Out of the shed for a few days to visit New York and the Book Expo of America for the launch of my memoir, The Consequence of Stars. an appearance at KGB Bar, and a little literary geek time.
I’m sitting outside a cafe on W. 30th not far from the Javits Convention Center where the Book Expo is being held and where I’ll sign copies of the new memoir this afternoon. The place where I sit is called Think Coffee, and I’m here at the window thinking about the literary luck I’ve had.
I’ve been blessed with publication, any writer will tell you that that hurdle is a high one. But I also have been linked to literary haunts, homes, and taverns, some of which I never would have believed if someone had told me years before that I would have been fortunate to call part of my writing life.
I’ve lived in Jack Kerouac’s home in Orlando for three months as a writer-in-residence and worked in the attic of the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace home as the writer-in-residence there. For these experiences, I am forever grateful. I’ve been, like so many others, to Hemingway’s home in Key West. I’ve I’ve had a whiskey to the bar in Denver where Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg met to discuss Kerouac’s road trip story. I’ve visited City Lights Bookstore and other legendary book shops.
And now here in NYC, more literary meccas to check off.
Without sounding like a silly young boy on Christmas morning, just yesterday I stood at the entranceway to the Hotel Chelsea and watched the renovations taking place at this literary icon, the home, at one time or another, to Dylan Thomas and Kerouac and Brendan Behan and Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs and Thomas Wolfe and Sam Shepard and Patti Smith, not to mention dozens of artists and other musicians. I sat on a stool at the massive wooden bar at the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village where Dylan Thomas had his final drinks—purportedly eighteen whiskeys—where Kerouac was thrown out—twice—where Norman Mailer most likely tried to punch someone, where Bob Dylan may have jotted down a lyric or two on a bar napkin. And later that night, I was at a new legend of literary taverns, KGB Bar, named in recognition of the many Russian and Ukrainian immigrants that once populated New York’s East Village. The place is dedicated to written and spoken words, believing in the power they hold. I was honored to read there last night.
Add all this to the many literary haunts of Chicago, and the literary geek in me is bursting.
What draws one to these places? What is it that compels one to sit on the barstool where Dylan Thomas once sat? To be in the back room of the small Florida cottage where Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums? To write in the attic where the tiny toddler Hemingway played? To stand before the hulking, brooding hotel on W. 23rd Street where artists of all kinds worked and lived and died?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. But there I was and here I am and someday, just maybe, I will travel to Wales and see the boathouse in Laugharne, and to Walden to visit Thoreau’s cabin, and to Camden, NJ to see Whitman’s two-story row house.
Someday. Yes, someday.