Poetry, Bates College, and the glory of tofu ravioli
My task was a simple one: drive my ass to Bates College, asses the scene, and sample a bit of the flava': a poetry reading by Carl Dennis, 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner for Practical Gods. What is Practical Gods?
Pulling up to campus, I immediately found a visitor parking spot. "Money!" I declare in my somewhat empty Subaru. "Money," I repeat softer.
I'm an hour early for the English Department's gala-the cushion of time I allotted to calmly find Chase Hall. Ah, I think, there I go again: always thinking. But unfortunately for bizarrely punctual me, my lucky parking spot is just a few steps from Chase Hall. Damn.
While walking up those glorious Chase Hall stairs-slowly,
very slowly-my small talk with a custodial-type reveals a juicy bit of
gossip-worthy material. Alas, this blue-clothed hero is an ex-Bowdoin
My hero is handy with a mop, superb with a vacuum, and has a dreamy North Carolina accent. Today he resides in Sabattus, Maine. Marvelous, but can he tell me where the bathroom is? This is, of course, the ultimate test. There are no second chances. I'm generous, it's true, but I'm not that giving.
"Down the steps, go through the doors, and it'll be on your right," he says. I devour his words and speed to the location. The black plastic bar across the door reads "Women". I open the door. I am alone. This is wonderful, absolutely grand!
I meet my hero again with a fresh face and an empty system. The world is my oyster; Chase Hall is mine.
Taped to the off-white walls are neon pink, yellow, and blue flyers inviting the lazy Bates student to get off his ass for once in his life and make something of himself. Our flyers serve as pockets of rich information for the already active, always inquisitive Bowdoin student...of course.
"I'll hold your Vodka for ransom!" I hear one Batesian tell another. I smile-how could I not?
So here I am waiting for 8 p.m. to roll around the corner faster than a fat guy on fire. I'm tired and hungry, dreaming of Bowdoin's tofu ravioli. By the time it's actually 8 p.m. my stomach is growling; I reach in my backpack for some Big Red. Cinnamon gum can never replace tofu, please note.
To my surprise and merriment, the poetry reading is absolutely amazing. I cry. Well that's a lie actually: I haven't shed a tear since 1989. But I'm so moved, I wish I could. Dennis is profound-at times serious, at time teasing. Poems like "Jesus Freak," "Candles," and "The god who loves you" are quite good. So good I wish I had written them. I write a $17 check for his book after the reading, and manage to sneak a few words in with Bates' writer-in-residence. I wish I could stay, wish the whole thing wouldn't come to an end...wish I could find the damned bathroom again.
Okay, so Bates was cool, I think while driving home. I pause and smile. But do they have tofu ravioli?