Account Of Young Americans Tour
Mallory Whitten



I think about how I want to go to every city on the reading tour in a way similar to an overly emotional toddler. I have the option of quitting my job at a candy store and going on a writing involved road trip with two friends. So far the job has been absurd. Working with all elderly women, being a sales associate for a higher end candy store in an upper-middle-class town whose residents feel very entitled. I consider quitting for weeks before the tour, but have emotions of guilt and anxiety about finding a new job. “I haven’t seen Richard in years,” “I can’t choose being an employee over art,” and “what, I haven’t seen Evan’s apartment in Chicago yet,” are a common type of thought that I’m having. I am aware they are self-centered and would like to rationalize and diminish them.



I am waiting at Jordan’s parent’s house for him and Richard to pick me up. I change out of my work clothes. I hear the door, walk into the hallway and smell a smell that I directly associate with Richard. The smell is a type of smell that is what I imagine animals often having, the ones that are distinct for each human. I think about this being a characteristic of Richard that I like, and feel something nostalgic about how “it hasn’t changed.”



It is raining hard outside and “Larry’s House” seems easy to distinguish from 5 or so houses away. There is a porch with people huddled up, talking at various volumes, smoking cigarettes. I walk to that porch. People are receptive to me saying hello and I feel comfortable. Upstairs I see art and cats and knick-knacks and I think something about Ohio punk houses. I ask for water and am handed a jar with water in it. Everyone gathers into the bedroom where the reading is happening. It becomes increasingly warm, and I see Richard laughing silently from across the room. People read poems that mention cigarettes and “the writer.” Someone sings Animal Collective lyrics, which is funny because there is an Animal Collective show happening around an hour away. After the reading I look at Paul’s notebook. The notebook has a list of things the man with dementia that he takes care of says. I encourage him to keep adding to the list, possibly too much. One of the people who seems to live at the house asks to take a picture of Richard, Jordan and I together. There is commotion about finding a good light source. After a good light source is found I stand in between Jordan and Richard. Someone appears out of nowhere and starts talking about centaurs, offering to do a reading for us at a gallery he lives or works at called “the community centaur.” None of us seem to know how to react. Richard turns and cups his hands around his face, pretending to look out the window when he is really hiding laughter. I start laughing, and the centaur person looks uncomfortable.



It is raining hard on the freeway and I feel increasing anxiety about being in a car accident. Jordan is driving and he seems extremely sleep deprived. His eyes look red and swollen and he is slumped over in his reclined seat. I contemplate asking to drive, but realize it would be hard to move over three lanes in the traffic. Jordan stares ahead without blinking with his mouth slightly open, occasionally breaking very hard to slow from 80 miles an hour. I feel angry that he isn’t being more cautious. I think about how Jordan is probably on drugs, how being “sleep deprived on tour” would be a valid excuse for him. I curl over in the passenger seat so I can’t see anything. Richard is in the back seat, and I feel embarrassed to be so outwardly distressed. I tell myself I shouldn’t care if I die in the car on the way to this reading in New York and try to believe it.



Richard and I walk around the streets surrounding the KGB bar. Manage to feel detached while thinking New York City is perhaps the worst place in the United States, and fanaticizing about being stomped on by a monster after watching it knock buildings down. Struggle to keep from having a shit eating grin while walking and seeing Richard as “very Ohio,” and not particularly because of the way he is dressed. It seems everyone’s walking pace, facial expression, and overall demeanor is contradictory to Richard’s, who has no particular destination, a calm facial expression, and a slow walking pace so that he can eat his pizza.



I am sitting in the back seat with Richard, Sam is in the passenger seat, and Jordan is driving again. Richard and I are mostly listening to, but occasionally participating in, a conversation happening in the front of the car. Jordan repeatedly uses “da da da da da” with the same voice inflection in various scenarios at various times in the conversation and I realize he has been doing this the whole trip. I think Richard picked up on this at the same time, and we start laughing in an uncontrollable way that I can only refer to as giggling. While laughing I feel myself seemingly looking down at Richard and myself, then moving into Richard’s perception of the situation or what I imagine it being like, and laugh harder.

I wake up and we are in the large portion of the drive that is the mountains of Pennsylvania. Jordan’s voice is very hoarse, and he is talking for several minutes at a time. Sam will affirm and make a comment occasionally. I realize that each time there is a slight curve to go around, Jordan speeds up to around 90 miles per hour, then suddenly brakes to around 25 miles per hour to go around the curve, as though this is a neighborhood and not a freeway. I think about drugs, I think about if he is on drugs and is voluntarily driving a car with three people in it besides himself while under the influence. I think about possibly being wrong about Jordan being on drugs.



There are around 25 people in the basement of an independent bookstore during the reading. The seating is set up so that the perimeter of the room is lined with chairs making a rectangle, and the top part of the rectangle is the podium. When Sam reads I become increasingly aware that I am laughing uncontrollably and my eyes are watering while people near me are recording him. I see a woman translating Sam’s reading in sign language to an elderly man next to her. After the reading Matt Margo gives Sam a gigantic fish that has a print similar to camouflage. The fish is taller than me. The elderly man who was reading the sign language walks over to me then grunts and walks away. There is a fifteen-minute break.  People return to the basement for an open mic reading. There are two men that appear very excited for the open mic, as though they attend these readings just for the open mic regularly. The two men read stories that mention Vietnam. During the reading the elderly man’s head bobs in a way that seems unintentional, making grunts occasionally. After the two men with stories involving Vietnam finish, the elderly man walks to the podium with a binder containing laminated sheets of typed paper. The woman who was signing to him earlier stands next to him. The elderly man begins to sign and grunt at the audience, and the woman translates at a speed that seems like she is leaving a lot of content out. When the elderly man is done he bows. I feel emotional and like I admire this old man. I think about how I want to walk up to people and grunt in their faces too.  I urge Paul from “Larry’s House” to read something, and he walks to the podium. Paul talks about sexuality and beauty while glancing up at the ceiling often. Most people in the crowd say something like “hell yeah” or “exactly” after he talks. Paul’s speech causes a chain of other impromptu speeches that carry on till the end of the open mic.