Report from City Lights


When I arrived at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, the host Peter Maravelis, showed me the room where the reading would take place, a mid-sized room containing a large collection of poetry.


From the window the poetry room, I could see the house across the alley where an old man was in the process of hanging his laundry to dry in the 96-degree heat. He only wore his underpants, so I suppose he must have been washing all of his clothes. He had plaid shirts, herringbone shirts, brown trousers that he’d hung from the metal work on the building, from fire escapes and the various rusted metal rods and hinges attached to old building. I was the only reader who had arrived. Matthew Stadler had called earlier to explain that his plane had been delayed in Portland, OR. Across the street from City Lights is a hand painted sign that declares “we are not in Portland, OR.” Stacey Levine was in transit somewhere. Robert Gluck lived in town and presumably would show up and so I went to internet café to drink very cold coffee and connect to the web, but the café charged three dollars for twenty minutes which is three dollars more than I am willing to pay for internet access. I have been paying two dollars of bottles of water. But I have also been able to find taps to drink water and I do not have pay three dollars for a drink of water. Very recently I could find free wireless ports but now it seems as if they have all been locked up. When I returned about half of the readers had arrived and Peter Maravelis had brought watermelon, cider, and water. Phil Elverum/Mount Eerie/The Microphones looked through his notebook for new songs to play. Stacey Levine called to say she was on a slow bus in Chinatown. We Two and the Universe called to say they were somewhere in California that was not San Francisco.


And so we ate watermelon and waited but soon the room was full and so we began to read waiting for various people to arrive as we did. Phil Elverum sang new songs to open the show, and then he played some very old songs from his first couple of records. I read from my Clear Cut book, Shoot the Buffalo . Robert Gluck read chapters from a novel and a story about innocent sex in the Tacoma woods he’d published in Butt Magazine. Stacey read several short metaphorical stories including the “The Bean” that appeared as an illustrated story in The Stranger.


And then Matthew Stadler arrived and read from a new story, “The City of Wool,” written for the Amsterdam 2.0 project. However, he explained, the story wasn’t what they were looking for. And as he read, We Two and the Universe arrived to unreel an audio record of their trip from Portland to the site of the we are not in Portland sing across the street from City Lights Bookstore.

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