Unknown Diary

Associated Writing Program Conference

Albany, New York, April 1999


We’re sitting on our bags at a crossroad in Fairhaven, Vermont. William is playing songs from the Phil Ochs songbook. It’s cool and windy.

We were just speculating about how much we’ve embarrassed ourselves already, and how much more we’ll do the same in Albany. We’re already flat broke. We had lots of coffee but no food for breakfast.

I wonder if anything will come of this.

I hear the train now.
The train’s coming.

We’re in the hospitality car with a few Amtrak people, shooting shit and passing the miles, rumbling on on schedule.

We’re on the train now; that’s an accomplishment. 

The train is a nice place for a Heineken and some meditative reflection. The more you drink the less the train sways. Our tickets were only 19 bucks. We got across New England on two 19 dollar tickets and the generosity of good old friends. Not counting miscellaneous expenses, such as research for the beer article.

The train is rolling past a teepee on the hillside. We are crossing rivers and swamps. The hills are disappearing as passing boxcars accumulate graffiti, as we move closer to New York New York. But we will parachute out before the train descends into the Big Apple, and tumble out over the streets of Albany, to try our luck at an academic conference.


“I wonder if I said anything that will get us in trouble.”


“Oh, you’re in trouble. You don’t burst screaming into the halls of academia, throwing acid in people's faces and not get into trouble.”


Albany sucks.

You can see how a beautiful land is dying. Wow, that’s bad. Sprawl. Industry that killed itself. Phil Ochs.

The world presents problems.
Unlike an ordinary rock.

Our tour has gone remarkably well, aside from a few minor disasters.

The night of the Trace / Alt-X award ceremony,
I drank too much Guinness with the Unknown, Simon, Colin, and Tess.

As the following photographic sequence demonstrates,
my memory of that evening is rather poor:

“What we are,” we said to them in the presentation room, the room where presentations are made, in the room with the guy who is actually the guy, while we’re giving them the Powerpoint presentation in such a way that it will make sense to the guy who is actually the guy, “is like a strand of DNA and shit like that. We’re like an email virus in a way. What I’m trying to say is, as Rob Wittig says, we’re like a rock and roll type model of collaboration. See, our agenda, that is, I mean, is to get people to read our shit, and better shit as well, you know what I mean, right? Alright, you see why reading is important? Can I get that martini now?” is what we said, more or l

ThThe problem of graffiti is the problem of the mind.

It is a matter of complex fragments.

Not making any sense.

And yet it is.

All that is being to make sense of.

The anxiety is not caused by the writers themselves but by the multitude.

Better a slideshow at Brown than a shabby piece of meat at the AWP in Albany, a sprawled dehumanized postindustrial citytown. Quite paved for my tastes.

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