I volunteer with the City of Asylum Pittsburgh, and today I had the pleasure of driving one of the writers, Horacio Castellanos Moya, to a reading/q&a session at Westminster College in Greensburg, PA. I had never driven there before, so I got directions from Google Maps. We got there without a hitch, and talked the whole time– philospohy, physics, religion, writing, etc. After we got off of 79 we were in farm country and passed many Amish buggies (Horacio’s first time to see them). The Amish houses all have blue painted doors. Once there, the professor who arranged for Moya to come, along with three other professors and three students took us to dinner at Rachel’s Roadhouse. Never one to turn down free food, I had the portobello pasta. During dinner I talked with two of the professors, Camila of Argentina who says my Spanish is good (i think her ears are kind), and James Perkins who was the only professor along from the English department (the others were from the modern languages dept). I translated some of the ongoing Spanish conversations for him and also talked about poetry and literature with him. We got back to the college and had some downtime in which I had coffee and looked at books. Camila showed me the cafeteria, the “soul” of the campus, as she said, and James showed me his favorite spot on campus, a long narrow area with comfy chairs in front of a floor to ceiling window with a view of the campus, including the man-made lake supposedly in the shape of Alabama. One of the president’s of the university is also said to have water skiied on it. Then it was time for the reading, where Horacio read from his novel Senselessness (excerpt). He read the entire first chapter and part of the sixth. I absolutely have to read it now. It is about a horrific tragedy (massacre of indigenous peoples of honduras), but also has humor. He said sometimes you have to laugh or you will cry. I say that when there is humor and lighter moments in a book, it makes the tragic ones hit even harder for the stark contrast. After the reading, he took questions. One man asked to hear the first page in Spanish, which Horacio complied with. He reads in the same rhythym in both English and Spanish, something I noticed about Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky. The Russians also laugh in the face of tragedy….I guess it is a human thing. Don’t want to get too philosophical here right now, because we got enough philosophical on the carride home to last me at least a week. We also manged to get a little lost. Those roads are sooo dark and there were no stars out even to guide us. When we realized we didn’t recognize anything anymore, we tried to back track to a point where we recognized, but somehow got off the course and ended up in a city. There was life and we could stop for directions finally. Then we realized it was Grove City so we just got on 79 and went back to Pittsburgh.
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