Tuesday night at the Poetry Foundation a bunch of people gathered to honor the great Chicago short-story writer and poet Stuart Dybek. My pal, Bill Savage, was the MC and there were many speakers. I drew them all except Bill, who wasn’t ever at the podium for more than a minute or two.
The poets, especially Mark Turcotte, were by far the best readers. This shouldn’t have been a surprise since poems so often depend on sound for their power. But still, it struck me that there’s a world of difference between the unfortunate instances when I have to speak publicly and what I watched Turcotte do. Of course it doesn’t hurt when you have killer material to work with. Dybek is one of the best sentence-to-sentence writer I know.
There was a slideshow running behind the speakers which occasionally featured the illustrations I made for an unpublished Dybek story called “Vigil” for Independent Bookstore Day. It felt good to be a small part of the celebration.
Afterwards I came up to Dybek and he couldn’t place me until I said my name. He said I looked different by way of apology. This has been happening a lot. I seem to look different all the time. Or maybe I’m just that forgettable. Dybek said that I drawing I sent him a year or two ago was the only decoration while he was teaching at Berkeley for a semester. Hearing that was more than made up for not being recognized.
Friday night I went to Constellation to hear the great jazz/blues/whatever guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer play. The clean-cut young guy at the door greeted me by name but it took me several seconds to register it was Tyler Damon, a great drummer. Maybe it was payback for a few nights back with Dybek, but Tyler did say he’d recently cut off most of his hair. So maybe I’m not the only one trying to go incognito. I looked around the lobby and asked him if Constellation only hired drummers, seeing both Charles Rumback and Mike Reid in front of us.
Ulmer is one of those guys whose thing is a feel. I know his style has something to do with Ornette Coleman but would be hard-pressed to explain what sets him apart. There are just certain people who have their own tone on an instrument and he’s one of those. I haven’t heard him play live in almost thirty years so I was extra grateful for the chance.
Afterwards I ran into Chicago Reader music editor Philip Montoro, who struggled to recall where he knew me from. After I reminded him we had a nice conversation. He couldn’t boil down what set Ulmer apart either.
Saturday morning I took a bus, train, and Divvy to the Music Box for one of only two 35mm screenings of Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind. My friend, Don De Grazia, and I recorded a conversation about it in the lobby next door right after. I’m still chewing over that movie but hope to watch it again on Netflix (which was one of the funders which brought it to the screen forty years after this footage was shot.) I loved every frame while watching it.