Monday, February 04, 2008

Airportosis + AWP Conference, Part 1

I'm writing this from my usual venue, an airport terminal, as I await news about when my flight is going to take off. A little snow in New Jersey, and allegedly far worse weather in Chicago, has created a nearly 2-hour TWELVE HOUR delay, with a potentially longer waiting period to come with my 10:40 AM flight pushed back to 11:50, then to 12:30 PM, after which we sat on the tarmac until 3 PM, when we finally took off, but did we land in Chicago? No. We landed in CLEVELAND. Because of the "fog." And then, we had the option of hopping on a bus from Cleveland to Chicago or fending for ourselves. No rebooked flights for tomorrow morning. No hotel rooms. Either the bus, or nada (i.e., rent a car, find the train, go fly your own plane, etc.) So I took the bus, which was obviously designed for people with very short legs, and scrunched up into my egg cup of a seat for 6 1/2 hours, until we reached O'Hare. I didn't reach my place in Chicago until today, which is to say, around 2 AM. Making travel a living hell? Yes we can.

None of the airline people seem to know what's going on, except that the plane that's to ferry us to Chicago took off earlier this morning, and supposedly on its way. Occasionally I can acknowledge how much I used to love flying, even under the most cut-rate conditions (People's Air, anyone?), but over the last few years it has become a nightmare, with the disorganized and humiliating personal and luggage screening process, the constant misinformation from the airlines, the filthy planes, the exorbitantly priced food in the terminals and the lack of food on the planes, the surly staff people working in the airport and for the airlines, and the frequent delays.

C and I always recall how years ago, we were on flights that took off nearly on time during snowstorms (I'll never forget landing in Chicago during one, or taking off from Boston's Logan Airport during another) and driving rain. What were they able to do then that they can't do now? I also remember that I once could call the airline's 800 number and get something other than the farcical excuses ("wind," "weather event," "storm", etc.) that I now regularly hear in person from the airline staff, when they're anywhere to be found. Why can't they just say, we are now trying to cram more planes than we can handle onto the runways at Newark and O'Hare? I should note that not all flying experiences are so bad; every time we fly outside the US, the experience is considerably better. Even from Newark. But within our national borders....


I was home in part to come home, but also to catch the Associated Writing Programs annual conference and extravaganza, which took place this year in New York City. It was so thronged that the AWP ran out of registrations by early January. As a result, a sizable number of people--including about 2/3rds of the folks I was hanging out with--showed up even though they couldn't get into the panels. (I thankfully was able to get a pass through my publisher.) There were multiple simultaneously scheduled readings almost every evening beginning on Wednesday,

Some of the highlights included a reading I participated in on Thursday night as part of the 10th anniversary of the Between A & B reading series, at the 11th Street Bar, on the Lower East Side. The reading convened writers associated with Saturnalia Books (poets Kathleen Graber and Catherine Pierce), Indiana Review (Ross Gay [at right] who teaches at IU and is a CC Fellow), 1913 Press (Chris Stackhouse, Shin Yu Pai and I), and Failbetter (represented by my former grad school classmate, poet Dan Nestor).

It was great to hear the other writers, especially Shin Yu, whose work I've admired for a long time; Ross, who dropped some serious science as he always does; Christopher, of course; and Dan, whom I'd never read with. He even caught a Prince (the artist formerly known as-) wave for a hot second, and concluded his reading with a list of writing class responses that was gut-burstingly hilarious. Chris and I read one of the simultaneous poems ("Geodesy"), and afterwards, at another event (more below), a stern-faced, bespectacled young poet told me that he "respected" it. Okay. Anyways, we sold some books, excellent poets (like Evie Shockley, Tom Ellis, Joanna Klink, and Prageeta Sharma were in the house), one of my former university colleagues, Dorothy Wang, was also there, and I highly recommend the bar's dark draft beers!


  1. Oh my dear God, John! I read your post earlier, then saw a headline about recent days being some of the worst ever for travel delays, and thought you'd been lucky....but damn, you got caught in it! I'm so sorry to hear Makes you want to bring back the transcontinental railroad

  2. Sounds familiar: I was fogged in and missed two flights, was supposed to leave at 10:14, the 12:30 was canceled, caught the 3:30, which sat on the tarmac for two hours. Got to Chicago at 8, went through the "special random check," my 8:47 flight was delayed until 9:47, got on to the plane at 10, sat on the tarmac until 2:30. All this last week. It ends with an arrival at 4:30, hotel at 5, and interview at 8:30.

    There's a long, multi-sequence poem to be written about this.

  3. Keguro, a poem, or a rant...!

    Reggie, if we had a really functional, high-speed, cross-country railroad system, neither Keguro nor I'd have these experiences to write about. The delays are so frequent now when I travel that I expect them as a given and am surprised when they're absent.