Yes. There is no “Where.” You can write anywhere.
I buy cards either at Wegmans or Target, because they seem to have the most interesting ones. I have nothing against Hallmark, but the store seems to have the same cards as everyone else. Plus, having those Yankee Candle car fresheners at the check out counter tests my strength to resist buying random things; I fail every time.
As I was talking to Becky last night, checking in on my favorite Brooklynites and letting her know that hanging out with Cole’s father was a blast, I came across one of those lovely blank cards I pick up for a rainy day, realizing that I love writing letters and that doing so is, in fact, a lost art. That thought was only a digression to our convertextion. The card reads: “Leap and the net will appear.” In parenthesis below, it authorizes a Zen thought/quote/saying/whatever. It is simply resonating.
Sometimes I do believe I should get out of Syracuse, taking a risk with a move in order to try something new. Sure, I have travelled. Sure, I went away for college, but that was only a two-hour drive. This past weekend was a great one for me: I met new people, I met authors, I heard out various beliefs, and I became more tolerant. The difference between travelling abroad for nine days, you get to know everyone in your group really well. The Gathering, the literature conference I went to at Keystone College, had that same effect. The exceptions included staying in the United States, being a four-day excursion, and hanging out with a large group of individuals who already knew each other. After the first day, I realized how out of place I felt.
That’s a very good thing.
The frustration did not stem from the others, but it sprouted from within myself. I hadn’t written in a couple years. I am not published. I don’t have an MFA. If there was a Liberal Spectrum, I was towards the bottom of that list. That did not matter, though. I was with a group of people who enjoyed the arts. That’s all that really mattered. Still, I was the new guy, and I had a hard time assimilating in at many moments, resulting in awkwardness.
II. Who’s Who a.k.a. Credit Where Deserved
My saving grace was definitely Don, who told me about The Gathering to begin with. If it wasn’t for him, I would have questioned my being there. I honestly don’t know anyone as cultured as he is, so trusting his judgment to being with was a definite no-brainer. Plus, he owns this really cool and convenient Bed and Breakfast in Brooklyn, aptly named At Home In Brooklyn (http://www.athomeinbrooklyn.com/). Needless to say, I felt like a lap dog at times, following him around, because of some unconscious feeling of being lost. I found my way, but it just took a couple days.
Syracuse has the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series. You can attend, obtaining tickets which cost you at least $40 (prices do vary). That’s it. So, if you attend all of these lectures it will cost you a pretty penny. Secondly, they may sign books, and–from what I understand–there is an option to have a group dinner with the author, but that’ll cost you more. However, with The Gathering, you have the ability to listen to the hour lecture by an author, you have an opportunity to have the author sign books, you can eat a meal at the same table, you can make small talk, you can hang out between sessions, and you can even have a glass of wine. All of this is included with room and board, meals, and workshops. You cannot go wrong with that deal.
M.T. Anderson is my new favorite author (http://www.mt-anderson.com/).
Let me back up. Thank you, Karen Stearns. To my Oneonta Alumni: bet you never thought you would hear those words out of my mouth. Because of Stearns’ obsession and push for young adult literature, I was able to ABSOLUTELY appreciate meeting M.T. Anderson and Suzanne Fisher Staples (http://suzannefisherstaples.com/).
Anyway, M.T., a.k.a Tobin, is an absolute riot. Not only is he intelligent, he doesn’t stop talking and his sense of humor is incredible. Since I was the only Syracuse native, I think he had a good connection to me, admitting to me that he went to Syracuse University. However, in an excellent act of dry comic timing, Anderson told me that he recently went to Syracuse for a funeral, saying my city was the perfect backdrop for one. I did reassure him of all the ongoing reconstruction the city is undertaking, which he appreciated. Everyone loves a wise ass.
But it is somewhat true. I walk around on lunch everyday. The streets really aren’t that filled as you would hope them to be. Tuesdays are the exception, because of the farmers market. Otherwise, it is what it is. The weather has been especially nice. That’s not making a difference. I drive to work and see vacant building next to vacant building. Something really needs to be done to restore and prove the potential Syracuse has.
A woman wrote into The Post-Standard, a letter to the editor, about an article she read in Forbes magazine, calling Syracuse “Willis Carrier’s Ghost Town” and stating, “Syracuse, the city that corporate welfare killed.” That’s not good.
Syracuse has such potential. We have such potential.
Donna Freitas (http://us.macmillan.com/author/donnafreitas), author and another close friend of Don’s (who isn’t?) fell right into place as inspiring. Her easy going personality shined whether she was speaking or hanging around. The unscripted conversation with Sharon Olds (http://www.sharonolds.net/) was very intimate and interesting as each author dove into personality, inspiration, and craft.
The last speaker, Arsalan Iftikhar (http://themuslimguy.com/), really opened my mind. That’s in short. I could go on, but I have tendencies to ramble. I could go on about the other authors, but I want to not aggravate readers with ramble after ramble, because my excitement encourages me to write like crazy.
I do have to mention a couple poets I have met: Gabe Kruis and Mischelle Anthony. I need to give credit where credit is deserved.
Upon my arriving early, Don greeting me and showing me the basic ropes, instead of taking a nap for everything to start beginning, I decided to play some pool. We were staying in a residence hall on Keystone’s campus, which made things so much more convenient. However, the place was not up-to-date in terms of quality. However, I’m not going to complain about the rooms. I, however, realized that I did not care to remember those lovely mattresses we slept on in college.
The pool table greeted me with open pockets; however, like several things observed from a distance: not so pretty up close. The cues on the table were not too warped, but some were held together with duct tape. The ends, if they were still on the cue, were completely bare with no chalk to powder their noses before the big event. Instead, they were the eyes of a hungover student upon wakening: the frame right before they rub their eyes, preceding their walk of shame.
The ball rack could not be described better than “broken and battered,” as it was held together by layers of masking tape. The last ball sitting upon the face of the table was the elusive 8, capturing my interest. I will get to that reasoning and revelation in a minute. The green fabric of the pool table was riddled with holes and scuffs, and dust and dirt lined the crevices along the walls. It was the face of a teenage ousider, who enjoyed picking the hell out of the zits decorating their features. The only thing missing was an attribute to compare braces to.
As for the exclusive 8, that black ball of determination, that significant end: death. Why was it by its lonesome? After fiddling with the wooden piece of junk, making sure to delicately place it upon the table before stationing the balls within its feeble embrace, I realized there was no cue ball. There was no white knight. There was an extra 1 ball, which someone had scribbled an 8 over. Yikes, I said to myself, and I had an immediate desire to wash my hands. Looking under the table, I don’t remember what coaxed me to do so, I found the cue ball stuck in the gutter. Ta-da! The ball was like a kidney stone, a Keystone kidney stone, passing through a tight urinary tract. I found out later the pockets were too small, which caused more blockages: the squinty eyes of the teenage pimple popper with an outdated prescription.
I put that revolutionized “Fake 8” aside, so I could effectively play.
Needless to say, I played five games of the worst pool I have ever played, because of the conditions. I could have driven a car with a pyramid of wine glasses on its roof over moguls better than these games of pool. I cannot wait to see my performance on an intact table now.
Don and I, also, ventured on the trails in back of the campus. We crossed the wobbling wooden bridge to the trails, and explored areas around the creek. It was actually beautiful, and a prime spot for college kids to have relations. For that, we watched where we stepped. Due to the slow current, we stumbled upon swarms of mosquitoes, and maybe black flies. I love it when they unintentionally fly up nostrils.
IV. Just Dessert
The food wasn’t bad. No, not at all. I ate like a champ, and I never exercised. My running shoes stayed in my car, and I couldn’t bring myself to get up for yoga each morning. For breakfast, we had variety of fruits to accompany granola french toast, pancakes, eggs, and bacon–everyone’s favorite food group. This was washed down with copious cups of coffee; I averaged about five cups each morning. The fish we had ended up on the dry side, but still maintained flavor. The turkey cutlets: amazing.
Then it came to the crack-filled cupcakes on Friday night: carrot cake. I have never had as much fun talking about carrot cake, if there were nuts involved for Tobin’s sake, and frosting. These cupcakes were pretty damn good. As writers, we commented on the cliche of labeling said carrot cake cupcakes, or ca-ca-cupcakes for short–with the little carrot emblem atop the frosting. How could we not? However, there was the perfect amount of frosting on those suckers which wasn’t teeth scratchily sweet. Plus, there were pieces of pineapple in the desserts, and that made me reluctant. I’m not a fan of pineapple, and the concept of pineapple nuggets infiltrating my ca-ca-cupcake wasn’t appealing. Needless to say, I enjoyed it due to the fact the pineapple nuggets could not be tasted.
It was funny how Tobin carried out the peanut ordeal, because peanut allergies are not that funny to begin with. He looks at me and says, “Just in case,” as he smoothly removed an epipen from his coat pocket and slammed it down in front of me. The sugar got to him later on in the evening.
Each night, we enjoyed a wine reception with Yellow Tail Cabernet, a white zin–yikes–and a white wine I was unsure of. I went straight for the red. It was the same red each night, which included Saturday when a colleague accidentally dumped a glass in front of their person, capturing most of the liquid in their notebook, and getting some on me in the process. Ironically, a Monsignor was giving the lecture that night. Perhaps, reading into this as a sign, my Catholicism devotion isn’t what it used to be?
V. When in/at College…
Do as college kids do. Unfortunately, for most of us, we are no longer 21. We cannot act the same, nor can we expect to be as vibrant. On Saturday night, it was time to enjoy Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was very reminiscent of Syracuse in some aspects. It got weird in other aspects.
Don and I went to Donnie and Trinka (I apologize for misspelling her name, if true) for a glass of wine before heading out to Scranton. These two individuals were so welcoming and on a whole other plane of existence. Maybe it felt that way, because I had just met them two nights before. However, the couple could be easily related to, and they helped me fit right in. They decided to take us downtown Scranton, which was to be an excellent time.
Our first stop was at the Lackawanna train station, which has been converted into a Radisson. The place was beautiful, because they kept the integrity of the construction. This makes me question, again, why we feel the need to knock things down to rebuild. Who said new is always good or beautiful? I think classic archetecture is absolutely breathtaking. Knocking down to rebuild. It’s definitely not saving anybody money. Why not revamp, not raize? Why start over, when you have the project started?
However, the night started off weird. The bar had good beer, and the bartender knew her brews. A bartender at a Radisson knowing her beer…hmm. It was a bit strange, but reassuring. So, Scranton: the home of The Office‘s Dunder Mifflin and Gerry McNamara. Gerry McNamara, assistant coach and former star of Syracuse University’s basketball team. What are we missing? What additive could pepper this situation?
Oh, yes, that guy. The guy in the corner spoke up, “Who’s from Syracuse?”
I raise my hand, and reply, “Yo! Howdy.”
The guy simply says, “Utica.”
U-Ti-Ca! U-Ti-Ca! U-Ti-Ca!
The home of the infamous greens and the satellite location for Dunder Mifflin. There we have it folks: the triad is complete. The trifecta of intermingling fact and fiction. The Triforce pieces have been put together, Link has killed Ganon, and Princess Zelda has been wakened and rescued.
U-Ti-Ca! U-Ti-Ca! U-Ti-Ca!
The crowd chants, the floor rumbles and shakes from pounding feet, and the hand claps are dubbed in, because that’s the latest trend. No more scratching records, because it’s all programmed through an iPod/iPad, enabled with a press of a button.
Talent, or stinking pile of B.S.?
The next morning, after the bar hopping and sandwhich scarfing, was not a pleasant experience. I totally did not get up for yoga. I responded to Don’s text from the following night, which I remembered (thankfully).
Don: “8:45 alarm for me. We start at 9:30 and breakfast is “continental” (nothing)
I responded with the justification of coffee overindulgence. I must have accidentally deleted the text, otherwise it would have been in quotes. I go back: downtown Scranton was fun. I had forgotten what it was like to go out for a night in a new city. There were a lot of good bars with really quality beer.
I, unfortunately, did not get to read Zach’s poem, because there was little time to be had. It would have been my first time reading poetry in front of an audience. I was nervous and a little self doubting, but I was ready to leap. I even began some poetry while I was at the conference, which is definitely not like me to try. I was simply opening my mind. I was ready to go and let loose.
I still am.
I play with words and invisible objects.
A mind, a pen and a piece paper have the best relationship ever.
"Remember this--if you shut your mouth, you have your choice."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald