend Tyler from a Goodwill store in Seattle.