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The girl in the booth gave up her phone call and stamped a parking permit. She directed me to the lots flanking Loker student union and I tossed the permit on the dash of the borrowed car. I ordered coffee and Rod Hernandez met me at the food court. Upstairs Ballroom A, we hung around, waiting to start as staff from the bookstore arranged a table of books by the coffee urns and refreshment platters. Professors brought classes, packing in more than 200, SRO out the door. Even my wife put in a rare appearance, before slipping out. Randy Cauthen delivered a tremendous intro, and without knowing everybody to thank (Laura Perdew did terrific publicity and shot photos), I read pieces of ATOMIK AZTEX, INTERVIEW WITH JUAN FISH and WORLD BALL NOTEBOOK. Q & A, and a line of dozens to get their books signed. Toward the end, CSU Dominguez Hills student Anthony Portillo, red & green tat down his arm to the wrist, handed me a letter from his mom. “She said you wrote a poem about her mom’s murder,” he said. “Your grandmother!” I said, certain that I had at least changed their names and some details—perhaps not enough—in the book. Anthony asked me to sign WBN to the family. His mom’s letter was mostly about my mom and how she helped her as a child, making her Halloween costume and helping her get to summer camp. I asked how the family was now. I didn’t have to tell Anthony all that was long before he had been born. He said his mom would’ve attended the reading but was in Washington D.C. on business. Rod, Randy, Helen Oesterheld and several grad and undergrad students met us afterward at Musha’s for beer and Japanese beer food. Nearing midnight, the car I borrowed was the last one left at the far end of the lot, mist hanging on the street lamps.

Photographs by Laura Perdew and Gary Kuwahara of California State University Dominguez Hills

April 2011