I don’t want to say I suffered a crisis of faith. But maybe there was a moment, somewhere in the beginning, when it felt like the whole Zygote in my Fez poetry festival was doomed. Maybe doomed is too strong a word. But it did feel, especially in the beginning, that forces in the universe were conspiring to keep one of the biggest happenings of the underground small press from coming together.
In the grand scheme of things of course, this would be nothing new. And of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that forces in the universe had underestimated the resolve of the small press.
My moment of wavering came in the unsung little town of Romulus Michigan. It was in that little town, hunkering just outside Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where my ride, the mini-van belonging to Lynn Alexander, blew a head gasket. A crucial problem we were facing was the gasket had caused the engine to overheat at nearly 5 PM on a Friday night, and there were no garages or rental car outfits nearby that were going to be open until Monday. We had to be in Toledo the next day.
Of course, we wouldn’t have been there so late had we not spent an hour trying to figure out where two of the luminaries who were supposed to be joining us, Franklin Metropolis and Lindsey Thomas, had gone. As it turned out they had gone to Baltimore, and wouldn’t be arriving at Detroit Metro until 11:30 that night. And as it turned out, Lynn and I had bigger problems than that.
Sitting there in the 100 plus heat of the early evening, with a crack-head giving us advice on how we needed to fix the mini-van and Lynn desperately getting nowhere with Triple A because all the locals wanted to go home for the weekend, I simply tapped into that Zen philosophy that Bill Murray so sagely imparted to my generation in the immortal piece of celluloid named Meatballs: “It just doesn’t matter.”
We got the coolest possible tow guy in all Detroit we could have asked for. A black guy named Darryl who basically took us and the mini-van to Toledo for $175. We tipped him an extra $20 so he didn’t have to go by an ATM to get dinner money. Already things were working out.
Later that night, Lynn and I met up with Tainted Coffee/Zygote publisher Brian Fugett and flash fiction writer Josh Olsen, two of the best guys a writer could know. All throughout the night we kept running into older hippie guys, one who was burly and bearded and had a room in our hotel, the Park Inn. We kept running into him in the bars and restaurants and shop walks around the hotel too, but we always just sort of curtly nodded at each other without any real recognition. Another one, named “Old Man Toledo” was someone who approached the four of us at the bar owned by the Toledo Free Press (the major sponsor of the festival) and who was a dead ringer for William Burroughs in a tie dye T shirt. (
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