What was supposed to be a six hour trip down to Boston & up to Portland for the SLSA conference turned into a 20 hour marathon yesterday when my Delta commuter plane from Ogdensberg had to go back to the hanger for repairs. I didn't get out of Ogdensberg until late in the afternoon and arrived in Boston around 7:30, where I talked the Delta gate agent into putting me up at the Hyatt because I just did not want to drive strange interstate highways tired & at night. The Hyatt was pleasant & the drive up to Portland fairly pleasant once I got out of Boston's Friday morning traffic. Portland is a nice, touristy little city & I've just had crab cakes & a beer at the Dogfish Cafe. In 45 minutes I'm going to give a talk that takes off from Richard Powers' novel Galatea 2.2 & meanders around the problems involved in teaching literary texts to students who have not developed literary habits. I'll say more about this & the rest of the conference later. For the moment, I'm going to sit quietly & collect my thoughts. Saturday: I always walk around a little stunned at conferences & this one has been particularly stunning, in a good way. But the combination of travel & intellectual overload makes it impossible for me to give even a serious sketch of my experience of this year's SLSA until I get home. Tonight, Portland is getting a lot of rain & wind from an Atlantic storm, but it's supposed to clear by late tomorrow morning, which is a relief since I have to drive to Boston. I'm going to go to a presentation in the morning at which the poet Bin Ramke will be giving a talk. Bin was the editor of the University of Georgia Press poetry series when they published my first book & I was delighted this morning when he turned up at my poetry reading. Sunday: Somewhat less stunned this morning, enough to realize that my poetry reading yesterday went really well. That I made a kind of contact with my work that I haven't made in a long time. As noted, I'm going to an early session in which Bin Ramke is going to talk about the language of paranoia as a kind of locked-down code. Then I'm getting on the road. Sunday later: The travel ridiculousness continued. (I'm writing this in retrospect on Monday evening.) The poetics panel was worth getting up early for, though odd. (I'll say more in a separate post.) I had thought I might walk up to the conference venue & wait to check out of my hotel until I came back, but with the time change I was up so early I just packed up, got my car & drove up the few blocks to the Holiday Inn. After the rainy night from the leftovers of the hurricane, the day was clear, cold & bright. I stopped for coffee at a place that roasts their own beans, read the local paper, then headed up to the panel, caffeinated but mellow. [Insert account of panel here.] While I was packing up to go, Jonathan Skinner, a member of the next panel, was setting up his computer. I was saying goodbye to Bin Ramke & Jonathan, who I don't know, said, "Oh, come on, stay for just one more." I made the excuse that I had to drive to Boston & get on a plane. Actually, I could have stayed, I had time, but I was burned out. I didn't think I could listen to any more poetry talk. Jonathan said, "Oh, you're on the Logan Airport run. Be sure to get off on route 1 & the go to 1A." This advice saved me immeasurable hassle. Thanks, Jonathan. I promise to attend your next presentation. After getting some directions from a sweet, stringy-haired guy at a gas station, I got on the turnpike going south. I asked him how to "get to 95 South," which he heard as "295 South," which was actually the road I needed. So, thanks to the guy working at the gas station who gave me the directions I needed even though I hadn't asked the right question. It was a perfectly clear day, my little Kia (you call that a "midsize"?) humming along at 70mph. Nothing but crap on the radio, unfortunately. I don't much like driving, but this was a breeze. Caught the right exits, but once I got off on the Boston streets I wasn't sure I was headed in the right direction, so I stopped for coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts. As I was getting out of my car, I noticed a guy standing in the parking lot & asked him about the route. English wasn't his native language, but he gave me precise directions, confirming that I was on the right track & preparing me for a couple of weird turns. (Boston has "rotaries," or traffic circles, that require mind-bending powers of concentration.) Got some coffee. I usually drink my coffee black, but purely by accident, I told the young woman at the counter I wanted a "small coffee, regular," realizing as I took my first sip that in Boston, apparently, "regular" means with milk & sugar. Which was exactly what I had wanted, though I hadn't known it. So, thanks to the Arab (I think) guy for confirming my route & easing my mind & thanks to the girl behind the counter who gave me the coffee I needed & actually wanted if only I had known it! Then, the ridiculousness: Big Sky Airlines (a Delta commuter service) should not be allowed to run a rural bus company, let alone an airline. I could go into details, but it would be too tedious. It was a good thing, I told the desk agent, that there was a bar near the gate, because otherwise she would have had a full-scale revolt on her hands. I had a number of beers & some expensive though decent fish & chips. The flight was a couple of hours late & I staggered into Ogdensburg around midnight, sober, my brain stuffed with witty insults that none of the subnormals running the airline would understand. I drove home pie-eyed. I'd called Carole from Logan & she had waited up for me, knowing that the dogs would go nuts when I got home anyway. I collapsed into bed surrounded by terriers -- Penny on the pillow by my head, Jett at the foot of the bed, Candy curled behind my knees. Carole was over on the other side of the bed somewhere & that was nice too of course, but all those synchronized terrier breathing patterns -- think Philip Glass patterns of low & lovely breathing -- put me right to sleep. Now I'm catching up with work, reading student portfolios, grading essays, dealing with the cracked firebricks in the wood stove . . . grateful for my good fortune.