Riding with Jesus Part V: a badbadbad tour blog
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Editor’s Note: Jesús Ángel Garcia, author of badbadbad, is blogging his book tour. This is his fifth installment.
Southern Hospitality & Redemption in the ATL
Big upside to the DIY tour is meeting online friends in flesh-and-blood realtime. You can’t know people until you see how they live, crash on their floor, soap up in their shower. Typing about sharing a virtual beer is not even close to toasting from a chipped coffee mug in an unfamiliar kitchen, storytelling on a cat-clawed sofa until the break of dawn. You can’t embrace zeroes and ones. Hugs not drugs, well, not too many drugs. I love glimpsing the 50,000 ways we each move through the world. Up-close camaraderie is palpable. After a less than satisfying performance in Nashville, I was hungry for redemption. I found it in Atlanta where Southern hospitality still rules.
When originally planning this tour, I had hoped to take part in Blake Butler, Jamie Iridell and Amy McDaniel’s sporadic Solar Anus reading series. But this didn’t work out. On the date I was scheduled to be in town, Blake would be drunk at a friend’s wedding, Jamie would be rocking the mic as his wife birthed a baby (“Push it!”) and Amy would be hoboing across the U.S. en route to Bangladesh — all legit reasons to leave me to fend for myself. But that wouldn’t be the case.
Southern Hospitality #1:
Jamie promised to find me a good gig, and he did just that, putting me in touch with Laura Carter and her pal Puma Navarro, who curated a sweet open-air event at Joe’s Coffee Shop with poet Amy Herschleb, singer-songwriter Kimberly Lachelle and some “badbadbad” multimedia.
1. Joe’s Coffee: it’s punny 2. Jack Varnell likes to make the girls blush 3. Jack’s Muse
Southern Hospitality #2:
Poet Jack Varnell, the Emotional Orphan, welcomed me into his woodland home on the outskirts of the city. We met a while back on Twitter and I’ve long counted him as one of the very first advocates of my work. When he recently interviewed me on his Write And Radio show, we talked for two hours. I felt like I knew him well. But people are strange. The digital-to-analog transition can be unpredictable, especially with writers, who tend to play with persona as a lifestyle choice. Not so with Jack, at least not with me. From the moment we met, he felt like a brother. We swapped stories about our hometowns (he’s an ATL native), the publishing business (he just issued a beautiful debut collection, “The Lexicon of the Orphanage,” via HP’s MagCloud), our respective muses (see his in the pic above) and our personal lives (he’s not a trust-fund baby). He confessed how he once almost killed a man and paid the price. But that was a long time ago. Meeting Jack in person was a distinct pleasure. I knew he’d have my back at Joe’s if this coffeehouse jam got out of hand.
1. Kimberly Lachelle seriously thinks she takes bad pictures. 2. Amy “bad cannibal” Herschleb
At first, the audience here did seem suspect, as individuals self-segregated by so-called race: paleskins set up in the courtyard, African-Americans congregating on the L-shaped patio to the right of the stage. There was some less-than-respectful chitchat during each of the performances as well. Maybe this was the organic consequence of three very different acts on the bill: the sexy poet who confessed, “I was a bad cannibal” (I didn’t believe her); the vocal-rich combo with a soulful sound (a rare gospel-folk hybrid); and a “badbadbad” reading and film screening. In the end, there were no ill feelings, just differences, and as the seats filled up the colors began to blend.
1. & 2. Mixing it up in the ATL
I showed the clip on e-intimacy from the documentary film portion of my transmedia novel. The prompt to random people on the streets: “What does intimacy look like in a culture dominated by electronic communication?” The video, like the entire project, aims to start discussion. After the screening, I asked the audience to weigh in.
Southern Hospitality #3: A number of folks played along
The most memorable exchange was when local writer and self-proclaimed “pervert” Melysa Martinez suggested that people are more willing to be courageous or honest with their feelings in intimate interactions online because they don’t have to worry about others seeing them blush. Jack Varnell took the flipside of that position. “If I was going to ask you out right now,” he said. “I would want to see you blush.”
That’s the line, no? Can we embrace the truth — the blush — of physical proximity, or are we a generation of e-armored scaredy cats, anxious that eye-to-eye, skin-on-skin, breath-to-ear-to-touch-to-feel is more than we can handle?
Playlist highlights: Odessa Chen, Shannon Wright, Faun Fables and “Oh Atlanta”:
Next up: Arrested in Virginia Beach, Dancing in the Streets: Baltimore & D.C.
— Jesús Ángel García is taking badbadbad to the far corners of the United States of America. His tour is unaffiliated with multinational publishing conglomerates, the NEA and the NRA. The 3xbad New York launch party — “Live nude words, live music & movies!” — on 7/21 at Brooklyn’s Powerhouse Arena features Melissa Febos, Scott McClanahan, Janice Erlbaum, and emcee extraordinaire M.g. Martin. Bring your goldfish and watch them quiver. Complete tour dets here.