It's been cool and cloudy today and, honestly, really lovely. I don't think the temperature even hit 70 degrees all day. In Indianapolis, the record "low high temperature" was set over 100 years ago at 75, and they probably broke that record today. I know climate change is probably to blame for this, but I confess I've been enjoying it immensely.
I've returned safe & sound from the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago (attendance, including registrants and exhibitors, totaled 28,941 - this conference could eat AWP for lunch and still be hungry!). While an unfortunate amount of my time was eaten up on the shuttle buses between my hotel and McCormick Place, I attended some interesting sessions, met a few people, saw some cool stuff in the exhibits, and picked up some great freebies - notably the free frothy coffee drinks from ProQuest (I hit that line three or four times) and a free copy of Rachel Zucker's forthcoming book, Museum of Accidents (out from Wave in, I think, October). I got to hear Zucker read, which was great fun, and chatted with her for a minute at her book-signing; I also got to hear Jane Hirshfield (but didn't go to her book-signing because it conflicted with Rachel Zucker's reading - I already have Hirshfield's newest book anyway) and Sherman Alexie (didn't go to his signing either, as the line was about 980300198 people long - librarians love them some Sherman Alexie! - but did snag a copy of the bound excerpt from his forthcoming book that they were handing out). Other very popular book-signers included Judy Blume (who I gawked at for a minute) and Neil Gaiman.
Besides that, and besides getting together with Sara for a bite and some drinks & good conversation on Friday evening (yay!), the conference pretty much took me entirely out of poetry-brain for a full week. I'd taken my new manuscript with me, knowing I'd have the option of at least one or two quiet evenings in my hotel room and thinking I'd take advantage of the marauding-cat-free space to spread out pages all over the floor & juggle them a bit, but I found I didn't even have the -- what, ability? willingness? mental sharpness? -- to read poems, much less write them or fiddle with them.
It was a relatively interesting conference, & gave me some good food for thought especially regarding some of the technology trends that are going to affect how libraries serve their users (I really, really want to play with Google Wave now), & helped me get a little clearer understanding of how what I do on a day-to-day basis fits into the larger world of library work. So, that's good. All in all, I have to say AWP is way more fun. But ALA was worth my time. And I had an incredible view from my hotel room; I stayed at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, up on the 19th floor of the Merchandise Mart, & to the west I had a clear view all the way to the broad sweep of the horizon, directly below/before me was the Chicago River, and to the east & north I could see much of the Chicago skyline, including the John Hancock bldg., with glimpses of Lake Michigan in between skyscrapers. Evenings were spectacular, watching the big fat orange sun sinking below the horizon & watching all the lights slowly twinkling on. The daytime view was gray and kinda bleak (I'm not a fan of cities; give me a view with grass & trees any day) but at night it was spectacular & dazzling; I kept my curtains open all night just to look out at it all.
Next up - two Springsteen shows in Mansfield, MA in August, and a Rosanne Cash show (for which I have front row seats!) in September at Notre Dame. And I'm plotting: we just got 25 new Springsteen tourdates, so I'm trying to figure out how many (& which ones) I can afford to go to. St. Louis is almost for sure, and I'm considering Chicago & Cleveland as well. Sorely tempted by Nashville, which was a fantastic show & venue last year, but the date is horribly inconvenient for me; also by Kansas City, which is the night after St. Louis so it would be a lovely "double shot" but the drive back is long. And I only have so much money - not that much, especially now that we've received the official word that the university isn't giving out any raises this year (not cost-of-living, not merit, not anything - no, it's not a surprise; yes, I'm glad that I have a job at all, and one I generally like, to boot - but it does look like I'm going to be driving the '91 Corolla for at least another year).
Sure, I'm crazy for chasing a rock band around the country like this when I don't exactly have the kind of disposable income to justify such a thing. But every show I go to, I come away feeling energized, rejuvenated, glad to be alive. I come away feeling at least ten, maybe twenty years younger. I come away with all kinds of energy for my own creative work. I come away in love with rock & roll again and with the world. And that's worth every penny & every mile.