Propelled forward by looking back

I want to be on the road with the traveling bookstore. I want to set up at music festivals and in cities, by coffee shops in small towns and at county fairs. I want the sun to be out and people willing to engage in real conversations as we stand by the bookstore marveling at all the wonders one can find in print. I want to share ideas for how to make the world a better place and to exchange titles for some great books we read this winter. And I also want to feel comfortable with people going into the bookstore and as we stand outside next to the table with the typewriter set up, knowing we care enough to keep each other healthy.

I appreciate the book club in Eureka read a wonderful range of books this winter and has more coming up through the spring. We are a small club in a rural (and rather remote) community of northwest Montana. Since summer, we’ve met virtually. Yet we manage to have good conversations, decide on monthly titles that offer us a range of authors and ideas, encourage each other to grow and think. Some of our titles: Woman, Girl, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Wolverine Way by Doug Chadwick, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai.

While looking for a photo that made sense to me for this post, this moment, I came across one from six years ago. My first bookstore trip out of town was to a two-day music festival in Yaak, MT and if you don’t know this place, you should. I worried driving there up twisted mountain roads, no other vehicles in sight, setting up in a field behind the Yaak Tavern & Mercantile, but then did extremely well selling books. Spent my first night ever sleeping in the bookstore. And the next day met this young couple from New York City who suggested I go to the Brooklyn Book Festival. And the following year I did. First time driving the bookstore across country. Barely able to breathe as I navigated it through the city, wondering if a traveling bookstore in NYC would even be noticed (but it was!).

Since then I have put lots of miles on the bookstore; taken it across country multiple times, up and down the west coast, through the Rocky Mountains. After that first book festival in NY, I’ve set it up in Seattle, Portland, Baltimore, Raleigh, Sioux Falls, Chicago, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and many more cities as well as numerous rural towns. And that couple who suggested the Brooklyn Book Festival – they have two young children now and are doing well. I follow photos of their family on social media. I’ve done things that I didn’t envision doing when I met them. And no doubt raising their two kids is something they couldn’t have imagined fully either. So looking forward to this summer, I want to believe it is possible to do more things – meet people who will change my life, have conversations that stick with me for years, and of course, read books that are remarkable.

Stitches

To sew is to pray. Men don’t understand this. They see the whole but they don’t see the stitches. They don’t see the speech of the creator in the work of the needle. We mend. We women turn things inside out and set things right. We salvage what we can of human garments and piece the rest into blankets. Sometimes our stitches stutter and slow. Only a woman’s eye can tell. Other times, the tension in the stitches might be too tight because of tears, but only we know what emotion went into the making. Only women can hear the prayer. from Louise Erdrich’s Four Souls. HarperCollins, 2004

Yes, it is summer so I read. And I take the traveling bookstore around to events in northwest Montana where mostly I set up at farmers markets. When not reading or doing the traveling bookstore business, I work on a quilt these days. I am not a very experienced quilter so it feels a bit odd and definitely awkward. It could be called an art quilt although that seems pretentious. It will be a quilt that can cover someone’s bed, can be wrapped around you on a chilly evening as you read. It is made from fabric and gloves people gave me. I am trying to get the stitching right.

It made sense at that beginning to call it a pandemic quilt. That doesn’t capture it all now as I sew. Initially the idea came from gloves we wore to keep ourselves and our communities healthy, and also the stark physical isolation as many people stopped hugging, stopped shaking hands. Yet circumstances unfolded – or became more vivid. At the beginning it was about a virus but expanded into a lack of leadership and into Black Lives Matter and then older women linking arms to protect protestors. My neighbor across the street put a “Faith Over Fear” sign in her front yard. A thirty-year-old Congresswoman gave a speech that spoke to power. Many foreign borders are now closed to Americans.

I sew a quilt. I make books available to people. I hope for the best, but know we each must contribute to make that happen.

Begin at the beginning

A time of year when it is hard to keep up with all that is going on. The 2019 Western States Bookstore Tour is about to begin.  You can find dates and places at the end of this post or more details on the bookstore’s Facebook page. Quite the tour!  A few cities where the bookstore has set up before and some new ones.  Look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people. And of course, talking about books and life.  I am reminded as the tour gets organized, how much we are part of a wider community.  Beth, whom I haven’t seen in years offered to help with the bookstore’s gig in Denver and she put me in touch with her cousin Virginia who lives in Casper. I have yet to meet Virginia in person but she helped sort out where I could set up the bookstore in that part of Wyoming.  A friend of a friend in Grand Junction, old friends who moved to Buena Vista, Anne’s family in Sacramento, and on and on.  I don’t know how one would go about setting up a traveling bookstore tour if it wasn’t for the amazing network of people who are willing to help by making calls, suggesting sites, and/or offering housing.  Thank you!IMG_1480

The 2019 Western States Bookstore Tour runs from May 16 to June 5 which gives me a few days to get home before the local Creative Arts Center‘s annual Trash2Flash event on June 8th.  This arts center does so much to enhance the community where I live that it is obvious I need to contribute to their event.  And that meant creating my outfit prior to taking off on the bookstore tour.  I can’t reveal too many details about the outfit (we each keep ours secret until they hit the runway) but I will say I wanted photographs to be part of it. I put out the word and before the blink of an eye, people were dropping off large envelopes bulging with photos.  So many beautiful ones!  So many that inspired ideas for stories.  I will use some but have bundles that I won’t use in case you want to use them in your own project or to illustrate a book.

Needless to say, my kitchen table is presently covered with books to be sorted, photographs to be sorted, papers and maps, fabric, scissors and thread.

May 16:  Clark’s Fork. Bozeman, MT

May 17: Black Tooth Brewing. Sheridan, WY

May 18: Funky Junk.  Casper, WY

May 20: Stella’s Gourmet Coffee and Such.  Denver, CO

May 20: Elevation Beer.  Poncha Springs, CO

May 21: Cafe Dawn. Salida, CO

May 23: Kannah Creek Brewing. Grand Junction, CO

May 24:  The Christi Reece Group: Grand Junction. CO

May 26: TBA.  Salt Lake City

May 28: Drakes @ The Barn:  Sacramento, CA

June 2: Extracto Coffee.  Portland, OR

June 3: Ace Typewriter. Portland, OR

June 4: Populuxe Brewing.  Seattle, WA

June 5: TBA. Seattle, WA

 

books and maps and time

I suppose there are people out there who think if one has a traveling bookstore that certain months would be easy. Park the bookstore, stay at home, curl up with delightful books and read through the winter.  And then when Spring actually appears, get out the key, turn on the bookstore and hit the road. Although I am ever hopeful there will be more traveling bookstores in this country (and abroad), I should dissuade you – this is not the case.  There is a bit more work involved.IMG_1441

First there are the incoming books that pile up and pile up and PILE UP until the garage/warehouse is overflowing, and the top of the washing machine (don’t ask me why except it is a flat surface) is full of books and the floor space next to the front door has boxes of books which tip over when visitors come by and everything has to be sorted so the very best reads can then be put in the bookstore or boxed for upcoming trips.

Then there is applying to festivals (Yaak River Fest, Libby’s Riverfront Blues Festival, Montana Book Festival, Baltimore Book Festival, etc) and setting up trips.  The first long distance trip this year is scheduled May 15 – June 7 and is called in my notes, “The Western Bookstore Adventure”. This means getting out the maps, the phone, the computer, and starting to talk with anyone and everyone who might know something about Sheridan, Denver, Grand Junction, Sacramento, Ashland, etc etc etc.  How many miles is it from Casper, WY to Buena Vista, CO?  Who do I know in Salt Lake City who might put me up when the bookstore is there?  Is it a good idea to set up in Winnemucca the last weekend in May during the Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Rally?  Will the owners of Populuxe Brewing who I briefly met let me set up in their parking lot when I am in Seattle? And how do all these places fit into a three-week travel schedule?  The mantra becomes Pace Yourself. Balance. I am typically not good at either.

Because of course there are so many places I would enjoy taking the bookstore. And there are invites from people whom I would dearly enjoy seeing and meeting.  But for some reason whether I use a paper calendar or the one on my phone, there are only so many days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a year.  There are community commitments in Eureka, MT up until May 14 and the Trash2Flash fashion show/fundraiser June 8. These make bookends for when the traveling bookstore can be out-of-state.  Of course the rest of June and July, the bookstore will set up in Eureka and other parts of Montana, land of my heart.

But for now, its back to organize books, maps, phone, computer, and oh, remember to order business cards, set an appointment for the bookstore to get a tune up, pace yourself, and balance.

Map reads

Getting in some travel this winter without the bookstore but of course there are books involved.  The last trip was by train down through Portland, along the west coast in jumbled connections arranged by Amtrak that included trains, taxi, buses and more trains to finally arrive in Albuquerque.  On the way back to Montana passing through the Bay Area, managed to take trams, ferries, and BART.  Sufficient opportunities to see what people are reading on public transportation.  Saw many copies of Michelle Obama’s Becoming being read, most in English while others were translated editions in Spanish, German, French and one I couldn’t quite decipher.  Had the pleasure of hearing two IMG_0902thought-filled poetry readings, meeting a travel writer for the NY Times, experiencing Pegasus Books and East Bay Booksellers, Powell’s and Broadway Books, and marveled at the number of little free libraries in most neighborhoods we passed through.

At Powell’s, pleased to see people of all ages roaming the aisles which are carefully numbered and mapped out.  Thought about what a map of my traveling bookstore might look like if I designed one. Although my bookstore has only one aisle, it does offer diversity of place.  The map would need to incorporate those places in various times.  Powell’s has one map as its aisles ( and bookstore) are stationary.  A map of St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore would obviously require more advanced cartographic techniques.

Appreciated Amtrak‘s customer service, especially Libbi in Portland who helped out with muddled reservations, the woman at the Sacramento station who arranged for a forty-eight mile taxi ride so we could make our connection, and the Amtrak bus driver between Bakersfield and LA who had a lovely smile, purple braids and made us feel warmly welcomed despite the damp weather.  In general, nearly everyone encountered renewed our faith in humanity: the waitstaff at Milo’s, Don at Robertson & Sons Violin Shop, the man at Smyths Accordions who didn’t mind us all squeezed into the tiny showroom as Ray tried out various accordions.

Arriving home inspired to try harder, to start planning the spring bookstore trip heading south, and to be kinder to people met by chance on the road.

 

 

Thanks

Thanks to the very good friends who put me up (and put up with me) while I was on the recent west coast road trip with the bookstore.  I much appreciated the parking spots for the bookstore, the beds for me, delicious meals and, of course, that strong morning coffee.

And thanks to the gracious businesses that hosted the traveling bookstore. Some were Processed with MOLDIVreturn venues which are always a treat.  Some were entirely new and delightfully surprising.  Your support for this small pop-up business is appreciated. If it weren’t for you providing a space, I would probably get citations from local law enforcement.

And the wonderful people who stopped/shopped at the bookstore! Parents with kids, wise elders, hipsters and folks who just happened to walk by and decided to investigate a van that was actually a bookstore.  There were many individuals whose conversations stay with me….talk about current politics, the Wieliczka salt mine, the dire situation with ICE detainees in Oregon, favorite authors, the struggles as urban neighborhoods gentrify, the challenging twists that life sometimes throws our way, the wonder of book clubs in all sorts of communities, bees, homelessness and expanding tent neighborhoods, the death of a young daughter, typewriters and the people who use them, fix them and collect them.

Now back in northwest Montana sending thanks to all of you who make this happen.

Perplexities

The traveling bookstore is on the road because, after all, that is what a traveling bookstore does. It goes places. Last Sunday was an event at Extracto Coffee in Portland, a lovely day filled with new people stopping by to experience the bookstore, and old friends stopping by to enjoy the scene.  On Monday, while still in Portland, we set up at Ace Typewriter which is always a treat, talking with Matt, visiting with folks who brought in a typewriter to be fixed or who stopped by to pick up one Matt repaired to missiontypeinperfection.

Within the hours parked near Extracto Coffee and the hours parked on N. Lombard by Ace Typewriter, there were numerous conversations.  Two young people just finishing college talked about thoughts for their future. A man from the Bronx with his grown son enjoyed Father’s Day together. A friend provided information about a vigil in Sheridan, OR where hundreds of asylum seekers are being held in the federal prison.  A woman talked with me about growing older and what services and support are available (and those that are not) in urban Oregon and in rural Montana. A mom with a cute little kid dressed in a Superman outfit stopped by.  The boy found a picture book about dogs he wanted and his mom gave him a dollar to pay for it.  She told me it was the first time he ever bought something and we agreed buying a book was a good place to start.  There were discussions about the gentrification of neighborhoods and about the growing number of unhoused individuals in our cities, some of the startling inequalities that face us daily.

People go past the bookstore walking, on bikes, skateboards, pushing shopping carts, and pushing strollers.  A man in an electric wheelchair rolled by with a boy and a dog sitting on his lap.  A young man asks me to hold his carryout container of soup while he digs out his wallet to pay for a book. A woman is pleased when she hears she can take her dog in the bookstore with her.

There were conversations and experiences that touched on hope.  People working to express their opposition to a proposed gas pipe line across Oregon, to speak out against the incarceration of asylum seekers and the separation of families. Having faith that if enough people speak up, these atrocities can be stopped.  But how many constitute enough?  And how do we stop these sorts of things and also make positive changes? Why in this country are there people camped on city streets because they have no where else to live?  Why are so many still without sufficient healthcare?

Today the bookstore heads to San Francisco.  It will set up for two days at SF Center for the Book and on June 23 at Mission Pie for the Third Annual Type-In. No doubt there will be more conversations, more heartache in that city, more challenges for people to face politically, humanely, and more decisions about what each of us will do.

Get these dates down

This upcoming month is an exciting one for the traveling bookstore. I want to be sure you have all the dates and places and times because chances are good that the bookstore is setting up some place you would enjoy going.  As always, this traveling bookstore isn’t just about buying awesome used books. It offers opportunities to type something creative, to have conversations and possibly to solve some problems.  I recently returned from a Humanities Montana meeting reinvigorated that there is hope in civil discourse.  So don’t hesitate to bring a beverage and/or snack and plan to stay a while talking at the bookstore about things that matter.

bookstore in yaakJune 13 Eureka MT Farmers Market   Eureka, MT 3:30 – 6:30

June 17 Extracto Coffee Portland, OR 10:00 – 2:00

June 18 Ace Typewriter Repair  Portland, OR  10:00 – 4:00

June 21 – 22 SF Center for the Book  San Francisco, CA  10:00 – 3:00

June 23  Mission Pie Third Annual Type-In!  San Francisco, CA 10:00 – 1:00

June 25  Port Orford Library  Port Orford, OR  10:00 – 5:00

June 28  Lilo’s Hawaiian BBQ  Hood River, OR  11:00 – 2:00

July 14  HA Brewery  Eureka, MT  4:00 – 7:00

July 20 – 21 Yaak River Festival  Yaak, MT

plus more to come in July and August around Montana!

Betweenness

The Grand 2018 North Carolina and Back Bookstore Tour was glorious. There are the facts: thirty days, 6,223 miles, sixteen gigs. But the splendor of the tour was really about people. There were the business owners who let the bookstore set up in their parking lots.  There were the individuals who housed us.  There were the fantastic 25A0DCC1-1135-4627-B8E1-A57FA726E985customers who lingered to talk and who shared ideas, book titles and suggestions about where the bookstore might set up in the future. And there were the great co-pilots/booksellers who helped navigate, ease concerns, and hand the driver chocolate when traffic was bad.

Did we learn anything?  Yes!  As the primary planner/driver I realized there should be more days to just savor experiences on a long tour.  Too many days in a row bookselling and driving creates an overload.  There needs to be moments if not hours to reflect on all a traveling bookstore is about, on who we met.  We learned Nebraska is more beautiful then we anticipated.  We discovered the ladies parlor at the historic Sheridan Inn where Buffalo Bill used to hang was an ideal place to write postcards. We found surprises in Chillicothe, Missouri and a great Mexican restaurant in Oggalala, NE.  And while talking food, the cornmeal muffin with sausage gravy at Lucettegrace Cafe in Raleigh is a treat to be remembered (and I hope to recreate that recipe some day).

Now with memories fresh and lessons learned, the next tour takes shape.  It is shorter but no doubt will also offer amazing new experiences.  It officially starts on June 18 at Ace Typewriter Repair in Portland.  Then gigs at the SF Center for the Book (6/21-22) and at Mission Pie on 6/23 for our third annual Type-In there with those good folks.  On 6/25 the bookstore sets up at the Port Orford Library for a day selling books, good conversations and then a Type-In from 2-5pm. A few more stops might materialize before starting out on the tour, but I do want this one to have time to reflect.

One might think traveling bookstore tours would get tiresome.  On the contrary, they offer enough shared conversations,  new insights on this country and driving time to ponder difficult questions that I suspect they will continue a while longer.

#missionpie #lucettegrace #acetypewriter

 

Kaleidoscopic self(s)

Some might think a traveling bookstore would be enough. After all by its third summer in operation, the bookstore had been all over Montana (no small feat), to the Brooklyn Book Festival in NY, to events in San Francisco, to Portland and to the Seattle area. It had set up in Illinois and Idaho.  It had been perused by the waitress at Trixi’s Saloon in Ovando and by a cop in Choteau.  It had blown a tire in S. Dakota and had a small fixable oil problem in Coeur d’Alene.

Processed with MOLDIVAnd of course there are times when the bookstore stays parked quietly at home while I wander forth with a small suitcase and only a book or two.  The current adventure has me in the Czech Republic with a brief foray to Vienna, and  then later to Israel, Hungary and Romania.  It was really just today though while buying a canvas (my third on this trip) that I realized different places pull out different aspects of who I am.  While in my hometown, I’m compelled to volunteer, to give to the community which gives so much to me.  In Brno, I find myself doing art on a daily basis – perhaps the lovely morning light in the flat where I stay.  In Vienna, I could sit for hours (and do) writing: writing on a bench in the midst of the Impressionist exhibit, writing in a small quiet cafe). I remember once being at the Oregon coast with a friend over a long weekend sewing.   As though I had to get as much sewing done as possible even though I rarely sew.  Different places draw out different aspects of me, as though there isn’t a static me but a me that changes with place.

I wonder if this happens to other people. Is it one of the reasons we travel?  And how do people who don’t travel manage to see all they are capable of doing?