Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vallejo Tribute - The Signing, part 1

Continued from this post.

I loathe long posts. I think they can be tedious. I generally avoid them. Then there's a poetry reading. I like to be thorough. And I go off on tangents. I am who I am. Hold on for a ride. If my antics bore you, skip it.

A disclaimer for any of the poets who may chance upon this blog. I am a collector, not a dealer. The pursuit and attainment of an autograph or inscription is a cherry on top of an already delicious sundae. I may sound methodical, but that's because, like the fisherman, the more I catch, the better the experience. I can catch nothing, I will be disappointed, but at least I witnessed a reading. A fishless fisherman will complain that he didn't catch anything, but he still loved trying.

Anyway, when I got to work on Thursday, I didn't think I would be having to bother Sam Shepard. My pal Brian, in Toronto, who mentored me as a book scout and collector, is a huge Shepard fan. Alas, he e-mailed back, none of the books that he sent me in the late 1990s that I have yet to get signed for him, were Shepard books.

I have several boxes of books under my desk at work, at least a box of which is Brian's, along with the accumulations of a decade of scouting and collecting. Each box is labeled and cross-referenced on an Excel spreadsheet. I also have a Microsoft Access database of all the poets that appear in any anthology I have. Those who know me may recognize that this level of organization is entirely inconsistent with the rest of my life, but this system was founded on the trauma of coming back from a reading only to discover that I could have brought a book that I had forgotten I owned.

A pragmatist would point at that and say it is a sure sign that I have too many books. Guilty, I concede, stipulating it is a far better predicament to be in, to have too many books, as opposed to too few.

Sorry for the digression, folks. But it is back story necessary to set the stage for seeing that the poet Edward Hirsch was in a copy of The Paris Review which was in one of my boxes.

Upon locating said journal, I opened it up to see if I could find Hirsch's poem. I opened it up, instead, to an interview on theater with none other than Sam Shepard. "Well," I thought to myself, "isn't that nice!" I then realized that, of course, Shepard was not in my poet's database. I figured I'd check the rest of the box. Just in case.

This box also contained several of Brian's books, including an old, 1972 drama anthology entitled The Off-Off-Broadway Book: The Plays, The People, The Theater.

Brian had sent it to me with 6 or 10 other books that I have managed to not get signed by the poet/playwright AmiriBaraka. I scanned the table of contents, turned the page, there! A one-act play by Sam Shepard! it was The Unseen Hand.

This build-up is necessary to understand what I felt when, by virtue of my choice of seat in the second row, I found myself sitting directly behind Anne Waldman, Ed Hirsch, and Sam Shepard.

And it was the high premium that Brian paid with his professed jealousy of my seeing Shepard, along with the fact that this was my first encounter with the man that, when the reading had ended, I had the two books out for Shepard to sign before anyone had moved.

Another digression, dear readers: long before the birth of BillyBlog, my experiences at readings were chronicled in my journals and in e-mails to Brian and our mutual book chum Hubert. Those avenues of expression were pretty much killed by BillyBlog (although the journals are on life support, barely holding on). Thus, BillyBlog and its readers, get the benefit/burden
of this aspect of personal history.

Jump to "Vallejo Tribute - The Signing, Part 2"

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