Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ahh, St. Petersburg

I spent several years living in St. Pete, Florida, and I have mostly positive memories. Here is where I--for better or worse--decided to make writing a primary focus in my life.

St. Pete is known as a retirement Mecca, full of old people, and it certainly is that. But it's also a lot more. The city has a pretty vibrant art, theater, and music scene. The community radio station, WMNF, is one of the country's best, and there is actually plenty to do.

Here's another true independent with a rich history. Haslam's is just west of downtown St. Pete. Like many independents today, they offer a mix of both new and used books. I had a little trouble setting up a reading here because of my book's price, but Ray was kind enough to give me a shot. It might have helped that one of the stories in True Kin is based, in part, on this bookstore, especially stories about the hijinks of Jack Kerouac's ghost.

I sold a few books, met some old friends and nice new people. (Somehow, I forgot my camera.) The time talking with Ray was really cool. This store is a must-visit when you're in the area.

This was my apartment building. It's also what I used as a model for Claire's apartment in "True Kin" (the novella). A few people have called me on this already.

I've never regained the same sense of coolness that I imagined myself as having when I lived here. These were my most bohemian years. Cool place. Cool neighbors. The place looks about the same as it did in my day, if a little more tidy. We shared a mailbox here, and I remember getting so many rejection letters in that box. I plastered my walls with them to the amusement of my friends.

The Garden (see below) was the hub of what a few of us called "the literary scene," a loose-nit group of literary types and hopeful writers. Mainly, it was me, Shannon, and "Gatsby," with many other some-time participants. We wrote collaborative poetry, read aloud in a back booth, shared our work, drank lots of beer and wine. It might sound really pretentious, but I think it was too innocent to be that.

On Fridays there was (and still is!) great jazz music by the Buster Cooper Trio.

That was our booth in the back.

That night, my friends Cheryl and Jake threw a party, and I got to see a lot of people from the old days. I met most of them through work at Barnes & Noble. I know, I know. I've been amazed how well we've maintained a connection through the years. I'm always uplifted by this group.

Oh, and I sold a bunch of books here. I kept going back to their office and signing them, my handwriting growing worse and worse.


Merci, mes amis.

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