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2007-12-15 - 12:28 a.m.

I did my reading on Tuesday night. I meant to write about it when I got home that night but instead I got drunk two nights in a row.

The reading was the thing I was most worried about the whole time I was up here. I'd get some work done during the day, and grade essays, and talk on the phone, and watch some TV, but then I'd lie down and my heart would race. I've read stuff aloud a bunch of times, and I'm usually OK with a group of friends in a living room. But in formal situations, with a microphone and people sitting in chairs, as the time comes for me to walk up and do it, my heart races. It's mainly because I usually stutter once or twice during a reading and the stutters aren't so bad but the thinking about them is. I hate that feeling, that near-paralysis. Sometimes I have to stamp my foot to get the word out.

But my friend FedExed me two little pills and I took a half of one two hours before the reading and it seemed to work. The heart raced but less. I was nervous but less. It may have helped that not many people showed up. It was late in the semester and rainy and cold out, and the advertising wasn't great.

I chose a funny thing to read. They laughed where I thought they would, and in a few places where I hadn't expected it. I gave a pretty long introduction to it, thanked them for having me at their school, and talked about my students. It went well. Just one big stutter, on an "i" word. "Itinerant"? "Impossible"? Something like that. I don't rat-a-tat stutter. I just can't get started sometimes. It feels like standing in deep right field, holding a baseball and knowing you need to chuck it to third base, but not being able to. You just hold the ball and you're not sure why but everybody's looking and some are yelling and you just can't get your arm to work. Thinking about it gets the heart racing.

Most everyone there came up to me and said they liked the story. I felt good about it and went out to dinner with a poet up here. He paid for dinner on the university's card and after he dropped me off, I walked up to the pizza-slash-beer place and bought a twelve-pack of assorted Michelob craft beers. It's like a grab bag for Michelob beers that no one ever drinks. Exhaling, sighing, singing, maybe, I sat on my couch and drank a bunch of them.

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