The Unknown: The Red Line.
  Aside from a quick trip to Tampa to douse an already dormant romance that barely got past the flint-and-steel-spark phase (with a little oral sex thrown in to make things confusing), and a trip to Atlanta for an AWP meeting, Dirk had never visited the South, nor did he know much about it. Oh, he had the usual distortions firmly in place, supplied by TV and movies, Dukes of Hazzard, Deliverance, Cool Hand Luke, and the like. Add to those the usual prejudices common to non-Southerners and you will not be surprised to learn that Dirk was apprehensive about this leg of the journey, particularly since the book tour seemed to be fueled by a pharmacy of drugs, that is, if pharmacies sold illegal drugs. Dirk’s dreams all turned to nightmares as Dixie began to loom and all his nightmares contained a corpulent cop, a Bull Connors-clone, who liked to use his nightstick to perform cavity searches. Upon hearing about these dreams, Scott accused Dirk of harboring latent homophobia. “Suck tailpipe,” Dirk pleasantly countered, as he began to destroy as much evidence of illegal activity as possible by ingesting it. “Hey, save some for the rest of us,” William cried in alarm.

Scott shut off the alarm and began to massage his left calf which had a surplus of lactic acid interfering with his normal leg extension capability. Dirk’s secret fear was that he would begin unconsciously adopting a Southern accent and thereby inadvertently insult the natives. He wasn’t sure why a Southern leg was even necessary, since his prejudices included the notion that none south of the Mason-Dixon line had earned a high school diploma, which meant that the potential market for an overly-educated project such as theirs would have to be practically nil.

Later, Dirk recalled just how little he recalled of the South. “I’ll have to visit again, I guess,” he told himself, once he sobered up. Of the little he could remember, the event that stood out in his mind was a reading in Austin, Texas. Or rather, the party after the reading. In an attempt to ingratiate himself with a prominent poet who was a member of the faculty at the University of Texas, Dirk began reciting cowboy poetry. He apparently did not do enough to eradicate the sarcasm that suffused his recital, or perhaps it was just his awful imitation of the local accent. In any case, he was told later that if he ever wanted to give up poetry, he really had no future as a boxer, though he might find an opening as a towel somewhere (that is, he had done a pretty good imitation of the aforementioned wiping the proverbial floor). First, Levertov, now a Texas poetry professor. And all this from Saint Dirk: a man so nonviolent, so peaceful, that he called himself Gandhi while showering. He had never been one to believe, as Hemingway apparently had, that besides gripping a pen and a bottle, one’s fingers must know how to grip themselves, form a fist, and seek out the soft cartilage of the nose, the glass of the jaw, the solar of the plexus. What was it about the unknown that made such behavior not only commonplace but seemingly required?

We were generally better behaved in New Orleans.
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Read 9/5/98
at Mike’s House
3:12 367K RealAudio Clip

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