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Between trips. Took the bookstore to White Sulphur Springs which was a delight and then over to Bozeman. Both towns quite different in customers and types of conversations, but events in both locations featured weather. Some serious wind in White Sulphur Springs, and Bozeman – although Sunday was fairly pleasant, on Monday there was sun, rain, sun, rain, hail, sun, rain. It has been rare over the last seven years for me to close up the bookstore early due to weather, but Monday in Bozeman was one of those times. The other was in Minneapolis during a snowstorm.

Even on a short trip like this (two days in White Sulphur Springs, and two in Bozeman), so much happens. Conversations, connections, observations, musings. While I find a way to capture all of this, here is a wonderful video by Marla Goodman featuring a piece written for theremin (by Elizabeth Brown). Such a joy for a lovely piece of music to fit so well with a traveling bookstore.

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So much more

It is the sort of early afternoon when I could be stocking more reading material in the traveling bookstore, as I leave for the Yaak in an hour for an event there. But as it is raining at the moment, I decided to squeeze in a few short thoughts about the bookstore because its adventures never cease to amaze me. Of course I realize there are many incredible bookstores around the world and, hopefully, someone somewhere is making a comprehensive list. At this moment though, in the gray August drizzle of Montana, I want to acknowledge the one I know best.

Perhaps this train of thought began during the past week when Marla Goodman, a thereminist from Bozeman, who was in the neighborhood to give a concert, turned me on to Elizabeth Brown’s “A Bookmobile for Dreamers.” It seemed appropriate for Marla to perform a piece of this chamber opera in the traveling bookstore. This extraordinary event triggered an avalanche of other bookstore experiences for me. There was the first time a parent brought their baby into the bookstore, the afternoon a bride and groom stopped by and I captured their radiance, someone asking to spend the night in the bookstore, two of New York City’s finest posing in front while it was set up at the Brooklyn Book Festival, an older woman approaching me in a cafe when I stopped for lunch in White Lake, SD asking if that was my van parked outside and could she please see inside. There was the day I set it up in Minneapolis and a snow storm blew in, and the night driving across the mountains in Kentucky with fog as thick as soup. There was Lee Connah’s crankie performance at the bookstore during the Baltimore Book Festival!

I suppose brick-and-mortar bookstores have their own sets of adventures but it is hard to imagine them as exciting as a traveling bookstore’s. It is just so damn versatile! But now I need to finish getting it packed. Shirley Jacobs, an incredible accordionist (she specializes in French cafe music from the 1920-30s) is riding along to provide music for the shoppers when we set up in front of the Yaak Tavern and Merc later this afternoon. So I need to have room for the passenger and her accordion.

p.s. The Yaak trip went very well. We saw a grizzly cross the road on the drive up. Lots of book sales, t-shirt sales, conversations and appreciation of Shirley’s music.

Count down to take off

The traveling bookstore has been around.  It set up on a street corner in Brooklyn, New York and in a field in Yaak, Montana. It has been visited by cool kids, hipsters, grooving elders, cowboys, cops, waitresses and parents with babies.  And now it is setting off on a crazy cross country adventure that is bound to push the envelope even farther.  If you don’t have time to read this entire post, here are the bare facts of where we will be so you don’t miss out:

3/28  Bozeman, MT    Wildrye Distillery 6-8collins05
4/2  Minneapolis, MN    Birchwood Cafe 9-3
4/4  Woodstock, IL  Isabel’s Family Restaurant 10-1
4/5  Indianapolis, IN  Coal Yard Coffee  9-3
4/6  Smiths Grove, KY  Quarter Moon Antiques 10-1
4/7  Asheville, NC  French Broad Food Co-op 10-3
4/8  Asheville, NC  French Broad Food Co-op 10-3
4/9  Asheville, NC  Moog Store 10-1
4/10 Raleigh, NC  Nickelpoint Brewery 5-9
4/11 Raleigh, NC  Nickelpoint Brewery  5-9
4/12  Raleigh, NC  Lonerider Brewery  2-9
4/13  Wake Forest, NC  Page 158 Books 12 – 8
4/16  Morgantown, WV  Fawley Music 9-2
4/20  Sheridan, WY  Studio Cafe  10-2
4/20  Sheridan, WY  Black Tooth Brewery 4-7
It might strike you as ambitious that a rather unpretentious bookstore carrying about six hundred volumes with a 132 inch (335cm) wheelbase is willing to set up in all these places including the urban clatter of Minneapolis and the small town calm of Smiths Grove, KY.  And, needless to say, a traveling bookstore deals with details your average brick-and-mortar shop rarely considers – like the oil change by the time we pull into Asheville.  Storage is quite limited and mostly given over to books, a manual typewriter, a small folding table, some folding chairs, a theremini and a spare tire.  While sorting out where the bookstore will set up (a major thank you to the businesses that agreed to partner with us on this trip!), we also figure out where to spend the night.  There have been times when I sleep in the bookstore especially after some remote Montana events.  On this trip though there will usually be two of us traveling so more space is required then the one aisle between fiction and biographies.
No doubt this is going to be a buffalo size adventure.  Hope that you are able to stop by to visit. And just in case you aren’t in these regions of the country during March/April, the summer bookstore tour to Washington, Oregon and California is already taking shape.

 

 

Mark your calendar

It is getting so close.  The bookstore pulls out of Eureka, MT on March 28 and sets up that evening at the Wildrye Distillery in Bozeman.  A great send off on this cross country bookstore tour.  By Apbookstoreril 2, the bookstore will be in Minneapolis at the Birchwood Cafe.  Then on to Woodstock, IL to set up at Isabel’s Family Restaurant on April 4.  Then on to Indianapolis, Smiths Grove, Asheville, Raleigh, Wake Forest etc.  WOW!  The bookstore has been cleaned from top to bottom, stocked with lots of wonderful reads.   It had a tune up and tires checked so ready for the road.  New tshirts to commemorate this Grand 2018 Tour and greeting cards are stored safely in the back until we get to where we open the doors.  Friends will join me on different parts of this tour which is over 5,000 miles. Ya’aqov will start out and then in Minneapolis turn over the co-piloting to Brittany,  In Indianapolis, Jana joins the tour and has been practicing the theremin so she is ready for our debut at the Moog Store in Asheville.

Quite the adventure and hope that friends, fans, family and all those folks we haven’t met yet will stop by to check out the most amazing traveling bookstore in the US.

 

Betwixt

‘Tis the season where trees even here in northwest Montana change colors.  The larch shift to a yellow brilliance, the mountain ash offers orange berries and red willows shine in the valley.  The traveling bookstore just returned from the Montana Book Festival which was an astonishing event.  The drive between Eureka and Missoula was a wonderful opportunity to see the IMG_1506season’s foliage while the festival itself delighted in so many ways.  New authors and already famous ones shared words and ideas.  There was an opportunity to see a vintage bookmobile from the Missoula library and to talk with numerous bookstore owners.  There was art and art openings, music and poetry.  There were hipsters and seasoned bibliophiles.  There were MFA students and rappers.  Jane Smiley inspired me to write more and Donna Kaz inspired me to work harder for social change.

As often happens, there were discussions about the traveling bookstore.  How did the idea originate?  How many states has it been to?  Is it successful?  I found that last question thought provoking as it pushed me to consider what success would be for this enterprise, a traveling bookstore that can easily set up anywhere selling used books, offering kids a chance to type on a manual typewriter and others an opportunity to try out a theremin.  One man immediately set down his coffee and briefcase although he seemed to be in a rush because, as he put it, “I’ve always dreamed of playing a theremin!”.  Or Caroline Patterson who took to the theremin instantly and I wondered if it had to do with her name as Carolina Eyck is a theremin virtuoso.  But these are all tangents, an indication of how full and varied the Montana Book Festival was over the three days.  Now back in Eureka, the question about success still sits there unanswered.

Can the answer be framed in monetary terms?  When the traveling bookstore starts bringing in x amount of dollars, it will have achieved success.  Or is it the quantity of social media  – how many likes on Facebook or followers on Instagram?  Perhaps success for the bookstore should be measured in personal terms such as the amount of satisfaction gained from having discussions while set up in Missoula or Portland or Eureka or Rock Island.  Or as someone said, “As long as you enjoy doing it, keep it up.”  As always, there is the sense that if I had just done a business plan before diving into this, I would know how to measure success.

I am continually surprised by the number of people who indicate that they would like to have a traveling bookstore but the stars just don’t align.  They don’t have the time or don’t like being gone from home.  Or they would never consider driving this thing in San Francisco or New York.  I do feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be the driver/owner of this particular bookstore.  And perhaps success – or at least the meaning of it in the case of this traveling bookstore – will manifest over time.  Like life.  As Aristotle pointed out, “One swallow does not make a spring, nor does one sunny day; similarly, one day or a short time does not make a person blessed and happy.”  Perhaps it is something to consider in the business of a traveling bookstore as well.

 

August

Quite the summer and here we are moving towards the end of August.  There are still more events happening so you can catch the traveling bookstore in northwest Montana before the snow flies.

And the traveling bookstore has slightly expanded its repertoire.  Besides a great selection of used books in all sorts of categories, there is a wonderful selection of postcards from all over the world, blank greeting cards and even a typewriter (with a FullSizeRender(2)fresh ribbon). You can type your sweetie a poem or write a serious note to someone in Washington to express your ideas and offer suggestions.  And now we even have a theremin.  It is a musical instrument unlike any you have probably tried. Odd enough that it doesn’t seem the least bit threatening.  You don’t have to actually touch anything to play it.  If you haven’t experienced a theremin yet, now might just be the time.  Stop by the bookstore and give it a spin.  Meanwhile you can see how a virtuoso does it in this clip with Carolyn Eyck. The theremin and the typewriter seem to be a good combo – wonderful inventions that allow people to be creative without overwhelming them.  At least that is how I feel when I interact with each of them.  And both compact enough to fit in a traveling bookstore.  What could be better?