Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Travel Log: 4 Oct - 5 Oct


I-25 to I-70, through Eisenhower Tunnel and the Colorado Rockies, to Frisco’s Main Street.

The Reese children with our old daughter.Travel Highlight

Just before our travels began, our friend Shannan Reese (my best friend from Colorado State University’s freshman year, who is married to Jason, my best friend from high school and also Auburn University—it’s sort of incestuous, I admit) asked if I would be interested in being a guest at her son’s Kindergarten class, to talk about poetry. How could I refuse?

On Tuesday, we headed up to Superior—a boomtown along U.S. 36—where I met with our friend’s son’s Kindergarten class. First I read a few animal poems from Riverfall—“If a Spider Can,” “Coyote” (which garnered giggles at the “naked pups” line), and a few others. Then I answered some demanding questions about poetry in general. Finally, with five minutes remaining, we composed a class poem: "Rabbit."

[Still waiting for a copy of the poem—soon, I hope!]

Wouldn’t it be just grand to go from class to class giving readings and guest lectures? The kids are so inquisitive and whimsical, which led me to be whimsical in my readings and responses. And after I hugged Shannan’s son to say good-bye, other classmates lined up for a hug, too. (I cleared it with the teacher first, of course.) That, I think, is the life for me—the reading and guest lecturing, not the hugging little kids, that is.

Travel Lowlight

If tempted to stop for some caffeine or a bathroom break or just to stretch your legs as traveling I-70 west through the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado, do not stop at one of the first two Vail exits. It’s an Olympic-caliber maze beyond those exits: row after topographical row of condos. You’ll lose twenty minutes trying to figure your way back onto the Interstate, easy.

Our girls, very excited about the evening's drink and food.


Upon the recommendation of our friend and Terrain.org co-editor Cathy Cunningham, we stayed at the Hotel Frisco right on Main Street in downtown Frisco. We highly recommend it—especially the suite with its own hot tub!

It was wonderful to see Cathy, David, and their children (whom we met for the first time), and almost as much fun to find nearly-fresh snow when we arrived.

The Reading

I’ve covered this before, but in Frisco—a delightful mountain town at 9,100 feet on the west side of Lake Dillon—it came to a head. When I walked into Winds of Change Books & Gifts on Main Street, my conversation went something like this:

Me, at 3:30 p.m. walking into an open store lushly decorated with local books, spiritual items, fairies, and more, noticing my flyer is not on the door and there’s no announcement of tonight’s reading: “Hi, I’m Simmons.”

Maureen, the store owner: “Hi. Nice to meet you. How can I help you?”

Me, realizing something’s amiss: “I thought I’d come in a bit early for the reading this evening—brought some books with me.”

Maureen, a look of fearful surprise dawning on her face: “No, the reading isn’t this evening.” Walking briskly over to her calendar by the register: “No, it’s not on my calendar for tonight. It must be next month.”

The girls find snow!

Me: “I’ve definitely got it scheduled for this evening; perhaps you can check the flyer and book I sent you? I tried calling last week, but couldn’t get through.”

Maureen, pulling out a folder and finding my book and flyer, a look of comprehension and embarrassment filling her face: “Oh yes, I see we did schedule it for today. I forgot to write it on my calendar. I didn’t notify anyone—did you?”

Me: “I didn’t see it in the paper today [she was supposed to handle that], but I do have some friends coming. I’m already here, so can we read? What can we do about this?”

Maureen: “Yes, let me make some calls and we’ll get you set up….”

The reading took place at 5:30 p.m. as scheduled, though there were only four people in the audience, not including the one or two who roamed the store during the reading. Maureen did try to make amends by calling friends, pleading they show up. One did. No books, alas, were sold.

So it goes.

Daddy Simmons with girls at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Prehistoric Journey.

Three Things I Think…

1. I think I still love the Denver Museum of Natural History, or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science as it’s called now. From sultry dinosaur dioramas to Egyptian mummies, somewhat eerie (dead) wildlife menageries to a hands-on workshop area for kids, it’s a completely cool place to explore the world around us. We also viewed a surreal, if not brief, Cosmic Journey through our solar system at the planetarium. But I must protest: $50 for two adult and two children tickets to the museum and planetarium? (And then, as was inevitable, another $95 at the gift shop as we headed out the door....)

2. I think I don’t recommend the Jones Soda Co.’s candy corn-flavored soda, and neither does my eight-year-old daughter. Despite its hauntingly decorated 8-oz. can and nearly neon green color, it’s just far too sweet. What are Jones’ other limited edition Halloween flavors, you ask? Strawberry slime, scary berry lemonade, and caramel apple (all a big hit among the kids at our Halloween party I can now verify, though).

All the ghastly Jones Soda Co. flavors.

Approaching the Colorado Divide via I-70.3. I think my wife Billie nearly made me pull over and let her drive after a series of photographs. The problem? I was taking the photos with my digital camera as we sped along I-70’s mountainous curves at 75 miles per hour. Here’s a photo, through the windshield!

Closing Poem

This is an oldy but a goody, one of the first poems I wrote, one also that scored me an Academy of American Poets prize whilst in college. Including it here in honor of all the bones real and imagined we saw at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It finds a home on page 37 of Riverfall:

The Bone

Polished, the Neolithic prize
would gleam almost life-
like above the headboard.
Rough, it would rest silently
in the glass case of the middle hall.
This one is different: A long highway
of red channels up to the pinnacle,
to the femoral joint, like Old
Trochanter’s Curve in one of those
sunsets so gruesome you
couldn’t turn away until
the valley drank in the vermilion sun.
Under dimmest lantern, with wire
brush and quarter-inch chisel, I could
trace the trail, and wonder
what had traveled it, and when.
Now it rests against the articulated
smoothness of the dining table, across
a stretch of what appears to be ever-
black of ebony surface:
The joint at the upper end, a gloxinia
on the naked wood; the lower, smaller end
smooth as if no flesh ever
grew, no blood ever bled.
And the channel—groove up
like an I.V. straight through
my arm—searching parallel avenues
for my heart, and finding it
in slumber. Then draining the precious
red through a new detour,
now a part of me. A curse
has befallen me, and I will
be damned in some archaic
language if I destroy it, so
I hide it from my family—
deep within their nighttime world—
just down the hall. And in Unther
Hall at the Academy, colleagues dream
to touch my channel—divert it
from me, and drive straight off
Old Trochanter’s Curve, flowering
down while my blood runs to the river.

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