Poetry for Southern California


Jerry Garcia Guest Editorial










Reading While Driving

By Jerry Garcia

This may be sacrilegious to stalwart readers, but I have become a fan of recorded books. I spend a lot of time driving alone on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles. That is a lot of nonproductive time. My cell phone is not a good solution. I am not a fan of talking on the telephone in general, so the time I do spend talking on my car phone is clipped and aggravated. Like the freeway system, my mind is congested and hazardous—not a good place to visit alone. I need a distraction from thinking while I drive; otherwise, I may simply short circuit at the wheel.

Ironically, listening to music makes me too happy to be in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Talk-radio is annoying, even the best of Public Radio can be over-produced and pedantic, but good novels, short stories, biographies, and poetry are good companions on the road. Listening to recorded books and spoken word is a fine way to compress time.

I started by listening to podcasts of radio programs that I could not hear at their original broadcast time. Next, I found an extensive supply of recorded poetry and lectures online. Then, I tried my first recorded novel, a murder mystery. It was dramatic and entertaining. Lately, I have been catching up with classics from my hippie-dippy college days, books that I have wanted to re-read, books I didn’t finish or books I should have read but hadn’t. Yesterday, I was listening to William Hurt reading Hemingway’s description of the fiesta of Pamplona in The Sun Also Rises. Last week Tim Robbins re-read The Great Gatsby for me.

There are challenges. Sometimes I don’t hear the conceit of a chapter while engaging in minor bouts of road rage. I miss important facts while answering my cell phone or I get drowsy listening to lengthy description. I do have the option to rewind, just as I would read again a book passage I missed because of an attack of ADD. I try to pick the best read for the ride or my mood, but I can be fickle and change my mind as I do with books around my house where I have several books open at any given time. With a modern mp3 player, I can easily switch from genre to genre.

Though the concept of recorded books is generations old, today’s technology has made these recordings more readily accessible.  They can be downloaded from the iTunes Store, Audible.com and other online sources. There is a wealth of poetry and literary lectures on the Naropa University website. Mp3 players and iPods have become ubiquitous and can be adapted to play through a car’s stereo system. I recommend that anyone who has not yet taken a shot at listening to recorded books to try it. “What have you got to lose?”

Jerry Garcia is a member of the Valley Contemporary Poets Board of Directors. A poet, photographer and filmmaker, his work has appeared in various online and print journals. In April 2006, he was chosen to read at the Newer Poets/ALOUD Series at the Los Angeles Public Library and has been a featured writer at the Cobalt Café, Beyond Baroque, and The World Stage. Jerry is a postproduction supervisor in the motion picture advertising trade.