At the &Now Conference

I attended some of the &Now conference here in Buffalo Wednesday. I got to meet and hang out with J.A. Tyler, whom I picked up from (and today dropped of at) the airport and drove to the Hyatt where the conference was held. He’s just as awesome, if not more so, in person. I also got to meet Matt Bell (who was super nice), Blake Butler (whom I spoke with briefly and probably sounded silly*), and indirectly hung out with Lily Hoang (whom I really wanted to say hello to but didn't*), Joshua Cohen, James Yeh, Andrew Farkas, Michael Stewart, Ryan Call, Megan Milks and William Seabrook, all of whom will be appearing in the 30 Under 30 Anthology next year. I got to hear most of them read, too. Kim Chinquee, my former professor, was also there, and she and Matt Bell invited me to lunch with them all. The whole thing was very overwhelming and surreal.

We all walked to Gabriel’s Gate (where a couple of my ex-roommates used to work, or still do, I’m not sure, it’s been a while). It’s about a mile from the Hyatt downtown, where the conference was held. Not far-far, but we happened to end up there, though we passed at least three other restaurants on the way. When we got there and the hostess sat us down I realized I had to get back to my car parked near the hotel to feed the meter-maid (I imagined a mermaid bolted to the curb, feeding her coins like little fish).

So, I felt silly, but I had to leave and couldn’t go back to the restaurant because I wouldn't've made it back to the conference in time to see J.A. Tyler read. He, of course, was awesome, reading from a work he’s collaborating on with John Woods in which John sends J. an image and J. writes a piece based on it, sends it back to John who then bases his next image on what J. wrote, etc. It's an really cool concept, and the words and images together were / are / will be crazy-bananas.

*I’ve come to realize I'd maybe want to live in a constant state of retrospection toward the present moment. It’s always easier to know what you should or shouldn’t’ve said / should or shouldn't've done after the fact, so I’m very interested in figuring out a way to always view the present tense as past, existing within it as though it was already an afterthought. Then, I’ll never make socially awkward statements because they'll already be prepared according / in response to anything anyone else says, and I’ll always be confident enough to go up and talk to someone I admire because I'll know what we're going to say. That's maybe silly.
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An interesting thing happened while I was waiting for J. at the airport. I got hit on for the first time in years. By a guy. I was sitting on one of many in a row of seats in the baggage claims area, which was practically empty, waiting for his flight to arrive (I wasn’t sure what he looked like, so I was afraid I’d miss him). There was a vending machine near the end of the row I was sitting on, a few seats down. A guy walked past me, staring at me, and went to the vending machine. I stared back at him, not sure how to react. He sat down in the last seat, like three away from me. He looked at me. I got kind of scared.

“Buffalo’s cold, huh?” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“You from Buffalo?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s some crazy people in Buffalo.”

I was getting worried he was one of them. I know I am.

“I think it’s safer to assume everyone’s crazy,” I said.

I kept imagining what we looked like through a security camera. I hoped someone was watching. I was afraid this guy had a needle and was fixing to poke me with some secret virus he manufactured in his meth lab using tainted biological agents and / or chemical compound derivatives. I don't know. I stared straight ahead, kept him in my periphery. Then he went into this really professionally choreographed line of questioning, bureaucratic even, with a cadence building toward something I maybe should've but didn’t quite expect.

“You waiting for someone?” he said.“Yeah.” I said.

There were long pauses between questions.

“Your girlfriend?”

“No."

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“No, not for a long time.”

“Some of my friends used to have girlfriends, but then they broke up and wanted to see what it was like being with men.”

“Oh.”

“What do you think of that?”

“That’s cool.”

“Would you ever be with a man?”

I felt this had maybe gone beyond small talk. “Um,” I said.

“You ever been hit on by a man?”

“A while ago, I think.”

“What would you do if a man hit on you?”

“Is that what this is?” I finally said. He smiled a little. “Listen, I’m flattered, and I thank you, but I really don’t dig men that way.”

I didn’t want to encourage him by telling him I’ve kissed two guys in my life, tongue and all. He smiled at me. "Alright," he said and got up, looking at his cellphone. I watched him go through the big revolving door out into the cold, and once he got outside he started running away. I almost wish I was gay, because he was really kind of cute...

13 comments:

Mel Bosworth said...

Awesomeness, Eric. So happy (and to be honest, a bit jealous) that you got to meet and hang with some of the great heads. Get used to it, because you're one of the great heads too.

Molly Gaudry said...

Fun post. Glad you enjoyed the conference and got to meet so many greats! I'm jealous--including the part about getting hit on by a gay man. That would never happen to me, obviously. Cheers.

David Erlewine said...

Nice stuff, Eric, damn lots of great names involved. Yeah, whenever I meet anyone like that I've got a million things going through my head and inevitably end up coming across as weird, awkward, etc.

I didn't realize you studied with Kim C. Of course! That's so cool.

Take care man,
David

Eric Beeny said...

Big thanks all. Though it broke from my normal routine, which I rely on heavily for stability, I had a lot of fun.

Mel, I thank you bigbigbigbigbigbigbigbigbig for that, brother...

Molly, that might not be a bad thing, gay or otherwise. Guys can be jerks. So I don’t think it was a needle I had to worry about being poked with...

David, great description of being flustered, all the things running through your head. Yeah, I studied with Kim back in the spring. She’s great...

Roxane Gay said...

This is one of the best blog posts I've ever read. I love your retelling of such an awkward encounter with a guy who clearly doesn't know how to put the moves on someone.

ben spivey said...

Thanks for sharing Eric, good post.

Eric Beeny said...

Thank you, Roxane. Exactly right, he had no idea how to go about it, yet he seemed 'professional' while trying. Obviously, I'm so rusty I couldn't see where he was headed with this until the last minute...

Hi, Ben. Thank you, sir...

Teresa Houle said...

My first time reading your blog and I'm jealous of you already! Like, teenage girl that wants the same boyfriend as you jealous.
What a great sounding conference. When do they come to Canada? EH?

Eric Beeny said...

Hi Teresa, thanks for visiting. It was definitely fun. I'm not sure where it'll be next year...

Lily Hoang said...

You really should have said hi. That probably would have made me super happy. Why didn't you?

Eric Beeny said...

Hi Lily, I didn't say hello because I'm a big silly wuss. And because I really like what I’ve read of your writing, so I was a bit intimidated. Also, I'm awful at non-written (not to mention in-person) dialogue. That’s why I want to live in a constant state of retrospection toward the present moment—I wish I’d said hello to you. It would’ve made me big happy, too. Hello, Lily...

Lily Hoang said...

That's really nice. Drop me a line sometime & we can swap some written (as in not in person) dialogue: lily.hoang.326@gmail.com.

Eric Beeny said...

Thank you, Lily, I'd like that...