A little over a month ago, my good friends Tyler Gobble, Layne Ransom, and Christopher Newgent invited me to tag along on their trip to Akron, OH to read at The Big Big Mess Reading Series. The timing was perfect. I needed to get away for more than one reason and this group of pals, was just the group of pals I needed to get away with.
|As long as I'm not driving, I love road trips|
The fun began immediately. From pop-locking in Layne’s parking lot to stopping for bathrooms and snacks at a Dairy Queen/KFC/Long John Silver/Marathon gas station, we had a blast. Sigur Ros in the speakers peppered with conversations about treacherous showers, the proper use of dandruff shampoo, and a multitude of other weird things writers talk about when stuck in a car together for about five hours. Only this didn’t feel like “stuck”. This felt like “together at last”.
Somewhere along the way, I decided to become ridiculously excited about Akron. I already love traveling and was really excited about making the trip with friends, but I wanted to treat Akron the way people treat New York City, LA, or Paris. I wanted to be ecstatic.
|Nick is a little bow-legged. You know what that means...|
|Mike was funny and quiet. But mostly funny.|
|Sam is maybe a ghost. He also maybe slept in that hat.|
- Right after arriving, Nick asked if anyone would like to ride with him to the bus station to pick up Joshua Kleinberg and see a bit more of Akron. Tyler and I went with him. Looking at the snowy hills in Akron, I mentioned my 25 List and that sledding was on it. Nick was immediately down to make that happen. Then, Josh fell into the backseat with me all handshakes, crossed legs, and immediate apologies for having left bunches of paper on the floor of Nick’s car from a class he’d dropped the previous semester. Josh was everything.
- Our Indiana crew is a bunch of cuddlers, bunch of queers. We all piled on their blue couch and cuddled and laid there and kept chatting with the Akronites as though we weren’t a ridiculously affectionate group of friends. As though we are not a ridiculously affectionate group of friends.
- For dinner, we went to this neat sandwich shop, Mr. Zubs, where the menu items were named after characters from movies. I got the Rick Deckard. The shop played mostly badass tunes from 50’s and 60’s, and you know me. I couldn’t help but dance like a fool. Nevermind the fact that I apparently had a song in my heart and hadn’t STOPPED randomly singing to myself since we got there. I don’t know how they put up with me.
- There was a cool record shop next to Zubs and I got Sam Cooke CD and two Judy Garland records for my roomie/love, Spencer.
- After a few PBR’s and a rousing game of pool with Josh (EVERYTHING) the reading began and it was FANTASTIC. This was my first time seeing Josh read and all his words hit me in the face and my heartbeat hum. My pals were ON IT. Layne was all cool and “What up, Akron?”. Tyler was all man-pants and a Hooters Tee (2X). The Newg was all shirt then no shirt then reading poetry from an iPad. Nick Sturm was so annoyed by my singing he asked me to do it in front of the crowd. So I did. I sang country music because why not? Bottom line. The Big Big Mess was a gorgeous mess.
- Apparently, you can get some fantastic grilled-cheese in Akron and we tried to taste it, but the place was packed and our hearts were too massive for a table at their restaurant. We went to Pita Pit. And it was excellent.
- Driving back to the Akron Magic House we listened to so many songs I loved and I kept asking Nick “Who is this?” and “What’s the name of this song?” and saying, “God, I love Akron”. Also, we listened to Lil’ Wayne and I lost it. Completely lost it.
- After drinking and talking and mostly laughing for the rest of the night, us four hoosiers attempted to sleep on one fold-out couch-bed (buncha cuddlers). That lasted for about half an hour. Then people migrated to other couches and the spare bed. Soon, it was just Layne and I in the bed, but we stayed close to one another. We were warm and heart-shaped.
- The Akronites brought us grapes in couch-bed, then made us coffee and waffles. Everything was so good.
- After breakfast, Josh and Bethani came over, I can only assume for hugs and pictures since that’s what I forced them to partake in. Then we decided that today would be the day I started my list. Today would be the day I went sledding.
|Josh is thinking, "Bethani"|
- Mike and Nick knew of some awesome sledding hills since they are native Akronites, so we left for Wal-Mart to get sleds, but their sleds were like 20 bucks because they don’t care about sledding poets. I was near ready to give up on the adventure, but Nick Sturm is a dinosaur and he roared, “No”. The Newg suggested Lowe’s. Their sleds were 6 bucks. We all bought one. Tyler was upset he didn’t buy two.
- We showed up at the sledding hills like a RagTag Crew of Snow-Slayers from Hell. We were totally stoked about all the “fresh powder” on the hills and immediately got into it. And there I was. Sledding for the first time. And it was perfect. The wind was all over me and I wasn’t even cold! Just giggle-fits and huge-grins.
|Akron hills > Muncie hills|
- Sledding left us tired and wind-worn, so we warmed up by a fire pit and shared apple cider from a jug. Then Tyler and Nick showed me how athletic poets can be by throwing around a football. Really well. Who knew?
|We're going home, Layney-Baby|
The thing is, at the end of all this, what I enjoyed more than completing something on my list, was how much everyone else seemed to enjoy being part of this with me. They wanted to see me go down that hill for the first time, and wanted to take all my silly pictures. Writing is serious business. Writer’s don’t always have to be so serious. I’m ridiculously excited for AWP.
Hope to see you there.