Friday, November 21, 2014

"I'm still totally confused about poetry and about living" -- Olena Kalytiak Davis

Olena Kalytiak Davis signs her newest collection at a NYU Creative Writing Program Reading, 11/20/14.

A windblown day. A hop-the-bus after workday in Jersey day. A crawl up the spiral parking garage, feed the meter, wait for NJ Transit ticket to unstick from the machine day.

But then you're off! The sun sets and the bus lights don't work. Can't read, can't write, but that's fine--talk and catch up. Wallow in traffic, realize Port Authority is way out the way from the Village, so convince bus driver to let you jump off early. (I never convince bus drivers. I leave that work to more charming people.)

Search for a hot cut of coffee, pass the Bobbi Brown store, swoon, Oh, lipstick! Your event is starting but oh, oh, oh this one is pink. A clay, a rose, a pretty pretty pretty.


But, coffee! Oh, coffee! Large, Black. Thanks.



We got there! We found it! We... can't get in! We can hear through the windows but the sign on the top door says, "Reading in Progress. Please use the basement steps."

But the door to those steps is locked!


I think, How funny, if we listen from below. I'll stay in the cold.

Some people are charmed, and when they knock, are let in. I just follow them around, grinning.

Jericho Brown is warm, charming, magnetic. I'm new to his work and just soak it in.

We came there for Olena.

I understand we live in the age of YouTube, but I have never seen her read. Like her work, her speaking style is frantic, scattered--unlike her work, when she speaks she leaves one idea for the next, quickly. She rarely finishes one thought. Her accent is, delightfully, Alaskan. (I imagined she'd have a dark, smoky Eurpoean sound. But this is so much better.)

She immediately admitted she was confused. Her 2003 book is being reprinted, her newest collection drops next week. She worries she's devolving, that this new collection isn't as good.

She's not sure she should write poetry anymore. She's not sure anyone should write poetry anymore.

(The remarkable thing is not that she has all these doubts. The remarkable thing is that she shares them with us.)

She's fixated on some ideas from one short story out of a collection she can't even pronounce the title of. She reads this author's work to us instead.

She reads new work and it is searing and honest. It leaves one audience member concerned about the author committing suicide. ("But it's a nice poem," the audience member assures her. Probably not a case where it's worth it to start the "the art is not the artist" conversation, huh.)

The reading is short and leaves us jittery. It's cold but we walk around and shake things out and find a Paleo cafe where they make us pricey, Paleo food (I thought they were supposed to hunt/gather it?) and we write, and write, and shake and write.

The bus to New Jersey rocks us to sleep. We are spent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brunch and Brew City

I went back to Milwaukee to visit people. (Admittedly, I didn't even come close to seeing all the people I love. It was a short trip. I'll be back.)

I got in late Friday night and was greeted by a Midnight Dairy Buffet--cheese curds, frozen custard, om nom nom.

Sunday brunch is a MUST.







Even though it was snowing and the sun set at 4:30 p.m., I had to walk after brunch.












I walked from Juneau Park to Colectivo at the Lake. Back in my day it was called Alterra, but the vibe hasn't changed.



I used to walk six miles from the Marquette campus to visit this cafe. Epic Walks are a part  of me now, but I learned this about myself in college.

This trip made me wonder things like: would I be the same person today if I'd gone to a different university? Would I have eventually learned to take long walks, cook, read novels cover-to-cover, and live in bohemian cafes in another location?

I don't know. But I discovered these things in Milwaukee, so it will always be special to me.

I feel so lucky that Milwaukee and the people I loved there shaped me. I will always carry those four years with me and be proud of who I grew into there.


Two cafes I hung out in were playing Arcade Fire. So hip, MKE, so hip.



On my last day in town I walked around Bayview--though it was 17 degrees out!


Ahh, the Milwaukee Public Market, which I loved from its opening weekend my sophomore year. More great vendors have moved in since, and it was a great place to drink rose tea and warm up.







The art museum was closed that day. It was a foreboding sight in the snow.



Ended my stay in Riverwest.


I would like to tell a Riverwest Co-op story: I walked in through the 17-degree weather and my face was so chapped it was red. My hands hurt, even though I was wearing gloves.

I asked if they sold any hand lotion, but it had to be in a 3-oz-or-less bottle because I was about to get on a plane. They didn't have anything like that for sale, but dusted off an old free sample tester and let me take it for free. It was a beeswax lavender lotion, and it was so comforting I could have cried.


I almost couldn't tear myself away from People's Books Cooperative, especially this ZINE LIBRARY:


But I did. I made my flight and came home, to do many things, but also, to make zines with kids:


Daytrippin... to Chicago

Sometimes you rent a Corolla with Texas plates for the weekend and go two hours due south, to the Windy City.

It felt good to be on the road.

Listen there is so much more to Milwaukee than the Fonz and I know this and celebrate this.

But also. We need to talk about the Mars Cheese Castle:



I mean it isn't MADE of cheese, but it houses lots of cheese. And it definitely is a castle.


Friends!!


I blinded this poor ladyfriend with my flash!!


Newlyweds!


Riverside, IL in a snowstorm is quite haunting:



Onward! To a cozy tea and dessert date!