Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

1961 Dodge Dart Seneca. Chimayo, New Mexico

from Anne Lennox, on the road in northern New Mexico:
"We found this at Rancho Chimayo Restaurante, April 25, 2014. Owned and restored by Eric Vigil. Modified into a low rider. The taillights are from a 1959 Cadillac, the grill and some other parts are also from different cars..."--AL 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Larry Levis: My Story in a Late Style of Fire. Documentary Film in Production

If you're an AL regular you know that the late Larry Levis is in our opinion one of the rare & great American poets of the last fifty years or so.   Nothing particularly vehicular about this poem, which appeared in Winter Stars, but I've been reading and rereading it for 30 years, and each time finding something strange, hard, new. Thanks to Jenny Lee for pointing out there's a documentary film in production about Larry Levis---same title as the poem (below)

My Story in a Late Style of Fire

Whenever I listen to Billie Holiday, I am reminded
That I, too, was once banished from New York City.
Not because of drugs or because I was interesting enough
For any wan, overworked patrolman to worry about—
His expression usually a great, gauzy spiderweb of bewilderment
Over his face—I was banished from New York City by a woman.
Sometimes, after we had stopped laughing, I would look
At her & see a cold note of sorrow or puzzlement go
Over her face as if someone else were there, behind it,
Not laughing at all. We were, I think, “in love.” No, I’m sure.
If my house burned down tomorrow morning, & if I and my wife
And son stood looking on at the flames, & if, then,
Someone stepped out of the crowd of bystanders
And said to me: “Didn’t you once know…?” No. But if
One of the flames, rising up in the scherzo of fire, turned
All the windows blank with light, & if that flame could speak,
And if it said to me: “You loved her, didn’t you?” I’d answer,
Hands in my pockets, “Yes.” And then I’d let fire and misfortune
Overwhelm my life. Sometimes, remembering those days,
I watch a warm dry wind bothering a whole line of elms
And maples along a street in this neighborhood until
They’re all moving at once, until I feel just like them,
Trembling and in unison. None of this matters now,
But I never felt alone all that year, & if I had sorrows,
I also had laughter, the affliction of angels & children.
Which can set a whole house on fire if you’d let it. And even then
You might still laugh to see all your belongings set you free
In one long choiring of flame that sang only to you—
Either because no one else could hear them, or because
No one else wanted to. And, mostly, because they know.
They know such music cannot last, & that it would
Tear them apart if they listened. In those days,
I was, in fact, already married, just as I am now,
Although to another woman. And that day I could have stayed
In New York. I had friends there. I could have strayed
Up Lexington Avenue, or down to Third, & caught a faint
Glistening of the sea between the buildings. But all I wanted
Was to hold her all morning, until her body was, again,
A bright field, or until we both reached some thicket
As if at the end of a lane, or at the end of all desire,
And where we could, therefore, be alone again, & make
Some dignity out of loneliness. As, mostly, people cannot do.
Billie Holiday, whose life was shorter and more humiliating
Than my own, would have understood all this, if only
Because even in her late addiction & her bloodstream’s
Hallelujahs, she, too, sang often of some affair, or someone
Gone, & therefore permanent. And sometimes she sang for
Nothing, even then, & it isn’t anyone’s business if she did.
That morning, when she asked me to leave, wearing only
That apricot tinted, fraying chemise, I wanted to stay.
But I also wanted to go, to lose her suddenly, almost
For no reason, & certainly without any explanation.
I remember looking down at a pair of singular tracks
Made in a light snow the night before, at how they were
Gradually effacing themselves beneath the tires
Of the morning traffic, & thinking that my only other choice
Was fire, ashes, abandonment, solitude. All of which happened
Anyway, & soon after, & by divorce. I know this isn’t much.
But I wanted to explain this life to you, even if
I had to become, over the years, someone else to do it.
You have to think of me what you think of me. I had
To live my life, even its late, florid style. Before
You judge this, think of her. Then think of fire,
Its laughter, the music of splintering beams and glass,
The flames reaching through the second story of a house
Almost as if to—mistakenly—rescue someone who
Left you years ago. It is so American, fire. So like us.
Its desolation. And its eventual, brief triumph.

-Larry Levis

1969 Ford F100 Ranger

Caught the Ranger on Colorado Boulevard early one morning, driving in to teach a class at Colorado College.


1880s townhouses, West End, Portland Maine

The West End is very different in look and feel to the neighborhoods on the other side of downtown: Munjoy Hill and the Eastern Promenade. The West End is mostly built of brick, and very often the terraced streets are lined with tall, narrow buildings which tend to give the 'hood a tall, narrow and rather formal feel. It's the Back Bay of Portland. The eastern side of town overlooks Casco Bay and has a more wide-open and windblown feel: it is also built mostly of wood. The West End is more solid and stately; it's really the only residential neighborhood in Maine that feels distinctively urban, in a 19th century style. Most other city neighborhoods in Portland, Bangor, Lewiston are collections of the same wood-clad types of buildings you see in Maine's factory towns and rural townships.

1966 Bronco and La Migra

"Bronco parked outside of the border patrol museum, El Paso TX"--from Don Green Culbertson

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mincing Into the Slums

...In 1962, the year we traded in the Catalina, I was finally old enough to be enrolled at St. Kevin’s, the nearest English-language public school. Near but far: we lived on the green slope of Mount Royal, and St. Kevin’s was on the grim flat of Côte Des Neiges, a zone of cheap postwar apartment blocks laid over what had once been melon fields. I was sent to my first day of class wearing a grey flannel suit my English grandmother had mailed across the ocean. This loathsome get-up–short pants, elasticized snake belt, thick woolen knee socks, brown oxfords and all–was apparently what proper British schoolboys wore, along with belted navy blue gabardine overcoats and weird peaked caps, all utterly unsuited to the Montreal climate of muggy river heat in June and dead-cold Januarys. St Kevin’s playground resembled a location set for an infant West Side Story, with nine-year-old Italians standing in for Puerto Ricans and underfed Montreal Irish and Newfoundlanders cast as the Jets. Kids named Marcello, Stefano, or Billy O’Doul greased their hair into miniature ducktails, carried combs in their back pockets, and would not have been caught dead in short pants.
My yearning for the Catalina–for the fast, painless transitions it had once offered–may have been a response to the isolation I felt when, outfitted as Little Lord Fauntleroy, I went mincing into the slums. I was unique at St Kevin’s, a weird vision in scratchy uncomfortably authentic British flannel–and so were my parents...
from my essay LOVE CARS  in Literal Magazine no.34

Low-Low of Chimayo, New Mexico:the 1948 Pontiac

'from Anne Lennox, on the road in northern New Mexico:
"Glad to hear Maine is starting to defrost. 
I've just returned from a six-day road trip to Taos, Santa Fe, Chimayo, Antonito, Alamosa, LaVeta, Pueblo. Lots of funky stuff to shoot, including cars you would have loved. Attached are a couple of shots of a Pontiac in Chimayo. The owner is "Low Low" who has a tiny, tiny very informal low rider museum. It sounded as if all the males in his family have restored Pontiacs."--A.L.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Front Street Shipyard. Belfast, Maine

We headed down east this week to open up the house in Brooklin. On the way, stopped at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast to watch a couple of boats being launched. It's a sharp, terse spring in Maine this year: found the last chunks of snow on a walk in the woods on Deer Isle today. But the predominant color of the landscape has shifted from yellow to green over the last 4 days. Sailing soon.