Brooklyn & Alaska
Brooklyn & Alaska
The first time I met Matt Nelson, he gave me a bottle of cognac. It was the middle of the day and I’d gone to Mellow Pages library to see what the room was all about. I’d heard small presses were mailing their books there, and people in Brooklyn (and beyond, of course) were coming to the space both to take out the small press books on loan, but also to see readings by authors.
This was 2014, when Mellow Pages, ran by Jacob Perkins and Matt Nelson was tucked into a building at 56 Bogart Street in Bushwhick. The building was all communal artist spaces, pop up galleries and performance rooms. Mellow Pages was the first door on the left when you walked up the steps off the street.
I gave Matt copies of three of my books, Tollbooth, Everything Neon and Or Something Like That, and like I said, he gave me as much as I wanted of a bottle of cognac. I sat on the couch there in the library and shot the shit with him for a while. It was amazing to look around on the walls and see books by so many people I knew from online. And half of them, it seems now, that I’d eventually meet at a Mellow Pages event.
The second time I saw Matt Nelson, he gave me a taco. For no reason, I mean I walked in and he was eating his dinner and said, “Oh shit, hi Bud. Want a taco?”
I was there to do a reading at Mellow Pages for Matt’s birthday. I read a piece that was a bunch of quick capsule reviews of my corner bodega, and if there’s nothing in the city I love more than a good bodega I can walk to in my socks, Mellow Pages was a close second to the title.
I thought that was nice as fuck for someone to give away half their dinner to me on their birthday. And I still think it’s nice.
Even though I live all the way uptown in Washington Heights, I found myself getting on the train sometimes once a week and making the pilgrimage down to Mellow Pages, either to see an event, throw my own event or just to hang out with the people who were always kicking around the strange little spot packed so tight with books.
In early 2015, I heard that Mellow Pages was closing down, and its founders Jacob Perkins and Matt himself, were leaving New York City.
The closing was just temporary, and Mellow is still open; it’s changed hands and changed locations. Dolan Morgan runs it now out of Silent Barn.
But it didn’t surprise me to hear that someone else was leaving town because it happens often. There’s probably a clock ticking down on nearly everyone living in and around NYC who wasn’t born here (having family to tie them to the city). Plus of course, there’s the expense factor, it’s hard for artists to live in NYC and make rent, there’s so many better places in the country to make that happen (I’m told) like Detroit, like Pittsburgh, like maybe even the moon.
But what did surprise me about Matt and Jacob’s next move post-Mellow, was that they were going to Alaska to become ice fishermen.
There were some posts about Matt and Jacob’s big fishing expedition that loaded around on Facebook and I followed along from home, thinking, what a weird fucking turn of events? Most people in the NYC literary scene are teachers doing classes at a local university … but here were two guys, doing the complete opposite of that.
I saw the fishing exhibition end and heard that Matt wound up in California, back where he lived. He came out with an ebook with Shabby Doll House called Please Don’t Make Me A Character and a chapbook with Big Lucks called An Apology for Apologies
Jacob posts painting he’s working on now, and is doing home renovations. His paintings are dope. If you have a wall, buy one.
So yeah, life does carry on and people keep making their art, wherever that is away from where you are. You obviously don’t have to live in the hub of it all, a college town, or even luckier, a major metropolitan area. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can make your art, it just helps to have a place where people gather …. a salon of people making beauty who get together and have a good time and inspire each other.
Anyway, that’s what Mellow Pages was and what mellow Pages still is.
When I started doing this column, I thought about the people making art who aren’t just doing academic ‘white collar work’ and I wanted to shout out to writers who were working weird jobs, going out on adventures. First stop on that …. I thought I’d shout at Matt Nelson and see how he was making out.
Do you have a write up anywhere of your ice fishing expedition that I can read?
Matt: That sounds cool, but we weren’t ice fishing. Alaska in the summer isn’t all that warm at night or morning, but during the day, if it’s sunny, you’re wearing a t-shirt under your bib and nothing else.
Ah shit, that looks pretty green. I guess I should tell the illustrator to stop drawing cartoons of polar bears and icebergs …
Hahaha, yeah, no man, no icebergs and no polar bears. Back to your question though, I did keep a journal for my own purposes. Almost every night I would bunker down in my van and try to write what all went down. If I was too kaput or forgot, I’d come back to the journal the next day, or the day after the next and throw in all I could remember. The only people I’ve shown are my grandma and one other person when he asked. I don’t plan on trying to push the document on anyone else; it was meant for me to observe the people and the landscape, create a dictionary of fishing terms, diagram the boat. Stuff that either interested me or that I thought would help me the next day to differentiate between the cork line and the lead line. Sometime I could remember my time through, which is something that same grandma taught me when I was a kid. Then again, by the end of season, after you’ve gone through the same motions so many times and seen the same results, my entries became a reflection of the general sentiment floating on the water, shorter and shorter days of: wake up, fish, go home. There are only so many ways to say, “We didn’t catch shit.”
What was it like on the boat?
Being on the boat was itself a job. I bet you feel this too when you’re up some girder hundreds of feet above the not-so-soft earth, that you’ve got to complete some hand-eye action, but before that, you’ve got to navigate your feet and torso and head into the safest position to complete that action.
Oh yeah, I get that, half my day at work feels like just trying not to explode, melt, or fall to my death.
In a very basic reduction, sitting in a chair in front of a computer in most cases means you have reduced the risk of everyday movement. Your work space or vessel, in the case of the computer job, is an office building or your home or the coffee shop. Places re-enforced to cement and meant to stay upright, stable, with rounded corners and no open windows above the . A boat is not secured to anything unless it’s got the anchor set, and even then, you’re still riding the current. When we were fishing, especially the first two weeks, I had to battle just to keep my ass between port and starboard and not overboard. The floor of the deck has aids to increase your chance of keeping your feet, like grit painted into the wood and rubber mats with tread. But your best chance of staying on board is balance. It took me a long time to find that.
So once I got my footing and knew I wasn’t going to get sick, then I could learn how to do my job. I’m far from the right person to ask how to fish, but from an outsider’s perspective, from the way I experienced it, these are the essentials. You have to have a of a good group–most everyone worked in strategic teams beyond the company boundaries of the processing plants, more so based on ability and long term loyalty, had to have reliable and good gear, good knowledge (my skipper had been fishing for just shy of 40 years in the inlet and you’d be dumber than me to think he didn’t track where the fish were, year after year), plus good skill, and good luck. But my job didn’t include all that. Mine was easier: go here, pull this, throw that, pick, bleed, wash, repeat. That was when there were fish to catch mind you. And it was tough, mindful work. Easy in print, but you had to pay attention. You could ruin a set or the boat if you weren’t thinking. You could hurt yourself too. My arms were burned and cut and banged by the ropes, but there were other ways to be seriously hurt.
What’s the worst you’ve been hurt on a job?
When we took the net off the drum and clipped it to tow line, attached to the steel rod flying above the cabin (done so for better net-maneuverability), the line had a nasty habit of getting pinched in the fairleads on either side of the power roller. If you weren’t watching for it, even if you’ve been warned a thousand times like I had, you could still get a good snap-whack on the head. I got hit in the head a few times. On occasion, I had my hand stuck in the web as we were setting the drift. Scary since the net is rolling backwards and out and it’s not stopping for your hand. Luckily I lost only my glove. I’d like to chalk the various mishaps as par for the course, but to be honest, these were just greenhorn mistakes. Even the best fishermen will get cut down once in awhile, but I on the boat I was a kid again, learning by sticking my hand on the iron. I got mad at myself a lot. For not knowing. For getting myself hurt. For failing, a lot. That was always the biggest fear and cause of pain: not knowing what I was doing. Even something as simple as keeping a lookout for fish, I was bad at that. Looking! I was bad at looking! I’ve looked for my whole life, and I consider myself a good eye. But when it came to spotting a jumper, what they call a fish clearing the top of the water, I couldn’t be sure I saw one for the longest time. When there’s a wind, and the waves are moving, a splash could be a sockeye slamming back under or just two currents running into each other. You had to be sure because you steer the boat toward the jumpers, layout toward where you think the fish will be.
Hey Bud, you ever been fucked up on a job?
Little Things. Broke my hand. Broke my nose. I used to be more careless because I just worked in people’s backyard doing masonry work, not oil refineries and power plants. One time I fell and knocked my leg into a pile of cinder blocks and rebar, and ripped my leg open down to the bone. My boss at the time got nervous and ran tot he work truck and like, fainted. Ha. I thought he was getting his phone to call an ambulance or something. Nah, he was had a fainting spell because he doesn’t like blood.
When I do a job, I want to do it right. Not perfect, but right. And when I couldn’t do it right, for what I thought was a long time, I got down on myself. I got lost looking. I’d stare for hours from the bow theoretically checking our 3 to 9 o’clock perimeter for fish, completely space out. I’ve never hit upon such levels of space. And the funny thing is, after scanning a moving flatness for so long, it does funny things to your regular sight when you look away from the plane. I swear I’ve never really seen 3D until Alaska. I saw clouds that looked heavy. Far out mountains suddenly were plunging into and out of the water like giants on fire when the sun set. Perspective was a funny thing, both literally and figuratively. But I learned and I adapted. Didn’t fuck up in the same ways. To wrap this question up in some clumsy fashion, after I knew what I was doing, could roll the net, throw the buoy, tie up to dock, spot a jumper from two net lengths away and tell you what direction it was moving, uphill or down, the job then became about duration. How long could I last? Do I want to go home yet? Do I want to give up? In a losing year, after being knocked down to a neophyte’s boot scrubber, that was the question I constantly asked myself. What’s keeping me here?
That’s some beauty right there. Have you always been into fishing? Are you now?
I think the first time I had a shot of whiskey was right after I caught my first salmon out between Gig Harbor and Vashon Island. It was a ceremony, although self-made, of the skipper, my dad’s boss, who poured a shot for the fisherman, and then one for the sea. I remember in college skipping Euclidian Geometry to go fishing and smoke a joint at Greenlake. One of my best friends took out all the groomsmen fishing before the wedding. But I think that fishing was a part of my geography. Growing up in Seattle, there was always someone or some member of someone’s family who was going fishing or wanted to go fishing or had plans to go fishing. That sounds like I should know a thing or two, about fishing, but I don’t. I can’t tell one rod brand from the next let alone what kind of weight and lure you need for a rainbow trout. The fishing we were doing is much different than what most imagine fishing to be. We drifted a gill net of three shackle lengths totaling nine hundred ft. behind us. There are no hooks, but drifting retains some of the classic tropes of fishing in that there are no guarantees of a catch. I loved and hated that aspect and what it contains. The surrounding myth-mist that never seems to burn off the stoic fisherman. The stories around the horseshoe pit or bar counter. The grit it takes to make this your life. The courage and humor and hard-won reticence toward other people who live on land. But as for fishing, the activity, it’s never been something I do without outside suggestion. Jacob on the other hand fishes any day he can. How about you? You fish?
Bud: The first time I can remember fishing, I was probably four years old and standing on a pier in Seaside Heights, NJ. My uncle was teaching me how to cast, and I reached back and threw the line loose and went to cast out on the bay, but instead of casting out in the bay, I got the hook stuck in my Aunt Dawn’s face. And she started screaming and my uncle had to pull the hook out and damn, I don’t think I’ve been fishing more than twice after that.
When I met you, you worked at a bookstore (Center for Fiction) and ran Mellow Pages with Jacob Perkins. How’d he talk you into coming along on the fishing trip or was it your idea?
Matt: I think what happened was a corresponding action:reaction type of thing. Here’s the scene. Jacob had just gotten off the phone with his dad. He and I were at Mellow, drinking some after work beers. Jacob and his dad had planned for just the two of them to do the season together, pick up a deckhand midway if they needed it, but Jacob thought they needed someone. All of this is fuzzy, due to the suds, but after the dad conversation, either I asked if I could go or maybe he asked on a lark. I wanted to go. I knew that for sure. Every summer Jacob would jaunt off into the north western ether without a worry. For the past two summers I was held back to run Mellow Pages–with a lot of necessary help from friends. But I’d always envied that freedom to get up and leave and make enough money for, hopefully, your upcoming year. I gave Jacob a lot of shit whenever he’d come back, complain about late night events or missing books. Little did I know that life back in the lower 48, running around trying to keep Mellow afloat, was a lot easier than the fishing sprint. But back to the point, the short answer is I don’t know who asked whom, but I consciously tried to secure my seat on the boat. It all sounds funny now, me telling Jacob I never get sea sick, that I work hard and don’t need sleep, working him over trying to convince him. I know he had to call his dad and certify my capability. Jacob was putting his word on the line taking me on. That only bolstered my confidence that I could do it. I was excited to go.
What were some of the coolest things that happened during the initial run of Mellow Pages when it was at 56 Bogart Street?
What do I remember from Mellow Pages? Shit. I remember the first night with Jacob and Jon and the nails. I remember carting my books in a laundry cart the 2 miles from my home in Bed-Stuy to Bushwick. I remember that blue crappy IKEA pullout couch that mostly was pushed to a corner, Jacob and I carried it from Williamsburg one night we decided not to sleep and in the morning we were walking by the bridge and it was on the street outside a new condo like a sign that it was meant for something better. In fact, getting pretty much as the furniture from the great clearance warehouse called the streets around the Bushwick lofts. I remember Eric Nelson coming in before we were even open cementing a life long friendship. I remember the opening party, how packed it was because it was in the old space which was so small, it barely took 20 people before you were crawling over people, meeting Jordan DeBor and Chris Seder there. I also met my neighbor Donald Breckenridge who became a mentor and lifesaver of mine. I remember how back then we’d line the laundry cart with a garbage bag and fill it with ice and beer with a pay-what-you will jar next to it during the first readings. I remember the first event I planned that was supposed to be an open mic type thing where you read your favorite section from a book for two minutes with a complicated tie-in with independent bookstores and stamps and you could get a free beer and Justin Taylor was kind enough to come and read Barry Hannah. We planned for it to be this big event, and asked a different gallery if we could use their space, but not many people showed up so after we just went back to Mellow and drank and pulled books off the wall reading lines we liked. I remember Lazy Fascist doing a secret reading, meeting Kirsten and Cameron Pierce and J David Osborne. I remember dancing with Farnoosh Fahti when she first read. I remember when Suzanne Scanlon read with Aidan Arta in our Reader+Fan series repeated once later with Dan Magers and Esme Hoffman. I remember playing dice for dimes with Josh Boardman, he and I bonding over Strand stories and dandruff. I remember doing a project for a Dubliners class (I was still finishing up school) where I filmed a race between me drinking a bottle of whiskey or me reading the whole book cover to cover, whichever came first (neither), and an elderly couple showed up, confused about this little room in a warehouse of galleries and at the image of a bearded man in the corner drinking liquor before 5 and asking them what their favorite story of the collection: “Araby” and “Eveline”, which surprised me since those are from the youth-themed section. I remember taking Daniel Adler’s picture almost every week, talking to him about his novel in progress. I remember seeing Jessica Freeman even more than that, talking about Wittgenstein and libraries and life. I remember trying to rig up a projector for Cassandra Troyan to see an amazing accompanying horror film for her reading. I remember Ken D’Amato painting and giving to us our illustrious sandwich board. I remember walking the aisles of AWP 2013 trying to convince small presses to give me free books for something that wasn’t even real yet. The boys of Birds, LLC were super kind as well as Matt Bell who introduced me to JA Taylor who gave so many Mudluscious books. I remember meeting Lucas Pinhero at the exact right moment. I remember all the mail. All the mornings making coffee and buying a bagel at Elmo’s or Brooklyn Natural. A kid named, I shit you not, Sid, short for Siddhartha, who always showed up early for a free cup of coffee and usually a loose cigarette from me. I remember the taco truck and the booksellers across the street. Especially Dave who grew up around Mercer Island and had the coolest leather jacket. I remember going to the tiny Kings County (RIP), to Wreck Room (RIP), and then eventually to the Narrows, Tutu, Tandem (RIP), Gotham City Lounge, Lone Wolf if I could convince people to go that far. Going to Molasses, Human Relations, Blonde Art Books. The keg Argos rented for their fundraiser which was the first event in the new space before we were even in there. Meeting Liz Clark Wessel and Iris Cushing and Bianca Stone picking up the four-stringed guitar at the after party. Sampson Starkweather slam dunking on the exit sign. The chapbook fest seated next to Cassandra Gillig at the very last table, she and I coloring her books. I also talked to JD Scott about work and livestreamed on the ground with Tracy Diamond and Amanda McCormick and checked out books to Edward and Anjali Mullany. I remember the children’s book launch on a Sunday for Patrick Weaver and no one was reading but we drank nice beer and ate homemade guacamole and I met Jacob Knabb of Curbside Splendor who didn’t have a place to stay and stayed with me that night. Which later lead to Bill Hillman staying on my couch after walking home with stories of bulls. And Sooze Lanier and her twisted ankle. I remember when Amelia Gray visited the library and then later I ran into her with my friend Brittany Dennison, and Amelia and let us join their table for breakfast and we talked about dating over pancakes. I remember the first time Michael Seidlinger came, how excited he was, how hard he “coped” us, how he stayed with me over a summer while working at Melville House. I remember when Mike Lala and Alyson Patty first read, it was the first time I saw Eric perform. I remember blocking out the library during Bushwick Open Studios, every year we were alive. I remember Kevin Sampsell visiting and dropping off a booty of Future Tense. I remember when Ariana Reines hung out after a reading sitting in the middle of the room in a chair and she donated a dollar she drew on and we taped it to the window. I remember boxing Mishka Shubaly, getting my ass kicked, but he gave us more than quadruple the asking price for two rounds in the ring with me. It was a real actual show when he and Brandon Johnson boxed after. Theo Thimon too. I remember when my family visited, when my friends from Seattle came, how happy I was to show them the space. I remember when Lucy Shaw first came and she donated Illuminati Girl Gang, which Jacob and I both went to the year before. I made her sign Gabby Bess’s book since it was dedicated to Lucy. I remember when Megan Boyle and Lucy Tiven and Moon Temple read and then afterwards everyone shared pastries. When Emily Toder brought a dog that wasn’t hers to her reading. I remember when the Cervantes Institute had to move their reading to Mellow at the last minute and Dorothea Lasky and Tao Lin and Luna Miguel and Jacob Steinberg read. I remember the way Mark Cugini’s presence danced between the walls. I remember when we somehow figured out that we had an amp a cord and a mic and that’s how karaoke started. I remember Neutral Milk Hotel karaoke nights and Elliott Smith death day nights. I remember the birthday parties, the after parties, the all night readings. I remember the feeling of walking the shelves and looking at all the books I wanted to read, the constant influx and warm cascade of all these books, talking, as I used to say, when they’d fall off the wall. I remember when we first moved into the new space, we tried to make a heart shape with the nails. Maybe three days after Jacob was home, he fixed that. I remember talking to Wendy Xu about Gilmore Girls, watching Amy Lawless skateboard down the hallway, taking shots with Mariassa Crawford and Becca Klaver, Matt Rohrer sticking around a different night. I remember Morgan Parker and Tommy Picco’s Poet’s With Attitude, being blown away by Montana Ray and Aziza Barnes and Angel Nafis. I remember the first Dr. Doctor reading in the middle of summer, Jacob was gone, and we didn’t have any a/c. About five minutes into Luke Widget and Sam Farrar setting up, the boys ask me if there’s any circulation. I told them I was just about to pick them up, and ran my ass to Fat Alberts on Broadway and bought as many box fans as I could carry (3). I’ll always remember the two sides of their well outlined event, Sam and Luke coolly making sure everything was connected and sounding good, before, and then after the event, the couch and beer sit down. I remember that feeling maybe the most of finishing. Constantly being done with this event or that day. I remember when Sarah Gerard performed what I can only guess was a Christian revival radio show. I remember how happy I was when Mathias Svalina came. Being on the phone with my mom during a Mike Bushnell show, him talking to her, and everything, everything working. I remember smoking a cigarette with Porochista Khakpour, getting my ear pierced by Elissa Schappell, drinking tall boy after tall boy with Isaac Fitzgerald during his Almost Live podcast interview with Eric and Sean H Doyle. I remember when Sean sat blindfolded while his story sang out of the amp and it moved me. I remember Jim Ruland’s meat story, I remember Isaac Gillespie’s song he fiddled with for just three of us, I remember reading with Alina Gregorian one of her duo poems. I remember Peter Friedman, the decorations for Glitter Mob reading and how that set the mood for a sparkled night. I remember the Black Mail series with Kalliopi Mathios, that horse girl. I remember her in the round conversations moderated about all sorts of thing. God, I remember Sasha Fletcher, his voice and his hugs. I remember Ben Fama and his flock of fans. I remember hearing in the crowd of Steve Roggenbuck’s event pleas for mom to wait outside. I remember getting my tattoo from Jake Mullenberg at Becca Zweig’s birthday party. I remember getting shot by a paintball gun (I asked for it, and still have the scar). I remember Richard Aufrichtig fitting a full band inside for his album release. I remember Natalie Eilbert’s book release, her NO loud and clear. I remember Dolan Morgan getting to read a complete story, my favorite, about the abyss security guard. I remember Mike Young and his juices and the way he would laugh. I remember when Chelsea Martin and Elizabeth Ellen came, dancing with them afterward. I remember the Sad Boys of Mellow, the poem Emily Brandt read on her birthday about her student, I remember when Chase Berggrun and Dylan Welsh wanted to have at least one reading at Mellow before we closed and Dylan was running late but we were fine, nothing ever started on time. I remember talking to Anselm Berrigan about kid movies and the Lower East Side. I remember Riley Michael Parker coming and walking around and smoking and hearing Rachel Nelson read for the second time. I remember Eric’s roast, Eric’s 30th birthday with Faces of Weed rapping as the opening, his nun outfit, the panda suit. I remember Darcey Steinke and Ashley Ford and Terese Svoboda. I remember when Die Ashely read, when we made helped Brandon make a zine based on Green Eggs and Ham and meeting Lauren Hunter for the first time there. I remember the stretch where it seemed like we had a Danniel Schoonebeek residency. I remember Brian Foley and Juliet Escoria and Carabella Sands and Roberto Montes and that time Adam Gnade came and there was a book exchange on the floor with Kristen Felicetti being a saint. I remember Guillaume Morissette reading and Ashley Obscura and Chelsea Jean Werner. I remember Analyse Gelman, Justin Marks, Sarah Bartlett, Laura Henricksen, and Gabby Bess reading. I remember Tommy’s ezine, and Lauren Wilkinsen from her novel. I remember Ben Tanzer and Paula Bomer. I remember when Melissa Broader had her Deadly Sins reading, Mark Leidner and Karin Olander, Jenny Zhang, Alex Dimerotv. I remember Jousha Young, Sahar Muradi. Nina Puro, so many nights with Nina, and her lovely self. I remember when Alexandra Wuest did a reading with her friends. I remember when Wendy had her Brooklyn Poet’s class final reading and Amanda Killian told me about retreats. I remember Sara Renee Marhsall and I remember Coyote Rooves. I remember the Opiate, the Bushwick Review, Bushwick Sweathearts, the Mike Topp comics, Apogee, Moonshot, No Dear, No Tokens, Noo, the Atlas Review, Heavy Feather Review, Five Quarterly, Hobart, Nada, Hags, Prelude, Pieces of Cake, Runaway Parade, Gigantic, Harlequin Creature, Belleville Park Pages, Intruder, Denim Skin, Dandruff, the English Kills Review. I remember Armando Garcia like a wild horse. I remember Valerie Hsiung reading on a ladder and Rita Bulwinkle returning and Maria Anderson read and Gessy Alvarez, Joseph Rippii (WA!), and Amy King (I think we shared Pita Chips?) and Mike Krutel in a ponytail and Leopold Core. I remember Jordan Castro and Johsua Kleinberg and he getting his Columbia crew to make a trip. I remember being twirled by Jesse Katz, tucked in by Robert Vaughn. I remember Dotty drawing a thunderbird on Thunderbird. I remember Richard Ferguson from New Zealand who was the first to take me to the Tortilla Factory. I remember when Chris Martin and Mary Austin Speaker returned to Brooklyn, the first time I’d seen them read since at the Old American Can Factory. Matthew Savoca and Kendra Grant Malone, who I ran into one night biking home. Willis Plummer and Ben Bush and Daniel Nestor who helped me arrange the a/c. I’ll always remember the professionalism of Lisa Markson. I remember Matt Cook being raucous and sweaty, Adam Robinson and Sara Jean. So many nights with Sarah Jean and her light. I remember when Sooze and Hallie Butler sang karaoke together after Mike Lopez was hilarious the day after Madeline Ffitch read the sea. I remember Christopher Stout coming and checking in on his whenever he could. I remember Lisa Levy and Phil and their dog who I would dog sit for, Astro, a few blocks away. I remember the energy and enthusiasm of Anvhu, passing out Pabst like the beer and the night would never run out. I remember the love from Octopus, Slope Editions, Magic Helicopter, Big Lucks, Publishing Genius, Factory Hollow, Ugly Duckling, CCM, Lazy Fascist, Spork, Wave, BAP, Birds, Belladona, Monk, NY Tyrant, Gray Wolf even. I remember having a final beer with Matt after his final Words After War workshop. I remember Atticus Lish coming to that workshop and talking to a group of a dozen veterans. I remember Jackson Nieuwland and Carolyn DeCarlo. I remember my old school friend James Fallisgaard lending pretty much all of our comics section. I remember Monica McClure and Emily Skillings and Paige Taggart. I remember Johnny Bryan reading his love-set poem. I remember eating Skittles and baby carrots with Heather Simon in the early days. I remember CA Reynolds getting a text from her mom during her reading. Lisa Chicarello and the moon. I remember Karen Lillis reading about cops and anarchists. Zachary Schomberg and Joshua Wilkinson on their book tour with John Beer, from the podium. I remember double booking a night for Paul Rome with Emma Cline and Catherine Lacey and Annie DeWitt and then after seeing Tom Oristaglio and Natalie and Dolan and I think we stood on the shelves. I remember Amanda Shapiro and her essay on her father and DFW. The duo of Maxwell Donnewald and Jacob Kaplan captaining Sporadicus, but also at Vanessas. I remember John Apera and his vacuums. I remember the heavy and necessary night organized by Anna Kramer with Liz Bowen and Sophia Katz. I remember dancing with Connor Messinger, hearing his fluency. Oh what about Carter Edwards and Cecily Iddings and Christine Kanownik and Brian Mihok and Jeanie Hoag and Joe Pan and Eric Pita. There’s so many people. I remember whenever seeing Andrew Worthington being happy. Same goes for Maggie Lee. I remember Jerriod Avant and I remember Steve Karl, D. Foy, Sean Maddigan, I remember Jordan Stempleman talking about Kansas City, Rachel G Glaser with her charm, Emily Pettit up for a visit. Guy Pettit too who I emailed years ago about literary spaces. I remember Stephen Boyer and Rob Crawford and Stu Watson. I remember Peter BD coming and reading 2666, talking about 90s pop hits, the leftover cookies he’d bring for anyone to eat. I remember the science reading, the play about memory. I remember when a band from West Virginia spent the night because of wiley man Howard Parsons. I remember Sabra Embury reading about comics and Hannah Assadi reading about drugs and Amish Trivedi mentioning card catalogues. I remember the poem I made people collectively write while I was bartender behind the cooler. I remember Polly Bresnick with Gus, and I remember running into Kate Zambreno in Ft. Green and reminding her the Djuna Barnes book she checked out was overdue. I remember Chris Cheney and reading under the emergencies blankets floating attached to balloons at Brandon Kreitler’s reading that he read from memory. I remember Ed Kearns’ farewell party. Melissa Febos, Oliver Mol, Bill Lessard, I remember Karolyn Gehrig and Sara Jane Stoner, Joey de Jesus. The improv nights set up by Tom that were always a welcome relief. I remember I set up a reading for my interns from the Center after their semester was up. I remember hugging Spencer Madsen in the corner where I left all my clothes, would swap shirts if I spent the night and needed a different one before work. God, I remember Lazarus, how humble he was, how effervescent with his joy he was, his knowledge of music and religion unparalleled. I remember Steve Dalachinsky and Jon and Daniel reading at the Olson marathon set up with Matt. Matt, my book brother, letting me work at Molasses when I needed to. Bud, I do remember that taco, that brandy. I remember being too hungover to drink the brandy with you, but I remember how great you were, are. I remember a hundred more faces and book covers and presses that I can’t think of now, maybe not ever again, but it’s all been felt, it’s all moved me.
Other Work Safe or Die Trying Columns. This is a series that posts every Tuesday at 11am EST about creativity and working in heavy construction. (Follow @bud_smith on Twitter for updates)
- Going to Work with Leesa Cross-Smith - January 4, 2017
- Yesterday Was Boring, Who Knows About Today - October 25, 2016
- Crystal Ball Emoji - October 4, 2016