Monday, October 15, 2007


It must have been a touch of wanderlust. This past weekend I made a quick trip to Charlottesville. A dear friend of long standing, a woman with whom I'd seen many Grateful Dead shows in the late 80s and early 90s, had originally invited another friend to make the trip for the Phil Lesh and Friends concert there. When he couldn't make it, she persuaded me (pretty easily, I admit) to fill in. I welcomed the weekend off and out of town, and it turned out to be a great trip.

Phil and Friends, for one thing, sounded great. No matter who the Friends are, they can always play. I'd heard that the new friends, particularly guitarists Jackie Greene and Larry Campbell, were more song- than jam-oriented, but they jammed through most of both sets, nevertheless, and did really outstanding versions of "Cold Rain and Snow", "Althea" (yes, "Althea"), and "Sugaree" along the way. Some of the transitions seemed a little bumpy to me, but I'll certainly download this one when it becomes available to hear it again.

The venue where they played, the Pavilion, proved to have fine acoustics, even though it's basically a fabric canopy open at the sides, and it's beautifully situated at one end of Charlottesville's lovely downtown mall. Which isn't a mall, if that word makes you, as it does me, think of acres of concrete and asphalt surrounding an enclosed commercial garrison. No one we talked with seemed to know when it had happened, but sometime back Charlottesville simply took the traffic out of the heart of its existing downtown, built mostly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I'd say, and converted the street into a brick-paved pedestrian avenue. It's now lined by lots of sidewalk cafes and shops of all sorts under a (still) green canopy of large oaks.

And for another thing, Charlottesville poet Jessica Smith graciously came out after the show to meet us for a drink and some lively conversation. Being poets and fellow Scorpios, we conspired to conduct a little experiment the next day at Barnes and Noble, where Jessica works.

As Jessica tells it (sorry, her blog is open just to invited readers, so no link):
First, we plotted that he would buy my book from Barnes and Noble [Sunday] to gauge the reaction of the other employees. ... Oddly, when he asked for my book ..., no one told him that I worked there or told me that someone had bought my book. But perhaps it is not so odd. Some of my coworkers think it's really cool that I have a book and are supportive of my pseudo-career as a poet; the rest either don't know, don't care, or actively dislike me for whatever reason one dislikes people who have something else to do than the job at hand. (Thankfully there are other talented people at my workplace with whom I can commiserate.)
Her supervisor happily agreed that I could interview Jessica for Wordplay, so we drove to her place, and after I'd set up the mics and other gear, she read several poems and we talked for forty minutes or so about her work and the poetics of what she terms "plastic poetry", poetry that exists in both spatial and temporal dimensions. It was great fun, and I found her poems and what she had to say about them of extraordinary interest; I look forward to getting our talk edited and up on the air.

We've not been holding readings at the Center this fall simply because the gallery is full of vitrines for the fine ceramics show that's now up, but we'll be getting underway again after it comes down at the end of the year. I'd really like to have Jessica come down for a reading, and she's up for it; we spoke of the week of Valentines (it's on a Thursday this year, so perhaps the Saturday after), so you might want to pencil that in on your calendars. I'll post more, though, as we get the details figured out.

Her current book, available, like NatureS , from SPD, is Organic Furniture Cellar; her previous book, or chapbook, bird-book, is available as a free download (it's a .pdf file), and her Juvenalia is available here.

My friend and I left from Barnes and Noble after Jessica and I returned, and enjoyed the five plus hour drive back down the west side of the Blue Ridge through the lovely Shenandoah Valley. Occasional crazy other driver behavior reminded us several times that Mercury is retrograde, and we did get caught in slow inching traffic near what must have been an accident, though there were only a couple of state police cars at what must have been its site by the time we drove past.

The dog was happy to see me when my friend dropped me off, and when I checked my email, I discovered that another Phil and Friends show was being netcast live from Atlanta at that very moment, so I settled in to catch the last several songs of what seemed to have been another fine show - and so put the nightcap on a really fine weekend.


The photo of Jessica is borrowed from her Facebook profile.

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