Tuesday, March 30, 2004

MARCH 20, 2004

This morning I headed west towards Moorhead and Fargo for my interview with poet and teacher Mark Vinz, and lunch afterwards. Mark was born in Rugby, North Dakota, and his poetry remains informed by sense of place.

I had hoped that I left myself time enough to get some breakfast along the way. And I did stop at a restaurant in downtown Fergus Falls. Always eat at the place that looks busy, I say, and that's what I did. There were more than twenty booths and tables in the place and all of them were full. I had to take a seat at the counter, and I must have picked the section favored by those who have been a little dinged and nicked by life. Yet if I thought the fellow on my left was a little strange, and the fellow on my right a little strange, I had to admit the fellow sitting on my stool was strange too.

The high school girl who waited on me must have thought I was more than a little strange, too, when I ordered, as I usually do, two pancakes, two eggs, two sausage patties. I didn't think I had to look at the menu for something that basic. The waitress's eyes got wide. "I don't think you want to do that," she said. I looked at her with a question mark. "Our pancakes are as big as the plates," she said.

"I'll have one of the pancakes then," I said.

"Okay," she said. "How do you want those eggs?"

She hurried off the the kitchen. The fellow on my right was moving crumbs around on the counter in front of him.

I sipped my coffee and listened to the place. It roared like a church basement during a chicken dinner fund-raiser. Serious noise, sometimes rising a bit in intensity, sometimes falling, but always thick as a river rushing down the mountain. Waitresses were running with platters and plates and drinks, one was making another pot of coffee, another was pouring coffee up and down the line.

The fellow on my left squinted at me through thick glasses under a dirty baseball cap, his face framed by a mop of unruly hair. "How are you today?" he asked me.

"It's cold out there today, not like yesterday," he informed me. "Today I'm going to the big city of Fargo."

When he said "big city of Fargo," I didn't have any sense that he was making fun of Fargo. Yet I wasn't entirley sure that it was his own phrase, it sounded more like something he was repeating. I didn't know what to say, so I simply nodded. Sometimes all you can do is listen intently and pay close attention.

The girl who waited on me was right - the pancake, when she brought it, was as big as a plate. There were two eggs on a small plate, and two sausage patties, each of them bigger around than a can of tobacco. Maybe she should have told me how big the sausages were, too.

It was more grease than I needed but I ate both those sausage patties. The pancake was good. And it takes a real bad cook to ruin fresh eggs over medium.

Caffeine and grease, and a pancake to soak up all the juices. What a fine way to start Saturday. I wiped the grease off my lips, I swigged down the last of my coffee, I paid my tab. Soon enough I, too, was on the road headed west-northwest, towards "the big city of Fargo," ready to talk about poetry and place and such things as I'd just seen.



(501 W. Third #12, Smith Center, KS 66967)

"Kansas politics used to be a lot of fun," Ivan writes. He mentions people like Sockless Jerry Simpson who told Kansas farmers "to raise more hell and less corn."

"Now they are all the same," Ivan complains, "being paid by the same companies."

"Not like the Republican candidate that the Republican party said 'we know he is a son-of-a-bitch, but he is our son-of-a-bitch.'"


MARCH 30, 1998

Having been south over the weekend as far as Chicago, I have seen the full, blazing green of grass and field, flowers, leaves wanting to bud. Here, this morning, the sky wants rain. It is gray, humid, wet.

Already this morning a neighbor is out clearing his yard of winter debris. He is an old man who rises early and he appears ready for spring; he stoops to pick up branches and clots of leaves. Around him the world seems to turn green too.

It's a typical Monday morning, except for that green smudge and, as I head farther north, the rain, falling.

In the grey rain, downtown Ripon looks like an older town than it is, the way the moisture plays the light.

When you have nothing to say, say nothing.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?