I was feeling like Richard Hugo in his big American car heading for his next triggering town: a couple of poem ideas bouncing around in my head, my box of TJ's Bite Size Everything Crackers beside me (these are the BEST: garlic, onion, sesame, poppy, and caraway seeds on top--crunchy, not too salty, and 10 calories a pop), and, before you know it, Ryegrass, Washington. And then I'm crossing the mighty Columbia, sailing into Grant County ("Nation's Leading Potato County") and taking a quick peek at the Wild Horses Monument on my right, dozens of wind turbines to my far left . . . and then heading into the Columbia Basin Federal Reclamation Project (note to self: Google that). And then I see a sign for the Grand Coulee Dam. I had no idea it was accessible from I-90 (I almost went for it, but as it turns out very good thing I didn't, unless I wanted to be negotiating a city I've never been to in total darkness). A few more exits, the town of Washtucna, and then the gas light goes on and I'm within the city limits, but OOPS--unreadable .doc-saved attachment be damned--I have no idea where I am, where the hotel is, and no answer when I dial the events coordinator.
But not to be daunted by Spokane (it's such a cute and chipper town with tons of charm and very few chains; instead there are churches, spires, and lots of one-of-a kind stores) I buy a map where I get gas, and except for having the wrong address (it take me to The Sports Arena), I manage to find my hotel. Success! And how sweet and cozy it is, with a Catholic cathedral just outside my window (bells ring on the hour!), and many, many hours to look forward to of not having to comb out tangled hair, read Fox in Sox, listen to The Grinch Who Store Christmas, break up fights, or explain to one of my 97 students what a summary is. Bleeeeeeeeeeeees.
And once I get it my room, I am greeted with (1) directions to the hotel (how handy!!), (2) a bag of goodies, including a bottle of really nice wine, a bunch of E Washington U souvenirs, a copy of Kathy Fagan's LIP (cooool), (3) and a very detailed and dummy-proof (and I need it) itinerary. I was very sad to miss Jane Smiley's reading due to computer glitch and departure delays, but can't wait to hear/see Charles Baxter, David Suzuki, William Dietrich, Ken Letko, Samuel Green, Oliver de la Paz, Laurie Lamon, Kate Trueblood, and everyone else in the coming days.
My first panel is at 9:30 am on Friday (4/17). Oliver, Ken and I will be talking about the drafting and revision process using "actual" drafts of a finished poem. Since I don't keep my drafts (mainly because I have a fear of hoarding), I've been forced to showcase a poem I just finished this past week. Not to bore anyone to tears, but the poem ("Santiago Says," about my dental hygenist, among other things), went through 20-30 revisions.
After that I plan to run in Riverside Park, then eat at Soulful Soups.
Spokane is clean, clear, dry, and seems a fun town to poke around in. I know I'm in the right place because (1) they still have these quaint mom-and-pop Chinese-American restaurants, (2) all that sage and grass separating me from Seattle feels really, really good, and (3) free wireless.