Archive for March, 2003


[This post was actually composed late Thursday night, March 13, but as I was unable to get on-line until now, I’m afraid that, two nights later, it has possibly passed its expiration date and become rather stale.]

It has been a day of planes, trains, and automobiles, and I have set foot in a whopping total of five states today. My day began at 4:30 a.m. after about three hours of let’s-at-least-pretend-that-I’m-sleeping-so-the-horror-of-arising-at-4:30 a.m.-won’t-render-me-completely-suicidal-and-thus-emotionally-unfit-for-travel-but-let’s-face-it-who-are-we-really-kidding-here sleep. Insomnia has been rampant this entire week, as I’ve been wired out of my mind and working like a dog to get my ducks in a row (please forgive the mixed zoological cliches, by the way) on the work front so that I’m not completely and irrevocably FUBAR when I return. Plus, much as I hate to admit it, the truth of the matter is that while I would like to be all cool . . . like I’m pretending to be all, like, Ms. Jet-Setty Poet On The Road and shit, in reality I am actually a Complete Fucking Freak before out-of-town readings. (Exacerbated by the fact that my parents like to call me up the day before I leave and personally ensure that if I’m not paranoid and anxiety-ridden by virtue of my very own subset of neuroses, I will be paranoid and anxiety-ridden by the time I get off the phone with them.) Anybody remember that awful paragon of 1980’s cinema, Gremlins with Phoebe Cates? Well, like Gremlins, Artichoke Hearts come with two very basic, iron-clad rules: (1) Do not deliberately pester the Artichoke Heart when she is trying to write; and (2) Do not under any circumstances, attempt to fuck with the Artichoke Heart before an out-of-town reading. The consequences are ugly. Very very ugly.

First State: The State of South Dakota:

So I get up at 4:30 a.m., which is so early that it doesn’t even quality as the Butt Crack of Dawn, but is, instead, more along the lines of the Colonoscopy of Dawn. I take a shower, I have some coffee, and I say goodbye to the cats — taking particular care to mollify the Yuki-Tuki Bird, who has been verbally berating me at top volume since the rolling duffel bag came out of the closet yesterday. (Sabotage attempts were also made in which she relentlessly kept dragging socks and underwear out of the rolling duffel bag as I was attempting to pack it and attempting to shove them under the refrigerator.) I hit the road by 5:30 a.m.

Second State: The State of Iowa:

Restroom stop and refueling (caffeine, that is) in Onawa, Iowa.

Third State: The State of Nebraska:

Having read various accounts of my driving (mis)adventures when attempting to drive to unfamiliar airports, you may perhaps be shaking your head in dismay to realize that I had to drive to Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska. Frankly, I, too, was shaking my head in dismay. Granted, I was there with my colleague S. a mere two weeks ago, but I find that it’s really best to never underestimate the sheer profundity of my directional dyslexia. Amazingly enough, I arrived at Eppley Airfield on time and without getting lost!! (Unlike the time I pulled an all nighter to avoid oversleeping and missing an egregiously early flight out of Sioux City, but was so brain-fried that I miscalculated the driving time and ended up leaving too late and missing the flight after having stayed up all night expressly for the purpose of making sure that I didn’t miss it!) Admittedly, though, the route to Eppley Airfield is marked with remarkably good signage. One would have to be a Directional Moron to go astray. But hey, I am. A Directional Moron, that is. And I didn’t. Get lost, that is. May I state, for the record, that I *heart* good signage?

Fourth State: The State of Minnesota:

From Omaha I flew to Minneapolis, where I had a two-hour layover at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, so I did the thing that I like to do when I have a layover in Minneapolis. Which is to mosey over to that little carry-out sushi joint, Kyoto, over in the far left corner of the food court. I then proceed to consume a profound and undoubtedly inappropriate amount of sushi while sitting at the long high counter that runs along the bank of windows, watching the view of the planes loading, unloading, fueling, and de-icing. Yes, I know . . . it’s just airport carry-out sushi, but the truth of the matter is that there is no time, ever, where it is not all about the sushi for me. Hello, my name is Artichoke Heart, and I am a confirmed Sushi-holic . . . a Slut for Sashimi, a Nigiri Whore. By the way, is it me, or are connecting flights in Minneapolis purposely programmed by computer so that you always have to connect via the concourse that is directionally located at the greatest distance to the concourse by which you arrive, also thus insuring that you will always have to cross through the central mall area? I don’t mean to get all Conspiracy Theory here or anything, but I’m just sayin’ . . .

Fifth State: The State of California:

Upon my arrival in San Francisco, I was retrieved outside SFO Baggage Claim by none other than The Jaded One, who was unbelievably generous enough to pick me up and take me to the Emeryville Amtrak Station to catch my train to Fresno. Despite impending rain and rush-hour traffic she deftly maneuvered me to my destination with time to spare while providing delightful repartee along the way, thus preventing what would have undoubtedly been a distraught and freakish blog entry from me describing how I was tangled up, days later, still riding around aimlessly on the San Francisco BART system, having completely missed my reading as a result. Thank you JadedJu . . . you are a goddess!!

Sixth State: Altered State:

It is now seventeen hours later from my 5:30 a.m. departure time this morning, and I am composing this entry on the Amtrak train to Fresno . . . I have two more hours worth of train ride to go, and I have to admit, I’m exhausted down to the very marrow of my bones. Truly, though, I’ve been blessed with spectacularly good travel karma today . . . it was a complicated itinerary (let’s face it . . . Vermillion, SD to Onawa, IA to Omaha, NE to Minneapolis, MN to San Francisco, CA is kind of a fucked up way to get to Fresno, California) and everything went exactly as planned. Plus, I’m totally digging the train . . . the first part of the trip circled around the bay, and as it became dark the lights began to sizzle up in little pin-point clusters, and everything began to twinkle.

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Regarding Influenza B:

JM (Japanese Mother): Don’t go out from your house anymore. There’s terrible flu epidemic. Everybody getting it. Influenza B. I been so worry you going to get it because you always going out so stupid with head uncover and let your feet get wet so catch cold.

AH (Artichoke Heart): So in between the winter Influenza B epidemic and the summer West Nile Virus epidemic, when, exactly, am I supposed to leave the house?

JM: Well sometimes can’t help. Like you have to go meeting or teach class. But you always like go do unnecessary thing like watch movie or go out eat restaurant. Best thing is not ever leave house if you can help it.

AH: So you’re suggesting that I should encourage my already problematic tendencies toward occasional agoraphobia, is that it?

JM: I don’t know if that’s what they call it or not. But see, I told you so! You see on news or whatever, but I already going to tell you what do. Best thing not be stupid. Stay inside and don’t leave house.

Regarding Big Snowstorm:

JM: Your father and I been watching and watching weather reports all day long and Big Snowstorm heading right straight your direction! I so worry about if you going to stay warm enough and maybe you have to drive somewhere in snowstorm! You better stock up on groceries and don’t leave house. Do you have warm hat to wear during blizzard time?

AH: Yeah, I have lots of hats. I have fleece hats.

JM: [Suspiciously] What . . . is that so-call fleece warm enough?

AH: Very warm.

JM: Well, I never heard about that. I don’t know. Are you have warm enough coat? Maybe your father and I, even though on social security now, should look around garage sale this summer and see if can find you warm enough coat. But even if we find nice coat, then maybe you not have good taste enough to understand, so you not like it and don’t wear it, so go to waste. And I have no idea how much you blow up like big balloon or not, so I don’t know if anybody make one big enough to fit you . . .

AH: Mom! For chrissakes, please . . . I’m warm enough! I own a fleece-lined Columbia Sportswear coat. I live in South Dakota, remember? Believe me, I know how to dress myself in the winter.

JM: [Suspiciously] Are you been spending money like Rockefeller again? Is keep you warm enough?

AH: Very warm.

JM: Huh. Well . . . I never heard of it before, so I don’t know.

Regarding Transmission of Rhino Virus:

JM: I been so worry about you catch Influenza B. You go to school and all those students sick and bring their germs to you, and I know how you are, you stupidly going to always catch everything they bring to you. I wish you could wear rubber glove and make them spray with Lysol all their sneeze-on, coughing-on paper before they turn in to you, but I guess you can’t do that if you want get tenure.

AH: Uh . . . no, not really.

JM: Make sure first thing you do when get home, though, is wash hands and gargle with salt water. Your father and I everytime leave house as soon as we come home we wash hands and gargle with salt water. And sing “Happy Birthday.”

AH: Sing “Happy Birthday”?

JM: Yeah. Sing “Happy Birthday.” [Singing into phone to demonstrate for me, because I am, of course, such a fuckwit in my mother’s eyes that I clearly require demonstration of the “Happy Birthday” lyrics.”] Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear SOMEONE. Happy birthday to you. So make sure you singing “Happy Birthday.”

AH: Uh . . . okay? Now wait a minute. Why???

JM: That way you washing hands and gargling long enough until germs are dead.

Regarding Reading in Fresno and Post-Reading Weekend in Mean Streets of San Francisco:

JM: You have to be very careful when go to San Francisco. I don’t want you wander around all by self at night in lonely alley and get murder. You look like Country Bumpkin, you know. So everyone target you.

AH: Uh . . . the streets around my hotel are really pretty crowded and busy at night, actually. I have been there before, you know. Several times.

JM: Crowded? That’s even worse. [Apparently evoking a mental image of Dickensian urbanity replete with London street urchins.] That means there going to be pickpockets. You have to be careful about the pickpockets. Chicago O’Hare Airport full of pickpockets too. I wish you not try go anywhere by yourself in San Francisco. You just stay in hotel unless with someone else, okay?

Regarding Book Prize and Publication:

JM: [After making squealing happy whooping noises in phone.] So you one of two winners . . . are you first-prize winner, or second-prize winner, or are you tie?

AH: [Thinking to self . . . . shit, here it comes.] Second-prize winner.

JM: Second-prize winner?

AH: Yeah. Second-prize winner.

JM: Why you not first-prize winner?

AH: [Starting to get all prickly and defensive.] I dunno . . . I was named second-prize winner. Does it really matter? There were well over 500 entries, my book’s going to be pubished, and if I were to get to pick a press of choice for my book SIU Press would definitely be one of my top three picks. I mean, there were five winners named the year I won the National Poetry Series with my first book and that didn’t seem to bother you. What’s wrong with second prize?

JM: I don’t want second prize. I want first prize.

AH: It’s not your prize. It’s my prize, and I was unbelievably fucking lucky to get it.

JM: Well. Don’t tell anybody is second prize. Just let everyone think is first prize. That’s much better. Okay?

Reconsidering Prior Day’s Conversation Regarding Book Prize and Publication:

[In other words, probably following a conversation with my father where he’s reminded her that I’ve always been “oversensitive” and that I have a “thin skin,” and suggesting that she back off on the second-prize thingy.]

JM: [Yelling into phone] I soooo happy! I sooo relief!

AH: Yeah, I’m really happy too. And relieved.

JM: I been so worry about when your next book going to come out. Your father and I been every day talking about and can’t sleep at night, and then during Happy Hour [Read: Diet, Caffeine-Free Dr. Pepper and Peanuts] we been making special good-luck toast and magic joo-joo [Read: What the fuck?!?!] for publish your second book. And see? Finally work! You should say thank you to us . . . only next time we make sure do harder so get first prize instead of second prize.

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