Tuesday 24. 3. 09
Like any other morning: Tablets. Coffee. Shower. Breakfast. Boring, until hand written letter with a Kansas City postmark from a Professor Fred Whitehead (retired) Missouri Uni’ Kansas City?
Dear Peter Street,
I very much enjoyed reading about you in The Guardian Newspaper: James Morrison’s: “Accidental Poet” Guardian: 17th December 208. iI would like to discuss with you a project I’m involved with:. I’ve read your latest poetry collection and wondered if you would like to Launch over here at the Albuquerque Literature Festival? ALL your expenses will be paid.”
Sandra went for the jugular: “Kansas City! You even got lost in Liverpool all because you came out of the hotel side door instead of the front door. Kansas City over my dead body.
Get ready Kansas City here I come… eeehaa
Two months nothing. We had gone from one maybe two e-mails a day, to zilch. I was beginning to think if Sandra had written to Fred saying sorry Peter can’t make it. Then: “Peter, I’ve bought your ticket, all your expenses will be covered You will fly from Manchester to Philadelphia from there to Kansas City will you be ok?
Yes, I’m ok. Sandra has been helping with me with my practise runs to the airport and back, there on my first visit she suggested i spend some time in the toilets after she saw my agitation: constant fiddling with my top shirt button from being ‘full up of people’ . She found the assistant desk – where she explained i was autistic and epileptic. We were directed to the assistance area just for those with impairments.
Not many expeditions to New Mexico via Kansas City begin in Wigan.
September 18th 2012: I was launching my sixth poetry collection: Listening To The Dark (Penniless Press) in Albuquerque via Kansas City
6.45am: Rucksack the size of a parachute was packed: I was every half inch the paratrooper but i was ready for my expedition and yes travelling such long distance on my own was a real first for me, my wife, my epilepsy and my autism So with best foot forward and thoughts of a chance meeting with Dorothy, the Tin-man, not forgetting Scarecrow and Lion. I kissed my wife and with nerves of plastic I walked with a cautious hurry to the waiting taxi.
Airport: there was something rather strange about going through check-in especially with assistants waiting for me. Wonderful really, a first: leaving able bodied passengers standing with their gobs wide open while watching me walk through to the boarding gate.
I’d never flown through clouds; even as far back as childhood I thought they were something mystical, wrapped around some kind of secret; a light moveable secret. Those were once my childhood thoughts while lying in Astley bridge park in the hot summer of ’58.
Now years later U.S. Airways are carrying those secrets over with me to Kansas. Strange. Yes of course but when dreams are turning into reality anything could happen.
Fred was is waiting for me at the airport. We shook hands, talked about my journey. I climb into the left side of his Chevy truck and automatically went to grab the steering wheel: wrong. Our first junction I went to press the brakes: wrong. Seeing Fred for the first time and hearing his voice.I knew then I was going to be okay with this complete stranger: for there was instant liking and respect to the man who was proving humanity is still alive and well.
I told him about the five hour stop over in Philadelphia. No problem: I was with me and that’s all there was to it. It was a breather from the guy in the flight seat next to me. Who as soon as we lifted off he never stopped talking. It was his nerves. Nerves: miles of them in long unbroken lines came from his mouth. There must have been at the very least a million words which had to be stacked up in the corner waiting to somehow be bulldozed out once the plane stops. Thank god for Philadelphia.
We shook hands. Then thanked him for everything. From there on it was all the usual questions about the travel and the odd silence wondering what to say to a stranger. That was so ended with: America is a great place if you don’t like the rest of the world.
Professor John Crawford, who suggested Fred should read my work who did just that and then after twelve months of emailing each other Fred invited me organising funding and everything for me to read in Albuquerque, Missouri University, The American Land Institute and everywhere else he thought suitable.