The important part is not the travel, it’s the new people you meet and the experiences you have as a result of those people. Of course a road trip is not necessary for you to be changed by new people, but it’s always more fun because of the anticipation factor that builds as the miles slide by.
So, last week I took a road trip to a poetry/literary event in Southern California, my foundation home—where my high school years formed a good part of who I am. I lived there while I traversed some incredibly difficult years—made even more difficult for those of us that don’t fit neatly into molds.
A writing partner/friend, Sunny Frazier, and I traveled to the San Gabriel Literary Fest to meet and be exposed (in a good way) to other literary artists—poets and prose writers. And exposed we were. There is something about the allure of the unfettered mind that attracts me. I love people who don’t put a lot of limits on their thinking, who are open to new experiences and not freaked out by the changes those experiences will wring out of you.
A road trip always heightens my awareness, forcing me to pay attention to details.
The clouds hanging in a clear blue sky. A windy hill, at the roadside rest stop, on the Grapevine, when you pull your jacket tight to your body to squeeze out the chill mountain air. Breathing in the crisp, fresh smell, while closing your eyes a moment, to anticipate the adventure ahead.
Ping! A bright moment.
The poets at the venue changed me that day. I embraced the mundane poems and was warmed by the more profound ones when they arose. I love the spirit of the artist and always feel at home with people who stretch their thinking to embrace that feeling, thought, idea that is just out of reach, sometimes seeing it with clarity and sometimes only sensing it.
The anticipation of discovery.
The poets/writers during the day were mostly adequate, with a few brightly lighting up the room. I bought a book from one writer who read from his SciFi story that was intriguing and different.
Ping! Another bright spot.
It was after dinner when things got dramatically different. I lovingly say, it’s when the crazies came out—an affectionate reference to the free thinkers who know few bounds. It was a step back in time to a beatnik moment out of the past, in a dark basement with overhead lighting accentuating the shadows that bring out images and allow pictures to form in the mind, as the sometimes gyrating poets read and expressively performed their literary pieces.
One poet made reference, while reading her erotic poem, to the basement as the ‘sex dungeon,’ which of course brought me out of my temporary doze from a less stimulating prior poet.
What was that she said, what’s going on, did I miss something?
Ping! Pay attention.
If I was beginning to get sleepy (long day which began early) up comes Brendan Constantine, an animated speaker who gyrated and performed his pieces to emphasize his poetic phrasing like a Shakesperean actor playing to an audience in the far reaches of a theater, not the small ‘dungeon’ which held maybe 40 people. His poetry was compelling and reached inside, affecting me in ways I haven’t fully assimilated as yet.
Ping! Another moment that changed me.
After a long drive at high speeds on the L.A. freeway system, we got to my writer friend’s house at midnight, where we stayed the night near the beach at Marina Del Rey, south of Santa Monica. After fun conversation in our PJs over tea, we chatted and told stories until we finally gave in and succumbed to sleep after a long day.
Ping! Good feelings from sharing, laughing, getting to know a new writer friend, MartaChausee.
I awoke at my usual early hour to write in my journal--all the impressions and ideas coming to me from the stimulation of the previous evening.
And cleansings poured forth to that young girl I left behind in L.A. many years ago. Somehow this trip was a revisit to previous unresolved emotions that being by the Southern California beach brought up. Later that morning, after breakfast, I took a little time to walk through the sand on the beach, the final element for the alchemical reaction and changes that finally hit home.
Ping! Another moment that changed me,
after which I would come up with the ideas for some short stories I have since begun. A changed approach to writing. Or maybe a higher level on the spiral of writing I started years ago when I lived at the beach for an unforgettable summer, not all of which was good.
The pings or sparks from people I was exposed to changed me, whether in a greater or lesser way, forever—FOREVER. Think of that. I will never be exactly the same person I was the day before that trip. Those kinds of realizations can’t help but make you grateful for every positive person you come in contact with in real life or on the internet.
My internet irritant (I say with loving affection), M Cid D’Angelo has been prodding me about literary vs. genre. We’ve been sparring about the value of each (me taking the underdog position (in his mind) of genre). And after some lively banter, it has opened me up to accept another, closed part of me that has been resisting change.
Ping! A call to excellence.
I believe in the power of story, whether well written or not, but the power of story can take a far deeper turn when everything is not spelled out—as in genre where detail is king (a good thing). Writing in a more literary style makes you work harder, pulls from deeper wells and plumbs the depths from deeper stores inside yourself to find truths that sing. Sometimes we just need story to entertain without all the work in our stress filled lives. At other sometimes it’s good to work at finding the deeper messages, the more esoteric truths that poets and literary writers bring to the 'game' of writing.
It’s easy to become lazy with genre alone. But devouring only literary is like eating cake all the time, not good for the digestion. I think you need the more gritty writing to clear the palate—just a good entertaining story that changes you in some small way—like a good road trip.
When you have both in one story—well, then you’ve hit the jackpot.