From P-Town… Loggernaut’s 100th Reader

1. The whole block has the same address, but there was plenty of parking. 2. Jemc reads to a full house as I slide in through the back door.

Jac Jemc read her last few paragraphs as I slid through the back door of Ristretto Roasters in North Portland for the Loggernaut Reading Series curated by Erin Ergenbright, Jesse Lichtenstein, and Pauls Toutonghi.

Jemc was the 100th reader of this kind-of-a-big-deal series, which has grown up around Portland since 2005. James Bernard Frost was #99 and Lisa Wells was #98.

Most things seem formal and serious when you show up late, particularly if you’ve driven seventy miles an hour across a bridge and basically showcased your parallel parking skills in two solid moves. I showed up like a spy, but I should’ve followed my instinct to ask the hipster with the baby if he was there for the reading. Instead, I asked a server in a half-empty restaurant a few doors down, which was kind of a waste of time.

1. Attentive staff of Ristretto Roasters. 2. Jemc and Frost were all smiles and very kind throughout my impromptu interviewing.

For the record, 3808 N. Williams Avenue is a little village, not a discreet location. The whole block has the same address. I stopped to stare at the cooking class in the space next door for maybe a few too many minutes, plus I have this thing where I like to stare at closed shops wondering who shops there.

Thus I missed most of the reading, but I figured that I could get a play-by-play from people who stayed for the celebration. Eric Bader, the co-curator of Lit Mixtape, and Michael Heald, of Perfect Day Publishing, seemed like good people to ask.

1. Jemc reads to James Bernard Frost’s hair. 2. Bader and Heald, shortly after I remind them that, once again, they’d answered none of my questions about the reading.

Me: Hey guys, so how was the reading?

Bader: I actually grew up in Philly.

Heald: Adolescence shapes you more than other years.

Me: Your childhood is not the answer. How was the reading?

Bader: [15 minute story on why he’s moving to Philly for love]

Heald: That’s your answer.

Me: How do you spell Shellac? I’ll mention the band of their re-kindling.

Scanning the room, Toutonghi was breaking down a projector. Lichtenstein and Ergenbright were putting furniture back into the coffee shop configuration. Jemc and Frost were talking to each other near the front. I was sorry to have missed Wells, who has a new book coming out, which sounds interesting.

1. Ergenbright and Lichtenstein with celebratory cake. 2. Aaron thought his baby might grow up to be a musician rather than a writer.

I interrupted Frost, who introduced me to the cover of his new novel, World Leader Pretend, with a smile that would keep a family warm in winter. We pulled in Lichtenstein to give a little background on the life of the reading series. Jemc said she was reading from her debut novel, My Only Wife. I couldn’t help but talk about Chicago. Why did she come to Portland? Had she ever been to the reading series at Danny’s? What’s it like to be a writer and a poet?

At this point, I should mention the lack of alcohol at this event. Cake is nice, but it doesn’t make people chatty unless they are children or can’t handle their sugar. The after-party at a bar down the street could’ve been a hotbed of information and nostalgia once drinks found hands. Maybe Jemc and I would’ve dug deeper into the difference between writers and poets or Portland and Chicago. Instead, I decided to head home. I was feeling guilty about missing the actual readings, and I had a ton of dishes laying around the kitchen from the book club I hosted earlier in the evening.

***

— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at www.writerloop.com.

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