TWENTY HOURS IN A CAR WITH A STRANGE WOMAN By M. Scott Douglass

Scott driving

As we were driving home from the AWP in Boston, I suggested Beth write a blog entry about her experience. I don’t pay Beth much to be PR coordinator for Main Street Rag, so going to the AWP was a reward of sorts for her service. She was very excited about the conference and the trip in general, so I knew she had plenty of material. We posted her entry a few weeks ago.

Of course, any time people do things together there can be multiple versions of events. That’s not to say that my assessment of the panels is any different than Beth’s, but my focus for this trip was a bit different. Unlike her, I’d been to the AWP several times. I’ve done hundreds of book-related events like this. The AWP is the largest one I attend.

I usually go to these things with my wife or Jonathan Rice or alone, meet friends there and do things together—mostly after hours. Many things about this trip were unique.
For one thing, because I am usually the person people come to our table to see, I’m at the table most of the time. The only panel I’ve taken in was one I moderated in Denver a few years ago. So my assignment for this trip—as dictated by my wife—was to sit in on two panels.

As it turned out, I sat in on four panels. I also left all four halfway through; once because a panelist’s introduction was a 15-minute, 5-page monolog/apology that he read to the audience; twice because the information being offered was stuff I already knew (and it didn’t sound like they were going to break new ground); once because I’ve written many times on a similar subject and wanted to see what the editors of these larger presses had to say. For this last panel, their experiences echoed what I had predicted five years ago—so I felt I’d gained the information I came to hear.

No, for me it’s all about the road trip. In this instance, I was traveling with a person with whom I had never traveled before. That always makes for good fodder. I’ve known Beth for several years, but traveling with a person you know best through email is different—particular on a long drive like the one we shared from Raleigh to Boston and back. I’m not going to share details. I’ll save that for future poems like “The DJ of Fishkill” or an essay on How to Teach Photo Shop While Driving (Without Endangering Others). I think the latter has financial possibilities, but may be illegal in several states.

I will state the obvious: men and women travel differently. We pack different, drive different, our definition of navigator, ready to go even toll road are sometimes different as are our need for pit stops. Most of all, what we talk about is different. As I said to Beth, after more than 20 hours on the road together, I felt like one of the girls; like I could have been wearing a skirt.

But that’s why I like to travel: to experience new things. Although—confidentially—it wouldn’t have been my first experience in a skirt.

But that’s another story.

Advertisements