14 October 2005

Valley of the Dals

Just about to leave Castlegar for Nelson, just a half-hour or so away. Being handed off from Selkirk College to the KSW. Feel like someone surfing across the moshpit the last couple of weeks.

Had to go on Nelson community radio at 8 a.m. yesterday morning, which meant waking up an hour earlier and talking to myself a lot, so I could clear the various amphibians from my throat before the broadcast. Was then picked up by Almeda for a 9 a.m. workshop at Selkirk. I was relieved to be assuming role of workshop guy/writer at last; I realize that it's only after I've established myself thusly that I feel more comfortable among the strangers who bring me in. I felt like a real mook at the "book club" Wednesday night, for example, because I hadn't yet actively been a writer in their midst.

Anyway, the workshop was pure pleasure. Two and a half hours working with a first- and second-year creative-writing students. So they were *all* into it, and some great work came out of the class. I think they're very lucky to have Almeda as their writing teacher at the college -- she's this great mixture of accessible academic and wildwoman. Very sharp, outspoken, funny, and really cares about the students. I pestered the class a bit to start a literary magazine, because I don't think there is one yet in Castlegar, maybe not even in Nelson.

The workshop was followed up by a noontime reading in the library. I stood at a podium with my back to a window, in front of about 30 or 40 filled chairs. Behind me were the rolling green mountains of the West Kootenays, and, as I was told by several people, the magnificent confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers. The school itself is, architecturally, not much: little more than an oversized high school, with uninspiring hallways, low ceilings, and utilitarian everything. But hell, it's set into this incredible valley, and it sure does look beautiful around here in the fall.

I read for about half an hour, to a thoughtful, appreciative response, then did some Q&A: good questions, and I tried to answer some of them with pieces of my writing. Then I wrapped up with a few more poems, sold about 10 books, and my work here was over. Well, almost. We grabbed some food from the cafeteria, and then Almeda set me up for a meeting with one of her students, Yasha. I had read a few of his poems in advance, and liked half of them. We found a corner of the staff room and had a really good talk about writing, about his discovery of poetry, about Bukowski. I encouraged him to keep in touch with me, let me know how his writing is going.

I'm only hours away from my friend Jeff Pew, in Kimberley, and Terry Taylor, in New Denver, and it feels weird that I won't get to see them. In fact, they were supposed to be off with their high school students in Calgary for WordFest this weekend, but the wildcat teachers' strike in BC probably means they're on the picket line. Well, hopefully I'll get back here in the spring and see them.

An evening wander from my Super 8 Motel into Castlegar didn't really give me a sense of the town, maybe because most things were closed. It's such an odd place: small downtown that stretches up along the highway into sporadic strip malls and motels. It was about an hour walk down, and I figured there'd be a cab to take me back, but I didn't see one the whole journey. So walked back up much later, which was... exercise. Which sure doesn't hurt me.

A long phone chat with Dana back in Toronto (I'd started the day off reading, on community radio, my poem "I Cut My Finger," which mentions trying to phone Dana from the top of a mountain!), and then I headed down to the motel bar, the Black Rooster, As it turned out, April, who had been in my Boot Camp that morning, was tending bar. She moved here from Scarborough a few years back and she runs an occasional spoken word series in town. Actually got more of a sense of Castlegar talking with her than I did from my wander through its streets at night.

Oh, and I picked up a couple of cheap DVDs from a nearby supermarket; I'll watch them on my computer to kill some time during my 8-hour wait between flights on Sunday.

So yeah, right now I'm waiting for my lift to Nelson. We're supposed to get some food here in Castlegar first. I'm hoping for the Cuisine of Indian buffet — didn't try their dal the other night, and it's supposed to be pretty good. (There, now I've justified the title of this entry.)

This thing of being a travelling workshop guy/writer: I hate the actual travel part of it, and the anxiety that leads up to the flights; I'm a basketcase. But the experiences in the various towns and communities — those feel pretty good. Every place I go to, I want to return to.

Good luck, Jeff and Terry!

Over and out.


At October 14, 2005 5:27 pm , Anonymous rox. said...

everytime i talk to jeff these days he says, "i gotta go walk the line" and then i picture him dressed in black with a guitar strung over his shoulder striding down miles and miles of railroad crossties dreaming of june in the spring of her life...snap out of it! he screams at me and we spend another few minutes figuring out how to get this poetry plane out of cyberspace and into the minds of the masses. what a caper life has become.
p.s. lisa is making samosas and pakoras for dinner this weekend.

At October 16, 2005 11:52 am , Anonymous jeff said...

for now, still walking the line. every day, i'm dumbfounded how draconian this campbell government is. it gets worse daily. too bad about wordfest, but most of the kids went with parents. sorry circumstances kept me from making the journey over to see ya. next spring. good news: i'm off to vancouver next week for the writers fest.


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