Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Greetings from Charm City

Greyhound Discovery Pass

Well, my trip is finally underway. It all feels a bit surreal so far, but then anything heavily anticipated has a tendency to induce a slight out-of-body sensation. I'm currently in Baltimore, on what is officially day #2 of my 60-day Greyhound pass (pictured above). I meant to make this update last night, but after a day of travel and work I was so wiped that I fell asleep halfway through the Village Voice's article on Damon Dash and woke to the whoosh of katydids in the morning.

But I should back up. Yesterday Catherine took off half a day of work to help me get ready, and I spent the morning packing and re-packing and wandering around my house looking for forgotten items. After an early lunch, she dropped me at the Greyhound station around noon. My bus was at 1:30, so I killed time reading and emailing (the first of what will be dozens of Greyhound station time-killing sessions). The bus ride was blessedly uneventful.

When I arrived in Baltimore, I caught the light rail toward the city's vast north side to visit Ric Royer. Ric was recommended by both Danny Snelson and Cecilia Corrigan, and he kindly offered me a place to stay for the night after our interview. When I boarded the light rail, the sun was shining and the weather was pleasant — though the humidity was noticeably more intense than in Philly. But in the middle of my 15-minute train ride, the sky opened up and rain started coming down in sheets. It was the kind of rain that seemed like it could end any minute, so one just stands under an overhang and waits — and then it starts coming down harder, and the thunder starts up, and that's that. I threw on a poncho and ventured out for the 0.8-mile (mostly uphill) walk ahead of me. My gear and books were fine under the poncho, but I got thoroughly soaked. Within 10 minutes of starting my walk in the rain, naturally, the weather cleared up and the sun was shining again. A fine start to what will surely be a grueling trip.

Ric's neighborhood, however, is just lovely. Though his address is in Baltimore, he lives way north of the city. Up here it feels like a suburb, full of old houses with big lawns and lush vegetation all over. Huge trees line the streets. Ric lives on the second floor of a house with hardwood floors, nice molding, and big stand-up radiators. And you can tell he's had a lot of experience hosting transient writer-types: one bedroom is apparently dedicated to the purpose, with a bed, desk, reading chair, and a Swiss-made Hermes 3000 typewriter from the late '50s. Decorations in the room include photos of Audrey Hepburn and André Breton.

at Ric Royer's

The interview went just fine. Ric invited over his friend Adam Robinson, the man behind Publishing Genius Press, and the three of us had a discussion about the writing scene in Baltimore and what it means to call oneself a poet today. Ric would like to re-claim the term "hobby" for his poetic work, and get over the stigma of having "a hobby" in the sense of building model trains and airplanes alone in one's basement. Jacket2 is launching in January, so you can hear the full (edited) interview in just six or seven months —!

at Ric Royer's

After the recording, Ric and I walked to a nearby sports bar for dinner. I had the shrimp salad sandwich, and Ric got a comically large pile of hot turkey slices with gravy and french fries. We talked about baseball and watched the Orioles come back to tie it up in the the bottom of the 9th. A successful day done.

Now I'm going to send a few more emails and start packing my bags. I'm interviewing Tina Darragh and Peter Inman in Washington, D.C. later today, so I have a short Greyhound ride and some D.C. public transit wrangling ahead of me. Looks like there's a possibility of more thunderstorms later, so I'll keep the poncho within reach.


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