Produce & Poetry: An Exclamation Point!

An apology for not posting anything since June 14th. It has been a long summer of producing a new board book, producing and harvesting two home gardens of fruit and vegetables, and dealing with more curve balls from the school of life. Yet here I am. My "To-Do list" is never-ending. I have books to dummy-up and create sample illustrations so my agent can submit them. I have school visits and events coming up- including the celebration for the Washington State Book Award: my book, "Once Upon A Memory" is nominated in the picture book category. I need to update my website to include my new "Peek-a Who? Matching Game." I must order more Moo cards; I'm almost out. And four different people want blog interviews from me and I haven't update my own blog in four months. 

Somehow life goes on.

Yesterday, I went to the Ballard Sunday Farmer's market to buy produce and see my friend Elizabeth Parker. (and buy more of her beautiful jewelry) I love supporting Elizabeth- she has been through a lot- she is a veteran and so very talented, but she has been homeless frequently in the past few years. I don't get to the Sunday market very often, but I know Elizabeth will be there and we talk about life, gemstones and mental illness. Booth walked with me to the market, but after I filled our bags with poblano peppers, delicata squash, fresh roasted peanuts, corn, white chanterelles, porcini mushrooms and a bottle of hard cider he did his sherpa duty and hauled it all back up the hill, leaving me to my own devices. 

That's when I found them.

There were two guys with typewriters. They had a sign that said, "Poems - Your Topic - Your Price." The dark-haired mustachioed guy on the right was busy. He received repeat orders while I stood there and watched. One patron came by to pick up a love poem he had ordered and then requested a second one. A couple standing there asked for a poem about "goats." I decided to request a poem from the "other" poet.

He was wearing a black fedora, suspenders, and he had a very red beard, plus an assortment of crude, perhaps self-inflicted tattoos on his fingers and hands. His right fingers spelled out "J A S S." I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be "J A Z Z" and he did the "s's" backwards? He was typing on an old Olivetti portable, like the one I had growing up, only mine had a script font.

I handed Trip, he said that was his name, a ten dollar bill and requested a poem on "writing." He paused and started typing and then he stopped. "I just want to let you know that I don't have an exclamation point," he said. For one second I thought we were in some parallel universe where people speak in punctuation, but then I realized what he was saying.
     "Yes, you do," I told Trip. He looked at me like I was an alien life form... I pointed to the Olivetti, "what you do is type a period and then backspace and type an apostrophe- voila'- an exclamation point!"

It was an epiphany for Trip, and I high-fived him. He said I was sent to him, "like a winged-Hermes"- or something like that. Then he made his partner-in-poetry try it on his skeletal Olympia, too. They were both in "exclamation point ecstasy." I felt like I was sent to them to re-discover this long forgotten experience from growing up which combined my love of writing and typewriters. 

Then Trip got down to business and wrote my poem. 

I stood there in the sunshine and watched as people and dogs swarmed like bees. Two little dogs took shelter under Trip's table and chair. He didn't seem to notice. He was producing- full of words like an apple tree full of ripe fruit, the keys falling on the small slip of paper. He was a two or three finger typer and I could tell that he was jazzed (or jassed?) by the newly discovered exclamation point because he typed four of them in my poem.

When the poem was done, he asked me if he could date it. I said, "of course, and please add your name." So he put the paper back into the Olivetti sideways and typed his name and the date. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed what "date" it was. It was still October 5th, which it truly was... but it was 1972. I'm not sure why Trip picked 1972; he wasn't even born then. But I was ten in 1972. (and I had chosen to pay him ten dollars for the poem) I also noticed that he used a capital "I" for the "1." He knew that trick already. 

I walked home with a fresh poem in my bag and a feeling of pleasant punctuation, an exclamation of enjoyment in a surprisingly delightful day.

Here is the poem that Trip wrote for me: 
With Love and Poetry,