Fri 7 Sep 2007
Saturday afternoon in Baltimore. A group of kids roars by on their motorbikes, doing handstands and wheelies. An artist with a cut hand lets us into the abandoned warehouse where the unsplendid poetry reading is. He was prying a glass block out of his porch when the gas inside caused it to explode, but he still seems cheerful. The poets and grad students and poetry lovers drag chairs around while we editors set up the food and drink table. Everybody reads and eats and talks about art and politics and religion and football and baseball and commuting but we’re hungry for real food. How about the Red Square? Three of the members of our group, strangely enough, speak Russian. We head downtown to the basement restaurant where it turns out they are entirely out of borscht. It’s one of those places where the service is so uneven and the food so late in coming that you suspect it might be a front for illegal activities. We note the large fifty-something man with his back to the wall, surrounded by two apparent lieutenants and a pretty woman. What’s their story? There are lots of sequin-clad women around. Then the disco ball starts spinning and two lounge singers get up on stage to trade off Russian Karaoke tunes. The blonde is in a flowy see through shirt and the guy is young but bald with the widest lapels we’ve seen since the seventies. We are all shouting to hear one another, and I’ve pushed the vestiges of my stroganoff into an interesting shape on the plate. Betsy asks for the check. “No! No! You must stay!” says the waiter, plaintively. Much arguing among the poets about whether or not the bill and each of our portions are calculated correctly. Some of us were, perhaps, thrown by the commas in place of decimals. We exit onto the sidewalk and stand around wrapping up half-finished conversations. The most daughty of us officially breaks the group with a wave and a determined march toward her parked car. We disperse.