Between trips

As a former teacher, I am a fan of reflection. You do something and then  you take a bit of time to reflect on it.  In education, this makes perfect sense. Its valuable for both teachers and students to spend time thinking abimg_2280out what happened, how things went before going on to the next step.  Having just returned from taking the traveling bookstore to Portland, I want to reflect before setting out for New York and the Brooklyn Book Festival (we will also set up in Rock Island, IL on 9/15 and at the Montana Book Festival 9/22-24).

Astounded. Surprised. Mystified. These are the words that come to mind when I think about driving the bookstore to Portland, setting up on N. Lombard in front of Ace Typewriter, spending time with friends over dinner and early morning coffee, setting up near Hollywood Fred Meyers, talking with David at Passages Bookshop and the folks at Mother Foucault’s including Charlie and Craig.  Nada wanted to go to Powell’s so we did that as well and marveled at the families filling tiny tables in the children’s books section. More conversations over Thai food with friends and that evening.  Some talk reflected on the books we had been reading – Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, The Plover by Brian Doyle, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Some talk was about aging and some about dying, some about community and making choices about where to live, how to live. Some about the physics of the earth’s rotation and some about love. There were new people we met like Ethan and Jennifer and Roz and Steve who each stopped by long enough to exchange stories, learn names.  A young woman typed a poem at the bookstore before racing across the street to catch her bus. An older woman with two grandchildren bought some children’s books and when paying, told us to keep the change which amounted to a lot.  Although we didn’t sell enough books to cover the trip, we came back richer in knowledge, relationships, perspectives.  In trying to explain the traveling bookstore to city people, I decided it is an experiment.

I appreciated people lingering at the bookstore as I thought people in the city might just buy a book and rush away.  It is great Matt at Ace Typewriter has so much business but I wish he would give a workshop so typewriter novices could maintain their own machines. I learned people like to take photos of the traveling bookstore but then what happens to those photos? Many people don’t seem to like that Portland is growing although Nada and I enjoyed the urban milieu during our few days there. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I returned with questions that I won’t sit long enough to find answers for before taking off for New York.  Maybe the drive across will provide us time to explore the questions as well as I 90.





I  don’t have an MBA so I am not sure what the theory is among savvy business gurus on generosity and kindness but I will say these are a large part of the traveling bookstore’s story.  First off there are all those folks who donate books to my business.  A week doesn’t go by when there aren’t books left on my porch or piled inside my front door. Most times I IMG_2057don’t even know who dropped the books off.  And then there are friends who come over to help sort books. Of all aspects of this business, sorting is what I like least and I know why. It is often a solitary task. There usually isn’t anyone to be amazed with when I discover a literary gem in a box or someone to laugh with about a cute note left in a donated book.  Or anyone to confer with whether a particular book should be shelved under ‘the West’ or under ‘spiritual.’  So when friends come to help, it is a joy. Then there was Carol who packed up over three hundred books I wasn’t going to sell and drove them to Deer Lodge as a donation to the state prison. Diane let me set up in her drive-way in Libby on a Saturday to sell books. The generosity of people who help with the traveling bookstore is astounding.

The other day I began thinking how to advertise that the traveling bookstore was going to be in Portland over Labor Day weekend. I sent out some emails to Portland connections, asking if anyone could help get the info out on social media. Within an hour, I had an email from a friend of a friend. David Abel  who owns Passages Bookstore in Portland wrote saying he would be pleased to advertise using his mailing list and Facebook page.  Here is a fellow bookstore owner who doesn’t see me as competition but rather as a colleague trying to get books to people who love to read. Generosity. Kindness. St. Rita’s Amazing Traveling Bookstore truly benefits from these in so many ways and I am sincerely thankful.