The voice on the GPS is named Michelle, and she hates us. It's apparent every time she gives us directions, whether or not we follow her advice. I swear if you listen closely you can hear her say “Turn left assholes.” She has enacted her revenge several times by advising us to take turns that either don't exist at all or else are so ambiguous that we end up turning when what she really meant wasn't so much “Turn right.” but “Don't turn left. Or something.” So it was that we spent more time than necessary in New Jersey, as Michelle instructed us to drive through the airport, perhaps hoping we would throw her on a plane so she could fly to a continent with more respectable roads.
Before we had even reached New Jersey, Michelle and I had fought over which lane in Brooklyn she wanted us in, the end result being a woman in a very leopard not so much pillbox hat casting so much shade that I theorize that the tree that grows in Brooklyn sprouts directly out of her constantly enraged head.
After Jersey, we drove through Pennsylvania which included a stop in Bethlehem where we passed the world's most old-fashioned McDoald's sign on our way to pick up world famous poetic paleontologist, Trujasaurus Regina. The purpose of this sidetrip was to drive to a WaWa, a convenience store that, while brightly lit and organized fairly well, is not entirely unlike every chain of gas station/convenience stores in the continental United States, despite several of my friends' devotion to it.
Apparently, they have good coffee, but as I never drink the stuff, and was already hopped up on salted caramel hot chocolate, I was undewawawhelmed by the experience. It was good to talk to Trujasaurus, though. We snapped a few pictures, I ate a thoroughly mediocre soft pretzel, and we dropped Trujasaurus back at her abode.
Then we drove. Also, we drove.
I took over at some point in Pennsylvania, which is roughly the size of China. We were without incident (apart from me finding a superior soft pretzel somewhere in Ohio) until we arrived in Columbus.
We were to spend New Year's with Louise Robertson, Scott Woods, and members of the Columbus Ohio Poetry Slam community. Michelle guided us to the address, we parked the car, got our bags out of the car, and knocked on the door, where someone looking fairly surprised opened the door.
“Is this Louise's house?”
The man rolled his eyes. “No.” and closed the door.
Michelle had led us astray once ag...oh, my finger had entered the wrong street address. We were, quite literally, on the wrong side of the tracks from Louise's house. So we crossed said tracks and found the proper house.
It's been a long time since I've been to a part that I would describe as “off the hook”, if only because I am not a character in the 1990s Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air sitcom. This party had many heavy jackets on it, and was thus stressing the hook at its hinges. There was a table of Cards Against Humanity, a table full of delicious snack foods and chips, a kitchen full of people and good food and a basement where the pets and children were stored for later use.
Surprising no one who has ever met the man, Scott Woods is the undisputed Cards Against Humanity Champion. The rounds he didn't win were merely him being polite. I won not a single round, my worst ever game performance, due to my having left the soft pretzel of my brain somewhere in Pennsylvania.
My favorite round winner was “White Privilege, High Five, bro!” which I'm pretty sure Ed Wilkinson and I have said in our quest to say the saddest thing you can say to someone while high-fiving them.
After the party dieted out, six of us split into two teams of three to play a game called Word On The Street, which is probably my favorite word game of all-time (thanks to teammate, poet, and the all around awesome Rose Smith for bringing it and teaching us how to play). Bobby, Rose, and I lost HARD. The purpose of the game being to claim letters off a board, and the category being “words that end in 'ism'”, I was afraid our opponents would play “colonialism” (and, really, who isn't at least a little afraid of colonialism?), but they DESTROYED us by playing “antidisestablishmentarianism”, which we were unable to recover from.
“I”m going to be mad about this for the rest of the year!” Bobby said. “Luckily, there's only about an hour left.”
We recruited Louise's son, Andrew, who, at twelve, is already cooler than pretty much anyone I've ever met. In a discussion about how none of us really liked mayonnaise, he referred to it as “commoner's caviar”. I was almost ashamed to talk for the rest of the night, as I knew I was incapable of saying anything smarter or funnier than that.
Despite Andrew's viable contributions to our team, we were once again destroyed by a single word “pachysandra” which our opponents played when the category was “ground coverings”.
Bobby and I had a few good words such as “lightabers” (things designed to be gripped in one hand) and “dreadlocks” (things you can tie in your hair) but we were otherwise made useless by our long drive .
We toasted the new year in with Cava, and I went to the bedroom. I was sleeping in the top bunk of what I believe was Andrew's room, which I climbed with no problem but which was so high to the ceiling that bending my totally diesel body into the bunk without hitting my head on the ceiling was a challenge. But it was a challenge I succeeded at which, according to legends of previous bed inhabitants, means that I am more flexible than Maxwell Kessler. I imagine it's difficult for Max to bend his body due to the possibilities of his nipples chafing against his chiseled abs.
I didn't drift off to sleep so much as swerve to sleep, not due to any intoxication (I'd had just one glass of Cava) but because I kept seeing imaginary Christmas-lighted landscapes passing by very closed eyes. In the background, Michelle whispered “Continue on until sleep. Asshole.”
I hate driving in New York even more than I hate driving in Boston, which is a considerable feat. Keep in mind, I let my license lap for nearly a year in order to force my then employers to hire someone else to do deliveries for them.
That's right, I voluntarily sent myself through the process of dealing with the MA RMV to get my license reinstated just so I didn't have to drive a windowless van with a cartoon on the side around a city that's absolutely crosshatched with elementary schools.
This is why, having woken up in Wallingford, Connecticut, Bobby took the wheel (one of the many ways he is like Jesus) and we began one of the shorter jaunts of our tour.
One of the main reasons I hate driving in both cities is parking.
We were scheduled to perform a show at Beauty Bar in Brooklyn, and were staying at my friend JBob's place a few blocks away. I had asked about parking, and he said there was plenty of street parking but, lo, it was New Year's Eve Eve and the city was jammed with cars. Unable to find a place near the venue, we found a place near the Brooklyn Public Library, grabbed a couple of books, and I typed up a blog entry and did some venue research.
We got to the venue around 5ish, and had some delicious pig-based products at a place called Pork Slope, where I had an Apple Orchard Punch which was incredibly delicious but which I knew would be unbubbled in comparison with the drinks Eliel made at Beauty Bar.
As part of this tour Dr. Bobby decided he would not repeat any poems. Because most of what I've written recently is short and on similar topics, I decided it would be better for me if, instead of not repeating anything, I debuted at least one new piece that didn't suck (subjectively) at each show. So Bobby and I wrote new shit, and decided to open our show with it.
The thing is, we both went WEIRD on our new pieces. Mine, about an artist in Harvard Square who can sketch your closest friends' opinions of you in portrait form, and Bobby's about dead people leaving things at his bar. Also, the venue we performed at is awesome but not actually a poetry venue. Eliel set the perfect tone by announcing "We don't, uh, usually do poetry, but my friends are in from out of town. Either you're here for poetry, or you're in for a nice surprise, or it's about to get really awkward for you."
Josiah had followed us from Wallingford and brought his fiance, Han with him. Bobby had invited an Emerson friend who invited two other Emerson friends, and thus we had an audience of five very excited people who knew us. Also, one very excited guy who didn't know us but knew about the poetry. There was also a couple who seemed into it, and a friend of Eliel's. Apart from them, we emptied the bar pretty quickly.
It's a healthy reminder that very few people like surprise poetry shows. There was a couple of women up front who laughed at all the funny references in our first three poems but still walked out. So we kept a short, odd set and then drank a large volume of alcohol. And we made friends. Not just with the Alan, the guy we didn't know but who had come for poetry, but with a guy named Marcus who didn't see our show at all but had walked in looking to talk to someone about comics. Someone, I should add, who is a normal human being with similar opinions on comics and comic related show as I have, which is an anomaly in my life. At no point was I bored, offended, or afraid for my life.
We drank many things. I believe Bobby had enough side cars that he, legally, had to take out an insurance policy, and Eliel kept making me nameless delicious drinks. This was going to be less a walk, and more a stumble back to JBob's place, We'd also been gifted a spliff by a new friend, which we were in the midst of smoking when a guy dressed disproportionately better than us asked "Can I have a hit off that?"
And the ever polite Dr. Bobby let him take several while we talked about the difference between Cambridge and Broklyn (which either of us can remember). Then we stumbled to the car, decided t order a pizza but ultimately fell into a deep coma before we could accomplish anything more than pointing in the direction of the bedroom.
When a poet or a writer says their book is hot off the press, it usually isn't meant to be taken literally.
When I put The Cantab Anthology together in 2012, about thirty of the one hundred books I picked up actually were still warm from the Goutenburg machine. And while our new chapbooks had barely been finished printing when we picked them up on our way out of Cambridge they were not, alas, warm. Even though Bobby's cover is made of fire.
They were, however, still fresh. Both audacious and brand new. Much like this tour. And much like Bobby's limp.
The rumor that I gave him that hobble when he mentioned being the headliner of this tour is vicious and untrue. The rumors that I started that rumor, however, are accurate.
Bobby's limp, like my ability to drive a car, is not new, it's just not something constant in his life. Also like my ability to drive a car, no one knows where it came from but it looks simultaneously practiced and accidental and is, at times, distressing.
After a brief stop at My Problematic (formerly Racist, but she's been diversifying her prejudices) Grandmother's house, we made it to Wallingford where the lovely Adele and Josiah were waiting for us.
Our premier show was to be a live broadcast public access show where we would be performing "more than 20 minutes of poetry". There had been talk of a puppet show, a theater troupe that did a lot of work for/about mental illness, and a recently formed improv troupe. And about a half an hour before we started we found it would just be us and the improv group who wanted to "interact" with our poetry, a phrase whose possible trainwreck factor had both Bobby and I in wide-eyed agreement that we would like this to happen and be recorded for posterity.
We started precisely on time with just Bobby and I, sitting in comfy armchairs like we were the new sarcastic hosts of a Whitesterpiece Theater show. I opened with "Hello, I Wrote You A Song Called Welcome To The Jungle", Bobby followed with "Love Is A Hernia" and then we abandoned our set list entirely. In no particular order, Bobby nearly ran over Junot Diaz, I struggled to have a Christmas conversation with my father about Ferguson and Eric Garner, Bobby argued his identity with a liquor store clerk, I tried to discuss gender norms using street team sales tactics and homophobic dudes in love, and then....then something magical happened.
Bobby had just finished his poem about dinosaurs, and I saw that the improv troup, consisting of a Hulk Hogan impersonator, a Wolverine impersonator, a guy in a Ghostbusters track suit, a woman dressed as a Native American, and a blues guitarist were in the back. So I said something to the effect of, "Well, the subject of dinosaurs seems to be a good time to bring on the improv troupe." because it did.
The leader of the troupe said "I don't know anything about dinosaurs but I want to know where that missing plane in the Atlantic is." which didn't seem much related to anything either of us had said (although Bobby later did a poem that mentioned the Wright Brothers, so maybe he was prescient). The next fifteen minutes revolved around "Hulk Hogan" talking about 1984, trying not to swear but using the word "bitch" (which I SHOULD have riffed off of with my poem about the word, but I was FASCINATED by what was happening around me), the woman dressed as a Native American talking about spirits, and a brief conversation wherein Hulk Hogan and Wolverine argued about who was stealing whose voice.
From the audience came a chant of "Po-e-try. Po-e-try." in the rhythm of the Cantab "Three Word Chant!" so...so, the improve troupe decided it was time for Hulk Hogan to freestyle over a blues guitar riff. Which was really everything I'd dreamed of since I was told the improv troupe wanted to "interact" with us. When the song was done, Hulk Hogan picked the seventy year old woman dressed as a Native American in the air, as though he was about to piledrive her. There was a brief silence before the chant of "Po-e-try. Po-e-try." picked up again, and the troupe went downstairs to plan their next set.
During the troupe's performance, Bobby had turned to me and said "YOU'RE following that."
So I did "How To Survive A Sixty Hour A Week Job On Just Above Minimum Wage" which sort of related to Wolverine and completely related to my usual existence of utter bafflement of what was happening all around me. And while Bobby followed it up, I went into the audience and asked Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib to step in and do a poem, which was, as expected, stellar, and something I'd never heard him do before.
We each did a few more poems, ending with Bobby reading his poem bout giving inaccurate tours of Boston to his friends and family, and we headed outside where he and Josiah smoked, and Hanif, Laura Willis-Abdurraqib, and I commiserated. The improv troupe closed the night with a story about the Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Elizabeth love triangle.
We ended up back at the amazing Adele and Josiah's house, where we talked slam gossip, the trials of love, and how many parts per million of air to carbon is allowed in your house compared to what is allowed at a business (hint: what's considered too dangerous to be legally allowed in your home is totally acceptable in a space where someone is making money off your labor).
This morning we had a quick breakfast, managed to NOT to leave anything behind, and drove to Brooklyn, after a brief stop in North Haven, Connecticut where, apparently, every one in town is part entitled sloth, part daredevil, as they all drive and walk very slowly in very dangerous situations.
Barring internet issues, I should be posting snippets of the video we recorded during the first portions of our car trip tonight.
There should also be a post up at Drunk In A Midnight Choir in the coming days!
After tonight's show at Beauty Bar, we're headed to Columbus Ohio for a New Year's Eve Celebrity Board Game And Wine Party. And then....The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Mr. Crawford is on his way with the limo to meet Mr. Stone to begin their completely relaxed, not at all stressful drive to Las Vegas.
First stop? Adam's grandmother's house.
But first the boys go out drinking at Grendel's (fourteen hours before they have to drive, don't worry). The drinks are good. The food is fine. The company, Peter Jagielski and Melina Collins, is excellent. In fact, things are too good. Why would anyone want to leave this bar? Poetry is disappointing. Driving is awful. Change is terrifying. Who knows if they even HAVE food outside of Cambridge. When the bill comes, Adam's eyes glaze over.
"I'm not leaving." He says.
"The hell you aren't!" Bobby replies. "We have to drive out first thing tomorrow afternoon. I've poured my life savings into this tour, and I won't have you ruin it because you're a lazy alcoholic."
"Hey! I'm not a lazy alcoholic! I WORK at my alcoholism."
Peter and Melina exchange a worried glance. "Well, now that we've paid the bill, I guess it's time to go."
"NO!" Adam says. "I'm not ready."
Bobby cracks his knuckles, brute style. "We'll jut see about that."
Seven hair-pulling, eye-gouging, breadbasket-popping minutes later, they get Adam to the exit, where he hangs on for dear life.
Finally, Bobby says, "You know we're coming back in three weeks, right?"
"Oh." says Adam, and calmly walks out the door. "I forgot we were coming back."
Adam sighs. "It's a shame we won't be able to find any place with that hot rum cider on the road, though, huh?
Billy Collins Destroys All Of Western Civilization With His Gigantic Laser Salmon (Adam Stone at The Crooked Treehouse 12/16/14)
Bobby Crawford is the “one-man-boy-band” of Emerson College. Bobby competed on three consecutive College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational teams representing Emerson (2011-2013). He also served as a curator of the Emerson Poetry Project from 2012-2013, where he was instrumental in helping the EPP win Emerson’s Student Organization of the Year. Bobby competed at the 2013 National Poetry Slam with the Mill City Slam team from Lowell, Mass. and represented the Boston Poetry Slam at the 2013 Individual World Poetry Slam in Spokane, Wash., ranking 15th out of 70. A competitor and showman by instinct, Bobby is a retired nationally-ranked figure skater and a former chess-club kid. He plays harmonica and wears a leather jacket. (photo by Christopher Clauss)
Adam Stone got into poetry to impress someone he no longer talks to. Author of "The Desert Island Your Favorite Albums Washed Up On" and "Attraction Is So Stupid, Magnets Must Be Made Of Shame", Adam also edited Twenty Years Of Poetry At The Cantab Louge and has been narrowly published in a variety of anthologies, including Flicker And Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology Of Spoken Word And Poetry and Drunk In A Midnight Choir, where his weekly column, "Honest Conversation Is Overrated" appears. He is the long-suffering bartender at The Cantab Lounge Open Mic & Poetry Slam, as well as its most frequent and longest reigning Champion Of Champions. He's also been on twelve nationally competing poetry slam teams representing several different New England cities and towns. When he's too exhausted for wordplay, he sells comics at the second oldest comic book retailer in the world. This doesn't bring him as much joy as you'd imagine.
December 29th: WPAA TV in Wallingford, Connecticut
December 30th: Beauty Bar in New York City
December 31st: No show, but hanging out in Columbus, Ohio
January 1st: TBA
January 2nd: TBA
January 3rd: Omaha, Nebraska
January 4th: New Shit Show at The Mercury Cafe in Denver, Colorado
January 5th: The Mansion in Salt Lake City, Utah
January 6th: settling in Las Vegas
January 7th: shenanigans in Las Vegas
January 8th: All-Star Battle Born Poetry Show at The Bunkhouse Saloon in Las Vegas
January 9th: Book Signing in Las Vegas (venue TBA)
January 10th: more Vegas stuff
January 11th: even more things in Las Vegas
January 12th: cleaning up the mayhem from Las Vegas
January 13th: The Poetry & Beer Slam in Albuquerque, NM
January 14th: Red Dirt Poetry Slam in Oklahoma City, OK
January 15th: no show, but enjoying the food at FnG Eats in Keller, TX
January 16th: Wonderland Books And Games in Martin, TN
January 17th: no show but hanging out at St. Louisa's CHURCH Of The Living Room And Ping Pong Emporium in Atlanta, GA
January 18th: Java Monkey Slam in Atlanta, GA
January 19th: TBA in Charlotte, NC
January 20th: TBA in Richmond, VA
January 21st: TBA in Baltimore, MD
January 22nd: TBA in Baltimore, MD
The New Deal With It Tour: