Monday, June 27, 2016

Dancing Girls And Poetry At The BookMark Shoppe

In 2014, dancing girl press accepted and published my first chapbook For The Girls, I. I was over the moon excited. I'd loved the work put out by dancing girl for such a long time, and then I was one of those works in the catalog.

I've always been a get-it-together kind of poet, so as soon as I had book-in-hand, I put out a call for other dgp poets to do a reading together. I got a lot of takers. I contacted stores and cafes and things would line up and then fall through. The poets dropped out and the poets signed up and this happened over and again.

Poetry rarely makes itself easily available. Poetry likes a challenge.

In the meantime, WakeBreatheMove found a home at Finishing Line Press. Kimberly Jackson also had her chapbook published by FLP in 2015, so she put out a call for other FLP poets to read for At The Inkwell, a series that runs across the country; in NYC it's at the KGB Bar. I got to read there along with a few other FLP poets.

Now that I'd read with other FLP poets, the dancing girls needed to make this happen. Almost two years later, I dropped a line to The BookMark Shoppe. They were like, sure thing let's do it.

Sometimes poetry is just that simple.

After emails and calls and poets signing up and dropping out, we coordinated a reading--we had a date, we had a time, we had a plan.

Then it happened. I don't usually go whimsy, so when I say it was magic, you know it was truly magic.

Susan Lewis has authored several beautiful collections. Her prose poems captured and stunned.

Abigail Welhouse offered a wealth of poetry, pictures, and ephemera of life. I now know I have to have my colors done to see if I'm an autumn or a spring.

Janeen Pergrin Rastall shared quiet, powerful verses. Her visions of lakes and nature resonate imagistically. (apparently imagistically is not a real word, but it's the only word that describes what her words do).

I've known Vicki Iorio for years, and I've enjoyed hearing her read over these years. This reading, however, she shined at her best.

Katie Longofono's work is fresh and gripping. She tells stories with her poems in a lovely way. I'm thankful that she read my bio to introduce me so I didn't have to read it myself because that would have been weird.

I pronounced everything right with my mad hosting skillz except for calling Katie's next book Angelitis, making it sound like a disease rather than what it's really called, Angeltits, making it sound heavenly. Otherwise, it went great.

I also made crazy poet face only a few times.
Credit: emilyhegarty instagram
Credit: Abigail Welhouse instragram
Credit: Eddie
Riding high on the poetic magic, I gushed to Abigail that we could do this again, and then had the thought that we should do it every year, an expanding reading of dancing girls across the land. Starting to plan right now.
Looks like we've got it all together
Then again....

Friday, June 17, 2016

Thanks, Toronto: The Epilogue

We were out of our hotel in the 6 AM hour. We got to the airport super early. No lines. Security was a little confusing because we were suddenly going through it without even realizing it. Also, there were no signs and the people were telling us Go To Line 1 and there wasn't any line so Line 1 was hard to find considering it didn't exist. We found kiosks that took our pictures and scanned our passports and asked us if we had anything to declare. Then we found our gate, which was the furthest from anything in the airport. We walked all the way back to get some food. We found the one main food place, and I found out that they had bagels, so Eddie got one and I got fruit and a yogurt, and the cashier let us unload our Canadian money and then pay the 71 cent difference with our credit card.

We ate slowly and then walked all the way back to the gate. Then we saw that the gate had changed, so we walked all the way across the airport again. This is why I didn't mind eating the crepes and the ice cream the day before. It all burns off when you travel.

Our gate was beyond glass doors that would not open until 45 minutes before our flight, so we sat in the main corridor. I read while Eddie talked to me as I read after he told me, you should read your book. The doors eventually opened and we found different seats near the window to watch the planes. I did some stretching and he told me I looked like a weirdo.
Nice sunny window
Then we found our friend. Our friend was a young guy with a giant blonde afro who we'd seen on the street our first day in town. He'd been shirtless, pushing a bike, singing to himself. We saw him a few times that day in different parts of town, always shirtless, never actually riding his bike, bobbing to his own tunes. Here in the airport, he was wearing a shirt and had no bike. He also had no bag. He sat down and bobbed his head and shimmied his shoulders to what I assume was a song he was listening to--he had in earbuds. Then he got up, walked around, jostling and jiving, singing to himself. Then he sat down and continued the same thing. This went on for at least an hour. And I'm the weirdo.

I was slightly surprised that no one said anything to him. I mean, we were in an airport, and this behavior wasn't exactly "normal." But nope, no one cared. I figured he either had ADD or was working out the nerves of flying. I don't think he wound up on our plane.

We got snacks on the plane!
My husband doesn't do creepy things at all.
The most important thing that happened at the airport was that Eddie got his passport stamped. Yeay! He's legitimately international!

We got home pretty quickly, and then waited for airport transportation to pick us up. When the van arrived, the driver said to Eddie, They told me it was one passenger. As if we were all going to decide to leave me there since they told him something wrong. Then we drove home and I looked like this:
In case you can't tell, this is me clenching my jaw and gripping first the seat and then Eddie's forearm as the driver careened down the Belt Parkway, asking us maybe 30 times how to get home. Dude, GPS. Also, don't drive like a maniac. I practically shoved Eddie out of the way and jumped out of the van when we pulled up to the house. I was alive! And Canada had been swell.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thanks, Toronto: Part 3

I don't make a habit of going to places where Guy Fieri has been on purpose. I do love diners, however, so when Eddie and I were in DC, we found out that the diner we were in had been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. There was a big poster on the wall. We looked it up afterwards, and what it was on the show for had nothing to do with the menu we'd seen. Basically, it was an overpriced diner.

In planning our trip, I looked up a bunch of places to eat and found that Toronto had diners, too.  Ooh, I love diner food. I love everything about a diner. The diner I found, The Lakeview Restaurant, had also been on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. What fun! The third day of our trip, we hopped in a cab and headed over to it because it was pretty much away from everything else.
We were the only ones there when we walked in. The lights didn't seem to be on. The server seated us in a tiny booth and served us water, which she spilled all over my menu, saying Oops! and giggling and then walking away. Great start to breakfast.

I ordered a decaf. It would take a few minutes because it had to be brewed. They were incredibly prepared for breakfast.

Eddie ordered a coke. They had coke but no ice. He got it anyway, and she came back with three ice cubes in the coke--I found some! she said. The coke was gross.

Eddie asked for white toast. They had no white bread.

The food took an extraordinary amount of time to arrive. Two more people had walked in, so maybe this was a crowd for them. Overall, the restaurant didn't look like it got very busy. In some places, it looked like it was falling apart.
Skimming the wet menu
There's that Guy Fieri again
The food arrived eventually as did my decaf. Eddie and I dug into our meals. I don't know if this is a Canadian thing or not, but both breakfasts we had, the one the day before and this one, came with orange slices we hadn't ordered. And the orange slices were delicious!

 I ate some eggs. I looked at Eddie. He had eaten some eggs. I asked, Do you like your eggs? He was like, Ummm... I was like, These eggs are gross. He was like, Oh, good, I didn't want to complain but they taste terrible. I don't know if they were powdered or old or the chef simply couldn't make scrambled eggs, but there was something really wrong with them. We ate as much as we could, and nibbled at the potatoes and I had some of my toast which was the best thing on the plate.

Then our side salads arrived.

Yes, you read that correctly Our salads. The server was like, These come with your meal. And she put down two small bowls of salad that we could eat at 9AM. The salad looked really good, like a salad I'd make for myself, complete with sunflower seeds. 
We did not eat the salad. We asked for the check. We left, kinda still hungry but too appalled to eat.

To burn off that large and scrumptious meal, we walked a little down the main street, passing a park and some odds and ends shops. Then a man we passed caught up with us and asked, Hey buddy you got a cigarette? Eddie said he didn't smoke, and I prayed that we wouldn't be murdered in Canada.

Then we found a cab and the driver motioned for us to get in but stayed on his cell phone so we sat and waited. We told him we wanted to go to Nathan Phillips Square. He started up the car and it chugged along. Slowly I realized that this car was going to break down. And it did. As soon as he had to come to a full stop, it turned itself off. I prayed that we wouldn't be exploded by a car in Canada.

When we approached a street I recognized, I asked Eddie if he would mind getting out there. He was like, We can keep going. The car shuddered back and forth, and I was like, Are you sure? He shrugged so I was like, Here's fine! We'll get out right here! This is far enough! Thanks so much!!

And then Eddie paid the guy in American money and he had to give us Canadian money back, and that's exactly when we realized that the exchange rate had been very beneficial for all of our cab drivers. Eddie is a rock star among taxis.

My feet hit the pavement and it was like touching down from outer space. So happy to be alive. We walked the few blocks to the square and went underground into the path to do some souvenir shopping and window shopping. Then we went to the Eaton Centre so I could find a small bag to bring with me to the baseball game later because the one I had seemed too big. The Eaton Centre is like another small village. I've been to the Mall of America, and this puts that to shame.

We made it to lunch without passing out from malnutrition without having eaten a satisfying breakfast. We found the food court, and while Eddie grabbed a burger from A&W, I had myself a fancy crepe meal.
She gave me two sets of utensils as if I was going to share these.
Since we had the game that night, we went back to the hotel to pack. We'd be leaving at 6 something the next morning. Our hotel had two sets of elevators, and I was mesmerized by this one.
It lights up so pretty!
And in case you missed it, here's the view from our room.
AND our hotel phone had a pizza button.
We packed, I set up a car for the next day to the airport, I pressed the pizza button (no, really, I did and it's just guest services--I suppose they can order you a pizza), and then we got ready for the game. But first, we checked out YouTube for Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives to look up The Lakeview Restaurant, and the segment on the show was nothing like our experience. The place had lights on and was packed with people and everyone who needed ice seemed to have it. For shame, Lakeview and Triple D, for shame!

We took a cab down, and man was there traffic. The driver explained that traffic in Toronto's downtown, especially at rush hour and on game night, was horrific. Then he gave us a grand plan of how the US and Canada should be one country, citing population and land mass and unshared holidays that could be shared. It was quite informative. When we got close to the stadium, he told us not to waste our money--we should get out and walk down the street and turn and we'd be there. That was helpful.

Once again, we walked in 80 degree weather. The stadium wasn't open just yet, but there were lines forming to go in. We stood on a line and went in pretty quickly. We found our seats easily. The positive: the Yankees were warming up on the field and we were in the third row along the first base line watching them. The negative: the dome was open (I wanted it closed) and we were in direct sun, which is great when you're not wearing jeans. The dome does not seem to open all the way, so I was still pleased by it. We waited to see if any players would come over, but they simply waved a lot.
Not wearing sunglasses
Fancy hat
This is pretty cool to see when you look up.
We found food. Eddie got chicken fingers and fries which cost about 15 bucks and then a soda that cost 5  and he got a pretzel that is half the size of a New York pretzel and that was 5, too. Ballpark prices never cease to amaze me. Seeing that I ate my weight in crepes for lunch, I got only peanuts. Another 5 bucks.

Now let's talk about these chicken fingers. They were not those frozen to fried things. They were like actual pieces of actual chicken, breaded and fried. There were two pieces, but they were large and filling. And the fries overflowed and also tasted delicious. I had a bite of each. Wow. Good food. The pretzel was fine. The peanuts were fine and I took them home with me because there were enough in the bag to last me a few days if I needed to live on peanuts.

We settled into our seats. In front of us were two couples. The girl in front of me spent a lot of time looking at herself in her cell phone by using the selfie camera mode. Then she took a selfie of herself and her boyfriend, and I could totally see I was in it, so I smiled.
See that phone? I'm in that selfie.
 The girls were decked out in NY gear and the guys wore Toronto jerseys, but the girls didn't seem to be really into the game. They were really into the alcohol though. Lots of it.

The largest man in the world sat next to me. He was just very large and wearing heavy jeans and big work boots and I was sweating for him.

Then the game began. I'm not really interested in baseball games. I do, however, like what goes on at them. Two fans competed in a tie tying competition, and the one who tied his tie the quickest won a suit. A suit! And his row got gift cards for pizza or something.

Then another guy won a lawn mower. A lawn mower!

They played a few more games, all with great prizes. And then there was singing. During the seventh inning stretch, they did Take Me Out To The Ballgame, which I sang along to. They also did some Toronto song I'd never heard before. Clearly I didn't sing along to that.

Oh! The National Anthems. I almost forgot. So before the game started, a children's choir took the field and first sang the American National Anthem. This was Memorial Day, so the announcer also said something about that. It was nice to hear. Then they sang the Canadian National Anthem.

Now this is when Eddie and I were set to shine. Before our trip, we looked up the words to the anthem. I mean, we've heard it thousands of times because we watch a lot of hockey, but we didn't know all the words. We first looked it up maybe a year or two ago after we saw a hockey game when the mic went out and the Canadian fans sang the American National Anthem. We wondered if we'd be able to do the same, so we looked up the lyrics, preparing for the day when the two of us who can barely carry a tune would save the day at a hockey game on American soil when the mic went out and we would lead the crowd in harmony. Pretty much, we were prepared for this moment.

Then the kids started singing in French.


Anyway, it was nicely done and the baseballing happened. There was a guy behind us who had some sort of odd hatred for Teixeira. Every time he came to bat, the guy would yell at him, tell him he was on steroids, call him ugly, say his wife should leave him. It was really strange, so much so that the very large man next to me wondered aloud what exactly Teixeira did to that guy. I have my own Teixeira thing. I think he has a lady butt, so when he comes up to bat, I say to myself and to Eddie, Mark Teixeira has a lady butt. My thing seems to be less confrontational.
Lady butt
Lady butt
Lady butt
We were also entertained by the mascot. I don't like adults in costume usually, but this mascot was pretty entertaining. As long as he was rows away from me, I was fine with it.
All this side entertainment proved to be the bright side of the game because the Yankees played dreadfully. Towards the end of the game, they scored one run, so I put on my rally cap, which really meant turning my hat backwards.
It didn't work, so we watched as the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays. Still, we had amazing seats.
There was a guy in that building waving a Blue Jay's flag from his balcony.

The night grew so pretty and not very dark, so we walked back to our hotel. We passed by some really fantastic street performers playing drums. We also saw the CN Tower all lit up on our way out.
As we walked, Eddie decided that we should find soft ice cream. We found a few food trucks, but none were for ice cream. Until we hit Nathan Phillips once again and found the ice cream truck. I normally do not eat ice cream, but this was too good to pass up. I wanted to feel like a baseball cliche--peanuts and ice cream and a rally cap. A perfect ending to our Toronto trip.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thanks, Toronto: Part 2

Eggsmart has great eggs and a knack for punning.
Heh heh heh
So this is where we ate breakfast, which was pretty delicious. We learned that Jersey Shore fries were basically regular french fries. Also, there are many different choices of spreads to put on toast.
Totally not posing
Definitely not posing
We caught a cab down to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Eddie made yet another new friend by not asking for money back. The place hadn't opened yet so we took a quick walk around the block to find Toronto's flatiron building. We found lots of buildings, probably the tallest ones in downtown, but didn't find the one I was looking for. So we settled for these.
Then we headed back to the Hall of Fame, which was still not open. We checked out the outside first.
Fun Fact: The Hockey Hall of Fame is kind of in the basement of a shopping mall. We went inside the mall part to go to its actual entrance to wait. There were maybe forty people down there, not really in a line, but simply hanging out at the entrance.
Outside of the store on the main floor
I guess Eddie wanted to get in as much of the floor as possible.
Pretty ceiling of the shopping mall
A few minutes after 10, someone opened the gate and in we all went. I'd already bought our tix, so we gave them to the guy along with a coupon I'd found for free wristbands. That's right--FREE! We also bought a program that had a map in it. However, we didn't use the map. The HoF was pretty small, so we didn't really need it to find anything.

As soon as we got by the cashier, I was like, We're going to the Stanley Cup. He was like, huh? I was like, Let's go before there's a line. I don't know why everyone was checking out the jerseys in the display cases when they could go back to those at any time. I mean, what's the most important thing to see in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Eddie was like, oh good idea.

We were the first people in the Stanley Cup room and the only ones there for several minutes. We were allowed to take pictures of it and touch it. It's a replica, so they aren't too worried about someone knocking it over. The photographer took our picture for which I was not ready twice. Then we took a look at the old plates on the cup in the little room. Eddie started to look at the other stuff in the room, and I was like, Nope! We're going to play games first to avoid lines and then come back! He was like, oh good idea.

This is not the Stanley Cup, but it was in the same room.
Once in a lifetime picture, and I'm looking slightly to the right.
We got to the interactive games with only two people ahead of us. The first game was shooting against a goalie. We could choose Lundqvist, or one of the goalies from Toronto or Montreal. Eddie shot against Lundqvist. He got no goals. I shot against the Montreal goalie. I got one goal.



To hear Eddie tell the story, you'll learn how the computerized game was broken and he certainly got at least one in. Because, you know, he's better than the computer.

The next game was goal tending. Ahead of us were four people. When I say "people" here, I really mean children. You know, kids who are supposed to play games. The two right in front of us were pretty young, and man were they good! The mom said they used to live in NY and were Rangers fans, but now they live in Michigan. We told her about the MSG revamp and then her younger son distracted us all as he put on all the goalie gear, which was pretty much as big as he was. Then he blocked a bunch of shots without any fear. 

The line behind us was growing, so that's about when I decided I wasn't going to do it. It wasn't fear of embarrassment. I mean, come on, I'd already won at life by scoring more goals than Eddie did. It was more of not wanting to waste anyone's time. I knew what I'd do. As soon as a puck came at me, I was going to run away from it. The game lasted over two minutes plus the time it takes to put on and take off the equipment. Since I knew my score would be negative saves, I decided to not delay anyone's day.

Eddie went and saved more than half the goals. It was rather impressive.

After that, we went back to the beginning and looked at all the memorabilia. There were movies and interactive trivia games we could do. There was a lot of non-NHL stuff there, too, which was beyond my knowledge of hockey, but it was still interesting. They also had something called Hockey In Space that I'm still trying to figure out.
I realize, I'm a child. The guy's name is Dickie Moore, and on the sign it says Moore, Dickie.
The contract between the NHL and the cup keepers
The original travel box for the cup
We made our way back to here.
There it is again.
Hockey in Space?
Pretty ceiling
We saw everything, some things twice. Having visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, I thought this one was more compact. We finished more quickly than I thought we would. Soon enough we were heading upstairs to mall level and into the store where we could buy our Stanley Cup photo (the one in which I am looking a bit harried) and anything else we could want hockey-related. And I had a coupon for 10 % off. And I forgot to use it. Dangit. We got some pretty nice swag anyway, and then headed to find lunch.
And this is what happens when I climb stairs ahead of my husband.
We walked a lot in the sun and it was hot. We ducked into a pizza shop and Eddie asked for two slices for himself. I'd planned to find something else. But then the pizza came out of the oven and what they called two slices was really four, so I wound up eating pizza with him. It was a crazy size for a slice. Like picture two NYC slices together. Very generous, but very unnecessary.

And then I got Starbucks because I wanted to try a mini waffle cone drink thingie and vacation was the only time I'd try it. And it was good.
Off we went to see the Love Locks. We got a cab, Eddie made a friend, and we headed into the Distillery District. Since lots of Toronto reminded me of NYC, I figured there would be a fair amount of street vendors around selling overpriced locks for people who didn't have one. Nope, Toronto doesn't have that. So we settled on a few photos.
Back to the cabs to make another friend, and we went all the way across Toronto to find Honest Ed's. The main reason I wanted to go there was so I could point at Eddie and say, Hey that's you. Also, it has really discounted prices. Like, we bought an ornament there for 1.99, and in other stores, the same ornament was 19.99. So yeah, it was worth the cab ride. Also, once we were inside, we were transported to what seemed to be another world. It was weird in there, y'all.
What department is this?
Or this?
The Fun House Mirror Department
The weather started to take a turn from overly sunny to overcast windy. We walked down the main road to check out some of what we'd seen going by from the cab. There was a game happening on the college campus. He guessed lacrosse. I thought soccer. When we peeked through the gate, we saw it was frisbee.

Then came one of my most favorite moments. That weekend was something called Doors Open (or Open Doors--one of those). Lots of buildings across town allowed free entry along with talks and activities about architecture. I found this gem:
Oh, irony. I love you so.
Then we ventured into a basement bookstore and walked by some large dominoes.
The overcast turned to whipping wind, so we grabbed a cab, made a driver happy, and headed to our hotel to crash. Then I decided I needed to see the Toronto sign again, so I sat at the hotel room window staring at it for a while.
Then we watched Ant-Man on Netflix until the wi-fi gave out from too many people using it all at once.

I'll leave you with this to ponder:
One more time--what the heck is this?