Last Thursday, January 4th, ryan fitzpatrick and I participated in the newest installment of the flywheel experiment. The first time I read in Calgary was at a flywheel way back in 2004. There was a greatm supportive crowd who actually laughed and responded at the right places and took me out to drink afterwards. Since then, I've managed to wriggle my way into reading at the series at least once a year, and moonlight as a co-organizer along with the incomparable Mark Hopkins (who really does all the work).
Twice, I have been to experiments where authors read each other's work. This time, things got shaken up all crazy like: all the readings were collaborations. ryan and I had had it in mind to collaborate for some time, so for the past month and a half, ever since that fateful and chilly night of November 18th/19th when we sat out in the cold for 13 hours waiting to get a Wii, we've been conducting SERIOUS RESEARCH into the particular cultural artifact. The results were presented,verbal wii tennis style, at the last flywheel. I survive on my serve; ryan has a wicked backhand.
The other collaborators were Bronwyn Haslam/Samuel Garrigo Meza and Jason Christie/Wayman Chan. Jason and Wayman made us all feel like slackers in that they took the stage with *74 pages* they'd written together. They'd begun by trading a few poems they'd written individually, then responding to the other poet's work, and back and forth until the thing gre and became a pile of loose white pages on the table in from of them. The idea behind the reading was all the pages were face-down and Wayman and Jason were to draw, and read, from them at ramdom; Jason, however, kept discarding pages until he found something he wanted to read, while Wayman seemed more content to trust chance. Their reading was not competitive, despite, the back-and-forth aspect; The work felt very unified, but also very broad, so when they both read they were drawing from a large, connected body of work that felt right in both of their mouths. I'd love to see this project appear as a set of unbound pieces that could be reshuffled and read in any order.
Bronwyn and Samuel read from a stomach ache suite that had a strong performance aspect to it. I always love watching Bronwyn and Samuel. The last image I have burnt into my retinas was of them at the Blow Out, Bronwyn in a body cast holding a shot gun while Samuel, looking terrified, wore a tu tu. This time, it was Bronwyn slowly, painfully near the end, eating four bananas whenever Sanuel read. I don't think I COULD eat four bananas in one sitting. It was distracting, and made listening to Samuel almost difficult, which is saying something because Samuel has an understated way of reading that always make me lean closer and want more of his voice. When Bronwyn read, it was reasy to get lost in the cvadence without hearing the words; when Samuel read, it was easy to forget he was reading be -- my god she's picking up ANOTHER BANANA. And then I was doubling over in sympathy at the gastrointentinal distress.
The very next day was the Great filling Staion/Nod Launch. With everyone busy, out of town, and generally to holiday-bloated, derek really ran himself ragged to get this off the ground, and I think his work really paid off. We had one heck of a line up -- Frances Kruk, Garry Morse, Jaqueline Turner, Reg Johanson, and Natalie Simpson, followed by HOTLITTLEROCKET. I'd only ever heard Frances and Natalie read before, so it was a very cool event for me just to hear Garry and Jaqueline and Reg read for the first time. It was an absolute pleasure to share the stage with them and introduce them in Calgary. All of them had gorgeous books that had just come out or, in Frances' case, small press stuff to share. All of the readers were spectacular, and I came away with absolutely no money and a whole bunch of beautiful swag. HOTLITTLEROCKET was/were also amazing -- I had heard them before, but never seen them perform live. Despite a lightinh issue that had the band mostly in the dark, they put on a great show. I rocked out like a teenager and told Ed I want to be a groupie when I grow up.
The next morning, ryan, Frances, Ed and I had breakfast at the Galaxie. While discussing realdolls and the way employees become conditioned to absue like a fron in a slowly heating pan, I realized it was days like the past 48 hours that make it worth it to stay in this city. Despite the -25 weather that is threatening to descend again this week, despite the fact that I am young and relocatable and could be on the beach right now. Thanks, Calgary writing community, for being so cool that I stay hear and buy thicker socks. I hope you're happy.
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Ed and I don't do New Year's resolutions. This year, however, we're trying an experiment: not buying anything. Well, not buying anything new. We don't need stuff. Anyone why has been to our apartment knows we have plenty of stuff. Things like food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and underwear must be bought new, of course. There are exceptions: books, for instance. Particularly small press, and particularly people I know, are still going to be supported. The Mall, which I loathe, does not need any more of my money, however. Any things we need, from electronics to clothing, is perfectly available used.
Doing research to accompany the Scmutzes Curbing Their Consumption Experiment of 2007 led us to freecycle . It's a worldwide group of mailing lists and groups all about giving away free stuff. You list something you have to offer or something you want, and people respond. In droves. In calgary alone there are 5000 people on the list. Monday, after a fit of cleaning, I tried an experiment and listed some old kitchen stuff, clothing, and household doodads that I'd never trhow hout but wasn't using anymore. In an hour, it was all gone. Very nice people now only wanted it, but CAME OVER AND PICKED IT ALL UP. It was amazing.
I was thinking, at first, freecycle would primarily be a way to acquire neat things that we were no longer willing to shell out for. Now, the potential for cleaning has opened up before me. I have a storage room full of perfectly usable stuff that we don't have room for or are simply never going to use again. It can be gome this very same day. I am indescribeably excited by the prospect, and watching the clutter disappear instead of just being moved around or shut away makes my OCD very happy.
Our experiment has become two-fold: 1) try not to buy anything we don't directly support for a year, and 2) make a mighty effort to get rid of everything we don't need. I wonder what we'll have left in 2008.