The last couple days, I’ve been having hits on my blog from the keywords: “Chinatown poem.” So, if you’re that awesome person trying to find out about the poem I published in The (awesome) Rattling Wall, then check out my reading below.
Last Thursday, I read at Book Soup as part of The Rattling Wall Issue 3 Book Tour. I was lucky enough to read with some great writers: Brian Rooney, Amy Wallen, Panio Gianopoulus, Kate Reeves, and Suzanne Lummis. It was a great reading, and I was honored to be a part of it — especially at such a cool and historic bookstore. When I moved to L.A. almost two years ago, I interviewed Joseph Mattson and Tosh Berman at Book Soup. Since then, my goal was to read there. Big thanks to Michelle Meyering and The Rattling Wall for helping make that happen. Check out the video above to see my reading.
So, as for what happens when you lose everything…Today was an utter disaster. It was one of those days that you can never see coming — like an old man running through a red light — that shake the shit out of you and realize how one mistake can send you on a trajectory of unfortunate events.
This morning, I woke up and went over to Portfolio Coffeehouse on 4th Street to work on this piece I’m writing on port truckers. I’ve been working on it since early September, and I have countless interviews that were extremely hard to come by. So, I’m sitting in Portfolio, texting my buddy who just moved to L.A., and I’m going through some of the old audio. I was going to delete some of the old ones in order to focus on typing up the important ones. That’s when it happened. I hit the erase button on my Olympus video recorder, and instead of only deleting one of the interviews, I deleted the entire folder. All of my work…gone.
Suddenly, months of work, personal stories I was trusted with, money, opportunity, was gone. I knew I was in a coffee shop, and I could hear the espresso machines spitting foam and the random people talking about their new businesses, but it all disappeared, and I wasn’t in the coffee shop anymore. I was outside of it, in my head, playing out the infinite scenarios of apologizing for a stupid mistake and wondering how in the world I was going to make my deadline.
Now I actually walked outside, crouched down where people couldn’t see me, and screamed, “FUCK.” I looked down at the voice recorder, holding it as if I was strangling the piece of electronic crap. “How can this be so easy? How can you be such a little shit? What the hell is wrong with you? I didn’t want to erase all my work. Couldn’t you have know that? Couldn’t you tell? How can you be such a terrible purchase?”
I stepped back for a second, realizing that I’m probably talking to myself, and I took a couple of breaths. I went back inside and googled the Olympus product, found the contact information, and gave them a call.
So here’s where things get better, and if you’re going through this same scenario and you’re about to give up all hope, let me tell you — there’s a way to fix this.
What the woman on the phone told me is that there are these audio recovery programs you can download for free. But she said they only work for about 75% of your lost work. I figured, hey, 75% is better than losing everything. What I needed, however, was to connect my voice recorder with a USB cable to my computer, so I rushed over to Best Buy, and I bought the cable. One of the Geeks there told me about this program called Recuva. She swore by the product and said it worked most of the time.
Oh, I thought, maybe I’m saved. I prayed to God or Allah or Buddha — whoever the hell is up there listening to me and my problems — and I found the program for free. Well, Recuva is a program only compatible with a PC. I’m using a Mac. But I found another program that worked for a Mac. It is called Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery. The download was for free, and it started scanning my computer. The great thing about it was that you could scan iPods, hardrives, audio files, even flash drives, and it would find your material. Lucky for me, the program found all my audio recordings.
And there they were — my mp3 files all stacked up in a folder like a miracle sent down straight from Vishnu. I couldn’t believe it. The program saved me — and for free.
I went to click on the files. No so fast, the program said. You need to buy the $100 software in order to recover the files. I could see the audio, but I couldn’t own them yet. I reluctantly paid the $100, knowing there was no other option, and now I have the files back, in my hands, in order to complete the story.
But it was terrifying. I have never done something so stupid. Well, at least as a freelancer, and I know now that I must start backing up everything. What a wild day.
On Saturday at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, The Rattling Wall had a celebration to release Issue 3. David L. Ulin, James Meetze, Jillian Lauren, Angel Nafis, and others read at the Masonic Temple to a packed crowd. Michelle Meyering hosted the event from a desk on the stage.
Ulin and Nafis were my favorite readers. Nafis has such a great reading style, and her poem (the one that ended each line with the word black) was a knock out. She concluded the night. Here’s a video of Nafis:
Plus, there was this great video beforehand about the making of The Rattling Wall. Michelle talked a lot about the softball tournament I helped organized back in the summer. She also wrote about the game in the introduction to the book. Michelle writes that during that softball tournament, she realized that she had created a home in Los Angeles by creating The Rattling Wall. It’s a pretty powerful intro and sets up the whole theme of home for the issue.
I was lucky enough to have my poem, “Chinatown,” published in the book. And it’s right next to Ulin’s piece, which is pretty bad ass. Joyce Carol Oates is in the book, too. Plus, there are these awesome illustrations by Ben Tegel in the book. They were displayed during the event, and when people were reading, I found myself laughing out loud…lol.
Well, at one point during the night, Michelle asked the contributors to stand up. That’s when I stood up out of the crowd with all the other writers, and I felt incredibly proud and humbled at the same time. This is really one of my most significant publications to date for my poetry, and it’s an incredible start. And I felt a part of Los Angeles, too — even being some kid from Clinton, Mass.
So, it’s going to be a big week. Finishing up a piece at Pacific Standard. Just got the edits back. And then I’m working on a draft for a piece on Kerouac. I had a pitch accepted at an amazing publication. Just don’t want to jinx myself yet. Talk is cheap. Writing is real. But can still be cheap. Goodnight everyone!
After a few weeks of interviewing and researching, my piece on Joseph Mattson’s Empty the Sun went live today. It was an amazing experience, writing and revising the piece. It started out as a smaller story, and it grew over time. During the process, I learned a ton about L.A. and writing.
For the piece, I interviewed David Ulin and Jerry Stahl. Interviewing Ulin proved to be incredible, because he’s so knowledgeable about L.A. novels. He talked about Bukowski, West, Fante, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others. He seems like a pretty good guy, too. It was an amazing experience. I talked to Joe Donnelly and other great writers, too, about Mattson. It was awesome to be a part of the conversation.
I first met Joseph Mattson at Book Soup, when I was volunteering with Slake. They sent me on all these interviews to book stores in Los Angeles, and Book Soup was my first stop. I interviewed Tosh Berman and Mattson. The pieces never made it out into the public, but it proved to be a great experience. After the interview, Mattson handed me his book, Empty the Sun. That was the first time I heard about the novel. I loved it. The book reminded me of all the great qualities of the novels I loved: “Post Office” and “Ask the Dust.” (I was conducting all these interviews while I was working full time in Woodland Hills at the rehab center.)
It’s strange, because I’m learning to love Southern California more all the time, because there is an incredible literary scene out here. You’ve got The Rattling Wall, Slake, Black Clock, Red Hen Press, Les Figues Press, A Barnacle Book, etc. While I’m not sure, yet, if California is my home, it’s clear there is a lot of excitement here. As if the city is always on the verge of something big — whether it be an earthquake or a cultural movement.
Okay, I’m going to head out on a run with my dog, Hendrix. But it’s been a good week so far. This Friday, I’m going to review the Coheed and Cambria show at Fingerprints in Long Beach, and then Saturday, I’m going to head over to Dirty Laundry Lit. Oh, I think I might have found some more work with another pub out here. Which is all great news. Just need to figure out how to make writing a sustainable life, while keeping my soul. Hope you’ll stay posted.
Writing is a solitary act — of course — but today, I had the chance to step away from pitching, writing, and the desk to be a part of a community of writers. At the Elysian Valley Recreational Center, Black Clock, Slake, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rattling Wall, and Red Hen Press participated in one hell of a softball tournament. Slake and LARB ended up joining forces to engineer a super team more epic than the current Lakers’ Big 4 and, somewhat unfairly, take the LA Litball Crown, which was not actually a crown, or anything at all.
I helped organize the event, and honestly, I was a bit nervous about the turnout because of the heat. But all my worries dissolved when I arrived at the field thirty minutes early and saw Red Hen Press already practicing in their fresh uniforms. Plus, my buddy, David Gonzalez from Miami, showed up in some boat shoes and umped the game. Continue reading “Litball and Los Angeles”