This summer, I spent 3 months on the road, touring to 11 cities in 5 countries in 2 hemispheres. The first leg took me up the East coast of the U.S. with a mysterious Chilean documentary filmmaker named Jordi Goya. We started filming in New Orleans in mid-May, and then hit the road in my green '93 Capri convertible, which I bought in Slidell for $1600 and a case of beer, and which Jordi promptly christened, 'El Verde'.
First stop: Asheville, North Carolina - a city I haven't been to since I used to tour with bands an eternity ago. The southern-hippy vibe is still alive and well there - here's one of my favorite customer photos, when I wrote a poem for the resident studmuffins of Asheville, about "Skipping class and eating ass," - a tongue-in-cheek field of study I happen to have some personal experience in.
After a couple days of filming at my sister's communard-farm in rural Virginia, we continued north to Philadelphia as the sky pissed down rain - a good time to confess to Jordi that the convertible top of El Verde is broken on one side, meaning it rains a wee bit inside as well, and every time we hit a bump the other latch pops off, meaning we both have to lunge and grab the top before the wind turns it into a sail and snaps it off, causing a 50-car pileup.
Philadelphia is a city that for some bizarre reason, I had never set foot in. Growing up in Vermont, I was always more familiar with Montreal, New York, and Boston. Luckily, an old-poet friend from New Orleans relocated there for grad school, Caroline Rash, and she kindly set up a gig for us to read at a bar/café called Win/Win. On the way there, El Verde started spewing a rank mixture of vapor and smoke from under the hood, so we had to limp to New York City the following morning and deposit him on a Buskwick sidestreet.
Bushwick has been my NYC base ever since the late-aughties, when my band used to play at the notorious Danger Parties and the House of Yes, back when it was on Maujer. Later I helped build out an artists' warehouse near the L-train - and last year I did a few readings at Molasses Books, GG Nix, Berl's, Starr Bar. This year I mostly worked in Washington Sq Park, my favorite place to set up in NYC, which luckily is the only place the Keystone Park-cops won't throw me out of. I spent all my money getting El Verde doctored up, so Jordi and I had to brave the heat wave day after day, to the detriment of our filming schedule. I even had to buy a $10 umbrella on Knickerbocker and tape it to my table to avoid heatstroke. Eventually I tried Coney Island and the Union Sq Subway to get out of the heat - here's another video-still from Jordi's camera:
After a week of Gotham, we got El Verde out of hock and made tracks up to VT - one of the main locations for Jordi's filming plans. Although it's certainly an evolving project, the film is loosely a documentary about poetry and my travels around the world while trying to put the pieces of my life back together after the grotesque aftermath of my mother's death in 2015. Jordi and I met in Paris - he sought me out where I was working in front of Shakespeare & Co after hearing me read at Au Chat Noir one sodden night, maybe the night I fell out of the window onto the sidewalk from joy, and pastis.
He asked if he could follow me around and film everything I do, which, of course, the narcissistic side of my artist-spirit embraced immediately (also, Libra-sun, Leo-moon, etc). To the surprise of us both, a series of bizarre and fascinating occurrences...occurred, culminating in me having a bit of a breakdown in the Montmartre cemetery. The project became more and more intriguing to us both as the week went by, and we both knew we'd have to continue whenever time and circumstances allow.
Montreal was our most northern destination, a city Jordi had always wanted to visit, and one of my favorite in the world. Luckily I have an old friend living in the Plateau, the very neighborhood where I prefer to work, outside the Mont Royal Metro stop. And it just so happened that the francophone Festival de la Poesie was taking place at that very spot - although I definitely got some glares for my sign, which is, dommage, in English.
After Montreal we finally had a day off, spent hiking and swimming at one of the prettiest corners of Vermont, Button Bay. Tragically we missed the psychedelic bike-caravan from Burlington, but we intersected with them on the way back - and not before discovering an empty golfcourse at sunset, the perfect place for an impromptu video of my poem, 'Golf' -
This is part 1 of 3 recounting my recent tour - Part 2 will cover the World Cup in Paris, and my adventures on Spanish television and with the Barcelona Poetry Brothel. I'm terrible at keeping up with this blog, but I keep a pretty regular Instagram account, @benjamin_aleshire, that functions more or less like an almost-daily blog, is written a bit more colorfully, and includes occasional typewriter poems as well.