(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
"My Big Adventure"
all rights reserved
"Come up to Point Arena and read for me." OK, why not? Even though I have no idea where Point Arena is, I think it cannot be too hard to find. So I schedule this event in the distant future, and ask for a street address to post on Red Room. "Well, we don't really use street addresses here -- it's the red building with flowers in front. We only have one main road." OK. That's something they do in Carmel, right? Small town, people all know each other, streets have no names. Sure, no problem. Now, how do I get there? "GGT will take you to Santa Rosa. There may be some local bus after that. Just ask someone to drive you instead."
So I call Dude and ask him to drive me to Mendocino in April, and he says "yeah" because it's Mendocino, right? Two days before the event, Dude calls and says it's been a bad week: the car went up in flames, an old flame surfaced with spectacular woes, and his employer is imploding. So the Mendocino trip is no longer on his calendar.
Canceling a spoken word gig at the last minute is not good for a poet's reputation, so I call Petaluma folks and San Rafael folks and ask what they know about getting to Point Arena and whether they know anyone in Santa Rosa who would like to drive to this reading. No help there -- people are tied up or don't know where Point Arena is, or both.
Recuperating from a mean spider bite and grading overdue student essays, I'm getting worried. I visit my friend Kate and she looks up Mendocino transit info on Google while I play with her baby daughter. Transit options for Point Arena are not good.
Then I slap myself to pull out of the doldrums and decide this is going to be a great reading, even though I'm not sure where it is. Continuing to leave status reports on my host's cell phone, which I find out later she can't access in Point Arena, I move merrily along. Gathering strawberries, raisin bread, bottled chai latte and my favorite lipstick, I pack a small bag and head for GGT on the appointed day. The driver miraculously knows something about Mendocino transit because "someone asked me that question last week," he said. A sign from the Muse -- this reading is going to happen!
At the driver's suggestion, I leave that particular GGT bus and board another one. The new driver says, "Yeah, I'm supposed to get to the depot at 4p, but sometimes I'm late so don't count on it because of traffic, and one time I was two hours behind schedule." Appropriately downcast, I sit on the new bus and wait out the ride. After the GG Bridge, we hit the freeway and hardly ever stop -- a good sign. We reach Santa Rosa only five minutes late. I search frantically for the Mendocino connection, asking three GGT drivers, who all say they don't know anything about the local buses going to smaller communities, giving that info is not in their job description, etc. As a last resort, I go into "pre-crying" mode with the third driver, who hastily summons help on his walkie-talkie. As if by magic, someone in a midnight blue vest appears and walks me to the right waiting area. He even holds the bus while I go to the water closet.
What a grand bus ride -- positively grand. About 20 passengers on a jitney bus, with everyone eating and drinking and laughing. We exchange business cards. Someone takes out a checkbook and writes a check to pay for my book, WORD DANCING. Hairpin turns with danger lurking at nearly every turn. Really big rocks far below in the wet sand, steep grassy cliffs, diamond blue ocean waves crashing on the shore below, bright sunlight dancing everywhere. Cattle, horses, sheep and wild deer dot the hillsides.
The sweet elder sitting in front of me is eating a ton of peanut butter cookies, and cookie aroma mixed with hairpin turns produces a little queasiness for me. I strap myself in --you betcha there are seat belts on this ride -- and take a nap. Perhaps there is an uncertain look on my face because I hear the driver call out, "I have ginger candy for anyone whose stomach is doing flipflops."
With all that eating and drinking going on, some people cannot wait for the one scheduled rest stop. Whenever anyone calls out for water closet relief, the driver cheerily obliges, pulling into a state park or a gas station. Once we arrive in Point Arena, some people ask to be delivered to their door, rather than the bus stop. And the driver is happy to do so. I request the red building with flowers in front, and I'm delivered to that door, only 30 minutes late.
But I'm right on time for the reading. An attentive audience of locals, who really come for the poetry. They listen. It is an awe-inspiring experience. They really listen. And they buy books.
My host and friend puts me up for the night. We eat home-canned preserves and organic bread. After she assures me there are no bears, I go to sleep in a little house in the big woods, and have the most wonderfully relaxed sleep. I wasn't concerned about wolves or antelope or red-tailed hawks, little foxes or mountain lions -- just bears.
And the next morning, I get to take the delightful jitney bus again, with some of the same riders. It doesn't get any better than this.
(c) 2009 Jeanne Powell
Causes Jeanne Powell Supports
Union of Concerned Scientists, VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against War), Doctors Without Borders, Waterkeeper Alliance, PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility...