The Real Folk Blues

At the end of “Cowboy Bebop,” protagonist and general badass Spike engages in one final shootout with his rival. Bullets fly, the rain falls–all that you’d expect in a finale. Leading up to the last episode, “Cowboy Bebop” felt rushed as the writers tied up many, if not all, of the subplots before ending the series. It’s a common trait in anime, I think–or at least one expressed by the creators of “Cowboy Bebop,” who also rushed their subsequent, and less fulfilling, series “Samurai Champloo.” Anyway, maybe that’s the trait of all series–animated or otherwise–which is to wrap everything up before everything is wrapped up.

Such was the feeling of the AWP Conference & Book Fair, my first time visiting the affair.

Five days whizzed by in a blur, a hurried rush of handshakes and hugs, of information exchange and copious amounts of books. So many people–fellow writers and some members of my magazine’s staff–left such an impression on me, it’s difficult to parse them out from the actual conference. When I can–rare moments, to be sure–AWP felt a bit underwhelming, like a hit of subpar cocaine, its high peaked too soon and its after-effects a little disappointing.

The panels I attended were lame–all except one of them, though its name and general topic escapes me right now–and I felt bombarded and bewildered by the number of attendees. I kept saying, “I can’t believe all of these people are writers or writerly types–editors and such,” because for someone like me, a person who remains so disconnected to other writers, the Internet excluded, seeing so many people–writers–was too much. Too much networking. Too many attendees conked out on the Hilton floor, exhausted and unsure of their next move. Too many names and faces to remember. A blur. A final shootout stretched across five days. Nothing feels wrapped up.

If I discard the panels and the thousands of people in attendance from my memory, I’m then left with the small number of people I did meet. I remember the drinks at the Beauty Bar with J. Bradley and Chad Redden and Joe Owens and xTx (she exists!). I remember the way Ashley Ford tackled me and the brief hug I had with Ashley Bethard. Cristin O’keefe Aptowicz drew me a picture and I recorded Ryan Bradley in a bathroom stall. Roxane Gay hugged me twice and Molly Laich is one of the coolest people I’ve met in a while.

Even as I type, I’m forgetting names and it’s bad form to start naming names and then leave out names due to a fried memory. A memory bludgeoned by the blur of the events, the shootout and the bullets embodied by the countless laughs and conversations and memories. Memories safely housed inside Memory, that brutalized and bullet-riddled object in my brain.

At the end of each episode of “Cowboy Bebop,” the song “The Real Folk Blues” played. The last two episodes were named “The Real Folk Blues” and…in the end…the caption was a quote by The Beatles, “You’re gonna carry that weight, boy.”

This, sadly, is not post-AWP sadness. It is merely the Real Folk Blues, having placed faces and skins to names and words. I’ll carry that weight until next year.


mensah demary, whose prose has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, is co-founder & editor-in-chief of Specter Magazine.

a regular contributor for The Lit Pub, Hippocampus Magazine, ArtFaccia, and Peripheral Surveys, mensah currently writes in Camden, New Jersey. For more information, visit or on Twitter @mensahdemary.